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Captioning 101 Expand All
A transcript is usually a text document without any time information. On the other hand, closed captions are time synchronized with the media. Closed captions can be built from a transcript by breaking the text up into small segments called caption frames, and synchronizing them with the media, so that each caption frame can be displayed at the right time.
In the US, “closed captions” are designed for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing. In addition to the spoken words, closed captions convey sound effects, speaker identification, and other non-speech elements.
On the other hand, “subtitles” are intended for viewers who can hear the audio, but cannot understand the language. Subtitles communicate the spoken content but not the sound effects. Subtitles are often associated with translation. Outside of the US, the words “subtitles” and “closed captions” are often used interchangeably.
“SDH” means “subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.” SDH subtitles convey the same information as closed captions but in some case have technical differences.
Closed captions can be turned on or off. Open captions are burned into the video and cannot be turned off. Most web video players use closed captions that can be turned on or off with a CC button.
Closed captioning is the process of taking an audio track, transcribing it to text, and then synchronizing it with the media so that the text can be viewed at the same time that the words are being spoken. Closed captions are typically located underneath the video or overlaid on top of the video. Closed captions communicate all audio information, including sound effects and non-speech elements. Closed captions originated in the early 1980s and gradually became a requirement for most programming on broadcast television. Accessibility laws went on to require closed captions for Internet video in certain cases.
The original purpose of closed captions was to provide accommodations for people with hearing disabilities. More than 50 million people in the US are deaf or hard of hearing, and transcripts and closed captions are an effective solution for audio and video content. However, many people that use closed captions are not deaf or hard of hearing. In fact, a BBC study showed that 80% of people who use captions don’t have any hearing disabilities. Closed captions improve comprehension and remove language barriers for people who know English as a second language (ESL). Closed Captions also compensate for poor audio quality or a noisy background, and allow the video to be used in sound sensitive environments like a workplace. Learn more about web accessibility
Offline (post-production) captioning means that the captioning process occurs after the recording has been completed and usually takes a few days to turnaround. Live captioning is done by stenographers in real-time. There are advantages and disadvantages of each process.