Video Editing

Captioning vs subtitles—how are they different?

Posted October 11, 2021
Written by Clipchamp
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Wondering what the difference is between subtitles and closed captions?

Which one should you add to your videos to make them easy to view with sound off, overcome language barriers, and make your videos accessible to everyone?

They might seem identical, but subtitles and captions are actually two different video transcription types. Here's a quick breakdown on how to apply these transcription types correctly to your creative videos, promo videos, or any other video content.

Defining captions and subtitles

subtitles vs captioning comparison

Here are the major differences between the two types of video transcriptions. You’ll need one or the other (or even both) depending on what your video needs to achieve.

What are closed-captions (CC)?

Closed Captions are transcriptions of almost 100% of what you’re seeing on a video. Closed captions include dialogues, background music, sound effects and text. Closed captions can be turned on and off depending on your remote or web video player like YouTube or Vimeo. This makes them different from hard-coded subtitles or open-captions (OC) that are embedded in a video and can't be turned off.

Closed captions are primarily used for increasing the accessibility of videos. It's used to aid those hard of hearing and the D/deaf community.

What are subtitles?

Subtitles are transcriptions of the video's dialogues along with everything you see in a video. They are commonly used for videos being showcased in foreign markets where viewers don’t speak the native language of the video or film. They provide functionality across platforms and the ability to exchange, edit and distribute videos or films in an efficient manner.

Which one should you use?

Different resources, different purposes. You'll need to decide based on what the purpose of your transcription will be. Who is the intended audience? If you need to transcribe a movie that’s in English to be viewed in France, you should choose subtitles. On the other hand, if your film is intended for the hard of hearing market, then closed captioning is the way to go.

Why it’s important to use closed captions

Closed captions are very important if you’re a content producer and you find yourself working with a wide network of possible viewers. It will amplify and enhance the accessibility of your productions and will greatly increase the options you have to market your content to a wider audience while boosting your footprint on the web as it may also have SEO benefits. 

Tools for captioning and subtitling

So now that you can accurately choose which format you will need to add to your files, let’s take a look at some of the best captioning and subtitling software for getting those subtitles or captions on your videos in a quick, painless and efficient way.

Using Clipchamp online video editor, you can add any text you want to your videos, from titles to captions.

FAQ1: How to add captions to TikTok videos

If you don’t want to manually caption your videos, you can use Happy Scribe subtitle generator, a great tool if you want to save time.

Want to learn more about subtitles vs captioning?

Now it's easy to understand whether to use closed captions or subtitles in your content and also which caption maker software to use.

Check out this handy guide if you'd like to learn how to add subtitles to a video in Clipchamp step-by-step. When you're ready, just drag, drop and edit your video for free.

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