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

Captions, which are sometimes referred to as subtitles, closed captions, open captions, or screen text, are extremely prevalent on video games, televisions, video software, and video streaming services.


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Most people are familiar with closed captions. They are offered as an option in nearly every video viewing experience. Whether you’re watching online videos or in a movie theater, closed captions are usually available to anyone who wants them. Far fewer people are familiar with open captions. But they do exist and there is a very important distinction to know about if you’re planning to produce video content.

What’s the Difference Between Open and Closed Captioning?

To decide on open vs. closed captions, you should decide on the viewing experience you want your audience to have. Closed captions can be turned on or off, allowing the viewer to have options. It puts the viewer in charge of their experience and allows them to view your video content in all kinds of different scenarios, including loud train rides or quiet nights while rocking a baby to sleep.

Open captions, on the other hand, are added to the video file or media player and cannot be turned off. This is great for accessibility and comprehension especially deaf, hard of hearing, or hard-of-hearing people, but may distract certain viewers. Both closed and option captions have their value. The important thing to decide is how your audience will best engage with your video.

When Should You Use Open Captions?

Open captions should be used any time you don’t have control of a closed caption feature. On websites, for example, some hosting services won’t provide a closed caption option, making it necessary to hard-code captions to the video file. Also, some movie theaters don’t have the necessary equipment to show closed captions. Although this is more rare, it’s still a consideration if your video file needs captions.

Rev now offers open captions. Just check the “burned-in captions” box at checkout and you’ll receive a video with permanent, hard-coded captions added straight to your videos. Also available for foreign language subtitles!

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Examples of Open Captions

The most popular example of open captions is in popular movies. If there is a part of the movie where the characters start speaking a different language, the movie will display open captions, providing the English translations. Other times, an entire movie will play with open captions if it’s being shown in a language that requires subtitles for the viewer.

An advantage of open captions is that users will not need to figure out how to turn them on and will have captions for their entire viewing experience. Of course, that also means they won’t have the option to turn the captions off.

When Should You Use Closed Captions?

The availability of choice is the major difference between open and closed captioning. Since such a large portion of viewers prefer to customize their viewing experience, you’ll mostly want to use closed captioning when you can. On platforms like Facebook or YouTube, you should use closed captions.

Examples of Closed Captions

Most examples of captions in video are closed captions. All YouTube videos, for example, offer the option to turn on captions and subtitles by clicking their settings feature. YouTube often provides automatic closed captions, so the quality is not always as great as it could be, but they are getting better all the time. Streaming services, traditional TV and other online video platforms will also offer closed captioning options for all audiences.

Rev’s Captioning Services Are the Best on the Market

Rev delivers caption files in a variety of formats, allowing you to easily choose if open captions or closed captions are the right choice for you. Rev’s open and closed caption files allow you to reach a wider audience and improve your video’s accessibility.

Rev’s captioning services cost $1 per video minute, guarantee a 99% accuracy rate, and accepts all major video formats.

Read More About Open and Closed Captions

Whether you decide on open or closed captioning for your video, it all starts with creating a caption file. Learn how to add captions to your video and the best service providers available using our website.