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Closed Captioning and Subtitles for Video Editing

We’re just wrapping up a video editing project for a client who originally wanted closed captioning on their DVD’s and website videos. This turned into a much more involved process than one would think.

First, a few definitions. Both captioning and subtitling display text on the lower portion of the screen. Subtitling, which most of us are familiar with when watching foreign films, is used to display text on the screen throughout the film or program.

Captioning is similar to subtitling, but is geared to the hearing impaired. Captioning describes sounds as well as dialogue in text. Below are a couple of examples of captioning and subtitles for video editing.

Closed Captioning Example

Getting back to our client, they wanted closed captioning on their DVD. However, they wanted the text to appear with a black background so it would stand out better. This seemed to be a reasonable enough request, as when you watch a video on YouTube and you press the ‘CC’ button, you see white text with a black rectangle background. What happens here is that YouTube uses voice recognition technology to interpret what it thinks the words are. Though this technology is pretty good, it’s not perfect.

However, to incorporate white text on a black background on a DVD, we’d have had to create a separate graphic for each line of text that appears on the screen throughout the entire video. This would have taken hours to do, even for 15 minutes of programming. In addition, we’d have to have two separate videos of the same program on the DVD. One video would have the captions burned into the actual video and one without captions.

captioning and subtitles for video editing

Subtitling Sample

The viewer would have the option to select the caption button on the menu of the DVD to decide whether captions would be displayed or not. But instead of captions just popping on or off, an entirely new video would play. This means that if a viewer wanted to turn captions on or off, they’d have to stop the video, go to the main menu, press captions on or off and start the program over again.

This wasn’t an appealing choice, as it would have taken hours for us to create and place each text graphic on one of the videos, plus the user experience would have cumbersome. In addition to that, the caption/subtitling button on their remote control would be disabled. So we decided to just make the text larger, increase the black outline of the text and go with subtitles that could be turned on or off.


captioning and subtitles for video editing

Closed Captioning Example on YouTube

We also created a SCC file that our client will upload to YouTube. Once uploaded to YouTube, if they link to it from their website, viewers will have the option to watch with closed captioning or now. If they select closed captioning, their video will display white text with a black background.

So the big take-away for us was that if you are producing a program for the hearing impaired, just distribute it on YouTube and not DVD. Otherwise, you’ll need to go with subtitling unless you’re prepared to spend a lot of time and money creating graphics for each line of text. Plus, if you convert a HD program to DVD, chances are the resolution won’t be acceptable to today’s discerning audience. This is because even though a program is filmed and edited in HD, when you turn it into a standard definition DVD, it will not look good on a HD monitor.

I hope you have found this instructive. Please contact us at (773) 252-3352 or if you would like to know more about closed captioning, subtitles or producing your next video.

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