Thinking of adding accessibility to your YouTube video, broadcast program, DVD, etc? There are two main choices: captions or subtitles. But how do you know which one to use? Keep this list handy so you can get what you need.
Is this program for television, the web, or DVD?
Broadcast television, choose captions.
- Captions are sent with the broadcast program master tape.
Web, it depends.
- Subtitles are the most reliable in software players because they are time-cued graphic overlays.
- Captions that are formatted for the web work well in YouTube and other common players. However, they can have reliability issues.
DVD, it depends.
- Captions are best for “autoplay” DVDs (DVDs without menus). However, some DVD players do not support them.
- Subtitles are much more reliable and stable but they require a button or menu system. So, if your DVD already has a chapter menu why not add a subtitle button?
Do you want control using the TV menu or the DVD menu?
Using the TV Menu, choose captions.
- Captions are turned on and off using the setup menu in the TV.
Using the DVD player, choose subtitles.
- Subtitles are turned on and off via a menu on the DVD.
- This menu is programmed by the DVD author.
Are you creating a NTSC, PAL or Blu-ray DVD?
- NTSC only.
- Compatible with any type of DVD.
Is the support different for captions versus subtitles?
- Most computer DVD players do not support them.
- Here’s a list of software players known to support closed captions:
1. Paid version of WinDVD.
2. Paid versions of PowerDVD.
3. InterActual Player.
4. Window Media Player v.10+ (though timing errors are common).
5. Apple DVD Player (does not decode roll-up captions and does not position pop-on captions properly).
- All DVD players and many computer players support subtitles.
Do captions and subtitles look different?
- The font is determined by the decoder. It will generally be monospace white text on a black background.
- Anything is possible. The usual choice is a sans-serif font, either white or yellow with black edging or a black box.
We think that adding accessible features like captions and audio description is a great way to give your content a wider audience. Overall, we like subtitles because they are more versatile, more compatible and more widely supported. However, they also cost more money. Captions can be less reliable than subtitles but they also cost less. Hopefully these quick questions can help you make the right choice for your program.