How To Caption Shows on Zoom, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Audio Theater. Etc

One of the exasperating aspects of this new era of online theater is how poor the audio is (either in the platform itself, or in the devices you use…or both), and how few of the most common platforms for online theater — Zoom, Instagram — offer the closed captioning option that is always available on broadcast and cable channels and on  commercial streaming services such as Netflix. And there are also no captions for audio theater.
There are solutions, albeit imperfect. Below is information provided by both CHC and TDF’s TAP team. (To translate that: the Center for Hearing and Communication; the staff of the Theatre Accessibility Programs from Theatre Development Fund.) It should go without saying that you do not need to have a disability to benefit from captioning.



Otter, a speech recognition tool, is available both as a website and as an app (best used on an iPhone.) It offers up to 600 minutes of free captioning, 40 minutes at a time, per month. Once that is used up, the fee is $9.99 for up to 6,000 minutes a month.

To start, download on your smartphone or tablet, or visit to sign up on your computer.

Re-size both the Zoom or Instagram browser and the captioning tool’s browser so that both windows can fit on one screen.  Alternatively, you can also open up the captioning tool on a separate monitor or screen device and place it close to the speakers.

Be sure to turn on your computer speakers.


Web Captioner , a web-based speech recognition tool, does not charge for its service but does request a donation after each use.

As with Otter, you’ll need to open two separate browsers so you can watch the performance in one window, and read the captions in the other — or place Webcaptioner on a browser on a different device. Webcaptioner only works on the Google Chrome browser.


Google Live Transcribe is a new speech recognition app for Android phones


Go to the video you’d like to watch.
If captions are available, CC will be visible at the bottom right of the player. Please note: some videos use automatic captions, which are generated by machine learning algorithms, so the quality may vary. Livestreamed shows on YouTube are not normally captioned; in such cases, you can use Webcaptioner or Otter.

Click here for more in-depth instructions. and/or watch this one-minute YouTube video


To turn on captions, you need to adjust your Facebook video settings here.

Next to Always Show Captions, click the drop-down menu and select On.

If captions are available for a video, they will now always be visible.


Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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