Subtitling For The Win

Subtitling For The Win

It started with a Tweet, which was then picked up by the Guardian, re-Tweeted and the rest is history. The post got re-tweeted 70K+ times, and liked 74K+ times. That is clearly something which struck a cord. Why?

Who is using subtitles or captions, why are they using it, and how can you also use subtitles or captions. For a technical discussion on subtitles or captions, see this. This post is more about the value in subtitles or captions.

Subtitling For The Win: @deafgirly
Subtitling For The Win: @deafgirly

We totally liked the Tweet!


There are two kinds of captions, open captions and closed captions.

  • Open Captions are the type of captions which are permanently embedded into the video asset. It is not possible to remove these captions.
  • Closed Captions are generally a separate file from the primary media asset, often in *.srt format. Depending on your video player, it should be possible to switch these on and off.

Open captions are not very popular. We think this is because they are mostly ugly (the old SRT format is from the video cassette recorder days). Open captions are also quite hard to use, in that SRT captions cannot handle much by way of styling, changes in text direction, bold/italic etc.

Closed captions are popular because it is possible to load up multiple language files. Still, the styling remains less than ideal, and it only works where the player has the capacity for Closed Captioning.

Open Captions Make A Comeback

Form the article, the reason for the big response is it allows people to consume video content while multi-tasking. Additionally, quoting from the article, an Ofcom study from 2006 estimated that of the 7.5 million UK TV viewers using subtitles, only 1.5 million had a hearing impairment.

We think another big reason is the rise of audio-muted auto play social media channels. From Facebook to LinkedIn, people are increasingly consuming video content without the sound turned on, which is a big market.

Open Captions are totally making a comeback.

How To Add Captions or Subtitles To Your Content

The process differs depending on the language(s) you are choosing to work with - assuming your content is in English.

  1. Upload your asset into the video translator application. Then select Action -> Transcribe, assuming you do not have any captions.

    Subtitling For The Win: Trigger Transcription AI
    Subtitling For The Win: Trigger Transcription AI
  2. Pick the correct dialect. If you are using another language, pick the correct dialect for the content you have. Trigger the speech to text transcription AI.

    Subtitling For The Win: Choose Your Dialect!
    Subtitling For The Win: Choose Your Dialect!

The Outcome Post Addition Of Open Captions

  1. Once your subtitles or captions are good (you should check!) use Auto-Overlay to programmatically add captions. We used the ever popular yellow text with a blue highlight to get the below effect.

    Subtitling For The Win: Add Open Captions!
    Subtitling For The Win: Add Open Captions!

That’s it - now go add subtitles on all your social media, and watch your engagement sky-rocket!

Deafinitely Girly approves, “It would be great if they were mandatory across all streaming services and at least 50% of cinema showings.”

Notes On Usage

The main challenge around Open Captions is you can only embed (or bake, burn, write etc) one set of open captions into an asset. What if your user wants a different language?

We think of this as the chicken-egg problem. Effectively, unless your target audience can find your asset, this will never be an issue. The smart way to manage this is to translate your title, description and other social media specific metadata to the language your open captions are in - this way you are optimising for search.


Technology is offering us ways to look at old problems with new eyes. We should look at open captions as a tool - something good for accessibility, and for booting your bottom line.

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