The One Thing You Need to Guarantee Closed Captions Never Block Important Visuals

January 13, 2016 BY EMILY GRIFFIN
Updated: January 4, 2018

What’s not to like about closed captions?

One of the rare complaints about captions is that they might block text or other important visuals on screen.

While this is an occasional nuisance for live captions, this should never be the case for pre-recorded films or TV content.

As a video creator, you have the ability (and, in many cases, the obligation) to ensure your closed captions display correctly. FCC closed caption quality standards dictate that captions be positioned on the screen so as not to obscure text, characters’ faces, credits, sports scores, or other essential information. That means that for all American television shows, films, commercials, or clips, closed captions should never be in the way.

How do you make that happen?

Vertical Caption Placement

Closed captioning companies already use technology to do most of the work for you. Software analyzes the screen for text, and when text is detected in the area of the caption frame, it automatically moves that caption frame to the top of the screen. This is called ‘vertical caption placement;’ see image below for an example.

Vertical Caption Placement Demo

Automatic vertical caption placement works great for most video, but it has some limitations:

  • If there is text on the top and bottom parts of the screen, it can’t decide which is more important.
  • Automatic vertical caption placement does not detect faces or graphics in the caption frame.
  • Caption placement technology is designed to err on the side of moving captions to the top, which results in fewer cases of bottom text obscurity. On rare occasions, the captions are moved to the top needlessly.

Manual Vertical Caption Placement

If you want to make 100% sure that your captions don’t block important visual elements, you can now order manual vertical caption placement. With this service, a skilled editor personally checks the placement of each caption file on screen. They can make judgement calls about the relative importance if the caption were to partially obstruct something in either the top or the bottom of the screen.

For pricing information about manual vertical caption placement, access our pricing page.

Read the free report: 2017 State of Captioning.

The closed caption CC icon shown in the middle of a TV.