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You likely already understand the value of making your online video content accessible to wider audiences. However, you may be unclear on the specifics of closed captions vs subtitles and when to use each for your videos. Getting this right allows you to enhance your video production while ensuring clarity and inclusion.

As online video becomes increasingly central for personal and business communications, optimizing videos to engage all potential viewers is key. Closed captions and subtitles serve overlapping but distinct purposes in making video material accessible and compelling. Understanding the differences between closed captioning vs subtitles empowers you to make informed decisions when captioning your videos to speak to broader demographics.

What Is the Purpose of Closed Captions?

Closed captions are aimed specifically at deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers. They not only display spoken dialogue as text but also convey non-speech audio like sound effects, speaker identities, and other relevant details. Essentially, closed video captions strive to provide the full audio experience in text form. By making both speech and relevant non-speech audio content accessible, they ensure that those with complete or partial hearing loss can fully understand and enjoy video content. 

Moreover, closed captions benefit viewers in noisy environments where audio may be difficult to hear. They are also useful when watching without sound is necessary or preferred, such as in public places with background noises. 

Captioning services or auto caption generators provide timed transcripts that can be embedded directly into video files for display. 

What Is the Purpose of Subtitles?

While subtitles also display dialogue as text, their focus is providing translations when viewers do not understand the original spoken language. Rather than conveying the full audio experience, subtitles aim solely to translate speech content.

Adding subtitles opens up videos to a broader international audience who speak other languages. From locally produced videos to foreign films, enabling easy translation allows you to extend viewership globally. And, subtitles can improve comprehension and retention for many viewers even when they understand the original audio language.

By letting audiences self-select languages based on individual preference, you grow viewership and facilitate clarity across linguistically diverse demographics. Like closed captioning, you can embed subtitles right in video files for smooth display based on user choice. With auto subtitle generators, you can now generate subtitle translations for your videos in multiple languages at scale and at a much lower cost.

Key Differences Between Closed Captioning vs Subtitles

Once you understand when to employ closed captioning vs subtitles, you can begin delving deeper into key variances to determine the appropriate approach per use case:


As mentioned earlier, the content displayed in closed captions and subtitles varies significantly. Closed captions must include all pertinent audio — speech, sound effects, speaker IDs, music cues, laughter, applause, etc. This complete audio-to-text transcription ensures those with hearing disabilities can access the full media experience.

Subtitles, however, focus solely on transcribing the verbal content, such as dialogue or narration, into the target language. Background sounds, speaker identification, and music are not included in subtitles. The textual content centers exclusively around conveying the core ideas through speech translation.

Accuracy and Timing

For closed captions to truly aid hearing-impaired audiences in comprehending media, accuracy and timing prove critical for effectively conveying context through text. Captions require precise transcriptions, including punctuation for proper cadence, and need to be displayed in sync as the audio plays.

Subtitles similarly call for correct translations presented in proper sequence. However, minor timing inaccuracies remain less impactful for subtitles, given the supplemental nature of text reinforcement for those able to hear the corresponding dialogue.

Still, both closed captions and subtitles should closely achieve audio-to-text alignment and transcription integrity for optimal viewer experience across devices. Computerized speech recognition and artificial intelligence (AI) text generators help accelerate such accuracy.

Technical Delivery

The core technical difference lies in the ability of viewers to access and control closed captions versus subtitles. Closed captions get embedded within video files and online streams. To turn them on, you need to actively enable closed captions through settings on your devices like smart TVs, video players, and mobile devices. So, the viewer must toggle functionality to allow the embedded captions text to display.

Subtitles also exist as text within video and stream files. However, hard-coded graphic overlays or “burned-in” text is a popular delivery method for subtitles. In such cases, the typed text overlays the original video imagery, which avoids the need to enable subtitles through menus and settings.

In the end, technical implementation comes down to optimizing for the use case and target viewers. Both closed captions and subtitles aim to deliver timely and readable text without obscuring important imagery or proving distracting.

When and How to Use Closed Captioning or Subtitles

You can maximize accessibility, engagement, and target audience reach by determining the ideal use of closed captioning vs subtitles for each video project:

  • Professional or Broadcast Videos: As mandated by law, professional or broadcast video content must have embedded closed captions to allow those with hearing impairments to fully comprehend the audiovisuals through text. 
  • International Content: If you’re targeting global viewership for your original video files, employing subtitles translated into diverse languages can break down language barriers.
  • User-Generated Content: Introducing subtitles helps clarify muddy audio or accentuated speech styles from repurposed videos. Auto subtitle generator solutions let you accurately caption your videos and massive video libraries for enhanced clarity.

However, the beauty lies in layering captions with subtitles within a given video. For example, you can embed English closed captions for accessibility while offering multi-language subtitle overlays to localize globally — covering worldwide demographics in one swoop.

The right software also empowers you to customize styles, such as text color, size, opacity, positioning, fonts, and animation, to tailor both closed captions and subtitles to your brand.

Add Subtitles To Your Videos In Minutes

As you navigate subtitles vs closed captions for your growing volume of video content, automating creation and editing alleviates major time and cost hurdles. That’s where LOVO comes in. 

LOVO serves up flexible and highly accurate speech-to-text capabilities, allowing you to auto-generate subtitles and closed captions at scale. Then, LOVO’s online video editor provides a powerful canvas for overlaying visual assets like images and videos while syncing your new subtitle or closed caption text tracks. 

However, LOVO isn’t just a subtitle generator. It’s one of the best online video editors, with a suite of powerful AI tools, including AI text-to-speechAI writer, and AI image generator, among a few. Sign up with LOVO today to effortlessly incorporate closed captions and multi-language subtitles into all your video content in minutes. Expanded accessibility, clarity, and conversions await.

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