Understanding Open and Closed Captions: A Beginner’s Guide

Open and closed captions are an important part of any video content. They provide a textual representation of the audio track for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as for viewers who might be watching without sound. In this article, we’ll explore what open and closed captions are, how they differ from each other, and why content creators should consider adding them to their videos.

What are Open Captions?

Open captions, also known as burnt-in subtitles, are text overlays that are permanently added to the video. Unlike closed captions, open captions cannot be turned off by the viewer. They are typically used when the video is intended to be viewed without sound, or when the audience is unlikely to be fluent in the language spoken in the video.

Open captions are also used in videos that are intended for social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, where autoplay is common and the viewer may be scrolling through their feed without sound. The captions can provide context for the viewer and increase the likelihood that they will stop to watch the video.

What are Closed Captions?

Closed captions, on the other hand, can be turned on or off by the viewer. They are typically added to the video file separately from the video track, using a caption file format like SRT, VTT, or SCC. When the video is played, the caption file is synchronized with the video track, displaying the captions in real-time.

Closed captions are a legal requirement in many countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom. They are essential for making video content accessible to viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing, and also benefit viewers who are watching in noisy environments, learning a new language, or simply prefer to watch with the sound off.

How Do Open Captions and Closed Captions Differ?

There are several differences between open and closed captions. As mentioned above, open captions are permanently added to the video and cannot be turned off by the viewer. Closed captions, on the other hand, can be turned on or off, giving the viewer more control over their viewing experience.

Open captions are also typically designed to be visible on any screen size, while closed captions can sometimes be difficult to read on small screens. Closed captions also allow the viewer to customize the appearance of the captions, including the color, size, and font.

Why Should Content Creators Use Captions?

There are several reasons why content creators should consider using captions in their videos. Firstly, captions make video content more accessible to a wider audience, including viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing. This can help to increase the reach of the content and make it more inclusive.

Secondly, captions can help to improve the engagement of the video content. With more and more videos being watched on mobile devices, subtitles are critical in making your content stand out to viewers who might not have the living room experience of watching on a large TV screen. By including captions, content creators can ensure that the viewer can follow the story even if they are watching without audio in noisy or public environments.

Thirdly, captions can improve the overall SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for the video. By adding captions to their videos, content creators can provide search engines with more context about the content of the video, helping it to rank higher in search results.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, open and closed captions are an important part of any video content. While open captions are permanently added to the video and cannot be turned off by the viewer, closed captions are an optional feature that can be turned on or off. Content creators should consider using captions in their videos to improve the accessibility, engagement, and SEO of their content. By using captions, content creators can ensure that their videos are accessible to a wider audience, and improve the viewing experience of their content.

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