If you’ve delivered content for distribution, or even watched a movie in your home, you’ve probably encountered closed captioning, subtitles, or both. Closed captions and subtitles are two ways of displaying text on-screen to provide additional information for a video or audio recording. These two forms of timed text share many similarities, but there are also differences between the two.
Closed captioning is intended for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing, and is usually in the same language spoken in the program. Captions provide a transcript of the most important audio in the program, including dialogue (as well as speaker identifications, when necessary), sound effects, and music. Caption blocks can be positioned on the screen to help distinguish who is speaking, or to avoid obscuring on-screen text (like credits or lower-third text). For example, if the opening credits are in the lower third of the frame, captions would be positioned in the top third of the frame, so they don’t cover up the credits. Captions exist as a separate stream from the audio and video so that they can be turned on or off by the viewer.
When it comes to delivering captioned content to a broadcaster or VOD platform, captions are delivered either encoded to the video file (as a separate stream that can be turned on or off) or separately, as what is referred to as a “sidecar file”. Scenarist (.scc) is a common sidecar caption file format.
Subtitles, on the other hand, are primarily intended for viewers who don’t speak the language spoken in the program. Subtitles provide a translation of the dialogue and do not include sound effects or music (since it is assumed the viewer can hear those things). For example, subtitles would be used for a German movie shown to English-speaking audiences.
Subtitles are delivered to broadcasters and VOD platforms either burned-in to picture (i.e. they cannot be turned off) or as a sidecar file. SRT and VTT are common subtitle sidecar files. It should be noted that some destinations request closed captions in the SRT file format, but this closed caption delivery scenario should not be confused with subtitles.
In summary, closed captions exist to provide a complete transcription of the audio for accessibility purposes, while subtitles are intended to provide a translation for localization and language accessibility. Blackwater offers English and foreign language closed captioning services as well as subtitle services. Get in touch today to find out how we can help with these timed-text services.