Closed Captioning or Subtitling – What’s the Difference?

After a long day, you must be looking forward to relaxing. How do you rest your mind? If you are like us, you might load up your favorite show on a streaming service and dive in with some snacks. You may choose to turn on some captions or subtitles with it. Do you know the difference between the two? Are you viewing media in your native tongue or a foreign language? Do you use them just for volume and attention purposes? We want to help you understand the difference between the two and the reasons why viewers may choose to use them.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, and related laws, are designed to ensure equal access to all disabled Americans, including the deaf and hard of hearing, and require captions on virtually all multimedia. Closed captions can be turned off and on when needed, while open captions are burned on to the video and are always visible. The biggest difference between captions and subtitles is that captions are used to aid the deaf and hard of hearing, and therefore contain not only the dialogue but also nonverbal cues like descriptions of sound effects and music. For example, if you’re watching a movie with the captions turned on and a dog is barking, on the screen, you should see a description of the sound like [dog barking] or [dog snarling]. Captions are typically in the same language as the show’s audio, like English to English or Spanish to Spanish, assuming that the viewer knows the language of the show but just can’t hear it.

When video is being distributed in markets around the world, subtitling is the most cost-effective means to reach audiences where the native language differs from that spoken on the video. Subtitles do not offer nonverbal cues like descriptions of music and sound effects, only translations of the dialogue. The assumption is that the viewer can hear the dog barking just fine, they just can’t understand the spoken language. Video producers typically offer subtitles in those languages most commonly spoken in their targeted distribution areas. In addition to opening up new markets, subtitles are invaluable for those trying to learn a new language.

At Video Caption Corporation, we provide high quality closed captioning and subtitling services. With offices in New York and California, our friendly and knowledgeable staff will make sure that your project is done on time and within budget. If you have a project that needs captioning or subtitling, get in contact with us.

Learn more about our closed captioning services.

Learn more about our subtitling services.

Diana Foster