Subtitles vs. Closed Captions: how are they different?

Ali Samei, 08 February 2019

What are Subtitles?

Subtitles are texts derived from either a transcript or screenplay of the dialog or commentary in films, television programs, video games, and the like, usually displayed at the bottom of the screen.

What are Closed Captions?

Closed captioning is the American term for closed subtitles specifically intended for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. These are a transcription rather than a translation, and usually, contain descriptions of important non-dialog audio including sound effects, speaker IDs, and non-speech elements. Closed captions are mostly written in the language that is set for the video. A DVD  e.g. that offers a movie in different languages also offers closed captions in these languages.

Subtitles for the deaf or hard-of-hearing (SDH)

SDH are subtitles which combine the information of both captions and subtitles. While normal subtitles assume the viewer can hear the audio but doesn’t know the spoken language, SDH assumes that the viewer cannot hear the audio (like with captions). In this case, SDH is intended to emulate closed captions on media that does not support closed captions, such as digital connections like HDMI. SDH can also be translated into foreign languages to make content accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing individuals who understand other languages.

SDH vs. Closed Captions

  • Appearance: SDH differs from closed captions in a number of ways. The first difference is in appearance. Closed captions are typically displayed as white text on a black band, whereas SDH is usually displayed with the same proportional font of translated subtitles. More and more often, however, both subtitles and closed captions have user control options that allow the viewer to change the font, color, and size of the text.
  • Placement: SDH and closed captions also differ in terms of placement. Closed captions can usually be aligned to different parts of the screen which is helpful for speaker identification, overlapping conversation, and avoiding interference with important on-screen activity. SDH text is usually centered and locked in the lower bottom third of the screen.

Can voice to text applications make this subtitles automatically?

  • In the age of technology where everyone is surrounded by easily accessible and affordable software, you should take advantage of speech to text applications. This way the whole process of voice to text transcription gets faster, cheaper, and even better.

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