What are Captions?

Captions provide a written representation of the spoken words and sounds in a video. They are displayed on the screen, typically at the bottom, and are timed to appear at the same time as the spoken words or sounds, providing a visual representation of what is being said or heard. Although captions are vital for making media accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing, they are used by everyone, as we will discuss a little later in this article.

There are two formats of captions, open and closed. You have likely come across both of these options in different settings. Open captions are captions that can’t be turned off. In other words, they are burned into the video. This type of caption has become very popular on social media, where they are crucial in order to capture the audience who watches videos without sound. Closed captions (CC) are captions that you can turn on and off as needed. You have likely encountered these on cable and most streaming platforms.

There are three different types of captions: True Verbatim, Clean Verbatim, and Eco Verbatim. True verbatim includes every utterance, including filler words, false starts, and non-verbal sounds. Eco verbatim is similar to true verbatim but without the stutters and non-verbal sounds like um and uh. Clean verbatim stays true to the speaker's words but with edits for improved readability.

Captions can also be human-edited or AI-generated. Here at EcoCaptions, though we provide both options, where we really shine is in our high-quality human-edited captions. Our skilled editors are able to transcribe content with multiple speakers, speakers with accents, and highly technical content, culturally sensitive topics, all with a high degree of accuracy and efficiency.

As a quick aside, although they are sometimes used interchangeably, captions differ from subtitles in that subtitles provide a translation of the spoken dialogue into another language.

Who Can Benefit from Captions?

The truth is, more and more people from all along the hearing spectrum are using captions. By using captions, we tend to gain more information from the content we’re watching and, consequently, have a much richer viewing experience. Here are just a few examples of who benefits from captions.

  • Students: By providing written text alongside audio and video content, students can better understand the material and follow along with lectures and presentations. Research has shown that students who use captions have better retention, focus, and enhanced comprehension. As more learning takes place in the digital space, it is a great opportunity to provide this learning tool to students.
  • Neurodivergent viewers: Some audience members may struggle with audio processing, rendering all layers of the audio meaningless. By providing captions, it allows these viewers to more easily grasp context as well as being able to identify non-verbal sounds. This makes captioning a highly valuable tool for improving both comprehension and engagement with audio and video content.
  • Businesses: In many cases, it is legally required for businesses to provide captions for any company training video, meetings, or other internal video media. Aside from the obvious benefits of providing accessible material to all employees, captioning can also improve Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for online video content, making it more visible to potential customers.
  • Seniors: As people age, they may experience hearing loss or have difficulty processing spoken language. Captioning can help seniors enjoy television shows, movies, and other forms of media without missing important details or dialogue.
  • Foreign language speakers: Research has shown time and time again that watching videos with captions in a target foreign language significantly increases word recognition and language comprehension. 
  • Content creators: With the ever-present goal of reaching a wider audience and improving engagement on our online content (whether it be social media, blogs, or YouTube), captioning is a key component in reaching those goals. Captions allow your audience to engage and retain your content without having to turn the sound on (like those folks who are waiting in line at the grocery store, commuting to work, or rocking their baby to sleep). It also can improve your SEO by adding more text to your content, which search engines love to index for you. This means that your videos are more likely to appear in search results.

Overall, captioning is a valuable tool that can make audio and video content more accessible, engaging, and inclusive for a wider audience. Whether you're a content creator, a language learner, or someone who simply prefers to read rather than listen to content, captioning can help you get the most out of your media consumption.

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