August 21


Do You Know the Difference Between Subtitles and Captions?

By Jeanne San

August 21, 2020

Do You Know the Difference Between Subtitles and Captions?

You may know that captions and subtitles are very similar, but when you look deeper into the tech, they are actually very different.

Captions are a transcription of dialogue, but subtitles are merely a translation of the audio. They both show up as being text at the bottom of the screen and they show the speech between characters on the TV. Even Netflix, a streaming company, has some of the highest quality of subtitles and CC standards.


Captions come in two different forms. They come in the form of open or closed.  Closed CC captions can easily be turned off with the click of a button on a menu. Open captions on the other hand are embedded into the video and they cannot be turned off at all.

Captions are of particular use to those who are deaf or have some kind of hearing impairment. They tend to include speaker differentiation or other information that might need to be translated from sound into text.

When you look at closed captions, you will soon find that subtitles assume that viewers can hear and they are used when the viewer does not speak the language being spoken in the video. This could include movies which have subtitles in the movie as a result of it being shown in a different country.

Subtitles tend to be timed transcriptions of audio files and they are readily available in most cases. Automatic captioning software can help you to add any captions you want, so keep that in mind.

Closed Captions

Closed captioning was developed as a means to try and mandate the limited accessibility that those who were deaf, or hard of hearing have to suffer. This all comes down to the Americans with Disabilities Act or the ADA.

The act states that all multimedia that is suited to the general public, whether it’s for schools or even late-night television, needs to be captioned. This is done to try and make sure that nobody is adversely discriminated against in any way.

The best thing about captions is they can be typed up live. The text is encoded which means that the packets of data can easily be transmitted right into your living room.  When you watch Saturday Night Live, for example, all of the hilarious moments are actually being typed up by live typists as they are happening, which is interesting, to say the least.


The rising popularity of platforms such as Netflix has rocketed the demand for subtitles across the globe. America’s own entertainment industry alone represents half of the global market, but you have to remember that this is only half of the industry. Media is all across the world, and showing content without any subtitle option won’t get you very far.

Subtitles are not just for if you want to understand a foreign film in your language, they have other uses too, such as helping those who want to learn another language for example. This can offer you huge benefits and you would be surprised at how much it could help you overall.


Jeanne San

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