Closed Caption VS Subtitles: 6 Key Differences You Should Know

Many people believe that closed captions and subtitles are the same thing, but do you know that they’re quite different from each other? 

Many streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime group subtitles and captions under one umbrella. This has caused some confusion for internet surfers to understand the difference between closed captions vs subtitles. 

In this article, we’ll explore the concepts of closed captions and subtitles and closed captions vs subtitles. 

So, without any further ado. Let’s get started. 

What Are Closed Captions? 

Closed Captions are time-synchronized text, meaning they fully reflect on the audio, including the tone of the voice. They can be read when watching video content, and usually appear at the bottom center of the video.

 The process of Closed Captions involves transcribing the audio including audio effects or gestures of the video to the text, and dividing the chunks known as “caption frames” and then synchronizing the caption frames into the video in real-time. 

What makes them different from subtitles is they are associated with people who are dead or have difficulty in hearing, for that reason, they include every sound effect in a text form such as speaker’s differentiation, also sound effects, changes in background voice or other audio that reflects what is happening in the video. 

In addition, closed captions are known as “closed” captions because they can be toggled on and off during a video, permanent captions that are embedded into the video are called “open captions”. 

Why use Closed Captions? 

The main purpose of Closed Captions is to provide a great level of accessibility to the audience, providing all the audio effects in text form. To add on, they were originally developed to ensure deaf people could enjoy shows just like everyone. 

  • Includes every audio effect and Background noise making it accessible for people with difficulty in hearing. 
  • Comes in two types: closed and open. Closed captions can be disabled, whereas open captions cannot. 

When to use Closed Captions? 

People who are hard of hearing are the target audience for closed captioning. In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that all public media, whether it is in movie theaters or classrooms of educational institutions, be captioned in order to prevent discrimination.  

What Are Subtitles?

Subtitles provide translations for audiences who are not natives or speak different languages. They are usually used in movies, television shows, or other audiovisual media. 

They appear at the bottom center of the video and provide an accurate translation of text from the spoken language in the video. However, contrary to closed captions, Subtitles aren’t meant for hearing-impaired individuals, but for audiences who can hear the audio but require additional clarification of what’s happening in the action taking place. 

Subtitles are also used as providing real-time translation of spoken dialogues or phrases. Also, In some movies, parts of the dialogue are in a different language. Subtitle translations are provided for these sections to help the viewers follow the conversation.

They are most frequently used on streaming sites, where viewers can select from a variety of subtitle versions to help them better understand drama shows. 

Why use Subtitles?

Subtitles provide viewers to fully understand foreign movies, additionally, subtitles can also be of the same language spoken in the video to provide extra clarification to the audience. 

  • Subtitles, unlike closed captions, are used for the audience that can hear the audio and are not familiar with the spoken language in the video. 
  • Commonly used in productions where the spoken language is different from the language in which the movie is being released. For example, for an Indian movie screened in an English-speaking country. 

When to use Subtitles? 

Subtitles are text that shows what the video’s audio says in a movie. They are usually used when the video is in a language that the audience doesn’t know.

Why Are Closed Captions Sometimes Called Subtitles and Vice Versa?

Before we explore the differences between closed captions and subtitles, we should learn their definitions, as they are commonly used as the same thing.

The terms “closed Captions” and “subtitles” are both interchangeably used on the internet because they share the same basic functions of providing text representation by transcribing the audio content. 

Here are some quick reasons that explain why subtitles and closed captions are used interchangeably. 

Global Terminology Difference

The terminologies surrounding captions and subtitles vary in different regions and cultures. Outside the United States, in European countries like England, the terms are often used synonymously. This can cause confusion when they are switched around.

Overlapping Functions

One of the common reasons the two terms are so confused is because of their similar functions, both closed captions and subtitles appear at the bottom center of the screen providing text representation of the audio. Because of these shared functions, closed captions or subtitles may be loosely used mutually. 

Evolving Language

As language changes over time, so do the terms used in the digital industry. The evolution of technology has led to distinctions between the terms “captions” and “subtitles”.

Difference Between Closed Captions and Subtitles? 

When comparing closed captioning and subtitles, they appear identical on video screens, but they are different things for different purposes.  

As mentioned earlier, Closed captions are created with deaf people in mind to provide accessibility and to convey every nuance of the audio effect in text form. whereas, subtitles are designed for viewers who don’t understand the spoken language in a movie or television show. 

To gain a better understanding, let’s explore some of the key differences between subtitles vs. closed captions. 

6 Key Differences You Should Know-

Subtitles Closed Captions 
Subtitles are intended for people who are not natives or cannot understand the spoken language of the movie. Closed Captions are designed for people who are deaf or have difficulty in hearing. 
Subtitles are not as accurate as closed captions because they include spoken words only. Closed Captions are more accurate as they include all sound in the video. 
Subtitles only provide translation or transcriptions of the audio. Closed Captions provide every audio detail including background noise and speaker changes. 
Subtitles are usually developed before the release of the movie or series. Closed Captions can be toggled on and off by the viewer using the streaming site. 
Subtitles may not provide the same level of accessibility as they are not designed for screen reader software. Closed Captions provide a great level of accessibility as they are screen reader software. 
Subtitles of the video can be in many languages. Closed Captions are always in the language spoken in the video. 

Add Subtitles and Closed Captions Using Wordspath

If you are looking for a transcription service to add subtitles and closed captions to your videos, there’s no better choice than Wordspath

closed captions and subtitles

With the blend of AI speech recognition and human transcription services that ensure the exact conveyance of your video’s audio nuances, Wordspath makes it easy to add subtitles or captions as being one of the top companies in transcription services. 

Wordspath provide a one-stop services including voice over, transcription, script translation besides subtitling and closed caption placement, which will fit your specific needs in one agency with high-quality production.

We take pride in our quality-driven workflow that combines the excellent work of our linguists, desktop publishers, project managers, customer service, and technical team. Their endless support allows Wordspath to provide first-rate language solutions in 150+ languages for thousands of customers who need to connect with the world.

Before deliver the final translation to you, our in-house/contracted linguists review, edit, polish, and proofread the results, as well as professionally format by our desktop publish team.

Comparing Closed Captioning and Subtitles for Social Media Video Content 

There is a huge amount of video content on social media platforms such as YouTube and TikTok, and therefore, it’s important to look at how closed and open captioning are used on social media platforms. Closed Captioning and Subtitles are both widely used interchangeably, although they have different uses. 

One of the reasons TikTok is so popular is because of its usage of its text-generated video content which it refers to as “captions”, however, the automated text only transcribes the audio and ignores any other audio effects. Considering technical Terminologies that would be referred to as subtitles instead of closed or open captions. 

Not to mention, Many content creators or bloggers, hire a Transcription service to edit the captions and add any background audio effects to make their content less difficult to understand for everyone. That would make it closed captions. 

Popular video-sharing platform, YouTube, has an Automated button “cc” icon, a short form for closed captions, but when hovered over it shows “subtitles/closed captions” just like TikTok, the Automated option that YouTube generates on its videos are technically subtitles. However, if a creator edits them to add detailed audio effects, they would become closed captions.  

To sum it up, on the internet world and social media, most text forms are subtitles, not closed captions, however, unless editors manually edit them with additional audio cues and effects to include other information in the video, it would be called closed captions. 

Closed Captioning vs. Subtitles: Which is Better?

When it comes down to closed captions vs. Subtitles and opting which to use in your video, it’s a matter of preference, over and above, it’s about who your target audience is. You might want to add German captions to your videos if you are a video blogger who speaks English and has a lot of fans in Germany. 

On the other hand, Captions can help you improve the accessibility of your videos. When your videos are highly accessible, the audience can relate to your content on a deeper level.

In all cases, adding Closed captions or subtitles to your videos is an effective process that has loads of benefits for both the viewers and the content creators, not just for the people who don’t speak other languages or have hearing difficulties. Additionally, more than 80 percent of the people on the internet like to switch on their captions while watching videos. 

In summary, closed captions and subtitles both are essential for enhancing the video content experience. They help viewers comprehend the content better and follow the audio more easily. They also make the content more accessible and inclusive for people with hearing impairments or language barriers. 

FAQs of CC vs. Subtitles

Is closed captioning the same as subtitles? 

CC and subtitles are not the same thing. Closed captions and subtitles appear similarly at the bottom center of the screen, but they are two different forms of text-based representations. Subtitles only include the written form of the spoken audio in a video, whereas closed captions contain every detail of the sound, including the background noise or any other sound effect. 

Why is it called closed captioning?

The term “Closed Captioning” indicates that the captions are not visible until they are turned on by the viewer, open Captions are permanently turned visible in a video and can’t be toggled on or off. 

Are subtitles available in multiple languages? 

Yes, subtitles can be available in multiple languages. Many streaming services such as Netflix offer subtitles in multiple languages. 

Are closed captions always in the language spoken in the original audio?

Yes, it’s important to note that closed captions are always in the language spoken in the original audio. For instance, captions for Korean movies will always be in Korean language. 

How to turn off closed caption on Netflix?

  1. Open the movie or show that you want to remove the Closed Captions. 
  2. While the video is playing, navigate to Netflix’s bottom bar, and select “Audio & Subtitles”. 
  3. In the open menu, go to the “Subtitles section”, and select “off”. 

How to turn on closed captions on Netflix? 

If you desire to turn on the subtitles again, you just need to repeat the process but instead of selecting “off” select “on “. 

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