Types of Captioning (Closed Captions, Open Captions, etc)

Types of Captioning

A Complete Guide to Types of Captioning.

Communication should be open and accessible to all, and captioning plays a vital role in making that happen. It’s like adding subtitles to life’s spoken stories, ensuring everyone can follow along, regardless of hearing ability.

But did you know there’s not just one type of captioning? From TV shows to online videos and even live events, there’s a perfect captioning fit for every situation. And that’s where we come in!

This guide will break down the different types of captioning, highlighting their unique features and how they can make your content shine brighter for everyone. 

So, let’s dive in and explore the world of inclusive communication!

The Different Types of Captioning: a Diverse Landscape

Within the media industry, captioning plays a crucial role in ensuring accessibility and enriching audience engagement. While the seemingly simple distinction between closed and open captions forms the groundwork, various specialized forms cater to diverse needs and contexts. 

Delving deeper into these types reveals a vibrant ecosystem of captioning solutions.

1. Closed Captions (CC): The Accessibility Champion

The most prevalent form, closed captions (CC), present textual representations of dialogue, sound effects, and speaker identification displayed on a separate, user-activated track. 

This empowers viewers with hearing impairments or in noisy environments to access the audio content effectively. Closed captions are ubiquitous in film, television, and online video platforms, solidifying their role as the accessibility mainstay.

2. Open Captions: Broadcasting Information for All

Open captions (OC), as the name suggests, are permanently embedded within the video footage. This makes them ideal for content aimed at broader audiences in public spaces, such as educational video displays or instructional materials. 

The permanence of open captions when compared to closed captions ensures message delivery regardless of individual viewer preferences or accessibility needs.

Beyond the Binary: Specialized Captioning Forms

The realm of captioning extends beyond the binary of closed and open, offering specialized forms tailored to specific requirements:

  • Subtitles: Transcending linguistic barriers, subtitles translate spoken dialogue into the viewer’s language, appearing typically at the screen’s bottom. They become indispensable for foreign language films and shows, bridging cultural gaps and expanding audience reach.

Audio Description (AD): Catering to blind and visually impaired viewers, AD narrates the visual elements of a video, describing actions, settings, and characters. By supplementing the audio track, AD enriches their understanding and appreciation of the content.

Audio description (AD) is a Types of Captioning
  • Real-Time Captioning: Capturing the essence of immediacy, real-time captioning generates text simultaneously with the spoken audio. This proves invaluable for live events like news broadcasts, sporting matches, and conferences, facilitating real-time comprehension for viewers with hearing impairments or in multilingual settings.

Below is a table that summarizes the different types of captioning with their description:

Type of captioningBrief Description
Closed captions (CC)Displayed on a separate text track that can be turned on or off by the viewer.
Open captions (OC)Displayed on the video itself, and cannot be turned off.
SubtitlesDisplayed at the bottom of the screen, and they translate the audio into the viewer’s language.
Audio description (AD)Provides a description of the visual content of a video for people who are blind or visually impaired.
Real-time captioningCreated in real time, as the audio is being played.

Methods and Tools for Captioning: Ensuring Accessibility and Engagement

Captioning plays a pivotal role in promoting accessibility and engagement across diverse audiences. By providing text-based representations of audio content, it bridges the gap for individuals with hearing impairments, language learners, and those viewing videos in sound-sensitive environments. This document outlines the primary methods and tools employed in the captioning process.

Understanding Captioning Methods

Two distinct approaches underpin captioning workflows:

1. Manual Captioning:

  • Relies on the expertise of trained professionals to transcribe audio and meticulously craft captions.
  • Renowned for accuracy and attention to detail, rendering it ideal for high-stakes content such as educational materials, legal proceedings, and corporate communications.

2. Automatic Captioning:

  • Leverages Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) technology to expedite caption generation.
  • Often favored for shorter videos or scenarios demanding rapid turnaround.
  • While convenient, it’s crucial to acknowledge potential accuracy trade-offs, necessitating careful review and editing.

Exploring Captioning Tools

A comprehensive array of tools empowers content creators to implement captions effectively:

  • Web-Based Tools: Platforms like Google Docs and YouTube Studio integrate captioning functionality, enabling users to add captions directly within their workflows.
  • Online Captioning Services: Provide professional captioning services, encompassing manual transcription, automatic generation, and translation capabilities.
  • Captioning Software: Specialized applications designed for both manual and automatic captioning, offering features such as timeline synchronization, speaker identification, and customizable formatting.

Styles and Formats of Captions: A Professional Guide

Captions play a crucial role in making video content accessible and engaging for a wider audience. Choosing the right style and format is essential for optimal comprehension and viewer experience.

Caption Styles:

  • Pop-on captions: Ideal for short videos or fast-paced content, these captions appear one line at a time, maximizing clarity and focus.
  • Roll-up captions: Suitable for longer videos or slower-paced content, these captions scroll up the screen, offering a continuous display while minimizing screen space usage.
  • Paint-on captions: Often employed in educational or information-heavy videos, these captions appear all at once and remain visible for a set duration, allowing viewers to absorb key points at their own pace.

Caption Formats:

  • Standard format: The most common format, featuring black text on a white background with fixed font size and line spacing for optimal readability.
  • WebVTT format: A text-based format specifically designed for embedding captions in web pages, facilitating online video streaming accessibility.
  • Large print format: Catering to viewers with low vision, this format utilizes a larger font size and increased line spacing for enhanced clarity.

Additional Considerations:

  • Timing: Precise synchronization with audio is crucial for viewer comfort and comprehension. Captions should appear concurrently with spoken content.
  • Grammar and spelling: Accurate grammar and spelling are essential for maintaining professionalism and ensuring clarity of message.
  • Abbreviations: Use abbreviations sparingly, and clearly define them within the captions if necessary.
  • Non-verbal cues: Describe non-verbal elements like laughter, music, and sound effects to provide a complete understanding of the video’s message.

How is Captioning Made? A Vital Process for 2024

Captioning, the practice of providing text for the spoken word and other audio elements within video content, serves as a crucial bridge to accessibility for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. It also benefits those who prefer to watch videos without sound, or those learning a new language. 

The creation of captions involves a multi-faceted process, encompassing various techniques and technologies to ensure accurate and seamless delivery.

Key Methods in Captioning Creation

1. Offline Captioning

Offline captioning offers the advantage of time, allowing for careful editing and refinement before the content reaches its audience. It encompasses two primary methods:


  • Manual transcription involves a transcriber meticulously listening to the audio and converting it into text.
  • Automatic transcription leverages speech recognition software to expedite the process, although human review is often essential to ensure accuracy.


  • Respeakers listen to the audio and repeat it clearly into a microphone, relying on software to transcribe their spoken words into captions. This method often yields high accuracy and efficiency.

Here’s a detailed blog post about What is Offline Captioning? (Prerecorded Closed Captioning)

2. Real-Time Captioning

Real-time Captioning Process

Real-time captioning presents a unique challenge, as captions must be generated concurrently with the live broadcast or stream. It involves two primary approaches:

Speech Recognition:

  • Advanced speech recognition software attempts to transcribe audio into text in real time. While still under development, its accuracy and reliability continue to improve.


  • Stenocaptioners employ specialized stenotype machines, enabling them to type at remarkable speeds using a phonetic shorthand system. Software translates the shorthand into captions, which are then displayed with minimal delay.

Here’s a detailed blog post about What is Live Closed Captioning? (Real-time Captioning)

Post-Creation Processes

Formatting and Editing:

  • Captions undergo careful formatting to ensure clarity and readability. This includes adding timestamps, correcting errors, and adjusting text placement for optimal viewing.


  • The finalized captions are integrated with the video content for seamless presentation. Delivery channels include television broadcasts, streaming services, online video platforms, and websites.

As one knows, captioning plays a vital role in promoting accessibility and inclusivity within the realm of video content. 

By understanding the meticulous processes involved in caption creation, we can appreciate the dedication and expertise required to ensure that information and entertainment are accessible to all.

How to Choose the Right Types of Captioning in 2024

Selecting the most appropriate captioning format for your video hinges on both your target audience and the video’s intended purpose. In short, you’ll need to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of captioning.

For online video dissemination, closed captions reign supreme. This empowers viewers to activate captions as needed, catering to diverse preferences. For a deeper understanding of closed captions, you may refer to the provided definition.

Conversely, open captions might be preferable for offline video consumption. This guarantees comprehension for all viewers, regardless of their auditory capabilities.

Here are some crucial considerations when determining the ideal captioning format:

  • Target Audience: Who will be your video’s viewers? If your audience includes individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, closed captions are essential.
  • Video Purpose: What is the objective of your video? If your video serves educational purposes, open captions could be advantageous, allowing viewers to easily revisit key information.
  • Budgetary Constraints: Creating closed captions can incur higher costs compared to open captions. If budgetary limitations exist, open captions might be a more suitable option.

Regardless of the chosen format, ensuring accuracy and readability of captions is paramount. Synchronization with the audio track, optimal font size of captions and color for clear visibility, and avoiding jargon or abbreviations that might baffle viewers are all crucial aspects to consider.

By thoughtfully selecting the appropriate captioning format and adhering to best practices, you can ensure your video’s message reaches and resonates with the broadest possible audience.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is a photo caption?

A photo caption is a short piece of text that accompanies a photograph, providing context, meaning, or additional information. It can describe the scene, tell a story, express emotions, or even ask a question. Captions can be informative, funny, poetic, or simply engaging, depending on the purpose and target audience.

What are the 4 types of captions?

There are many ways to categorize captions, but some common types include:

  • Descriptive: Provides factual information about the photo, e.g., location, date, people, or events.
  • Creative: Uses figurative language, humor, or storytelling to add interest and evoke emotions.
  • Interactive: Asks a question, uses a call to action, or encourages engagement with the audience.
  • Branded: Promotes a product, service, or brand using relevant keywords and hashtags.

What are the two types of captioning?

Closed captioning: Text displayed superimposed on video or audio content for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Open captioning: Text permanently burned into the video or audio content, visible to everyone regardless of hearing ability.

What are the types of caption writing?

Caption writing styles can vary based on the platform, content, and target audience. Some common types include:

  • Conversational: Friendly and informal, like chatting with friends.
  • Witty: Uses humor and puns to grab attention.
  • Informative: Focuses on factual details and clear explanations.
  • Intriguing: Creates suspense or mystery to spark curiosity.
  • Motivational: Uses positive affirmations and inspirational quotes.

How many types of captioning are there?

There are several types of captioning beyond closed and open captions, such as:

  • Real-time: Captioning delivered simultaneously with the spoken word, typically at live events.
  • Offline: Pre-recorded captions added to existing video or audio content.
  • Subtitles: Translated textual representation of dialogue and sound effects in non-native languages.
  • Descriptive audio: Audio narration describing visual elements for viewers with visual impairments.

What is the best instagram caption writing style?

The best Instagram caption style depends on your audience, content, and goals. However, some general tips include:

  • Keep it short and sweet: Aim for 1-3 sentences to avoid overwhelming viewers.
  • Use emojis and hashtags: Add personality and reach a wider audience.
  • Ask a question: Encourage engagement and spark conversation.
  • Tell a story: Capture attention and make your post memorable.
  • Use a strong call to action: Tell viewers what you want them to do (e.g., like, comment, visit).

What does a caption look like in a book?

In a book, a caption usually appears below an image or illustration, providing a brief explanation or identification. It can be a sentence or paragraph long, depending on the complexity of the image and the author’s intent.

What is the best caption writing style?

There’s no single “best” style, as it depends on context and audience. However, some general principles include:

  • Clarity: Write concisely and clearly, avoiding jargon.
  • Engagement: Use active voice, interesting vocabulary, and questions to keep readers engaged.
  • Voice: Develop a unique voice that reflects your personality or brand.
  • Authenticity: Be genuine and express your perspective honestly.

What are pop-on captions?

Pop-on captions are short, animated text boxes that appear above or within a video in sync with the spoken word. They’re commonly used in social media videos and online tutorials to highlight key points or add humor.

What are roll-up captions?

Roll-up captions are lines of text that appear sequentially at the bottom of the screen to display dialogue or narration in video content. They’re commonly used in live TV broadcasts and educational videos to ensure accessibility for viewers who read faster than the spoken word.

Wrap Up on Types of Captioning (Closed and Open Captions, Subtitles, etc)

The world of captioning offers a range of options that makes CC popular, each with its own strengths and quirks! Open captions are baked right into the video, always there if you need them. 

Closed captions are on hand when you want them, hiding discreetly until you turn them on. Real-time captioning keeps pace with live events, and broadcast captions make sure everyone at home can follow along.

No matter your role – creator, educator, or organization – embracing captioning opens doors to wider audiences and fosters a more inclusive environment. 

It’s a fantastic way to ensure everyone has equal access to the information and entertainment you offer. In fact, they have become mandatory a long time ago. So, dive into the different types, find the perfect fit, and let the captions roll!

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