Downloading YouTube Subtitles

A few days ago, for the first time, I wanted to save the YouTube subtitles/closed captions for a video. (It was a Russian newscast about the trolololo guy which wasn’t hard-subbed) Unfortunately, I only had tools in hand for downloading the video stream.

So, now, I present to you the fruits of my labors. Tools in several different forms for downloading YouTube (and apparently sometimes Google Video) subtitles in SRT format, ready to use or convert to another form:

Update: I’ve run across at least one video that stored its subtitles as annotations instead. I’ve found instructions and a ready-to-use tool for retrieving Google’s raw annotation XML but I only found shell scripts (which won’t work on Windows) for converting them to SRT files.

Update: youtube-dl can also rip subtitles while it’s saving a copy of the video to disk. Just use the --write-sub or --write-auto-sub flags (depending on whether you want manually-added subtitles or YouTube’s often hilariously wrong automatic subtitles) and use something like --sub-langs en,fr to select which languages you want to download.

Even better, if you’re downloading the video as a .mp4 file and you’ve got ffmpeg set up on your machine (and it’s newer than the copy which comes with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS), you can pass the --embed-subs flag to save the subtitles right into the video file so you don’t have to worry about losing them.

CC BY-SA 4.0 Downloading YouTube Subtitles by Stephan Sokolow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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18 Responses to Downloading YouTube Subtitles

  1. Jacob says:

    I have been searching around for a few hours now and am getting a little frustrated. Were you successful in downloading the caption/subtitle file you wanted? Which program did you use? I have tried all of the options you list and none of them has worked for me yet. I admit it could be user error but I would like to know what you did exactly.
    Thank you.

    • Sorry for the delayed reply. I was very busy yesterday.

      I use the Greasemonkey script in Firefox and I’ve had no trouble downloading any of the subtitles I’ve wanted.

      I do remember there being potential for user error with all of them though. What (exactly) have you been doing when you try to use them?

  2. Liza says:

    Hi Stephan,
    The YouTube closed-captions ripper does’nt work anymore! I used it years ago, and it worked fine, but it is dead now. I tried the srt-downloader too, but it also failed working.
    So, why is it so big task for the computer gurus to create a simple and working srt downloader?
    I have searched through the internet, but find such a program nowhere.
    I can hardly belive it.

    • YouTube recently rejiggered things and broke every video downloader out there until they released updates. They probably did the same thing with the subtitle rippers too but, since they aren’t as popular, they don’t get updated as quickly and frequently.

      All we can really do is blame YouTube and let the people who wrote the rippers know that they need to fix them.

  3. Juan says:

    Too bad the script does not work anymore.
    This is the problem with Youtube, redisign and poor search functions.
    Please update if you find out anything works.

  4. Alex says:

    Hi Guys, we have open cource utility for subtitles downloading from Youtube.

    [Ed.: Exercise caution when visiting this link. One or more visitors promoting this URL have exhibited behaviour common in spambots and scammers.]

  5. John Pearson says:

    Hey Stephan, I would like you to review this PHP script I finalized yesterday. (Similar to the closed caption ripper that doesn’t work anymore) This one gives you the possibility to download the subtitles as .txt format or .srt
    Please check it out and do not hesitate to include it in your list. It will be a great support for me. Link:Download youtube subtitles

  6. Khalif Foster says:

    Hi, want to be sure that I want to download youtube, and create closed caption, not subtitle as subtitle is hardsub, closed caption is softsub, which it is auto like most you-tube that is auto. So, after I download any media from youtube, then I can download closed caption that is not hard-sub, but can put it together with another software or same software that download closed caption and combine to make it closed caption media that is better than auto closed caption since it is a ‘closed caption fail’. I use you-tube as starting point, but that include another video from different video players.

    • I can’t really understand what you wrote but I’ll try to guess.

      If you’re asking whether this is for downloading YouTube closed captions, the answer is “yes”.

      If they were hard-subs, you wouldn’t need these tools because something like Video DownloadHelper or youtube-dl would do everything you need.

      I call them subtitles because that’s the term used by standalone video players like MPlayer when they talk about loading a file full of soft-subs to play on top of the current video.

      (Standalone players only use the term “closed captions” when referring to a TV tuner card’s ability to extract them from broadcast TV. Soft-sub or hard-sub, they’re both subtitles.)

      Also, in case you’re not in North America, we actually draw a distinction between “closed captions” and subtitles here:

      Closed Captions are for the hard of hearing, so they transcribe things like sound effects and the presence of dramatic music.

      Subtitles are for people who don’t understand the language, so they omit things which work in any language like sound effects and music cues.

  7. Khalif Foster says:

    Hi, did ya email me?? If not, then I forgot about you and didn’t reply in a while since not email me. So, can ya email me, ok? I am more likely to check the email than here.

    Anyway, I am in US. I want to download closed caption from you-tube that is auto closed caption. You say hard-sub that means I can see closed caption that is good. To be clear between manually closed caption and auto closed caption. Hard sub is manually closed caption or auto closed caption or both? Soft sub is both or just auto or manually closed caption??

    So, it is now clear so you can understand and I put ‘closed caption fail’ as I mean that I find the video that say ‘closed caption fail’ the closed caption fail because it is not good. So, to be accurate, not create as I am creating, but it could create, but not as alone, but more like extract closed caption from you-tube media. I use you-tube media as starting point because it is auto closed caption. Want to convert auto closed caption to closed caption.

    So, I can fix a bit with the words that I can see from you-tube when I extract it and match the time. So, basically, that is why I say I want to download you-tube and create closed caption. So, it is create + download = extract. Like to extract water from sponse, but can’t see water in sponse, but when extract, can see water clearly. But, of course you-tube need sound to extract closed caption. So, again, want to extract closed caption from you-tube with time that is right exactly. Let me know about auto closed caption is what kind of sub?? You have the word that say ripper. But I saw the website so it needs manally closed caption. K, so I will say extract, then convert from audio to text with time that is srt.file. So, I use sponse as a compare, but it is not enough, so water need to convert into soda. So, know anything that can extract and convert to closed caption??

    E-mail me, ok.

  8. Laf says:

    The script Download YouTube Captions works magnificent, thanks very much for the suggestion. 😀

  9. Getting Youtube Subtitles says:

    Online youtube subtitles:

  10. CoolPra says:

    I was also searching this and I found a great solution….you can download the video + subtitle language you want as well…

    check the following link….

    [REDACTED: Potential spam]

    It’s really work for me….great piece of software…


    • That exact link is already in an earlier comment. The fact that you posted it without even a cursory glance makes me wonder if there’s some sort of scam involved.

      (What was so important about posting that link that you couldn’t even check the handful of comments to see if someone else had already posted it? Perhaps because you were in a rush to get links up on as many sites as possible to direct people to some kind of malware you snuck into the binary builds?)

      As is, I’m going to remove the link from your post and put a warning on the other one.

  11. Chase says:

    Another option is to outsource your captioning to a captioning service, which is actually very affordable nowadays. Services like charges only $1 per minute and you can download the captions in plenty of formats too, up to more than 80 formats, which makes your captions compatible with almost any video or audio platform.

  12. dim says:

    One more online tool for extracting subtitles:

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