Closed Captioning and Subtitling: Are they the same?
May 16, 2023

Closed Captioning and Subtitling: Are they the same?

Closed captioning and subtitling: Are they the same?

Video conveys powerful messages. But sometimes, it needs a little text help to increase and empower its reach.

Closed captioning and subtitling are two ways to put the content of the video in text form. These speech-to-text formats have specific purposes to serve, depending on the content of the video, the users, and any legal requirements. In this post, we talk about where and why they are used and how closed captioning and subtitling differ from each other.

Captioning types: What they are and where would you use them?

First of all, there are two types of captions: open and closed. Open captions are burned or embedded into the video file. That means these captions cannot be edited separately. Though this may sound cumbersome, it has its use cases. For instance, some social media platforms such as TikTok, SnapChat, and Instagram currently only support open captions.

Open captions can also be useful when the videos are being displayed in an outdoor noisy environment, where the audio cannot be heard well. Viewers do not have to do anything to view the captions, as it is already embedded in the video.

Closed captions, on the other hand, are created as separate files. For this reason, they can be created and edited much more easily than open captions.

Viewers can switch closed captions on or off. Usually, streaming video platforms such as YouTube support closed captions or CC as they are known.

Both closed and open captions are used to ensure accessibility of the video to people who may be hard of hearing or for those who may find it difficult to quickly catch the dialog.

Differences between closed captioning and subtitling

Closed captioningSubtitlingClosed captions are a form of transcription. That is, the dialog on the screen is put in text form. There can be basic or descriptive closed captions. Basic captions contain only the text for the dialog. However, descriptive captions capture all on-screen information such as if there is a telephone ringing in the background, etc.Subtitles are translations of the dialog on the screen. They may or may not contain additional on-screen information.Closed captions are an accessibility feature. They help the hearing impaired and people with other auditory processing difficulties to understand and enjoy the video content.Subtitles are not necessarily for the hearing impaired. They are useful for viewers who do not understand the language of the video.To ensure accessibility, captions may be required by law in some countries.Subtitles are not usually required by law.Captions increase viewer engagement, especially on social media. Many viewers watch videos on mute. If there are no captions, they might simply scroll past the video.Subtitles increase the international reach of a video by making it multilingual.Captions are usually rendered verbatim. That is, the spoken words are converted to text, as they are, with little or no changes.Subtitles may sometimes need to be adapted for two reasons: (1) English takes up to 30% less screen space than most other languages. So, translations from English to other languages may end up crowding the screen. So, the linguist will have to find ways of saying it in fewer words. (2) The humor used in the original video, interjections, or some phrases may not translate well into the target language if done verbatim. Here, too, the linguist will have to creatively adapt the text for the target culture.

While these are the main differences between closed captions and subtitles, they have some similarities, too. Both closed captions and subtitles increase viewer engagement and are search engine optimization (SEO)-friendly. Video files without captions or subtitles cannot be parsed by search engines. Hence, they cannot be indexed and will not be displayed in search results.

Transcription and video translation process: how to get it done

Transcripts need to be produced first, then comes subtitling. Both transcription and subtitling can be powered with artificial intelligence and can be automated to a large extent. However, depending on the quality expectations, they may need a layer of editing by human, professional linguists.

Braahmam offers professional audio video translation and multilingual subtitling in collaboration with Mediawen of France, our technology partner for video translation services. Mediawen’s state-of-the-art speech-to-text conversion technology automatically transcribes the video and inserts accurate timestamps. Thus, the bulk of the grunt work involved in captioning is taken care of.

Once the captions are edited as needed, they can be machine-translated into any language you require and produce subtitles. Experienced linguists edit and adapt the subtitles as required and produce the final file.

Mediawen’s powerful editor makes it possible to format the captions and subtitles to your specific requirements. This is an important feature as the wrong font size or color can make it hard to read for the viewer to read.

Industries that make use of closed captions and subtitles

There is pretty much no industry vertical that does not use video in some way. As a result, they also need speech transcription and video translation services. However, some verticals are heavily dependent on these services for their survival in the market.

Let’s take gaming, for example. Captions and subtitles are not just an accessibility feature here but enable a better gaming experience.

Same with e-learning where the application of video is far-ranging. It may be explainer videos, online course modules, staff training, or compliance training. Transcripts are often required so that learners can print them, if required, or otherwise pace out their learning.

Transcripts are also needed in legal matters when the footage of closed-circuit cameras is required to be produced in court.

With the increase in online events and video conferencing, captions and subtitles are required when the attendees speak different languages or as a backup against poor audio quality.

The use cases for video transcription and subtitling are aplenty and only set to increase. Understand your audience’s specific needs for text support and accordingly choose between open and closed captions and subtitles.

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