what are subtitles

Video Subtitles: Types, Benefits & Useful Tips to Get You Started

May 9, 2023
7 min read
Home Blog Video Subtitles: Types, Benefits & Useful Tips to Get You Started

Do you turn the sound off when you watch a video? If yes, you are not alone. Many people choose to watch muted videos for a variety of reasons, including a noisy environment or the absence of headsets. Therefore, it’s crucial to make your videos accessible to everyone by adding subtitles and captions.

If you’re still questioning yourself, “Why do I need subtitles?” this article is for you. Dive in to find out what video subtitles and captions are, their types, differences, benefits, and much, much more!

What Are Subtitles and Captions?

Captions are text lines at the bottom of the screen, which are used to describe the audio content of the video to the domestic viewer. Video subtitles, unlike captions, are text translations of the dialog spoken in the video into another language.

Both subtitles and captions are used in motion pictures to make content accessible to a broader audience, including viewers with hearing impairments. They can also be seen in television programs and other types of media, including social media clips and online videos. Additionally, subtitles and captions can provide additional information about the video content, such as describing sound effects.

Now that you know what is the purpose of a subtitle and caption, let’s move on to different types of subtitles and find out why are captions important.

Subtitle Types

Open captions, closed captions, and SDH (Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing) are the three main types of subtitles. The type you select will greatly depend on the objective of your videos and the target audience. Let’s quickly define each type before we go into more detail.

  • Closed captions

Closed captions are subtitle types you’ll likely be most familiar with because they are frequently available as an option on DVDs and streaming services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer. They nearly always appear in one or more lines of text at the bottom of the screen and can be enabled or disabled.

  • Open captions

Open captions are text lines “burned in” to the video at the design stage of the video creation process. Unlike closed captions, they don’t always appear at the bottom of the screen and can’t be turned off.

  • SDH subtitles

SDH subtitles for videos are similar to closed captions in that they are also optional and usually appear at the bottom part of the screen. However, because they were written with a deaf or hard-of-hearing audience in mind, they will include other audible aspects to aid the audience in understanding the action or atmosphere of the scene. For instance, an SDH subtitle might feature phrases like “indistinct chatter” or “sad music plays.” This subtitle type is most frequently used in movies when the action rather than the dialogue is crucial.

Captioning vs Subtitles

Although the terms subtitles and captions are sometimes used synonymously, significant distinctions exist between them.

The difference between closed captions and subtitles is as follows:

Closed captions

  • Captions provide a textual representation of the audio content in its original language.
  • Captions are used to transcribe what is being said in a video, program, or movie.
  • Captions also provide additional audio cues for sound effects and background music.
  • Captions help deaf people and people who are hard of hearing understand spoken words and other audio information.


  • Subtitles are textual translations of a video’s dialogue.
  • Subtitles are shown to the international audience, including people with hearing impairments, in their native language to aid comprehension.
  • Subtitles can include additional audio cues as to the sound effects and background music (in the case of SDH subtitles).
  • Subtitles in many languages can be seen on streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV, etc.

Here’s a good example:

 what are captions

Not confident about your captioning or subtitling skills? Don’t worry — you can always hand the task over to professional typing services and save time and stress.

Benefits of Subtitles & Captions

Apart from helping people with hearing impairments and foreigners understand and enjoy the content, subtitles and captions are also important for a number of reasons. These include the following:

  • Captions and subtitles help people studying a foreign language recall and understand the material and develop listening skills through exposure to authentic use of language.
  • Captions and subtitles help people watching videos in noisy environments clearly understand the video, even when the sound is turned off.
  • Captions and subtitles improve engagement and viewing time by making video content accessible to all categories of viewers.
  • Captions and subtitles make videos more searchable, helping their creators reach a wider audience.
  • Captions and subtitles help understand muddled audio tracks and difficult accents.
  • Captions and subtitles help videos rank higher in SERPs.
  • Captions and subtitles help people watching videos at different speeds catch all critical information.
  • Captions and subtitles provide context for the visuals so that viewers can follow the action when the audio is difficult to understand.
  • Captions and subtitles make it easier for clients looking for your services on search engines like Google to find your business.

The cognitive benefits of reading subtitles are also hard to underestimate, as they strengthen reading skills, boost comprehension and attention to detail, and improve memory.

How to Use Subtitles Correctly?

If you are thinking about subtitling or captioning your video, here are some essential tips to get you started:

  • Pick a font that’s simple to read. The ideal typefaces for captions and subtitles are often sans-serif fonts like Arial or Helvetica.
  • Make sure the text is readable and large enough. The ideal font size is often 12 points.
  • Use a high-contrast text color, such as white on a dark background. This allows for easier reading.
  • Use appropriate punctuation and grammar. This will make it simpler for people to understand your video.
  • Ensure your captions and subtitles are to the point and two lines at most. Having fewer words to read on the screen would be appreciated by viewers.
  • Place your subtitles and captions in a suitable location on the screen. The ideal position is the lower bottom third of the screen.
  • Make sure your subtitles and captions appear precisely when the words are spoken. However, keep the text visible on the screen for 3 to 7 seconds.
  • Always start sentences with capital letters and use lower and uppercase letters, not all caps.
  • Set the minimum display time to 1.5 seconds in case of super short dialogue.
  • No matter what language, slang, or dialect is used, ensure all actual words are written correctly.
  • Always identify multiple speakers by their names.
  • Caption quotes from famous people word-for-word.

Following these tips, you can make your captions and subtitles understandable and simple to read, improving accessibility for persons with hearing impairments and making it easier for viewers to follow your video.

How to Get Subtitles for a Video?

Different content platforms have varied requirements for captions and subtitles, making adding subtitles to your video material a real headache, especially if you haven’t done this before. Even worse, in some cases, those requirements constitute federal law. This means that before adding subtitles to your video, it’s crucial to do in-depth research on how to do so in your jurisdiction and hope the data you’ve found is accurate and up-to-date.

Alternatively, you can save the hassle and opt for professional video transcription services like typingservice.org. Our dedicated team of certified transcribers offers fully editable open/closed captions for videos and can format your subtitle translation fast and at an affordable price, delivering a 100% accurate, ready-to-use file that matches your requirements and industry standards.

We deal with all popular file formats and accept orders 24/7, so get started by uploading your video along with individual preferences here. You’ll be 100% satisfied, guaranteed!

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