Closed Captions vs Subtitles: What’s the Difference?

Closed Captions vs. Subtitles: Which One Does Your Video Need?

For content creators, video is one of the most powerful tools available today. No other medium can capture attention, evoke emotion, and convey information quite like video. However, as a content creator, you must ensure that your videos are accessible to as many people as possible.

One of the ways to ensure that your videos are accessible is by adding closed captions or subtitles. Both of these options make your video more inclusive by providing accessibility to deaf or hard of hearing audiences, as well as non-native speakers.

So, the question is, which is better – closed captions or subtitles? In this article, we’ll explore the differences between these two and help you decide which one your video needs.

What are Closed Captions?

Closed captions are text that appears on the screen and overlays the video content. The text is synchronized with the audio, so viewers can read along as they watch the video. Closed captions are typically used to transcribe dialogue and sound effects.

Closed captions are particularly important for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing, as they allow them to follow the spoken content. Closed captions are also helpful for viewers watching in a noisy environment or with the sound off.

What are Subtitles?

Subtitles, on the other hand, are also text that appears on the screen and overlays the video content. However, unlike closed captions, subtitles only transcribe the dialogue of the video.

Subtitles are used primarily for translating foreign language content. For example, if you are producing a video in Spanish, you might add subtitles so that English-speaking viewers can follow along.

Differences Between Closed Captions and Subtitles

The primary difference between closed captions and subtitles is the type of content they transcribe. Closed captions transcribe both the dialogue and sound effects of a video, while subtitles only transcribe the dialogue.

Another difference between these two is the way they are used. Closed captions are used for accessibility and are particularly important for viewers with hearing impairments. Subtitles, on the other hand, are mainly used for translation.

When it comes to the formatting of captions and subtitles, there are some differences as well. Closed captions are typically formatted to include speaker names and identify different speakers. Subtitles, on the other hand, typically do not identify speakers and are usually presented in white text with a black border.

Which One Does Your Video Need?

So, which one does your video need – closed captions or subtitles? Well, it depends on the type of content you have created and who your target audience is.

If your video contains a lot of sound effects or music that is critical to understanding the content, you may want to use closed captions. Closed captions will provide more context for the viewer and allow them to understand what is happening on screen.

If your video is primarily dialogue-based, you may want to use subtitles. Subtitles will provide a way for non-native speakers to understand the content, making your video more accessible and inclusive.

However, in some cases, you may want to use both closed captions and subtitles. For example, if you are producing a video in a foreign language and want to provide accessibility for deaf or hard of hearing viewers, you could provide closed captions for the audio and subtitles for the translation.


In summary, closed captions and subtitles are both great tools for making your video content more accessible and inclusive to all audiences. The decision to use one over the other depends on the content of your video and your target audience.

Both of these options require some additional work to produce, but the benefits are well worth the investment. Adding closed captions or subtitles to your video will improve accessibility and inclusivity, making your content available to a wider audience.

So, when it comes to closed captions vs. subtitles, the ultimate answer depends on your specific video content and the audience you want to reach. Choose wisely and make sure your video is accessible to all.

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