Captions vs. Subtitles: Do You Know the Difference?
Updated: June 3, 2019
What are captions?
The first captions could not be turned off (open captions) and were part of the video itself. Soon after, closed captions were developed, allowing viewers to turn the caption feature on and off. Today, both closed and open captioning are widely available in many forms across movie theaters, cable networks, devices, live streaming services, and most internet video players like YouTube, Vimeo, and Brightcove.
Captions, both open and closed, are different from subtitles in that they are designed to ensure the viewer can understand all of the essential audio in the video — not just the spoken audio. Non-speech sounds that are necessary to the understanding of the video are also a critical element of proper captioning and are normally shown in brackets (as in the above example of the puppy attempting to bark angrily).
What are subtitles?
To accommodate foreign audiences who did not understand the language used in the film, this required text on screen that translated the spoken audio.
The above screenshot shows an example of Spanish subtitles from the movie Homeward Bound. In the film’s audio, Chance (voiced in English by Michael J. Fox) is saying, “Okay. Cats rule and dogs drool.”
The main purpose of subtitling is to translate spoken audio into the viewer’s language. In most cases, subtitles are not an appropriate accommodation for deaf and hard of hearing viewers because they do not include non-speech sounds that provide an equivalent viewing experience for people who cannot hear.
Want to learn more about captions and subtitles? Download the free Beginner’s Guide to Captioning!
Audio Description for YouTube
YouTube is one of the most popular video platforms in the world, boasting over 1.9 billion monthly active users. It’s the second largest search engine and second most visited website in the world, behind its parent company, Google. There’s no denying our…
FAQ: What You Should Know About Audio Description
Audio description is showing up in more and more places, but what is it, how does it work, and why is it important? In the Intro to Audio Description webinar, we answer those questions and more. Like closed captions, audio description is…
Accessibility for Higher Education Athletics
Go, team, go! If you’ve attended a college or university in the United States with a sports team, you probably know just how big sports culture is. Pre-game festivities typically take place in a parking lot outside of a sports stadium and…