What is Closed Captioning and The Benefits for Your Business

Illustration by Jakub Jezovic via Dribbble

In the past, deaf people or those suffering from impaired hearing, had limited access to audiovisual content because they could not enjoy the audio part of the video. They could barely follow the news because it was seldom the broadcast stations provided a sign language interpreter.

But that’s all in the past. In the US, the law requires every person should have equitable access to news, information, and entertainment.

Audiovisual content today, especially that targeting deaf and hearing impaired audiences, has closed captioning. Closed captions are the visual display of audio as text.

The CC symbol is the international icon to indicate that video material contains closed captions. The market presently has several captioning solutions. You can visit Verbit.ai if you are interested in professional captioning software.

What is closed captioning?

You might have seen videos that include the CC icon included. This means the video has closed captions. Some people mistake it for subtitles. Subtitles are often translations of the original language used in the video.

Closed captions are the representation of the audio in video material, which is in the same language as the original.

Where do you use closed captioning?

You can find many video materials on various media sources, including YouTube, Facebook, recorded video, and television. Adding closed captions to the media materials allows more people to access the content, specifically people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

But mind you, people who can hear will still benefit from video content with closed captions. They can enjoy the content in places where the sound is impeded or must be muted, such as in public places, gyms, public transportation, or a noisy bar. You can turn closed captioning on and off, which makes the visual material more versatile.

Where can you find closed captions?

While TV shows today have closed caption features, you can find closed captions in video materials used in schools and universities, offices, events, theaters, music, websites, and social media.

Aside from allowing people with hearing difficulties to understand, closed captions help students improved their note-taking. It can also help break down communication barriers, as participants in meetings, conferences, workshops, and training sessions can follow the presentation better.

What does closed captioning look like?

In closed captions, you can see a display of the spoken dialogue. You will also see notations for music and sound effects enclosed in square brackets, such as [dog barking], [phone ringing], [laughter], [child crying], and others.

The closed captions enhance the material’s context. In some cases, the captioner changes the color of the speaker tags or the dialogue, especially if the character speaking is not shown in the frame.

The appearance of closed captions differs according to the style employed by the person doing the closed captioning. Closed captions appear at the bottom of the screen, but may shift position to avoid obscuring the integral elements on the particular frame.

The appearance of the closed captions is timed to match the appearance of the character on screen. It gives a few seconds to allow the viewer to read and comprehend the information.

Closed caption formats

There are around 30 formats for closed captioning that apply to different mediums. But the most common is SRT or SubRip Subtitle file. An SRT file is easily accepted by many media players, video recording software, and lecture capture software.

The plain-text file reads like a script. It includes all the closed caption frames in a sequence and the beginning and end time codes showing when the closed caption frame must appear. The SRT file also includes the closed captions and a blank link for the start of a new sequence of closed captions.

Government regulations

Many laws cover captioning. While the laws do not apply to all videos, it pays to know about them.

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act states there should not be any discrimination against persons with disabilities. Organizations should provide accessibility, including closed captioning of video content.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides equal opportunities to persons with disabilities. Initially, the law covers access to physical structures, but now covers online content. Title II of the ADA is for public organizations, while Title III is for the private organization. The two sections refer to the provision of alternative means of communication.
  • The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 mandates that all online videos previously aired on TV should have closed captioning. The regulation covers content distributors, video creators and streaming sites. It also covers original content, even if they did not show it on TV and live programming.
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) states that all broadcast content must have closed captions. The law covers all live, near-live, and recorded programs, including religious programs.

Benefits of closed captions

If you are a content producer and create materials for video marketing, captions will make your content more valuable and inclusive to your target audience.

  • Primarily, captions allow viewers who are deaf and hard of hearing to access and enjoy audiovisual content. Captioning helps you reach more audiences, especially with the increasing use of the internet.
  • Captioning gives you legal protection. The law requires video producers to add a caption to video materials. There are corresponding legal fees for failure to caption, aside from damaging your reputation.
  • It boosts your SEO strategies. Search engine bots cannot listen to audio or view video. What they index is text. If you have captions, the search bots can see your video content through the transcript. You will have additional search engine traffic. Your videos will rank higher because there are more keywords available.
  • For marketers, captions can increase brand awareness and help you fight the silent auto play syndrome on social media platforms. Many studies showed people reacted negatively to videos playing automatically with sound when they browse sites using their smartphones. When you have captions on your marketing material, it does not matter if viewers turn off the sound because they can still understand the content. Many brands employ more creative ways to improve their captions with colors and fun text. Others go as far as creating video materials with closed captions, but no sound.

Make sure you work with a professional agency providing captioning service or select a company that uses high-quality captioning software. This is your assurance that the closed and accurate captions conform to standards.

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