Captions and Subtitles – What’s the difference?

Captions and Subtitles

Captions and subtitles are often mistaken for one another when we talk about adding text to video. But both pay an important role in expanding the audience for your video. By increasing the number of people that can connect with your message both captions and subtitles are an effective part of your communications strategy. So what’s the difference between the two?

What’s the main difference?

In the simplest terms, captions provide an audio description of the video as text and subtitles provide a translation of the source language of a video. Depending on the audience, captions can provide their description in varying degrees. Captions intended for the hearing impaired should provide a complete description of any audio in your video including music, background noise, sound effects, and dialogue. Captions intended for corporate presentations or commercial use online only need contain a transcript of the spoken dialogue. This transcript as a caption will allow your video to be visible to search engines – making it easier for your customers to find you.

Other differences

Captions and subtitles can have very different presentations onscreen. Captions don’t allow for much creativity in the way they are presented. Closed captions for the hearing-impaired are regulated by the FCC and are almost always white text on a black background. They are not very exciting but captions are very effective at connecting with an audience that is unable to hear the audio on your program – such as the hearing impaired or in situations where the audience may not be able to hear the TV, like in a bar, airport, or gym.

Subtitles allow for much more creativity in the way they are presented. They can use a variety of fonts, colors, sizes, and backgrounds. For large presentations – such as corporate presentations to large audiences, we suggest subtitles with white text on a black background. This way even people in the back of the room can read the subtitles. For small screen presentations such as YouTube videos and DVDs we recommend yellow text with no background and a subtle black outline.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about captions and subtitles and which one might be right for you please feel free to contact me directly at 805-494-399, extension 110, or email me at j.bolton@agnew.com. I’d love to talk with you about your upcoming video editing or recording projects and answer any questions you may have.

Thanks for watching.