There is a lot of confusion over what captions actually are and what each term means. Are they subtitles? What’s a transcript? Do I need open or closed captions? So what are subtitles then? Hopefully, the information below answers these questions for you.

What are captions?

Captions are text and sound descriptions provided in a video that are synchronised with the media, and available to be read while watching the video.

When preparing captions it must be assumed that the viewer of the video won’t be able to hear the audio, so it’s important to provide captions for the spoken word, applicable sound effects that are important to the plot and to introduce each speaker.

The Australian Government, Broadcasting Services (Television Captioning) Standard 2013  (Television Captioning Standard) defines captions as the visual translation of the soundtrack of a program in English, in word form.

Is it the law to provide captions?

The Television Captioning Standard is legislation in Australia and this ensures that captions are meaningful to deaf viewers and viewers with reduced hearing. All commercial broadcasters, national broadcasters and subscription television broadcasters and narrowcasters must comply with the Standard. The Standard requires captions to be readable, accurate, and comprehensible so that they can be meaningful to viewers.

But this is only applicable to television shows. So when we consider the potential other places videos can be shown it then falls under the general realm of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, being a complaints-based piece of legislation (rather than compliance-based). This means it is also a risk for organisations not captioning their videos.

What’s a transcript? How does it differ from captions?

A transcript is just text. It doesn’t include any time information, so when a video is transcribed, the text is written down for a person to read, but it can’t be read in context with what’s being shown or said in the video. Transcripts would, however, be sufficient for when there is just audio, and no video, such as for a podcast or radio show,

However, captions have time information included with any caption file and the spoken word, sounds effects and speaker introduced are recorded with this time information against a ‘caption frame’. Each caption frame can then be shown in the video at the respective time, as per the recorded time information.

What are open captions?

Open captioning symbol, black background and the letters OC in whiteOpen captions are text and sound descriptions provided in a video to introduce speakers, describe key sounds, and display the spoken word as the written word. Open captions are hard-coded, burned into the video and are always visible for everyone to see, and you, therefore, can’t turn them off. They are synchronised to display the text information in time with the audio played in the video. (Open captions might also be referred to as same-language subtitles).

This form of open captioning is essential for people who have reduced hearing and the Deaf community and provides an inclusive non-discriminatory experience for everyone.

Open captioning also helps people who may have trouble with acoustics in large busy environments, those who speak English as a second language or others who would benefit from the reinforcement of the spoken word. It has also been claimed to help literacy and improve learning.

Isn’t that just subtitles?

No, subtitles are a translation of a spoken word from a differing language, these are displayed in the same approach as open captions.

Subtitles assume that the viewer can hear the video, and therefore they can hear the sound effects and differentiate when a new person starts speaking, but, they can’t understand the language.

So what’s the difference between subtitles and captions?

Subtitles are a translation, from spoken word in one language to the written word in another language. Think of a foreign movie you have watched recently that had English subtitles, these are true subtitles.

Closed captions assume that the viewer can’t hear anything and are provided for the Deaf community and those with reduced hearing.

Open captions provide the viewer, whether they can hear the video or not, an extra form of receiving the spoken word (such as in noisy environments).

They simply provide a written alternative to the spoken word, as well as introducing speakers and describing relevant noises as they occur in the audio.

So what’re closed captions?

Closed captioning symbol, black CC letters on a white TV backgroundClosed captioning or CC, is a method of displaying text and sound descriptions on a video. The term ‘closed’ means that the text is hidden as a separate track in the video until it is selected to view.

Unlike open captioning, the text is not burnt into the video. Closed captioning allows a person to switch the captions on and off, which might be acceptable for a video watched on online, on Youtube, or a person watching a TV show, but not in a public space, waiting room, or training environment or similar.

What’s post-production captioning and live-captioning?

Quite simply, live captioning are prepared in real time by a person typing as the event, message, or video is shown.

Post-production captioning is what we do, we get your video after the production is complete, then render the captions for you.

But why do people call captions, subtitles?

Unfortunately, people often use the term subtitle instead of captions, but that’s ok, after all, in other parts of the world that is the correct term used. To be honest, this terminology is just semantics, at the end of the day, we want to see accessible videos, with open captions in public spaces, and closed captions available for personal viewing. But we do however always explain the difference to our clients and ensure they understand the benefits of open captions, closed captions, and subtitling.

Can you also subtitle?

Of course, if you have special requests for translations of English videos to another language just contact us. We have a network of translators and captioning experts that can provide subtitles in most languages.

What are SRT files?

Sub Rip Caption files are given the file extension .SRT. SRT is perhaps the simplest of all subtitle formats and is supported by most software media players and subtitle/caption creation programs.

Can you provide just the SRT file?

Yes, if you just need closed captioning, then we can provide you with the SRT file after transcribing your video. If you have the script, that can help us as it will save some time too.

Can you caption my Facebook, Youtube or Vimeo videos?

Well, sort of, we won’t directly load the captions into your video, but we can transcribe the video for you with timings and sound descriptions and create an .SRT file with this information so you can upload that into your video. Just Google search how to add SRT / caption files to Facebook or Youtube media, there are lots of videos explaining how to do this. Or go to our Resources page for more information.

Better still, we can burn open captions into your video so you can just upload the open captioned version for the world to see.

Can you provide the video with open captions, plus an SRT file?

Yes, if you need both open and closed captioning, then we can provide you the SRT file after transcribing your video, plus we can provide you the video with the burnt open captions. This means if you provide us a video, we’ll burn the open captions into the video and provide a separate SRT file for you so you can add closed captions to the original video too.

I have text already across the bottom of my video advertising my product, where will the open captions be positioned?

If there is text already displayed across the bottom of the screen we usually position the captions above the written text, or at the top of the screen, though this takes a little more time to complete.

Can you add my company logo to the video as a background/watermark?

Yes, if you provide a high-resolution image, ideally in 300 DPI with a transparent background, we can add the logo to the video, just tell us if you need the image shown throughout the video or at what time, also where you would like it located. We can also resize it to your required size, or we can make that decision for you.

Where are you located?

Melbourne, Australia, but for the work we do, it doesn’t matter where you are in Australia, or the world, we provide easy upload and download options for sending your files.

Who are you?

Universal Captions is a registered business with ASIC, we are also part of Egress Group Pty Ltd, an Australian company.

How much does captioning cost?

We always quote per project. Every project is different, so we’d prefer to keep rates low and offer a quote for each project. Other factors to consider when we quote the project will be:

  1. Do you only intend to have closed captions for your video? If so, we’ll just provide you the SRT file.
  2. Do you want open captions only? If so we’ll provide the video back to you with the same quality, but with nice new open captions.
  3. Do you want the video with open captions and the SRT file?
  4. Do you want a translation of the video to another language, with foreign language subtitles?
  5. Do you need any artwork or logo added to the video? If so, where? for how long? how big on the screen?
  6. How large the video file actually is?
  7. Lastly, have you got an accurate transcript or script of the video for us to use? if not, we will transcribe it.