Closed Captions Vs. Open Captions

Everyone who watches a video should have a basic idea of what captions are. There are open and closed captions. However, the latter is more popular. These terms are well-known among producers or creators of visual content, and they can decide which captions to use for their videos. To know the difference between both captions and which one is better for what situation, you must first understand the concept of video captioning.

The Concept of Video Captioning

Perhaps video captioning is an obscure term. It’s more commonly known as video subtitling. This is the process of adding text to video content. The text describes what’s going on in the video as well as what people are saying in the video (if it’s a film or documentary).

The Concept of Open Captions

Open captions define the text permanently displayed on video content, whether music videos, movies, or television shows. It’s similar to closed captions in the sense that it shows the textual content of the video on-screen. However, unlike closed captioning, open captions, once displayed on-screen, cannot be taken off. The reason for its permanence on-screen is that the content is burned into the video content. Unlike closed captioning, it is added to the video content as an external file.

While many viewers don’t appreciate the permanence of this content because it’s distracting, some content creators still opt for it in situations where it’s the only option. It is an alternative to closed captioning because certain phones or PCs, as well as websites, are incompatible with closed captioning/external files. So, the open caption is the better option in terms of universal compatibility.

The use of open captions comes with some benefits. Some of them include the following:

  • You can’t deactivate them by mistake because they’re always on-screen
  • You don’t need to figure out how to activate it. It will display on its own
  • If the video content has a short duration (e.g., reels), the captioning will be automatic

They are widely used in bilingual movies or foreign movies to appeal to a larger audience. For instance, an English movie may have open captions in English that will display once a movie character is speaking a foreign language. For foreign movies, the captions will be displayed on-screen for the entirety of the movie. The downside to open captions is that if there’s an error in subtitling, there’s nothing you can do about it. You certainly can’t change it; the only thing you can do is stop watching the movie.

The Concept of Closed Captions

These captions are simply defined as an on-screen text for video content that you can activate or deactivate at will. This makes them more popular for social media content creators on platforms such as YouTube. Viewers like having options, and knowing something is under their control makes them feel better about it. Moreover, if there’s an error with the subtitle, they don’t have to endure it. If it’s a movie, they can simply download another srt file. In terms of customization, closed captioning has the edge over open captions.

Video content creators enjoy the following benefits from using closed captioning:

  • They can easily take off the subtitle, edit it and upload it again if there’s an error with the caption.
  • It gives viewers options because they know they can leave it on display or switch it off.

The Difference Between Both Captions and Which is Better?

  • Form: Closed captions come in the form of an external file (srt), while open captioning is burned into the video.
  • Compatibility: Open captions are more compatible with devices and websites than closed captioning because there are websites or gadgets the latter isn’t compatible with.
  • Error Rectification: Closed captioning can be edited if there’s an error, while open captioning is not prone to editing.
  • Customizability: Closed captioning can be customized because viewers can activate or deactivate them at will. This gives viewers a choice. Open captions, on the other hand, are not prone to customization.

Both captions are good in the right situations, and we can’t pick one over the other. However, closed captioning has more appeal because it offers viewers a choice.

2 Responses

  1. There is a key component missing in this article. The key item with closed captions is the ability to have much more fluidity and options for users to select their language preference. In open captioned media, the language burned in is the sole language you can display. With closed captions, I can have particular language setting on site/browser I am in but can select a completely different language for media playback if I choose or need.

    1. Very good point and thank you for bringing that up. We could have mentioned that in the article as well and definitely plays a factor in deciding between the two.
      Thank you again!

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