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Why Captions Are Worth It: A Case Study with Dell

Bill McCarty, Manager of Corporate Multimedia at Dell Software Group, spoke at the 2013 Streaming Media West conference on the topic of captioning corporate video. Dell’s approach to video captioning is a great case study on why captions are worth adding.

Watch Bill’s panel segment below or read on for highlights.


How Dell Uses Corporate Videos

For Dell, video content is an integral aspect of their marketing communications strategy. They publish video in order to educate people about Dell products.

While Dell uses video primarily in the pre-purchase phase, they also employ video as a successful training tool for customers.

Benefits of Closed Captioning Videos

Dell has been transcribing all video content for captioning since 2012, and they’ve enjoyed several benefits from captioning their content.


When Dell’s goal is to drive traffic to their site, search engine optimization is key.

Closed captions and transcripts make videos searchable — by users and by search engines.

Google can’t watch video, so there is no way for it to detect all of the great keywords contained therein — unless you provide the speech in a format that search bots can read, like HTML5 captions or a noscript div.

Web Accessibility

Another benefit of captioning is that it makes videos accessible to more people.

Compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act was Dell’s main driver for captioning in the first place. Section 508 is a part of US federal disability law in that specifies requirements for making digital products, services, and communications fully accessible to people with disabilities.

For video, that means adding closed captions and transcripts to make them accessible to deaf and hard of hearing users.

One in five Americans over the age of 12 experiences hearing loss significant enough to interfere with daily communication. That means that without captions, Dell would be excluding 20% of their potential audience. Captioning product videos is the obvious choice.

Better Video Display Experience

Dell has found that they can play multiple videos in their lobbies and offices with the sound off, and people can still follow captions to see what the video is saying.

Clearly, that’s a better user experience than having multiple audio tracks play at once, or having display videos muted without captions.

Adding Captioning to the Production Process

When Dell began captioning their video content, they quickly learned that it should really be included in the production workflow in order to be sustainable.

They found it most efficient to build captioning and translation into their budget and production process. That way they could handle issues in pre-production rather than pre-recorded.

When Dell started thinking about captioning before and during production, they paid close attention to audio quality. Sharp audio quality matters when you rely on audio to get accurate captions, so Dell invested in quality microphones and recording equipment to ensure that speech sounds clear.

They also realized that though they often have product experts present in their videos, sometimes their accents are so thick that it takes away from the viewer’s experience.

These are all things you find out as you begin to incorporate captioning into your production process.

Dell’s Stance on Video Captioning

The benefits far outweigh the costs of creating captions.

McCarty says, “It’s hard to find a good reason not to caption, to be quite honest with you. It is such a minimal cost, especially compared with […] high-end video production or even mid-range video production. It is just something that is very easy to build into a budget.”

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