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Written by Steven Bussey
on August 12, 2020

While it's undoubtedly true that closed captions can be an integral part of your video localization efforts, something that a lot of people don't realize is that not all closed caption formats are created equally. People look at the text running along the bottom of a piece of content and think "adding those seems pretty straightforward, how complicated can it be?" The answer, in practice, is "quite a bit."

Some platforms come with automatic closed captioning options, which essentially means that transcription software will try to interpret what it thinks you're saying into captions (rather than what you might actually be saying). Though this is admittedly impressive, it can be fairly inaccurate, especially for those who speak without that perfectly neutral accent.

Instead, it is recommended to prepare a caption file to be submitted together with the video. Though it's important to note that the specific closed caption format that you select depends heavily on where that video will eventually be hosted. Therefore, if you want to make the right decision regarding the closed captions you use for your next video, there are a few key things you need to keep in mind.


Closed captions for YouTube

For at least the last decade, YouTube has been one of the most popular video hosting sites on the Internet. Therefore, the decision to upload your content to this site in particular is absolutely an understandable one. But if that video is going to feature closed captions, keep in mind that YouTube recommends that you use the very precise Scenarist format, otherwise known as .SCC.

This will give you a larger degree of control over the appearance of your captions on the platform, which will ultimately go a long way towards making sure you're able to create the experience you desire.

Note that YouTube is also compatible with a number of other formats, too, which include but are not limited to ones like:

  • .SRT, or SubRip
  • .VTT, or WebVTT
  • .SAMI, or SAMI
  • .DFXP, or DFXP

A young YouTuber films her next video to be uploaded with close captions


Don't count out Vimeo just yet

While you probably wouldn't want to upload your video content exclusively to Vimeo, it's still a popular site that is absolutely worth your attention. According to one recent study, the site had a massive 170 million monthly viewers as of October, 2018. Not only that, but it had reached a significant 715 million total monthly views across all its content by roughly the same period - making it a perfect outlet to leverage when you want to capture a global audience.

When you do publish your content however, you'll want to stick to a few specific (and compatible) closed caption formats.

As of 2019, these include ones like:

  • .SRT, or SubRip
  • .VTT, or WebVTT
  • .SAMI, or SAMI
  • .DFXP, or DFXP

Note that, like YouTube, Vimeo is also compatible with the .SCC or "Scenarist" format.


Friends gather around to watch a Vimeo video on a phone


Closed captions and Adobe products: What you need to know

For years, Adobe has made some of the most popular (and trustworthy) video editing products on the planet. Adobe Premiere Pro is even used in a professional capacity (for those who don't rely on Final Cut Pro that is) and, because of that, it's likely going to be one of your top choices when it comes to editing your video content.

Despite the fact that Adobe's products, like Encore, Captivate, Flash and Premiere Pro, give you a wide range of different closed caption formats to choose from depending on your needs, you should still try to limit your selection to just a few. This will make sure that the format you select is natively compatible with the widest array of outlets which, again, will help make sure your viewers experience your video content in the exact way you intended.

The formats that are compatible with Adobe's suite of products include:

  • .SCC, or Scenarist
  • .MCC, or MacCaption
  • .STL, or Spruce Subtitle File

Note that Adobe's products are also compatible with the .XML format, but not necessarily in the way you might think. Depending on the project, you might have to organize your captions first in the .TTML format to then be compatible with the .XML format upon publishing.



The Andovar advantage

If you'd like to find out more information about the wide array of different closed caption formats that are available to you, or if you just have any additional questions that you'd like to discuss with professionals in the industry, please feel free to get in touch!

We are a translation and localization agency with offices located across Asia, the Americas and Europe. We have translated and localized thousands of media-based projects and have an extensive history with providing subtitles in a range of formats. Contact us today to see how we might help you with your next subtitling or video localization project.


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