Should I Caption or Subtitle my Video?
The difference between captioning and subtitling is much like the difference between audio recording transcribing in the source language versus audio translation into a new target language. Simply put, captions and subtitles differ in the written language displayed below a video.
Captions: Word-for-word transcription of the audio portion of a video displayed on the lower section of the screen in the spoken language. Captions were historically provided for the hard of hearing. Language learners and visual processors also benefit from watching shows and movies with captions. Notes regarding sounds in the video such as (‘music playing’, ‘startling thunder’, ‘weeping woman in another room’) can be added to assist the hearing impaired to understand context.
Captions can be “closed” or “open”, which simply indicates they can be manually turned on and off. Closed captioning or cc offers the option to turn the captions on or off. Open captioning means the captions are embedded in the video and, therefore, the viewer does not have control. Captions are also convenient for those watching videos in noisy environments (i.e. gym, train station etc.) or where having the sound turned on would be inappropriate (i.e. work, hospital, etc.)
Several countries have passed legislation to prevent discrimination against those with disabilities. Therefore, providing captions is becoming more prevalent so the hard of hearing can enjoy more video and audio content.
Subtitles: Captioned text that is translated into the language of the viewer. Subtitles are required for global audiences to enjoy content that was originally produced in a foreign language. Again, language learners and visual learners may choose to watch content with subtitles to improve understanding of the audio portion of the video content.
Subtitles assume the viewer can hear the background noises for context and typically do not translate hard of hearing captioned notes. Please visit our previous blog, A Brief History of Subtitles to learn more.
How common are captions and subtitles?
Both captions and subtitles have become standard practice. More recently, it has become commonplace for short videos posted on social media to have captions and often subtitles. This is because approximately 85% of videos are watched without sound on a personal device, e.g. a mobile phone. How often have you seen a co-worker glancing at their phone during a meeting or presentation? They are likely watching a Facebook video with captions or subtitles!
Global film festivals and social media have expanded the reach of movies and TV shows to new audiences. With worldwide popularity comes the need to subtitle the audio content into a variety of languages. Entertainment is not the only industry that benefits from subtitling. Businesses in all industries are choosing video content over text and image only print or electronic messaging.
Marketing departments are scrambling to remain competitive globally, not only by captioning their content, but also by ensuring it is translated into their target audiences’ preferred languages. Localising the content to ensure appropriate understanding is also something worth discussing with your subtitling service provider.
Do I need captions or subtitles? Or Both?
Probably both! Your organisation will need to review the relevant legal requirements in your country and industry. Then, you will want to consider your target audience’s needs and marketing goals. Every situation is unique, and your translation firm will have experienced staff to discuss what is best for your project.
In which languages should I subtitle my videos?
Again, this will depend on the intended target audience of your content. Is there more than one official language in the country where your customers reside that may require a legal mandate to provide bilingual videos? Or are there large populations of immigrants in your target geography that would appreciate your information in their native language?
In summary, both captions and subtitles can expand your audience beyond your competitors. Marketers will agree that online discovery (SEO) and engagement is more difficult with the exploding video content available to consumers via the Internet today. Stand out from your competition to get noticed and build a following through video engagement.
We are a full-service language service provider, ready to assist you in transcribing, translating, captioning and subtitling your audio and video content. Let’s discuss your project requirements.