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closed captioning vs subtitles

Closed Captioning vs Subtitles: What Makes Them Different

Closed captioning and subtitles are both popular methods of providing text-based content for media.

Closed captions are typically used by people with hearing impairments, while subtitles are more commonly used by viewers who speak a language that is different from the language being spoken in the video.

In this article, we’re delving into the definition, distinctions, and when to use closed captions or subtitles.


What Is Closed Captioning?

Closed captioning is the process of adding text to a video or television program to provide viewers with access to information that they might otherwise miss out on.

This can include dialogue, sound effects, music titles, and other useful content. Closed captions are typically displayed at the bottom of the screen as a subtle way to provide additional context or explanation for what’s happening on-screen.

It can also help people learn new languages and assist those who may be watching in a noisy environment.

Overall, closed captioning is an invaluable tool for making television and other video media more accessible and enjoyable for people of all backgrounds and abilities.

The process of providing closed captions involves three main steps.

  • First, the original audio track of the program must be transcribed,
  • Then formatted into a caption file to sync up with what’s happening on screen.
  • Finally, this caption file is added to the video source and made available for viewers.


What Are Subtitles?

Subtitles are text that is displayed alongside or over a video or film, typically containing a translation of the dialogue and on-screen action.

Same to closed captioning, subtitles can help to make video content more accessible for those with hearing impairments, as well as provide an opportunity for viewers from different language backgrounds to understand a video’s audio content.

They are essential in international marketing, allowing videos to be easily shared and consumed across different markets.

The use of subtitles has become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly in streaming services where they are often offered as part of the original language version, allowing viewers to choose whether they want to watch with or without subtitles.

The main types of subtitles available are:

  • Open captions (OC) which are permanently displayed on the video,
  • Closed captions (CC) can be toggled on or off by the viewer.


What Makes Them Different?

Closed captioning and subtitles are two different methods of providing audio descriptions to viewers who may be deaf or hard of hearing or simply need to access additional information.

Subtitles are text presented within the visual field, typically placed at the bottom of a video frame. The purpose is to translate dialogues and other sound effects into written words that can be read by viewers.

Closed captions, on the other hand, are more inclusive in their translation. They not only transcribe spoken words but also add non-verbal cues such as music, laughter, effects, and any sound that isn’t part of the dialogue.

This allows people with hearing impairments to gain access to important information from a video that they may have otherwise missed out on. Additionally, closed captions also provide a better viewing experience for people with different language backgrounds.


Closed Captioning – Subtitles: Which One Is Better?

When deciding which one is better for your project, consider the needs of your audience and what type of content you are creating.

Closed captions may be more suitable if viewers need to understand sound effects as well as dialogue, while subtitles are a better option when translating content into multiple languages or catering to international audiences that speak different languages.

It also comes down to the preferences of your audience and the type of media you are producing. Closed captioning can be more expensive as it requires a transcriptionist, while subtitles are easier to create and format since they only require text on the screen.

For content hidden behind paywalls or intended for educational use, closed captions may be the more accessible option because they can include audio descriptions that make them more useful for viewers with visual impairments. Subtitles on the other hand don’t provide these benefits but tend to be less expensive and quicker to produce.

You should also consider how subtitles or closed captions could benefit foreign language learners. Subtitles are often used in learning materials because they make it easier to identify words and phrases being spoken, while closed captions can help viewers who might not understand an entire phrase but need the written transcription to learn a new language more effectively.

Finally, if you’re creating a video for social media platforms, subtitles are usually preferred as they can be auto-generated from text within the post and generally don’t take up too much time or require a lot of effort to create.

Whichever one you choose, both closed captions and subtitles provide helpful services to audiences who cannot hear or understand dialogue in videos or films.

So when it comes down to which one is better, closed captions or subtitles? The answer depends on your project and the needs of your audience.

Consider all the factors before deciding which option is best for you.

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