How to Automatically Add Subtitles to Videos using Zapier

1 October 2023 | 9 min read
Laura van Sinderen

In this tutorial, you'll learn how to auto-transcribe video and audio files to add animated word-by-word captions to your social media videos using Zapier and Creatomate.

There are quite a few reasons as to why subtitles are a must-have when uploading videos to social media. The main reason is that most people scroll their feed with their audio muted. Secondly, transcribed videos tend to do better because animated subtitles attract attention. Without captions, viewers are likely to skip right over your video.

As such, it is a good idea to always add subtitles to your social media videos, or they might not perform as well. But if you've ever had to transcribe a video, you know how time-consuming it can be, especially if you post regularly. Fortunately, speech-to-text AI has become really good at helping us with this task, allowing us to fully automate the process of captioning videos.

In this tutorial, I'll show you how to set up an automation workflow for creating subtitles for your video clips. As a bonus, we'll automatically post the transcribed videos to YouTube as well. To do this, we'll use Creatomate to auto-transcribe the video, and Zapier to automate the whole process. Given that Zapier works with over 5,000 apps, it's a great platform for automating workflows across many different purposes – especially for social media marketing.

The animated subtitles as generated by the speech-to-text AI.
Video courtesy of Ryan Holiday of The Daily Stoic podcast.

The video above shows the auto-transcribed video we'll produce through the automated Zapier workflow. Here you can see that it is remarkably accurate at identifying the correct words. This is an important aspect of auto-transcription, as we don't want to spend time correcting words afterward – that would defeat the purpose.

When you look at typical captions on social media, you will see a wide range of styles. This is why we're going to use Creatomate to automate our video captions, so that we can customize the animation and styling exactly as we need. The tool supports pretty much any subtitle style. Plus, Creatomate lets us do a lot more than just generate captions – we can add outros, overlays, combine clips, and much more.

In order to keep things simple, we will only auto-transcribe the video, without any other automated video editing. However, Creatomate's online video editor lets you create custom templates to automate all your marketing videos. Don't forget to put it to the test after you've finished this tutorial.

A handful of animated subtitle styles as supported by Creatomate.


The plan is to set up a Zapier workflow that runs automatically when a new video file comes in. As an example, we'll use a Zapier Table to provide the workflow with a list of video clips to transcribe. You can, however, replace this trigger with any of the thousands of supported app integrations, to totally customize your workflow. Perhaps you want to get the workflow triggered whenever a video is uploaded in Google Drive, and post it to Instagram instead – whatever works for you!

For this tutorial, I'll use the following tools:

  • Creatomate: to create a video template and auto-generate the subtitles. Sign up for free.
  • Zapier: to set up an automated workflow.
  • (Optional) Zapier Tables: or any other app to import videos from.
  • (Optional) YouTube: or any other app for further use of the videos.

How to generate subtitles using Zapier?

Let's take a look at the process in detail. First, we'll create a template in Creatomate where we'll set up the subtitles and choose a style. Next, we'll create a Zapier Table to input a list of video clips. We'll then set up a Zap to run every time a video clip is added to the table. In this Zap, we will use Creatomate to generate a transcribed video that will be posted as a YouTube Short once it has been completed. Here's what our Zap will look like:

Let's get started by creating a template.

1. Create a transcription template

Log in to your Creatomate account, go to the Templates page, and click + New. For the purpose of this tutorial, we'll use the Highlighted Subtitles template from the Auto-Subtitles category. Select a size, like 9:16 Vertical and click Create Template to open it in the editor:

This template is already set up to automatically generate captions based on an input video. The template consists of a placeholder video (Video-1), a text element (Subtitles-1), and an outro image (Logo). You can see that the subtitles haven't been generated yet, just placeholder captions. The actual captions will only be generated once the video is created.

The example template is organized into two compositions; one for the video, and one for the outro. Now, double-click the Subtitles-1 element in the left-side navigation panel. With the text element selected, you can adjust its position, size, and style. On the right-hand properties panel, scroll down until you find the Transcription settings:

As you can see in the transcription settings, the Source property is set to Video-1. As a result, Creatomate will generate captions based on that video element. Play around with the Style properties to further customize the captions' styling and animation. As an example, to display one word at a time, a style popular on TikTok and Instagram, set the "Max. Length" property to 1.

That's it for the video template. In the next steps, we'll set up a Zapier workflow to process videos based on this template. Within that workflow, we'll replace the Video-1 element with a different video clip, which in turn will automatically generate subtitles for the Subtitles-1 element.

Creatomate can do much more than just add subtitles to a video, but for now, let's not change anything in this template, and instead move on to the next step, where we will automate this template using Zapier.

2. Set up a Zapier Table (optional)

In this example, we'll create a list of videos to feed into the automated workflow using a Zapier Table. However, if you're already familiar with Zapier, you may skip this step and use your own trigger to pass data into the Zap workflow.

Log in to your Zapier account and head over to the Tables (beta) page. Click the + Create button, enter a name like Auto-Subtitle Videos, and then click Create table:

In the table editor, let's set up the following fields:

  • A link field: Input Video
  • A text field: Title
  • And a long text field: Description

Then, insert a new record into the table, for example:

  • Input Video ->
  • Title -> Enter a title for your YouTube Short.
  • Description -> Enter a description for your YouTube Short.

3. Trigger the automated workflow

From your Zapier dashboard, click the + Create Zap button. Choose the Zapier Tables app and select the New Record trigger. Proceed by clicking Continue.

On the Trigger page, select your Auto-Subtitle Videos table in the Table ID field, and click Continue:

Click Test trigger on the Test page to make sure Zapier can find the new record. When the test is successful, click Continue with selected record, and move on to the next step.

4. Create an auto-transcribed video

Search for the Creatomate app and select the Create Single Render event. Proceed by choosing your account or signing in with your project's API key.

On the Action page, select the Highlighted Subtitles template in the Template field. Then, we can map the input video from the trigger to our video template by choosing Zapier Tables -> Input Video in the Video-1 field. Then, click Continue:

Click Test step. Creatomate will now take the input video, insert it into the template, and produce the transcribed video. This process can take a few minutes. So, before visiting the provided URL, wait a while or you may encounter a Not Found page, which means that the video is not yet ready. This only applies if you are testing the Zap, because once the workflow is published, it will automatically wait for the video to finish before continuing.

5. Post the video to YouTube (optional)

At this point, the subtitles have been successfully generated, and we have access to a transcribed MP4 video for further use. To complete this example, we'll upload the video to YouTube, but you may want to adjust the workflow according to your own needs.

Click the + symbol, search for and choose YouTube as the action app, and select the Upload Video event. Proceed by choosing your account or signing in if needed. Then, click Continue.

On the Action page, map the required fields as follows:

  • Set Title to Zapier Tables -> Title
  • Set Description to Zapier Tables -> Description
  • Set Video to Creatomate -> Url

Feel free to adjust the other settings as needed. After making your changes, click Continue to proceed. Then, on the Test page, click Test step to make sure everything's working. Because this is just a test, no video will be uploaded to your YouTube channel.

Now that the Zap is set up, all that needs to be done is to click Publish Zap to activate the workflow.

What's next for automated subtitle videos?

It used to be necessary to manually type and synchronize captions for each video, but nowadays AI allows this task to be completely automated. With tools such as Zapier and Creatomate, setting this up has never been easier.

Having learned how auto-transcription works, I'd recommend reading some of our other step-by-step tutorials for getting the most out of social media automation. The flexibility of Creatomate templates combined with the almost limitless automation capabilities of Zapier allow for a wide variety of productive workflows to be explored.

As a suggestion, why not consider automating your Instagram and TikTok videos? Take a look at this Instagram tutorial and this TikTok tutorial next to find out how.

Have any questions? Feel free to contact [email protected], and we'll help you out!

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