Definition of closed caption and subtitles

What are the subtitles? In simple words, they are mainly used when translating films or videos that were originally filmed in a language foreign to the viewer.

What does closed caption mean? Closed captions allow the viewer to read the dialogue text of the audio portion of a video or movie. As the video is played, the captions with the texts from the audio signal are shown, indicating who said what and other sounds. For example, in some films, the text says “disturbing music is playing”, “strong wind”, “the main characters are whispering”, etc.

Closed captions are mainly used for the viewers who know the language used in movies but who can’t hear the sound due to hearing impairments or if the sound is muted. The difference from regular subtitles is that one can turn closed captioning on and off.

Subtitles and closed caption meaning

Why use captions and subtitles

With the advent of sound cinema, subtitles have not disappeared. On the contrary, they began to be used even more as translation from a foreign language or as a way to put additional information in the film. And, of course, subtitles are also an indispensable tool for hard of hearing viewers.

Nowadays, in the age of the internet, we have access to countless videos on topics that interest us, and subtitles are also helpful if we happen to find content from foreign creators. If you frequently watch videos on YouTube, for example, you may have seen a “CC” sign, which activates closed captions.

Speaking of which, although these terms sometimes are used interchangeably, there is a difference between closed captions and subtitles. Both are inscriptions at the bottom of the frame that convey the spoken words or contain explanatory text, so the difference is subtle and may not seem easy to spot.

Closed captions and subtitles definitions

Other types of subtitles

If there are closed captions, you may wonder if there should be open captions as well? You’re right! While closed captions can be turned on or off by the viewer at any time, open captions are always displayed on the screen and cannot be turned off as they are a part of the image with text superimposed on the source video. They are also called hardcoded subtitles or hardsubs.

There are soft subtitles as well (also called softsubs or external subtitles) – these are the captions that are attached to the video as a text file. Such subtitles can be viewed in a text editor, modified, and deleted. To display external subtitles, a video player must be able to work with them, i.e., overlay text on video at the right moment. Not all players support subtitle playback, but most common players do.

Another type is forced subtitles. You may have seen them while watching a movie in the theatre or on TV. Forced subtitles are mainly used in episodes where the foreign language is used or some explanation is needed.

For example, the movie is in English, but there’s a scene where characters speak other languages or use gestures to communicate, and subtitles with translation are displayed. Such subtitles can also apply to inscriptions, like newspaper headlines, names of organizations, etc.

Creating captions

If you need to create your own subtitles, it can be done in any text editor. You just have to follow the specific structure and save the file in the SRT format.

Alternatively, you can use Clideo's online subtitle editor to add subtitles and even stylize them, for example, choose what font they would use or change their color and size.