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Photograph of a microphone being held up in a stand with a pop filter in front of it. In the background is the top of a computer screen displaying an audio editing program.

Photograph of a microphone being held up in a stand with a pop filter in front of it. In the background is the top of a computer screen displaying an audio editing program.


I created this reference because it is hard to get step-by-step instructions for getting audio transcripts off YouTube. Articles like “Dirty, Fast, and Free Audio Transcription with YouTube” by Andy Baio give some great examples of timing and how long the automatic transcription process takes, but don’t cover the step-by-step way to get those transcripts.

Be aware that, as with any type of automatic transcription, the transcripts that YouTube creates have a lot of errors in them, so it is important for a person to go through and correct them. YouTube transcripts are useful because they reduce the amount of work that it takes to make a transcript. In addition, the YouTube transcript editor can make the process of transcribing faster.

Because YouTube is a video site, there are a significant number of steps involved in getting the automatic transcript. If you are looking for an easier way to get an automatically generated transcript for a podcast, I’d suggest trying, however Otter is not free if you want to import audio files. So if you want a free option, or if you already use YouTube or you want to make your podcasts available on YouTube, this is a great way of doing both.


The Basics

In order to use this method for creating transcripts you will need a YouTube channel. If you don’t have one, here is what you need to know.

  1. First you need a YouTube account. If you don’t already have one, you can follow the instructions in “Create an Account on YouTube.” Note that a Google account is required for creating a YouTube account.
  2. Once you have a YouTube account, you can follow the instructions in “Create a New Channel.”


Turning an Audio File into a Video File and Uploading It with TunesToTube

In order to get a podcast onto YouTube it must be a video. There are many ways to turn an audio file into a video file. This procedure uses the free and easy to use TunesToTube service. This service also automatically uploads the video file to YouTube.

  1. Go to TunesToTube.
  2. Click on Sign in with Google and sign in with the Google account that is connected to your YouTube channel. (You may need to click “Allow” to allow TunesToTube to have access to your Google account.)
  3. You should now be at the TuneToTube upload page. Click on the blue Upload files button and select the mp3 you want to upload (up to 50MB).
  4. Click on the blue Upload files button a second time to upload an image (1280x720px is full screen).
    • If you don’t have an image, scroll down to find the “OR Generate the background Image using the Title:” section in the bottom left of the screen (this may be hidden from view until you scroll down).
    • Alternatively, you can find a great royalty free stock photo at pixabay to use with your audio.
  5. A title will be automatically generated. If you want to, you can alter the title or add a description and tags (located in the middle of the screen). The description and tags aren’t necessary if all you want is the transcript.
  6. If you do not want this video to be made public, be sure to click on the blue Private button located in the middle section.
  7. Once the files are uploaded, click on the blue Create video button located on the right side of the screen.
  8. A processing screen will come up. Once the video is created it will say, “Processing Complete.”
  9. You are now ready to move on to the “Getting a Transcript from a YouTube Video” section of this article. (Skip the “Uploading Video Files to YouTube” section, as you have already done this.)


Uploading Video Files to YouTube

This sequence is for folks who used a different technique (other than TunesToTube) to turn their audio into a video, or whose audio is already part of a video (a video that is not currently up on YouTube).

  1. Make the audio file into a video. (If you don’t have a good method for doing this, I recommend using TunesToTube as described above.)
  2. Sign in to your channel at in chrome (can’t use Firefox!)
  3. Upload the video by clicking on the upload icon on the top right of the screen (it is a camera with a plus on it near the account icon that says “Create a video or post” when the mouse hovers over it).
  4. Two options drop down. Click on Upload video.
  5. If you don’t want to share this video with the world, be sure to select Private from the drop down list in the middle of the screen.
  6. Either drag and drop a file into the screen or click on the red arrow above “Select files to upload” (the arrow only turns red when you hover over it).
  7. It will start processing your video as you enter the title and any other details you want (the processing status will be displayed at the top of the screen). If your only purpose for putting videos on YouTube is to get transcripts, you can ignore most of these settings. If you forgot to select private, that drop down menu is on the right side of the screen when the “Basic info” tab is selected.
  8. When you are done, click the blue Done button in the upper right corner.
  9. It will give you a link for your video. Click on the gray YouTube Studio (beta) button below it to the right and proceed to step 4 of Getting a Transcript from a YouTube Video (below).


Getting a Transcript from a YouTube Video

  1. If needed, sign in to your channel at in chrome (can’t use firefox!).
  2. In the top right, click on your account icon.
  3. Click on YouTube Studio (beta).
  4. Once in the studio, click on Videos in the left side bar.
  5. In the list that comes up find the video you want and click on its title.
  6. Click on Transcriptions in the left side bar.
  7. It will ask you to select a language from a drop down list. Once you do so and hit the blue “Confirm” button it will take you on to the transcriptions page.
  8. If the video has been on YouTube long enough to have an automatically generated transcript there will be two entries listed on this page. The automatically generated transcript will have “(Automatic)” next to the language name. It will also say “Published Automatic” in the subtitles column on the far right. Click on Published Automatic to open the transcript editor.
    • If you recently uploaded the video and no automatic transcript is present, give it more time to transcribe the episode. You can hit the refresh button to find out if it has finished transcribing. (It may give you a warning message about losing unsaved work, if you are following these instructions and haven’t done anything else, then there shouldn’t be unsaved work to lose.)
  9. The transcript editor will open in a new tab. If you wish to edit this transcript using the transcript editor, click on the gray edit button in the upper right of the screen.
    • The transcript text will appear in little text boxes on the left side of the screen. Each text box has a short section of text with its start and end times listed on the left. Click on a box to edit the text inside. Clicking on a box also moves the audio player to the start time for that text.
    • Clicking the play button on the audio player will start the audio at the selected time. As it continues to play a thin red line on the left side of the screen will indicate which text box is currently being played.
    • When the transcript editor is first opened the “Pause video while typing” check box below the audio player will be checked. If you don’t like this feature, be sure to turn it off by clicking on the “x” in the check box.
    • Add a new text box by typing in the empty text box above the transcript boxes and hitting the “+” button on the right hand side. The new text box will add above whichever box is currently highlighted.
    • If you want to delete a text box, hover your cursor over it and click the “x” button in the top right corner of the box.
    • Once you are done editing the transcript, click on the blue Save changes button in the upper right corner. This will take you to a screen that says “Manage subtitles and closed captions” at the top. Click on the subtitle that says (Automatic) next to the language name to return to the transcript editor.
  10. When you are ready to export the transcript, click on the Actions drop down button on the top left of the screen (it should be right above the text of the transcript).
  11. Click on the sbv extension in the drop down list (the drop down list has the word “download” at the top with multiple file extensions below it). Note that any of these file types would be useable, but the sbv is the easiest format to work with.
  12. Open the transcript with Microsoft Notepad or another text reading application (Notepad should be able to open any of these file types). A list of programs that can open the sbv extension can be found on this page.


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[…] written about tools that make the process of transcribing podcast episodes easier ( and YouTube), but it is also important to know what to transcribe and how the finished transcript should look. […]


[…] will handle specific accents better than others. If cost is a barrier for you, transcription in the YouTube Studio is a good free […]

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