Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Starting a Video Captioning Business on the Cheap

Do you like to watch movies? Can you type fairly quickly? Congratulations, you are now qualified as a video transcriptionist. And just in time, too, as there will be a gold rush soon for video transcription services.

In October 2010, President Obama signed into law the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, which mandates further captioning of video for the Web. The bill will apply to any video that was originally aired on TV. As more and more videos are uploaded to the web, the demand for video captioning services will grow at an exponential rate. Government agencies, schools, museums, and many other types of businesses will need the services of a good video transcriptionist. Your biggest problem may be keeping up with the demand.

For about $150, you can start your own business from the comfort of your living room. Software would cost you less than $130, which would get you a copy of MovieCaptioner and an upgrade to QuickTime Pro. Now all you need is a web page (free from, a domain name ($19.95 per year), and a file upload service such as, where you and your customers can transfer large files over the Internet. Optional items could include headphones and a copy of Dragon Dictate if you really don't like typing that much (as I don't). With Dragon Dictate, you simply repeat what you hear in the headphones into the microphone, and it gets typed into the MovieCaptioner interface automatically! A set of headphones with a built-in microphone would be helpful in doing it this way.

So you have MovieCaptioner and QuickTime Pro, and you've picked out a domain name and have gotten a website put together so you can hang a shingle out for the world to see. A customer inquires about your rates (which you've done your research to see what other companies with similar services are charging). You send them your email address and let them know they can use that to send you their video files via, which gives you up to 2 GB of space for free (you can upgrade to more space for a fee). You share a DropBox with your customer and the files are instantly available to both of you. You import the video into MovieCaptioner, click the Start button, and go to town. After you get your captions done, you export to the format your customer requires, and either email the captioned text file back to them or embed the captions in the movie and throw it back in your DropBox and let them know it's done. An interim step could be to export a transcript with timecode and let them proofread it if they want. That way they can check the spellings of names, technical terms, and so forth. Payment can be done easily via PayPal, Kagi, or another credit card transaction service. You can typically make anywhere from $75 to $150 for a one hour video.

Please be aware that depending on your typing skills and the quality of the audio, a one hour video could take anywhere from 5 to 8 hours to transcribe. This type of work is not for everybody, but some really enjoy it. It is, at least, an easy way to make several hundred dollars or more in a week's time, with a very modest investment to get started. This is a business that a stay-at-home mom or dad can run or even a college student to do over the summer to pay for books and tuition. The potential is there to expand and make a much larger enterprise too if you wanted. Teaming up with others you trust to do good work (see and where you pay them part of the profits to handle your overflow will allow you to handle much more volume.

I hope this may spark some interest and that more people will join in the pursuit of making the world's video accessible to all.

Please try MovieCaptioner to make your movies accessible. You can download a free 14 day demo.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Thank you for your comments. It is nice to know that someone is actually reading this. :-)

  3. Hi Patrick,
    I actually am already a voice writer for a TV station using Case Catalyst VP, which is for voice captioning. I would love to do something like this on the side, but I'm at the mercy of captioning companies paying nearly nothing for transcripts. It would be nice to go the route you have specified. I used to work in some live voice captioning, but now I solely produce transcripts for the offline department. Most of our needs are offline captioning. I wondered if you have taken on this type of work yourself, and if so, could you help me in the right direction with consideration to my current profession, if you want to call it that. Thank you, Marie

  4. Marie, thanks for your comment. I don't do this type of work myself other than when I need to caption my own or departmental videos, but I think instead of working for a captioning company (or maybe in addition to doing so) you should just start your own captioning company. MovieCaptioner does work with Dragon speech-to-text s/w if you prefer to work that way and instead of just being able to deliver transcripts, you could also deliver caption files for many different formats. All you'd need is your own website to point people to and some method of receiving video or audio files such as The caption files could simply be returned via email since they're text files, or again by if the captions need to be embedded. In addition, you could actually have others work for you to handle any extra work you get and just take a slice of the pie, so to speak, just as you would do for other captioning companies.