Closed Captioning and Subtitling for Pre-Recorded Programs: The What, Why, and How of it.
May 17, 2023

Closed Captioning and Subtitling for Pre-Recorded Programs: The What, Why, and How of it.

Translating video and audio is an urgent requirement today with the boom in pre-recorded TV programs and streaming media. You can go about it in several ways, with closed captioning and subtitling being the most popular content producers’ choices.

What is closed captioning?

Closed captions are one way of transcribing video content. Closed captions are not burned into the video file but exist as a separate file. Viewers can switch them on or off.

Closed captions can be basic or descriptive. Basic captions transcribe the speech and non-speech information on the screen. On the other hand, descriptive captions provide additional info about what else is being shown on the screen.

The CC button denotes closed captions.

What other forms of captioning exist?

The other way to caption is by embedding the captions in the video file itself. They are called open captions. They are part of the video file and cannot be switched on or off.

Why one form of captioning over the other?

Both approaches have their pros and cons. Open captioning is more suitable when the audience may find it complicated to manage the caption function. Also, if the video is going to be displayed outdoors or in a noisy environment, you would default to open captions.

Closed captioning is found more on streaming media, perhaps assuming that viewers on such platforms can toggle the CC button. They are easily editable, thus enabling the same video to be translated into multiple languages. Users can also effortlessly create closed captions if you were to crowdsource transcription.

What is subtitling?

Subtitles refer to translated video captions. Streaming platforms such as Netflix and YouTube provide subtitles in multiple languages, thus increasing the video manifold’s reach.


Why closed captioning and subtitling?

Accessibility. Closed captions or transcripts make it possible for the hearing impaired to enjoy movies and TV series just like anyone else does. It’s also beneficial to autistic people as they have trouble with auditory processing. Transcripts are a requirement for web accessibility, as stipulated by some laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Better user experience (UX). However, in a broader sense, accessibility is not limited to the deaf and hearing-impaired requirements. Sometimes when you are outdoors or in a noisy environment, you may not hear the audio well enough. Transcripts provide better clarity in such situations.

Speakers of foreign languages also find transcripts helpful, as they usually find the speech faster for their comprehension levels.

More market reach. There is a huge demand for subtitled movies and TV programs as the appetite for foreign language content grows, thanks to the Netflix phenomenon. Of course, this hunger always existed, but it was not catered to a large extent. The near-ubiquitous internet connectivity and mobile phone penetration have fuelled this new trend of watching multilingual content.

Come to think of it, subtitling makes so much market sense: the same program can be watched by more audiences worldwide than if it were to remain in the original language.

Search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines read captions and subtitles. This helps in indexing your videos so that they can be displayed for relevant searches. Search engines cannot parse videos without subtitle files, and hence the chances of showing them up in search results drops.

Preparatory step. Captions or transcriptions are mandatory if you want to create subtitles. Linguists would rather translate from the captions than having to translate from the video directly.

Which videos need closed captioning and subtitling?

Movies and entertainment programs are the most commonly transcribed and subtitled videos. But the following audiovisual content too can benefit from video localization:

• Marketing/advertisement
• Product demos
• E-learning courses
• Training
• Public awareness

How to choose a high-quality closed captioning and subtitling services company?

Despite the resources you may have put in producing the video, it might all get undone if the captions and subtitles are of low quality. Viewers can get put off by erroneous translations or un-synced subtitles and leave the video mid-way.

That’s why it’s critical to partner with an experienced, top-tier audio video transcription and subtitling provider. But what do you need to look for in a video translation company?

Consider the following:
• What does their tech infrastructure look like? What are their quality processes?
Let’s face it, in video localization your tech muscle comes first. Everything else comes later. Videos are huge files and it can be time-consuming and data-intensive to upload and download them. Freelancer linguists may not always have an unlimited broadband connection that can do such heavy-lifting. Furthermore, sending and receiving of files simply creates numerous versions of the file, making version management a full-time and error-prone task.

At Braahmam, we caption and subtitle all files on our French partner’s cloud-based tool, Mediawen. This not only takes care of version control, but we also achieve speed and accuracy from the artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled transcription tool.

The transcripts are run through a machine translation (MT) engine to create subtitles. Braahmam’s trained, domain-specialist linguists then edit this output. Apart from this, we do several separate rounds of quality assessment (QA) to make sure we meet your quality expectations.

• What file formats can they deliver in?
Braahmam can deliver the localized file in any format of your choice, be it .srt (SubRip), .smi (synchronized multimedia integration), .ssa (SubStation Alpha), .sbv (YouTube format), .ttml (Timed Text Markup Language), or some other.

• How will they adapt content to different audiences?
While MT is indispensable to subtitling when speed and volumes are required, some content may need a layer of editing to ensure quality. Also, you need to take care that the content is not insulting to the target audience, nor does it appear ridiculous to them. The target audience, by definition, is situated in a different culture. So, the translation often needs to go beyond the literal level and take the form of content adaptation. Native linguists with solid domain experience are required for such work.

Closed captions and subtitles are integral to the UX and can drive viewer engagement rates for TV programs or other pre-recorded videos. Work with a trustworthy and knowledgeable partner to ensure the localization quality does justice to your video assets.

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