At first, it may seem like there is no difference in closed captions vs. subtitles. But while it may appear unclear, these terms have important differences.

Closed captions and subtitles differ according to their purpose. Subtitles serve as a text alternative to a video’s dialogue that includes narration. On the other hand, closed captions include dialogue, background noises, soundtrack, and other important audio cues. The latter is a great help for viewers who cannot hear by describing the audio to the listener.

What Are Subtitles?

Subtitles are the text form of the dialogue present in a video. They appear on the screen to help viewers comprehend the video if they do not understand its language. This presentation is more on the translation part, converting the language of the video into a text form of the viewer’s language.

Thanks to subtitles, people who do not speak the video’s original language can still enjoy and understand its contents. For instance, Japanese people can watch and understand foreign films thanks to subtitles. Similarly, subtitles make it easier to understand a TV series in the English language but a hard-to-comprehend accent.

closed captioning vs subtitles

How Are Subtitles Valuable for Viewers?

Although subtitles sound insignificant, they are helpful in many ways. It is useful not only in translating a video’s audio from one language to another. It is also a great help to people who are hard of hearing and deaf, although not as much as closed captions (more on that later). It’s also useful if you are watching a video in loud places or you have low-quality speakers.

Other ways that subtitles can be useful include:

  • Learning foreign languages
  • Improving reading speed
  • Learning the meaning of words
  • Understanding technical language
  • Maintaining concentration for some time

Over the past years, subtitles have been popularly used for educational purposes. Parents found that it helps to teach kids to learn to read quickly. They also find it a great way to watch videos without the sound that might disturb babies. Thanks to that, subtitles have now become a well-accepted educational tool.

DaVinci Resolve is a great program with which to achieve excellent subtitles. If you need subtitles in DaVinci Resolve, our Pros are ready to help you achieve amazing results in a flash!

Type of Subtitles

Businesses also have great use with subtitles, in some of the ways mentioned before. If your audience is from a different country than yours, it will be difficult to reach out to them in your primary language. In that case, subtitling will be highly useful by translating video content, although closed captioning also work.

Open and Closed Subtitles

It is essential to know about the different types of subtitles. Subtitles can be either of two categories – open subtitles and closed subtitles. Open subtitles are burned subtitles hard-coded into the file. This means the viewer cannot turn them off.

They are also called hard subs, permanently added to the video, and don’t need additional software to play. On the other hand, closed subtitles can be pre-rendered or soft subtitles. Closed subtitles can be turned on or off and made for specific viewers.

Pre-Rendered and Soft Subtitles

Pre-rendered subtitles are the type you put over the video file while playing. This is the kind of subtitle often used in Blu-ray and DVD. Hence, you can usually turn off their subtitles. DVDs and Blu-ray can also have multiple subtitles in different languages, so you can change them over.

The other type of closed subtitle is soft subs, which has distinct commands shown during playback. An example of this is marked-up content that includes timestamps. You will need player support for soft subs to playback. It is notably easier to create and modify.

Soft subs also come in two categories – internal subtitles that are rooted in one video file container, and external subtitles where separate files are broadcasted. Besides different types of subtitles, it also has different formats you need to know if you plan to add subs to your videos.

Subtitle formats

The different subtitle formats are:

  • Sub Rio or SRT – The simplest subtitle format, it comprises batches of text lines, numbered successively with a blank line dividing them.
  • SubStation Alpha or SSA – This subtitle format is more innovative and most often used in animated fansubs.
  • Sub Viewer – This format uses the .sub extension in labeling information and defining the timing.
  • Timed text – This format makes use of real-time captioning that can be used for people who are hard of hearing and foreign-language movies.
  • Micro DVD – This subtitle format uses .sub extension and is mostly used with digital videos.

What Is Closed Captioning?

Closed captioning is the process of adding chunks of texts reflecting a video’s audio track. The texts are timed so that they can be read while simultaneously watching the video. While subtitles involve translating the audio, the process of close captioning includes transcribing the audio and converting it to text.

When using close captions, the assumption is that the audience cannot hear the audio. You can clearly distinguish close captioning vs. subtitles in that the former conveys not only the dialogue or spoken content. It must also transcribe speaker identification, sound effects, and even non-speech aspects.

Closed Captions and Other Presentations

You already know the difference between closed captioning vs. subtitles, but what about closed captions and transcripts? Is there a difference between closed captions and SDH?

Closed Captions vs. Subtitles

The elements of closed captions mentioned above are what set it apart from subtitles. Subtitles assume that the audience hears the audio but doesn’t understand its language. But with closed captions, viewers cannot hear the audio at all so they must rely on closed captions to provide them the information to understand the video.

Closed captioning vs. subtitles is an important distinction mainly in the United States. However, this does not matter much in other countries. In those countries, they also call closed captions as subtitles. Besides traditional subtitles and closed captions, there is another – Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing or SDH.

Closed Captions vs. SDH

SDH combines the information that both closed captions and subtitles convey. Subtitles for the Dead and Hard of Hearing provide subtitles of translated dialogue, sound effects, and other non-speech elements. This is ideal for videos with an audience that cannot hear and does not understand the language.

Closed Captions vs. Scripts

Transcripts and captions are also often compared. The main difference between the two is that a transcript isn’t matched or coordinated with the media. It is most often just a written record of an audio project. Meanwhile, closed captions are used frequently in presentations and videos.

Closed Captions vs. Open Captions

Closed captions and open captions differ in that the viewer can turn closed captions on or off. It is a bit similar to closed subtitles and open subtitles with open captions burned or hardcoded into the video. You cannot turn off an open caption unlike the closed captions found on videos online such as on YouTube.

Pre-Recorded Captions vs. Live Captions

Besides closed captions and open captions, there are also pre-record and live captions. They are also known as offline captions and real-time captions, which clearly indicate the captioning process’s timing. Live captioning is performed in real-time while pre-recorded captioning happens after the event.

Importance of Quality in Closed Captions

Transcribing the other audio elements of a video is not the only thing crucial to closed captions. Quality is the most important because the captions are for the deaf and hard of hearing audience. Inaccurate closed captions are going to be frustrating for the viewer, so you must make sure that they are exactly as the audio.

Following this, it is important to keep in mind three standards that help ensure the quality of your closed captions. These are:

  • Readability

Whether it is subtitles or closed captions, it must be readable to be accessible. But with closed captions, it must match with the audio’s tone and intent. That way, the viewer can properly comprehend the video’s content.

  • Placement

Closed captions are usually located at the lower center of the screen. But unlike subtitles, closed captions should appear in other places depending on critical visual elements. If there are silence and pause, the captions go away to indicate the lack of audio.

  • Speaker Labels

Because the viewer cannot tell who the speaker is by voice, speaker labels are crucial in closed captions. The labels are there to clarify who said what, which is incredibly helpful when there are multiple speakers.

closed captioning vs subtitles

Which to use – Closed Captions or Subtitles?

By now, you already realize the difference between closed captioning vs. subtitles. That means you must also have an idea when to use captions or subs. The answer is it mostly has to do with the purpose and the audience of the content. If it is to translate the language, then you can add a subtitle.

If your viewers cannot hear, then a closed caption is a better choice. But if it is both, then you can instead add a subtitle for deaf and hard of hearing. No matter which one you choose, there are many good reasons why to add them to your videos. For one, subtitles can boost video shares by 15%.

It is also enough reason to add subtitles or captions to your video knowing that most people prefer to have them. This is true even when the video is in the original language of the viewer. It is just that with subtitles and captions, they can understand the content better. Making a video easier to understand is a sure way to get more people to view it.

Of course, there are also important reasons like the fact that close to 40 million Americans have difficulty in hearing, and not everyone speaks your language. If you want to breach the language barrier and ensure your message is conveyed, closed captioning and subtitles are what you need.

Hire a Professional for Your Captioning and Subtitling Needs

Subtitles and captions are both important elements of videos that brands need. Both make it quicker to reach your audience, making your video content easier to digest.

Bunny Studio does not only offer video services such as editing, but also translation and transcription. These services involve both subtitles and closed captioning, whether you want them hard-coded or not. Rest assured our team works to make your video content more accessible with accurate captions and subtitles.

If you have an important subtitling or closed captioning project, contact the professionals at Bunny Studio today.