Creating Your Own SRT Files for Captions

Adding captions to videos is a great way to meet the needs of deaf or hard of hearing students. Many video hosts now support captions, so getting captions on your video is usually just a matter of creating the appropriate file that contains the subtitles. That file is often identified by its abbreviation, an “SRT” file (short for “SubRip Text“).

If you’re doing this for a YouTube video, you can create the captions file without any special software, the process is incredibly easy, so we won’t talk about that here. But if you are using another video host such as Wistia, the options are slightly different. You might be able get captions for a fee (English only, they don’t do translations!) – just order them, and in a few business days they’ll be added to your video, no muss, no fuss.

However, the ready-made option might not appeal to some for a couple of reasons – for one, you might not want to pay for your captions. But more importantly, when someone else does the captions, you are stuck with how THEY choose to display the text on screen. For example, they may choose to put three long sentences on the screen for a long period, where YOU might have preferred to have those three sentences appear individually and sequentially. So let’s assume that you are a bit of a control freak and want to prepare the subtitles yourself – how do you do it? There are several techniques you can use to prepare an SRT file. It’s possible to create them through properly formatting a simple text file with times and text, but the process of syncing that to your video is cumbersome. It’s much better to use a piece of software to make the SRT file.

If you are a Camtasia user, that software conveniently has the ability to manually create, import & export captions. No need to go into that further here, just click the links in the previous sentence to view the excellent tutorials created by Techsmith.

Another option option for creating captions is the program called Aegisub. It’s free and available in multiple platforms. It’s also super-powered in the sense that it can create specialized subtitle files, such as those for Karoake, and if your video host supports them, you can even make SRT files with stylesheets allowing you to change the appearance of your subtitles, even within the same video (for example, you could change the color of the text for the subtitles of different speakers). The only problem with Aegisub is that it can be difficult to get started with the software – the interface is a bit intimidating:

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 2.14.57 PM

But don’t let that stop you, it’s actually pretty easy to use. So if you want to take a crack at Aegisub, CLICK HERE – it will take you to a video that covers the very basics of getting from a video script to an exported SRT file. Have fun subtitling!

By Josef Martha

Using YouTube Videos in Your Online Course – Better Safe Than Sorry!

One question I am often asked is, “Can I use YouTube videos in my course?”  Unfortunately, the answer to that is not a clear “yes” or “no”, as it depends on the particular YouTube video.

Many teachers are under the assumption that they can embed (“embed” means to use code to make the video appear within your online course) any YouTube video in their course, and that there is no need to seek permission to do so. That is absolutely false, and is a sure recipe for getting yourself into trouble with a copyright holder.

The YouTube Terms of Service are rather lengthy, most people don’t read them. And that’s OK, because for viewers of YouTube content, the terms boil down to a couple of simple key points:

  1. You don’t need permission to view YouTube content.
  2. If you EMBED YouTube content on your website (such as in a Moodle course), you agree “not to access Content through any technology or means other than the video playback pages of the Service itself, the Embeddable Player, or other explicitly authorized means YouTube may designate”. Since most of use won’t be interested in hacking YouTube’s embed code, this is of little concern to us.

So if it’s OK to view YouTube videos, and it’s OK to embed in them in your course, then what’s the problem?

Simple – NOT everyone who has posted videos to YouTube follows the rules. Very often, YouTube videos are posted by individuals who DO NOT own the content and did not have permission to upload it. Therefore, if you ever are going to embed a YouTube video in your course, you must ensure that the actual owner of the content is the one who uploaded it to YouTube. In other words, DO NOT automatically assume it’s OK to embed any YouTube video into your course – do your homework, and make sure the owner of the content is associated with its distribution on YouTube.

Even when a legitimate owner of a video has posted to YouTube, they may have additional stipulations regarding its use, so always be sure to check the notes area below the YouTube video for any additional stipulations.

So, does that all make sense? How about a pop-quiz – what are the answers to the following YouTube-related copyright concerns?

QUESTION: Can I take a screenshot image of part of YouTube video and use that in my course? Can I use part of a YouTube video in the creation of a video of my own?

ANSWER. MOST OF THE TIME, NO (see exception that follows). That is a violation of YouTube’s terms. Their content must be viewed only through the YouTube embedded player if you wish to insert it in your course. If you want to use parts of the video in other ways, you’ll need to contact the copyright owner for permission.

OK, what about that exception? Well, interestingly, some YouTube content owners do not use the YouTube standard license when they upload – instead, they choose a Creative Commons Attribution License. For example, take a look at the following information (there’s License info beneath EVERY YouTube video!)  for this YouTube video:


Look carefully at the License – it is CC Attribution! In cases such as these, you CAN use the content in your own video, but you MUST attribute – the best way to do that is to make a clear link in your video (or within your course right next to to your video) back to the original content on YouTube.

QUESTION: I want to use a YouTube video in my course but I am not certain that the contents of the video are copyright friendly. It looks like the user may have used images that belong to someone else. Is it possible for me to use this video in my course?

ANSWER. You should NOT embed the video in your course if you are uncertain of copyright ownership. If you really want to use the video for your course, LINK to it – that is, when students click on it, they are taken to YouTube. But DO NOT EMBED the video in your course.

QUESTION: I have determined that the content of a certain YouTube video is public domain. Can I download this video and edit it into a video of my own creation?

ANSWER. Sure. No problem. As long as the content is public domain, you’re good to go.

QUESTION: A YouTube video I want to use has additional stipulations – it says it can only be displayed under the terms of a Creative Commons license. Can I embed this video in my course?

ANSWER. It depends. Many people think Creative Commons means “use as you wish” – that is absolutely false. Creative Commons licenses come in many forms (learn more about them here:, and some of them are very restrictive. For example, CC BY-NC-SA states that you can use the content non-commercially, but only if you release the resulting work under the same license. Are you prepared to release your whole course under a Creative Commons license? Then you better think twice about using that content. If you are uncertain about the use of Creative Commons content, you should check get the opinion of a colleague, and be very certain about the terms of the CC license before proceeding.

QUESTION: A fellow teacher told me that we can use parts of YouTube videos from educational sources such as Pearson, McGraw, National Geographic, etc. because it falls under “fair use”. Is that true?

ANSWER. No. Fair Use is a legal term for using copyright-protected material without getting permission from the owner, but this is only under pretty restrictive circumstances. Generally, Fair Use covers only very small portions of copyrighted material for use in criticism, new reporting, artistic remixes, or for educational purposes in limited circumstances. As always, if you want to use content from YouTube other than exactly the way YouTube dictates is acceptable (such as simply viewing or embedding), you better get permission.

QUESTION: Are you sure about that? I heard that under “fair use”, teachers are entitled to copy up to 10% of any copyrighted material without having to obtain permission from the copyright owner.

ANSWER. While it is true that copyright legislation in Canada and the United States has been changed in recent years to include education under Fair Use (also known as “Fair Dealing”), the whole idea of teachers being entitled to copy whatever they want in any particular quantity is absolutely incorrect. The “10% rule” is a myth/misunderstanding that came from judges in particular court cases arbitrarily (nowhere does 10% appear in any legislation!) using the figure of 10% to ascertain whether or not the amount copied in those particular cases was reasonable under the Fair Use provision for education.

Fair Use for education was designed to protect teachers under the limited circumstances of, let’s say, the occasional photocopy of a textbook page used only with the teacher’s immediate students. Any teacher or educational publisher who is distributing content widely (such as an online school distributing content to thousands of students and other schools), and particularly if they are charging for access, would be foolish to expect “Fair Use” to protect them in event of being sued by a copyright holder. If you go ahead and use someone else’s content without permission, you should NEVER expect that “10%” will protect you in the court of law. Depending on the circumstances, individuals/organizations have been held liable for violating copyright in amounts far less than 10% of a work.

In short, teachers are legally and ethically bound to seek permission when they want to use content that is owned by others.

QUESTION: OK, let’s get back to YouTube basics here. Just give me some short copyright advice that will keep me safe as I build my online course.

ANSWER. If you are ever uncertain about the using a YouTube video in your course (for example, you’re not exactly sure who owns the content in the YouTube video) the best advice to remember is to LINK to it rather than EMBED it in your course. You can’t get into copyright trouble for linking to anything. Of course, you CAN get into trouble if the content is inappropriate, but that will have to wait for another blog post!

By Josef Martha

Getting Started With Camtasia

If you want to start making educational videos, you have to start somewhere! Now don’t worry if you have never used Camtasia before, it’s really not that hard to use – like any piece of software, after a little practice you’ll be just fine.

Below you’ll find a nice “getting started” video to get you familiar with the two major components of Camtasia; Camtasia Recorder (just a small piece of the puzzle that allows you to record your desktop, webcam, and audio) and Camtasia Studio (the bigger piece of the puzzle that allows you apply many special effects and editing to your desktop captures, and any other media you import into your project).

After you have viewed the tutorial below, I strongly recommend checking out the more advanced tutorials – doing so will allow you to master most of Camtasia’s functions:

There is also a pretty impressive series of Camtasia tutorials at the Techsmith website.

By Josef Martha

Video Mentors Meeting #6 Summary & Archive

Interested in following along with the video mentors? Well, you can!

A very concise point form rundown of the meeting follows, and beneath the links you will find links to agenda for the meeting, there presentation file that was used, and also an audio recording of the meeting. Enjoy!

Please note that this is the last official scheduled meeting of the video mentor group. If you have made it this far, you should have a pretty good understanding of how to make educational video by now!

Meeting (February 18, 2014) Summary:

Meeting Files:

By Josef Martha

Camtasia Series – Multiple Tracks



One of the more challenging aspects of video editing is managing multiple pieces of media that occur on screen at the same time. When people edit video, they tend to think very linearly, that is – placing one piece of media sequentially right after the other. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

One of Camtasia’s strengths is easy-to-manage tracks in the timeline:




By adding more than one track to your video, you can have different media playing at the same time. So for example, you could have a screen capture in one part of your video with a separately recorded webcam video playing in another part, both playing together.

To learn how to manage multiple tracks in Camtasia, check out the following video:


Congratulations, that completes your Camtasia training! Go forth and make some great videos!

Hey… are you also interested in recording your PowerPoint presentations with Camtasia? If so, you probably want to check out this blog post.








By Josef Martha

Camtasia Series – Zoom & Pan



So you are doing a desktop capture video, but you want to have yourself on screen as well as the narrator, BUT you don’t want to obscure the video content by getting in the way. What to do? It’s time for some zooming and panning!

Actually, what you’ll probably use more is the “zooming” feature, as this is a great way to bring viewers closer to what you actually want them to see. It is also a key alternative to cropping, that is, shielding the viewer from extraneous content. Whatever the reason, learning how to zoom and pan in Camtasia is very worthwhile – once you get the hang of it, you are likely to use it a lot.

Please note that the zoom and pan features described in the following tutorial are available under the “Animations” tab in the latest version of Camtasia:


So please watch the following tutorial – as always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment at the end of this blog post.


Now that you have handle on using callouts, you probably move onto another advanced Camtasia feature, using multiple tracks.








By Josef Martha

Video Mentors Meeting #5 Summary & Archive

Interested in following along with the video mentors? Well, you can!

A very concise point form rundown of the meeting follows, and beneath the links you will find links to agenda for the meeting, there presentation file that was used, and also an audio recording of the meeting. Enjoy!

Meeting (February 5, 2014) Summary:

  • Presentation on Articulate Storyline – complete overview of the learning object development software.
  • Review of a sample learning object (Microscope Basics) produced with Storyline.
  • Discussion of usability of Storyline as applicable to ADLC development workflow.

Meeting Files:

By Josef Martha

Camtasia Series – Using Annotations and Callouts



One of the main reasons we make educational video is to draw the viewers attention toward the topics we deem important. Camtasia makes drawing that attention much easier with the help of annotations and callouts.

Callouts are exactly what they sound like – the “call out” attention to something on the screen. Camtasia offers up a very nice variety of callouts and other annotations, including many different shapes, text, highlighting, animated drawings, and much more. Note that the latest version of Camtasia has callouts and other ways of drawing the viewing attention organized into the “Annotations” tab:


You can learn how to put all these different callouts and annotations into your videos by watching the following tutorial:


Now that you have handle on using callouts, you probably move onto the next cool Camtasia feature, Zooming and Panning.








By Josef Martha

Video Mentors Meeting #4 Summary & Archive

Interested in following along with the video mentors? Well, you can!

A very concise point form rundown of the meeting follows, and beneath the links you will find links to agenda for the meeting, there presentation file that was used, and also an audio recording of the meeting. Enjoy!

Meeting (January 21, 2014) Summary:

Meeting Files:

By Josef Martha

Photoshop – Resizing, Selecting, and Opacity

There are certain crucial tools and techniques in Photoshop that you’ll need in order to prepare images and get them appearing in a document exactly how you want. Rather than having you pull your hair out trying to learn those tools on your own, I thought I would put together a tutorial on resizing, selecting, and controlling opacity.

Watch the following video, and you’ll have a basic set of strong tools under your belt for preparing amazing educational videos!

By Josef Martha