Closed Captioning vs. Subtitles: Understanding the Differences

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Closed captioning and subtitles are both methods of displaying text on audiovisual platforms. They allow for a more diverse audience. Through their use, audiences can enjoy audiovisual presentations despite speaking a different language or dialect than the one in the audio. Deaf and hard-of-hearing people can also have a worthwhile watching experience. People often confuse closed captioning and subtitles even though each has its own benefits and features.

What Is Closed Captioning?

It is essentially a text version of the spoken parts of an audiovisual presentation. Its application encompasses TV shows, movies, and videos on the internet. The development of closed captioning first appeared with the purpose to allow hard of hearing individuals to fully experience media content. Captioners help prepare the captions for movies and other recorded audiovisual material beforehand. However, in the case of live TV, they are generated on the spot.

Benefits of Closed Captioning

Closed captioning is useful for several reasons. It benefits viewers in noisy areas. Have you ever tried to listen to a video in a busy food court? Trying to listen to audio while in a loud place like that can be frustrating. Closed captioning relieves that frustration by providing the audio components of the video in a textual format.

It also proves helpful in places that require silence. Perhaps you forgot your headphones; how are you going to watch that video while sitting in the library? With closed captioning, you can understand a video’s audio content without hearing it. That way, you won’t get kicked out of the library for listening without headphones.

Closed captioning can also be helpful when the audio itself is too quiet. Sometimes, the soundtrack covers up the dialogue. Other times, the presenters in a TV show whisper. Closed captioning allows viewers to fully experience the audio component of the media, even if it is difficult to hear.

Dialogue is not the only audio that closed captioning describes. It also includes any sound effects and non-verbal information. Sound effects appear within brackets. For example, if a crowd is cheering, the closed captions will say, [crowd cheering]. Closed captioning also describes sounds that occur off-screen. For example, someone rings a doorbell outside of the camera’s view. Despite being unable to see it visually, the closed captions still include it. It would look like [doorbell ringing].

What Are Subtitles?

Like closed captions, subtitles are a text version of the audio content in an audiovisual presentation. Deaf and hard of hearing may benefit from subtitles, but that is not their primary intention. Subtitles assume the viewer can hear the audio, but they can’t understand it. The purpose of subtitles is to present the content in a different language than the original recording.

Benefits of Subtitles

Let’s say you have a movie in English. Without subtitles, speakers of a different language won’t fully understand what’s happening in it if they don’t know the language. Only English speakers would be able to appreciate the film fully. On the other hand, a Korean speaker with no English knowledge wouldn’t be able to enjoy the movie.

With the addition of subtitles, a far more diverse population can access a variety of TV shows and movies. Even if the producers record the film in English with no dubbing whatsoever, subtitles can help the broader population understand the content regardless of language. This way, a theoretical Korean speaker with no English experience can easily enjoy a movie recorded in English.

Subtitles are also highly beneficial for language learners. They can watch audiovisual presentations in the target language (the language they are learning) with subtitles in their native language. As a result, their vocabulary, reading comprehension, and pronunciation improve. Learning a language by watching a movie is much more fun than reading a textbook.

Even speakers of the language can benefit from subtitles. Sometimes the audio content may be difficult to understand, even in a language the viewer speaks fluently. For example, medical drama TV shows use a lot of technical terminologies that are hard to comprehend. Keeping up with the plot can be difficult with all the healthcare vocabulary swirling around. Reading subtitles can help a viewer keep everything straight.

Closed Captioning or Subtitles: Which One Should You Choose?

Closed captioning and subtitles help audiences fully appreciate audiovisual content in different ways. Thanks to them, movies and TV shows are available to a much wider variety of people. However, the process of creating captions and subtitles can be very complicated. Someone has to transcribe every single word and sound. In a 2-hour movie, that is a significant amount of work.

If you are a movie producer or a creator of audiovisual content, you may be seeking someone with the time and skill to create closed captions or subtitles. Consider checking GoTranscript at: for all your accurate captioning and subtitling needs. They provide high-quality services at an impressive pace.

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