Closed Captions vs Open Captions - what's the difference?

What are the different type of captions? What's the difference between them? Is one better than the other? In this blog we answer these questions, and we also explain why captions and subtitles are so important.

Closed captions vs open captions - what are they and what is the difference between them? Is one better than the other? In this blog we answer these questions, and explain why captions and subtitles are so important. We will outline, the advantages and limitations of both before showing you how to create open captions online.

Closed Captions and Open Captions - what are they?

Captions can be defined as a transcript of the audio in a video, this includes sounds such as laughter, applause or music. Captions are either open or closed.

Ability to remove captions

The main difference between these two types of captions is that closed captions can be turned off by the viewer whereas open captions are burnt onto the video and cannot be removed.

Closed Captions:

Closed captions give your viewer the option to remove captions if they are not desired; this is comparable to the captions on Netflix.

Advantages

  • Closed captions put the viewer in control; they can decide if they want the captions on or off. This flexibility is the biggest strength that closed captioning has to offer.
  • Generally, they closed captions are easy to edit and re-upload if needed
  • Closed captions can be saved in a range of different file formats such as .txt, .srt or .vtt

Limitations

  • Closed captions rely on the viewer to understand how to turn the captions off. There is a risk that someone might want captions but they don't know how to turn the captions on
  • Closed captions need decoders and a high level of quality

Open captions:

Open captions are burnt onto the video, they cannot be removed by the users and will always be on the video.

Advantages

  • You can style the captions prior to embedding them in the video
  • As open captions are burnt onto the video, you don't have to worry about keeping track of the separate video and caption files
  • Open captions remove challenges for those who might not know how to turn the captions on or off.

Limitations

  • Open captions cannot be turned off therefore the viewer has to watch the video with the captions, regardless of if the subtitles are wanted or not
  • The quality of open captions is dependent on the quality of the video so if the quality of video is poor, the captions might appear blurry. This could make them difficult to read

Take home message

Both closed and open subtitles can be extremely valuable to you and your audience. Adding captions to your videos is vital for engaging with your target audience. Some of the main reasons why you should be adding captions to your videos are:

  • The majority of people will watch your video on mute. Data shows that more and more people are watching videos without sound. If you add captions to your videos, your audience can engage and follow your video whilst watching on mute.
  • Accessibility. This one is a big one. Captions allow people who are deaf or hard of hearing to enjoy your content. It is important to be inclusive therefore accessibility is something you should always be mindful of as a content creator.
  • Engagement. People's attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. Help your audience stay engaged by adding captions that they can read whilst watching your content.

Make sure you consider adding captions to your videos so that you dont miss out on valuable engagement.