Everything You Need to Know About Captions and Subtitles

In this compete guide, we aim to answer all of your questions around closed captions, subtitles, open captions (also known as burned-in captions) and burned-in subtitles.

Published: February 21, 2023

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Closed captions, open captions, burned-in captions, burned-in subtitles.

You’ve probably seen these phrases floating around whilst developing your own video marketing content. You may be confused and asking what are closed captions and subtitles? What’s the difference and do I really need to use them?

The short answer to ‘do I really need them’ is yes. It is essential that you use either closed captions, subtitles or burned-in subtitles with your marketing video.

So that leaves the question – why are they important and which one should you choose.

At the end, we’ll also show you the quick and cheap way we create captions for our own marketing videos and step-by-step instructions (with videos) on how to upload them to YouTube, Vimeo and a range of social media platforms.

So, here goes.

What are subtitles?

Subtitles are a transcript of the dialogue in a video or film. They are designed for viewers who can hear but may not understand the language or would like the dialogue provided in text form as well.

What are closed captions?

Like subtitles, closed captions are also a transcript of the dialogue. However, closed captions also describe other audible information such as background noises that are important to the narrative. Closed captions are designed for people who have hearing problems or who are deaf.

Both subtitles and closed captions can be switched on and off by the viewer.

What are open captions and burned-in subtitles?

Open captions and ‘burned-in’ captions are used synonymously. In this article we will refer to them as open captions.

Open captions do the same job as closed captions and burned-in subtitles do the same job as subtitles, however, open captions and burned-in subtitles are burnt in to the video, meaning they cannot be switched off by the viewer.

When should you use which?

In general terms, the choice between them all really does depend on the intended audience and the purpose of the video.

However, in this blog post we’re talking specifically about video marketing content. But, instead of boring you with a load of scenarios, we’re just going to tell you what we do ourselves – which is what we advise all of our clients do too.

At Proper Video, we use closed captions on all of our videos as standard practice. Whether that’s a promotional video, explainer video, tutorial video or internal comms video.

While subtitles transcribe the dialogue, closed captions also describe other audible information. Using closed captions instead of subtitles makes the video accessible to those with hearing issues and those who don’t understand English. For us, creating closed captions for every video is simple and a win-win for everyone.

For our social media video content, we substitute closed captions for open (burned-in) captions.

Fact is, open captions are becoming a necessity for all types of video content promoted on social media.

According to multiple publishers, as much as 85% of video views across social media platforms happen with the sound off. Whether that’s simply because the viewer is watching in a busy public environment, or maybe its that co-worker who is watching TikTok videos whilst they should be doing their work (They may think they’re being as sneaky as Inspector Clouseau, but we see them don’t we).

Using open captions on social media video content means you are making it accessible to everyone and there’s the added benefit that the viewer doesn’t have to toggle the settings on, especially useful as social media videos start playing automatically as you scroll.

An added benefit to open captions is that you can customise the look of them. Unlike closed captions, where the platform chooses the style, by burning captions into the video you unlock the ability to change the font, text size and text colour as well as adding backgrounds and much more. This adds an extra layer of professionalism to your videos as you will be able to match the styling to your branding.

Benefits of using captions and subtitles

1. Increase engagement

Creating and uploading closed captions or subtitles, regardless of whether you burn them in or not, makes your video marketing content more accessible – accessible to those who cannot hear, those who don’t understand your language and those who simply choose to watch videos without sound. In today’s world, where diversity and inclusiveness are highly valued, including captions or subtitles in your video marketing content is a great way to showcase your brands commitment to inclusiveness, which in turn leads to much higher engagement with a wider audience.

2. Increase search ranking

An additional, less known benefit to uploading closed caption or subtitle files to your video is that it can increase your websites search ranking. Whereas it was once thought optimising video marketing content for search engines was limited, it is no longer. Search engines cannot watch your video but it can and will read the closed caption or subtitle file you upload to understand it. By carefully planning out your video script, you can inject keywords and phrases throughout the video, which can increase your websites search ranking.

How to create closed captions, open captions, subtitles and burned-in subtitles.

Well, I have some great news for you guys. Creating closed captions and subtitles for your videos has never been easier, and even better news, you can create them for free!

We’re first going to guide you through the quick, easy and free method. However, that isn’t going to suit everyone so we’ve also detailed how to create them in two other ways as well.

Auto-generated captions – get your captions for free!

Most mainstream video players such as YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, TikTok and more generate closed captions automatically with the click of a button.

Note: At the moment (Feb 2023) LinkedIn does not auto generate closed captions.

However, don’t grab your coat and rush off to the pub just yet, there’s still a little work you need to do.

While auto generated captions save you a huge amount of time and a lot of money, they aren’t 100% accurate. You will still need to watch your video back with the captions on.

The video players mentioned do allow you to change the captions, so if there’s a spelling mistake or a word where it shouldn’t be or you need to add a word in, you can. Also, most of these platforms are American. For us English folk, we need to watch out for words that are spelt the American way.

In the spirit of working smarter not harder, if you’re uploading your video to multiple channels you can save time by downloading the captions you edited and uploading them to the other channels.

For example, you’ve uploaded your video to YouTube. YouTube has auto-generated captions for you and you’ve edited them. Now download the caption file from YouTube and when uploading your video to Vimeo, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on, upload that file.

We talk you through how to upload captions further down in the post.

Before we move onto the other two methods of creating captions, we feel it would be beneficial for you to understand the various caption and subtitle file types.

Closed caption and subtitle file types

While there are many different file types don’t let this be daunting. Closed captions and subtitles can be stored in various file formats including .srt, .vtt, .dfxp, .sbv and .ttml. however, the one you really need to know about is the .srt file type.

The .srt is the most commonly used and popular closed caption and subtitle file type. It is widely compatible with most video players and platforms, such as YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and LinkedIn.

The other file types .dfxp and .ttml are used for professional broadcasting and streaming services such as TV and Netflix.

So when you are creating and uploading your closed captions or subtitles just look out for the .srt file type, this is the one you will need.

The Manual Method of Creating Captions and Subtitles

Most editing software, such as Adobe Premiere Pro, allow you to create a closed caption or subtitle track. You’ll need to write out the dialogue line by line and then add other audio descriptions if required.

The manual method of creating captions is time-consuming, requires attention to detail and a good sense of timing. You do not want your closed captions too long so that they run off the edge of the screen, nor do you want them overlapping each other. We’d always recommend using a paid service, such as the one we highlight in the next section, which is likely to be much more time and cost-efficient.

The only time we at Proper Video would create close captions or subtitles manually is for concise videos, typically 15 seconds or under. It will likely take you longer to upload the video to a paid service than just doing it by yourself.

If you are captioning videos longer than 15 seconds, please continue to the next section where we introduce you to a paid service.

Using Software to Create Captions and Subtitles

There are a boat load of different software you can use to create closed captions and subtitles for your videos.

On instances where we choose not to rely on auto-generated captions, we use a website called Rev.

We’ve been producing video marketing content for a while now and therefore created hours worth of captions. We have found using software like Rev to be much more cost effective and time efficient.

How to Create Captions and Subtitles Using Rev

At Proper Video we use Rev (www.rev.com). Rev is a paid service however, we’ve found this platform to be the most intuitive and cost effective. Rev are the largest marketplace of experienced transcribers and offer a 99% accuracy guarantee.

With Rev you pay per minute of video. At the time of writing this in February 2023, captions were priced at $1.50 per minute.

Step-by-step guide to creating captions and subtitles with Rev

Step 1: Head over to rev.com
Step 2: Create an account
Step 3: Navigate to services and click ‘video captions & subtitles’
Step 4: Click ‘English Closed Caption’
Step 5: Upload your video files or pull videos directly from you YouTube or Vimeo account. (under the video you’ll see an estimated turnaround time)

A great feature of Rev is that you can link your YouTube or Vimeo accounts. This way you can simply upload your video to YouTube or Vimeo. Go into Rev, place a new order and pull videos directly from YouTube or Vimeo. Click on the videos you want captioning and it will take you to checkout.

Step 6: Checkout

You will then wait for the captions to be created and notified by email when they are ready.

Step 7: Watch the video and double check the captions are correct.

If you have changed the captions and have linked to your Vimeo or YouTube account you can simply click upload to YouTube/Vimeo and the caption file will automatically update.

If you have not pulled your videos from YouTube or Vimeo follow the next step.

Step 8: Click download. Under output file formats click .srt and .srt (Facebook). If you try to upload the normal .srt file to Facebook it won’t accept it. Don’t ask us why, we haven’t been able to find out, they’re just been awkward ninnies. If you already have a .srt file for a previous video you can also just rename the normal .srt file from ‘filename.srt’ to ‘filename.en_US.srt’ and Facebook will accept it.

That’s it, you’re done and ready to upload your caption file with the video.

Follow the next steps if you have ordered burned-in captions

How to create burned-in captions and subtitles

If you are choosing to have your captions and subtitles burned-in then you have two choices to create these.

Unfortunately, neither are free.

You can either do this in a video editing software like Adobe Premiere Pro or you can use a paid service such as Rev.

Creating burned-in captions with Adobe Premiere Pro

Creating burned-in captions with Rev

Step 1: Head over to rev.com
Step 2: Create an account
Step 3: Navigate to services and click ‘video captions & subtitles’
Step 4: Click ‘English Closed Caption’
Step 5: Upload your video files or pull videos directly from your YouTube or Vimeo account (under the video you’ll see an estimated turnaround time).
Step 6: At the checkout click the option ‘burned-in captions’
Step 7: Checkout and wait to be notified by email when your captions are ready.
Step 8: Watch the video and double check the captions are correct.
Step 9: To customise the styling of your captions or subtitles click download and customise the .
Step 10: Customise the look by changing the font, text colour, text size or adding a background. Check the ‘save as default styling setting’ button if you wish for all your captions to look the same.
Step 11: Download.

You will be notified by email when your video with the burned-in captions is ready to download.

How to upload closed captions and file types to your videos

If you have created captions and subtitles manually or using software you need to know how to upload them.

Luckily, this is a straightforward process.

Below we show you a step-by-step guide on how to upload them to YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and LinkedIn however, most mainstream video players follow the same steps.

(There’s also videos, you know, we are a video production company so there should be really).

How to upload closed captions and subtitles to YouTube

Step 1: Upload your video to YouTube
Step 2: Select your language and click next to ‘video elements’
Step 3: Click add subtitles.
Step 4: Click ‘upload file’ and select with timing
Step 5: Navigate to the .srt file on your computer and click open.

Your subtitle or closed caption file will now be uploaded and visible on your video.

How to upload closed captions and subtitles to Vimeo

Step 1: Upload your video to Vimeo
Step 2: Click ‘captions’ on the right-hand side
Step 3: Click the + button and click choose file
Step 4: Navigate to the .srt file on your computer and click open
Step 5: Select the language and type and click upload


How to upload closed captions and subtitles to Facebook

Step 1: Upload your video to Facebook
Step 2: Click ‘Video options’
Step 3: Click add captions on the left-hand menu
Step 4: Click upload and navigate to the .srt file you need
Step 5: Click open



What a ride. You’ve now learned what closed captions, open captions, subtitles and burned-in subtitles are, why they important to increase your video contents engagement and how to create and upload them. Remember, everything we have written in this blog is the same advice we give to all of our clients. It is up to you to choose which caption type is for you and your video but hopefully you have learnt that they are an important part of all videos and should not be forgotten about. Happy captioning.

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