Let’s Talk About Captions!

What are Captions?

  • Captions are words shown on a movie, television or computer monitor that show what is being said, and what sounds occur, in the program.
  • Captions may be “open” (visible whenever the program is shown) or “closed”.
    • Open captions are encoded as part of the video and cannot be turned off.
    • Closed captions can be enabled or disabled, and may be visible to all people viewing the show, or with some technology, they may be visible only to people who wish to see them.

Captions on media content can be both a form of accessibility and Universal Design, and a legally required, individual accommodation.

How are Captions Produced?

Professional Captions

  • Professional captions are created by humans, and the typical accuracy standard is 97-99%.
  • There are various ways to produce professional captions. The most common involves the following:
    • Transcription of all audio in the video.
    • Converting the transcription to an SRT (Subtitle Resource ) file, which is a plain-text file that includes timestamps, and the sequential number of captions.
    • The SRT file is added to the video.
    • The package is then edited for accuracy in both text and timings.

Machine Captions (Auto-Generated Captions)

  • Machine captions are created by software using speech recognition technology, and the accuracy standard varies, depending on the technology.
  • Machine captions are commonly used on YouTube, and are available on Canvas.
  • Machine captions are completed much faster, but must be reviewed and edited for accuracy.

Captions and Subtitles are NOT the Same!

Closed CaptionsSubtitles
Designed for people who are deaf or hard of hearingDesigned for hearing people
Frequently include non-verbal sounds, such as “Thunder” or “Dog barking”May not include non-verbal sounds (since their target audience can hear them)
Usually displayed over the picture and thus can block parts of itMay be displayed under the letterbox format of the actual show, rather than over the show’s image
Only available in one or two languagesMay be available in multiple languages