Closed Captioning vs Open Captioning: Which is Better?

Closed Captioning vs Open Captioning: Which One is Right for Your Content?

Are you a content creator aiming to make your videos accessible to a wider audience? If so, you may already know that closed captioning and open captioning are two types of subtitles that can help you achieve this goal. But which one is better? Is open captioning worth the extra hassle? In this article, we’ll explore the differences between closed captioning vs open captioning and help you make an informed decision.

What is Closed Captioning?

Closed captioning refers to subtitles that can be turned on and off by the viewer. They are called “closed” because they are not visible unless the viewer activates them through their device settings. Closed captions usually appear at the bottom of the screen and display the spoken words, sound effects, and other audio cues in the video. They may also include descriptions of music, tone of voice, and other relevant information to provide a more immersive experience to the viewer.

Closed captions are essential for viewers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, but they can also benefit people who are not native speakers of the language used in the video. They can help clarify the pronunciation of words, convey slang, or translate idiomatic expressions that may be difficult to understand.

What is Open Captioning?

Open captioning, on the other hand, refers to subtitles that are burned into the video and cannot be turned off by the viewer. They are called “open” because they are always visible, and there is no need to activate them. Open captions are usually placed at the bottom or top of the screen and display the spoken words, sound effects, and other audio cues in the video. They may also include different fonts, colors, or animations to enhance the visual appeal of the video.

Open captions are suitable for viewers who are not familiar with the language used in the video or for environments where the sound cannot be played. For example, if you are showing your video in a noisy convention, open captions can help convey your message to the audience. However, they may be distracting or annoying if the viewer already knows the language and does not need the translation.

The Pros and Cons of Closed Captioning vs Open Captioning

Now that you know the basic differences between closed captioning and open captioning, let’s take a look at their pros and cons:

Pros of Closed Captioning:

– Provides flexibility: Closed captions allow the viewer to choose whether to display them or not, which gives them more control over the viewing experience. They can activate or deactivate the captions as they please, depending on their preferences or needs.

– Ensures accuracy: Closed captions are usually created by professional transcribers who can ensure the accuracy and correctness of the subtitles. The captions are also time-synced to match the audio and video, which helps prevent any confusion or mismatch.

– Adheres to accessibility standards: Closed captions are essential for complying with accessibility regulations and ensuring that your content is accessible to people with disabilities. They can also help you reach a wider audience and make your content more inclusive.

Cons of Closed Captioning:

– May be distracting: Some viewers may find closed captions distracting or intrusive, especially if they take up too much space on the screen or are poorly placed. This may cause them to lose focus on the visual content and miss important details in the video.

– More expensive and time-consuming: Closed captioning requires a more specialized skill set and software than open captioning. This means that it may be more expensive and time-consuming to create and edit the subtitles, especially if you have a large amount of content to caption.

Pros of Open Captioning:

– Always visible: Open captions are always visible, regardless of the viewer’s settings or preferences. This means that you can ensure that everyone can read and understand your content, regardless of their hearing ability or device settings.

– Free and easy to create: Open captions can be created and edited using almost any video editing software, without the need for specialized skills. This means that you can add captions to your videos without spending money on external services or tools.

– Good for SEO: Open captions can help improve your video’s search engine optimization by providing extra text that can be indexed by search engines. This can help your content rank higher in search results and attract more traffic to your website.

Cons of Open Captioning:

– May be distracting or annoying: Open captions are always visible, so they may be unnecessary or distracting for viewers who can already understand the language. They may also take up too much space on the screen or clash with the visual design of the video.

– Inaccuracies or typos are permanent: Once open captions are burned into the video, they cannot be changed or corrected without re-uploading the video. This means that any mistakes or typos will be permanent and may affect the credibility of your content.


In the end, the choice between closed captioning and open captioning depends on your specific needs and goals. If you want to comply with accessibility standards and provide flexibility to your viewers, closed captioning may be the better option. If you want to ensure that your message is understood by everyone, regardless of their hearing ability or device settings, open captioning may be more appropriate.

Regardless of your choice, make sure to provide accurate and high-quality captions that enhance the viewing experience and convey your message effectively. With the right approach to captioning, you can make your content accessible to a wider audience and improve its impact and reach.

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