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Written by Steven Bussey
on April 01, 2020

According to one recent study, mobile video consumption in particular is still rising by approximately 100% every year. In fact, by as soon as 2022, online videos will make up over 80% of ALL consumer Internet traffic each day. To put that into perspective, that number is literally 15 times higher than just a few short years ago, in 2017.

People love video content and they've made their opinions overwhelmingly clear: they want as much of it as they can get. But at the same time, this is also a very delicate tightrope act to walk for most brands. Not everyone is watching a video on their smartphone or tablet at full volume. Some of them are watching in public settings with the sound turned down and they need a way to understand what is going on.

Likewise, you also have to think about how the content you create is going to be received in various markets around the world. Can someone understand your video if they don't speak the same language it was filmed in? For the best results, they should be able to - and subtitles and captioning are a large part of how you check all of these boxes, all at the same time.

But which should you use, subtitles or captions? How are they different and why are they important? The answers to all of those questions require you to keep a few key things in mind.

Subtitles and closed captioning: Breaking things down

On the surface, both subtitles and closed captioning seem to serve the same goal - they provide text that accompanies the video in question, usually running along the bottom. But in terms of their overall application, that is essentially where the similarities end.

Subtitles are traditionally designed to offer viewers a text-based alternative for the spoken dialogue in the video they're watching. Closed captions take this one step further by also describing elements like background noises, ambient sound, audio cues and anything else someone might need to truly understand what is going on.

To put this into a different perspective, subtitles operate under the assumption that a viewer can hear the video's sound - it's just that they may not be able to understand the dialogue due to language barriers and other issues. Closed captioning works under the theory that someone is watching a video with no sound at all, thus providing a more in-depth description of what is happening so that they can get the full experience.

People watching videos with no sound in public


It's all in the application

Closed captioning is a great tool to embrace when you're trying to make your video content accessible for people who may have hearing issues or other impairments. Likewise, it can be a great way to make sure someone can still enjoy your video if they can't play the sound for whatever reason - like if they want to watch on their morning commute on the subway but forgot their headphones.

Subtitles, on the other hand, are the cornerstone of your global video localization efforts. Rather than filming a new video for each market, you could include subtitles in the relevant language that act as a literal translation of that video footage.

Whether subtitles or closed captions, your choice will typically depend on the audience you're speaking to in the moment. If your video is in English for an English-speaking audience, closed captions would be the way to go to guarantee that the largest number of people can enjoy that content. But if you were trying to make sure that people in other countries who DON'T speak English can enjoy that content, subtitles would absolutely be the technique to rely on.

A content creator types out the subtitles for her video to help grow her audience


Obviously, there are ways to make both of these goals easier to achieve in execution. Language technology and machine translation can be an effective way to automate the process of creating subtitles, making sure that you get a complete and accurate translation every time without the sheer amount of physical effort normally required to do it manually.

If you'd like to find out more information about subtitles versus closed captions, or if you have any additional questions that you'd like to discuss with someone in a bit more detail, please don't delay - contact Andovar today.

Read more articles like this on the Andovar blog

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