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Written by Steven Bussey
on February 25, 2021

The overlapping purposes of closed captions and subtitles have a direct bearing on the audience’s experience. These elements display a text description on the screen, although the purpose of the descriptions differs.

Captions focus on transcribing the spoken parts of a video project. The descriptions use the same language as the medium. They come in the form of an open or closed caption. The latter allows the audience to activate or deactivate the captions with a click of a button. Meanwhile, open captions have a fixed presence on the screen, and deactivation is not possible.

On the other hand, subtitles provide a translated version of the dialogue as a text description on the screen for viewers unfamiliar with the language used in the dialogue. Hence, the distinction between the two elements is critical. To avoid clutter, video producers may exclude captions if the subtitles are sufficient.

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While captions boost the accessibility of the video content to cover a wider audience, they provide additional benefits. They make it easier for viewers to follow the video content, even when audio is unavailable due to technical issues or a noisy environment. On social media platforms, captions help viewers grasp video content appearing on news feeds since the audio is off by default.

Globalization increased the need to employ subtitles in video content as part of localization and other processes. Translation and localization companies like Andovar use subtitles regularly to translate clients’ video content. Companies and other organizations understand the value of boosting the accessibility of content through translation.

Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing enhance the functionality by ensuring that content is accessible to persons with hearing disabilities in multiple languages.

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Table of Contents 

  1. The importance of subtitles and captions
  2. Subtitling and captioning for diverse audiences
  3. Formatting

The importance of subtitles and captions

Subtitles and captions (closed or open) play an integral role in bolstering viewer engagement, content creation, increasing viewers, search engine optimization (SEO), and content discovery.
  • Improve accessibility: Without subtitles, some viewers may not understand video content due to disabilities or language barriers. Adopting an inclusive approach is critical for public and private organizations, thanks to globalization. In some cases, legislation compels video producers to adhere to specific standards when producing video content.

    For instance, the Communications Act and the Disability Act compels producers in the United States to provide captioning and audio descriptions to ensure accessibility for viewers with hearing difficulties. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Spain, have similar laws that prescribe subtitling and captioning quotas.

  • Enhance viewer engagement: Viewer engagement is essential, particularly on social media. The target audience may view videos in mute mode, necessitating the inclusion of text descriptions. This scenario applies to platforms like Twitter and Facebook, which autoplay videos without audio. Producers can still boost engagement with viewers on these social networks by adding captions and subtitles. Doing so increases the number of viewers.
    Gaining an in-depth understanding of the processes enables you to maximize value for the audience and boost engagement. In the end, you elevate the content’s quality while meeting regulatory compliance requirements, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). By improving your knowledge of captions (closed or open) and subtitles, you improve standards to mimic localization experts at Andovar.

  • Leverage SEO value: Search engine optimization improves the visibility of multimedia content on the internet. By captioning and subtitling videos, it becomes easier to grow the audience and meet specific objectives. An increased number of internet users discover the content organically. Search engines like Google and Bing rely on text descriptions to understand the topic covered in the video.


Subtitling and captioning for diverse audiences

Effective captioning and subtitling helps produce high-quality descriptions that add value to the viewing experience. The descriptions should be informative and accurate without distracting the viewer. Hence, it is vital to consider the video content’s pace and tone.

To achieve the desired results, select the appropriate video frames to commence and end the captioning or subtitling. Mistiming the descriptions ruins the viewer's experience. For this reason, the subtitle should not appear too early or vice-versa.

Video MarketingTaking into account the number of speakers per scene is a crucial consideration. You may need to adapt the subtitle style and pacing to suit scene dynamics. Scenes may entail fast or slow content with one or multiple speakers. Slower scenes and fewer speakers require a specific timing sequence to produce high-quality subtitles or captions. In such cases, you can increase the length of the descriptions on the screen. Videos with a panel of speakers or a faster pace can be more challenging to handle. An increased number of words compete for screen space.

Experts at Andovar, a global multilingual content solutions provider, can identify the ideal frames to fit the subtitles. Appropriate timing sequences ensure that the descriptions appear and disappear in tandem with the scenes. When handled correctly, timing improves the captions and subtitles' readability without losing track of the scene transitions. Depending on the content’s pace and the number of words involved in the dialogue, you may need to shorten the descriptions without losing the dialogue’s meaning. Choose the substitute wording carefully to maintain context and meaning.

Subtitling and captioning for adults is different from descriptions for children. Likewise, subtitles for specialists may incorporate technical jargon and abbreviations, while subtitles for a general audience takes a different approach.

Plan beforehand when aiming to produce high-quality subtitles and captions. The planning phase allows you to determine the target audience and the purpose of the video. Doing so makes it easier to identify the right captioning and subtitling techniques to employ.



The basic rule of subtitling and captioning is that you include 12 to 15 characters per second. Additional considerations include the text and subtitle formatting. To make the descriptions legible, use the sans-serif font with a combination of broad outlines and uniform width. The ideal font supports wide-ranging symbols like music notes. Symbols provide comprehensive details about the dialogue or scene.

Always match the dialogue style by incorporating industry jargon or slang. This requirement is mandatory, even if you have to abridge the text descriptions. When subtitling a fast-paced scene or multiple speakers, you can add descriptions in two lines with no more than 35 characters.

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