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Open vs. Closed Captions: What’s the Difference?

If you want to make your videos accessible to everyone, adding subtitles must be a part of your video strategy.

If you go to all the trouble of creating a video for social media captions are a must.

Why? Because the default setting is usually for videos to play with the sound off.

Your video is showing up in the newsfeed as a silent movie. Who has the time or patience to figure out what you’re saying? Most folks will simply scroll on past.‍

Here’s why captioning your video is a must:

  • Gives the viewer a hint of what you’re talking about.
  • Catches someone’s eye as they’re scrolling through the feed.
  • Allows people to watch your entire video with the sound off.
  • Essential for anyone who is hearing impaired.

If you want to make your videos accessible to everyone, adding subtitles must be a part of your video strategy.

Okay. So now we can all agree that subtitles are a must. We need to talk about closed captions vs. open captions.

First off, let’s discuss the difference, so we’re all on the same page.

Closed Captions

Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

Closed captions are created by preparing a separate SRT (Sub Rip Text) file. This is simply a time-stamped text file of everything you say in the video.

When you post your video to social media, you upload both the video file and an SRT file together.

Don’t know how to create an SRT file? Have no fear, I’ll cover that later.

  • Closed captions are easy to read. When you click on the video’s play bar, the closed captions adjust automatically by moving up a bit. This creates a seamless reading experience for your viewer.
  • Also, closed captions can be toggled on or off by the viewer, by clicking the CC button.
  • Finally, the SRT file you use on one social media channel can also be used on other platforms.
  • Closed captions work nicely on LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Vimeo, and YouTube.
  • As a special note about YouTube, closed captions are the preferred method for captioning. YouTube allows video creators to upload multiple subtitle files in different languages. This allows viewers to watch a video in the language of their choice.
  • Last, closed captions are excellent for SEO. The Google Search bots can scan and index the text contained in an SRT file. This is a great way for your videos to be found in the Google Search results.

When you successfully upload your video and SRT files simultaneously, captions are displayed at the bottom of the video. These captions always look the same — white text on a black background.

Open Captions

Photo by Wahid Khene on Unsplash

Open captions are subtitles that are burned directly into your video.

Many people find that open captions make the job of uploading your videos much easier.

  • With open captions, you can customise the font type, size, text, and background colour. Best of all, you decide exactly where the captions will display on your video. You are in total control.
  • With open captions, there’s a lot of room for creativity. You can use a colour scheme that matches your brand.
  • With open captions, there’s only one file to upload. This helps reduce tech anxiety.

While open captions are cool, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Open captions can’t be turned off. If the viewer doesn’t like them.
  • While you can customise open captions, you could run the risk of making poor choices. Some font styles and sizes are hard to read. Also, poor colour combinations could be challenging for colour-blind viewers. So, please choose your fonts and colours wisely.
  • Open captions may not be the best choice for YouTube. When text is burned into the video the Google Search bots can’t scan the text. This means open captions don’t get as much SEO love as their closed caption cousins.

Why I Love Subly

Subly my favourite tool for creating both closed and open captions. They have such an easy peasy process. Simply upload your video to their platform and Subly automatically transcribes your videos.

  • Once your video is transcribed, you can make any edits.
  • You can download the SRT file and you’re good to go for closed captions.
  • You also can create open captions.
  • Customise your captions to include any font style, size, text, and background colour.
  • You can customise where your captions will display on the video.

With Subly, what you see is what you get. So when you’re happy with how your custom captions look, simply download the video, and your captions are burned right in. Easy peasy.

Subly is the number one program I recommend for captioning your videos. Their website is easy to use. Simply sign up for a free account and jump right in.

While their Free Forever plan is very generous, I highly suggest you sign up for the Pro plan. When you do that, you will be able to create both closed and open captions.

There are many other reasons to be on the Pro plan.

  • You can remove Subly’s small watermark and replace it with your logo.
  • You can create a library of custom styles for your open captions, which allows you to have a consistent look for all your videos.

I don’t know what I’d do without Subly. As a busy content creator, I like to repurpose the videos I create. This is why I like to create closed and open captions. I use closed captions on YouTube and open captions on LinkedIn.

I’m glad that Subly allows me to get caption my videos… easy peasy.

Thanks to Gillian Whitney for her guest post. Gillian is a video marketing coach for B2B professionals at Launch4Life, and a trainer of easy peasy marketing tools.

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