Subtitles & Captions: Definitions

Q: Is there a difference between subtitles and captions? If there is, what is it?

The two terms ‘subtitles’ and ‘captions’ are often used interchangeably. They indicate that text is visible on the video screen. Strictly speaking there are differences in meaning.

Subtitles: are text versions of dialogue or narration which appear on the video, usually at the bottom center of the screen. These are often in translation.

Captions: in some countries (notably the USA), subtitles for the hard of hearing are refered to as captions. They will convey other information in addition to the dialogue, such as sound effects (Door slams, Police siren, sighs and coughs).

Both subtitles and captions can be created in ‘open’ and ‘closed’ formats. Open captions/subtitles are ‘burned on’ to the video and cannot be turned off. Closed captions/subtitles can be turned off, or switched to other languages by the user. DVDs usually have closed subtitles, which are accessed via a menu.

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