What is the difference between closed captions and subtitles?

What is the difference between closed captions and subtitles?

Have you ever watched a movie or television show and noticed words at the bottom of the screen? Did you know that subtitles and closed captions serve separate functions?  

These two types of text have different objectives and intended audiences, despite their seeming similarity. The differences between closed captions vs subtitles, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each, are discussed in this article. To make things more exciting, you will also learn how to add subtitles to videos!

Let's explore the world of captions and subtitles while enjoying some popcorn!


What Is a Closed Caption?

To start with, what does closed caption mean? Closed captions  (also known as CC subtitles) are a type of text display that provides a transcript of the audio in a video or TV program. They are made to make the content easier to understand for those who are hard of hearing or deaf. 

Since the text in closed captions is by default concealed but may be turned on or off in the video player, the term "closed" was chosen to describe this behavior. They are often placed at the bottom of the screen and include background noises, sound effects, as well as speech, in order to offer the viewer a more genuine experience. 

From TV series and movies to online videos and live events, closed captions are available on a variety of media. 

So, what are the benefits of closed captions? Closed captions assist language learners, viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing, enhance overall comprehension, enable multitasking, and boost a video's search engine optimization. They improve the usability, inclusivity, and accessibility of media for a broader spectrum of audiences.

Closed captions may conceal significant visual elements of the video, such text or graphics. Due to their persistent presence on the screen, they could potentially bother viewers who don't require them. The accuracy of the captions may vary depending on the quality of the speech recognition program that was used to generate them.


What Is a Subtitle?

To understand the difference between subtitles and closed captions, let’s take a look at what subtitles are. A subtitle is a kind of text display that translates the audio in a film or TV show for viewers who do not understand the foreign language being used in the video. 

The conversation or narration is translated into the viewer's language and is usually displayed as subtitles at the bottom of the screen. Closed captions offer descriptions of sound effects and other video audio cues, but subtitles do not. Subtitles are often created for viewers who can hear the spoken language in the video but do not comprehend it.

Then, what are the benefits of subtitles? Subtitles benefit viewers by making media accessible to non-native speakers and people around the world, improving comprehension, helping language learners, catering to multilingual audiences, and promoting cultural exchange.

Compared to subtitles, which frequently lack descriptions of sound effects and music, closed captions offer greater context. This could be a problem for viewers who aren't fluent in the language being used in the video clip. If the subtitles don't always match the spoken words in the video, it can be challenging for viewers to follow along in multiple languages.


Differences between Closed Captions Vs. Subtitles

While they do have apparent similarities, closed captions and subtitles differ significantly. Let's dig deeper into the difference between closed captions and subtitles!

  • Purpose: Closed captions serve the primary goal of providing a transcript of the audio for deaf or hard of hearing viewers, whereas subtitles translate the spoken information for non-native speakers.
  • Content: Closed captions provide descriptions of sound effects and other auditory cues in addition to dialogue, whereas subtitles just translate the spoken words.
  • Format: Subtitles are "open" by default and are available to all viewers regardless of their choices, whereas closed captions are "closed" by default, meaning they can be turned on or off by the viewer.
  • Legal Requirements: While subtitles are not always needed by law, closed captions are frequently mandated for broadcast TV and online programming.
  • Placement: While subtitles can be positioned anywhere on the screen, closed captions are commonly displayed at the bottom of the screen.

When to Use Closed Captions or Subtitles

Both closed captions and subtitles are excellent resources for enhancing the accessibility and inclusivity of video material. Depending on the target audience and goal of the video material, one should choose between the two possibilities. The following situations might call for closed captions or subtitles:


Scenarios Where Closed Captioning is Preferred

  • Accessibility: Since closed captions offer a written transcription of a video's audio content, they are crucial for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing. They are a more complete accessibility solution because they can also provide descriptions of audio cues and sound effects.
  • Noisy environments: Those who watch in noisy settings, such as airports or coffee shops, where it could be challenging to hear the audio material, may find closed captions helpful.
  • Multitasking: Closed captions enable viewers who like to watch videos while engaging in other activities, such as working or exercising, to follow the storyline without needing to hear the audio.

Scenarios Where Subtitles are Preferred

  • Language barriers: For viewers who do not understand the language being spoken in the video, subtitles are meant to give translations of the spoken information. They are perfect for international audiences' foreign-language movies or videos.
  • Accents or dialects:  Viewers who may have trouble understanding the spoken language because of accents or dialects may find subtitles helpful.
  • Clarity: Subtitles occasionally assist in making the audio content more understandable, especially when the audio quality is subpar or the speaker's voice is muddled or distorted.

Now that you know when to use what, let’s take a look at some video editing tips that could make your captioning journey way smoother!

How to Auto Caption Video Content with Flixier

Although adding closed captioning to a video might be time-consuming, there are now video editing tools like Flixier that can create captions for your videos automatically. The automated captioning function in Flixier translates the spoken audio in the video and adds subtitles right to the timeline of the movie. This eliminates the need for the manual transcription and captioning of the video, which can be tiresome and time-consuming.

A higher level of accuracy in the captions is also guaranteed when using Flixier's automatic captioning feature as opposed to manually transcribing the content. Advanced voice recognition technology is used by the program to accurately translate the audio files and provide captions that coincide with the timing of the spoken words.

Whether you want to use it as an auto-subtitle generator or as an auto-caption generator, these are the steps you need to take:


1. Add your videos to Flixier

You must first add your videos to the Flixier library in order for the system to automatically produce subtitles. You can do this by simply importing from cloud storage services, uploading from your computer, or immediately streaming from YouTube, Zoom, or Twitch.


2 Automatically create subtitles

You can drag and drop your imported videos onto the Flixier timeline at this point. Clicking on one of these will cause a button labeled Generate Auto Subtitle to appear on the right side. By clicking it, creating your subtitle, and then clicking start, it will be put to the timeline, where you can continue to edit it.


3. Publish video or download subtitle

When satisfied with the outcome, you may quickly export your video using the powerful cloud rendering engine that is exclusive to Flixier. You can download or immediately post the exported video to social media after it has been published. Another option is to simply download it to your computer and use it however you like.

Frequently asked questions

Can closed captions be used instead of subtitles for foreign language videos?

Do subtitles include descriptions of audio cues and sound effects?

Where are closed captions and subtitles typically positioned on the screen?

Why is it important to understand the differences between closed captions and subtitles?

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