10 Types of Subtitles

Exploring 10 subtitle types, with a play-pause button, highlighting video editing tools.
Discover 10 types of subtitles for better accessibility in your multimedia content!

Transkriptor 2024-01-17

Subtitles are text captions that accompany a video, typically positioned at the bottom of the screen, which display the dialogue being spoken in real-time. All subtitles follow one important guideline.

Subtitle files can be saved in one of two ways: as open captions (OC) which are permanently ‘burned’ into the video file so the viewer doesn’t have the option to turn them off, or as closed captions (CC) which are saved in a separate file so the viewer is able to choose whether they watch the video with subtitles or not.

There are a variety of subtitle types, which differ in the information they contain, as they serve for different audiences. For example, subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing (SDH) include additional audible details, like music and sound effects, to ensure an accessible viewing experience. Forced subtitles (FN) ,on the other hand, clarify muffled dialogue, unclear graphics and other information in the video that is necessary for the story.

The 10 types of subtitles used for videos are listed below.

  1. Closed Captions (CC): Text overlays on a video that provides dialogue and auditory cues intended to make content accessible for deaf or hard-of-hearing audiences.
  2. Open Captions (OC): Viewers are not able to turn off open captions; useful for ensuring accessibility when the viewing platform does not support closed captioning.
  3. SDH (Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing): A type of subtitle that includes not only dialogue but also annotations for sound effects and other audio information to aid viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  4. Forced Subtitles: Subtitles that automatically appear when a portion of dialogue or text is in a different language from the main audio track; they are 'forced' on screen to provide necessary translation or context.
  5. Burned-In Subtitles: Burned-in subtitles are non-interactive subtitles that have been permanently 'burned' into the video file itself and are always visible, similar to open captions.
  6. Foreign Language Subtitles: FLSs provide a translation of the dialogue from the original language into another language to help viewers who do not understand the original language of the content.
  7. Transcript Subtitles: A verbatim transcription of spoken dialogue into subtitles.
  8. Karaoke Subtitles: Karaoke subtitles highlight the lyrics in time with the music displayed during karaoke videos.
  9. Real-Time Live Subtitles: Live subtitles transcribe in real-time for immediate reading.
  10. Teletext Subtitles: An early form of providing information and subtitles on television screens through a hidden text mode.

Closed sign floating over a blue backdrop symbolizes closed subtitle type for transcribing spoken content.
Explore the closed subtitle type tailored for transcriptions, enhancing accessibility and comprehension.

1. Closed Captions (CC)

Closed captions (CC), the type of subtitle seen most often on DVDs and streaming services, have the option to be switched on and off. Closed captions appear as one or two lines of text at the bottom of the screen, and their position remains the same.

The main benefit of closed captions is their versatility. Most platforms support closed captions like  Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Youtube.

2. Open Captions (OC)

Open captions (OC) are in the original video frames, permanently ‘burning’ them onto the file. Open captions don’t allow users to switch on or offf, so the producer has to take extra care to ensure that there is space left on the screen for the words to appear.

Open captions are a solution for creators posting content on platforms which don’t support closed captioning, such as Instagram or Tiktok, as they are able to manually transcribe and add captions to their video.

3. SDH (Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing)

SDH are a type of subtitle designed for the deaf and hard of hearing, containing additional audible details to help the viewers to understand the scene. SDH subtitles include sound effects, music and speaker identification, in addition to dialogue. SDH subtitling goes beyond spoken word to describe other types of sound happening in the video, such as ‘scary music plays’ to convey tension or ‘indistinct chatter’ to give a sense of the environment.

4. Forced Subtitles

Forced subtitles, known as forced narrative (FN) subtitles, are subtitles to clarify dialogue, unclear graphics, and any other information that is complex. Forced subtitles exist on their own way even if the viewer doesn’t turn subtitles on, although Netflix incorporates forced narrative captions into their optional closed caption subtitles.

Forced subtitles support the audience’s understanding of inaudible or distorted audio, such as the dialogue in an action movie drowned out by loud background noise, or the dialogue in a documentary with poor audio quality. Forced subtitles provide a translation of the dialogue, so they are useful for videos where the majority of the dialogue occurs in one language but certain characters insert phrases in another language at random.

5. Burned-In Subtitles

Burned-in subtitles refer to any subtitling that exists directly and stored inside the video file, meaning the viewer is unable to turn them off. Burned-in subtitles are interchangeable with open captions, as they are both a permanent feature of the video which the viewer is unable to switch on and off.

Burned-in subtitles are a popular choice for editors who want complete control over the font, size and color of the captions, to ensure that they align with the theme or aesthetic of the content. Burned-in subtitles are popular with creators who produce content for social media, as they provide visual interest which engages and keeps the attention of viewers.

6. Foreign Language Subtitles

Foreign language subtitles are subtitles that translate the dialogue happening on the screen into a different language. Foreign language subtitles appear at the bottom of the screen, aligning with the dialogue on screen to match. Subtitle translation allows viewers to enjoy films made in countries whose language they don’t speak, which is important as cinematic tradition is diverse across the world.

Additionally, turning on translated subtitles while keeping the audio in the original language is a popular method for language learning because it improves the viewer's phonetic understanding of the language by familiarizing them with its key vocabulary and sounds.

7. Transcript Subtitles

Transcript subtitles are the result of transcribing audio to text verbatim , in which the text corresponds with the dialogue word for word, foregoing any editing for clarity or length.

One issue with transcript subtitles is that the way people naturally speak is often convoluted or confusing, so the captioning benefits from the refining and editing that a verbatim transcript doesn’t have.

A person holding a microphone with karaoke subtitles displayed on a TV screen.
Sing along seamlessly with karaoke subtitles, perfect for capturing every note and word.

8. Karaoke Subtitles

Karaoke subtitles refer to the lyrics of the chosen song shown on-screen during the performance, to help the singer follow along and match the instrumental track. Karaoke subtitles are in line with the played music and timed so that they change as the song progresses.

The karaoke subtitles are indispensable to karaoke bars, karaoke home-systems, and in karaoke apps for the users to be able to take part.

9. Real-Time Live Subtitles

Real-time live subtitles, also known as real-time text (RTT), turn spoken dialogue into text and displays it on a screen in real time. Live captioning is useful in many different settings, from automatically generating captions for a presentation and displaying them for the audience on screen, or smartphones equipped with RTT apps which convert speech to text during live conversations and allow the user to reconnect with their loved ones after hearing loss.

Some real-time subtitling services are able to translate the words, and generate the captions in another language. Live subtitles provide real-time access to spoken content (via captioning and complete transcripts), for hard of hearing and deaf students.

A computer screen displaying Teletext subtitle with news headlines, exemplifying the teletext subtitle format.
Dive into the retro world of teletext subtitles, delivering news with simplicity and nostalgia.

10. Teletext Subtitles

Teletext is an old service, first designed by the British television broadcaster BBC in 1972.

One prominent feature of the Teletext system was that it provided closed captioning for TV content. It allows users for the first time to add subtitles to their programmes, quickly making it an ally for the hearing impaired.

Modern systems replaced teletext in time, but it formed the basis for the World System Teletext which became popular across Europe well into the early 2000s.

What is Subtitle ?

Subtitle is a textual representation of the dialogue and other relevant audio content in a video, displayed at the bottom of the screen, allowing viewers to read what is being spoken or heard.

Subtitles are equally essential for hard of hearing or deaf viewers to be able to access content, as they provide information about the non-speech elements of the audio like sound effects and music, as well as a transcription. The use of subtitles is common in movies, television shows, and video games, as well as in shorter online videos and social media clips.

The concept behind "what is subtitling" pertains to the process of transcribing and translating spoken dialogue and auditory cues into written text that appears on a visual display, usually at the bottom of the screen.

What is the Purpose of Subtitles?

The purpose of subtitle is to widen the audience of a video by providing a textual summary of the dialogue and action, but they have become a crucial tool for many viewers. Subtitling is essential for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing to access video content, as well as viewers on the autism or dyslexic spectrum.

Using subtitles improves reading speed and comprehension, by means of increasing the viewer’s familiarity with the vocabulary and sounds of a language. Subtitles are equally as useful for children learning their native language, as they are for someone studying a second language later in life.

Search engine optimization (SEO) harnesses subtitling, because adding captions means that Google users are searching for keywords.

What is the Importance of Subtitles?

The importance of subtitles is multifaceted: they make audiovisual content accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers, facilitate language learning, enable viewing in sound-sensitive environments, and help comprehend dialogue that is fast, delivered in various accents, or obscured by background noise.

Subtitles provide access to video content for people with impaired heading or who have difficulty processing spoken language, by providing a text-based summary of the words and any necessary non-dialogue information.

How Does the Type of Content Affect Subtitle Type Selection?

The type of content affects subtitle type selection by necessitating different levels of detail, pacing, and information depending on whether the material is educational, entertainment, live broadcast, or interactive media.

The purpose of the video is an important factor when selecting the type of subtitle to use for a piece of content. The caption position, file format and user control options are other important factors when selecting the subtitle type.

What are the Factors that Determine the Choice of Subtitle Type?

The 4 main factors to consider that determine the choice of subtitle type are listed below.

  1. Intended audience. Subtitles include different information depending on their intended audience. SDH subtitles include descriptions of non-dialogue information, like any music that is playing or important sound effects, whereas open captions only include speech.
  2. Position. The most appropriate position for the subtitles changes depending on the context on the screen in each frame of the video. Subtitles typically appear at the bottom of the screen, but in the case that this location obscures important action.
  3. File format. Users consider whether it is necessary to ‘burn’ the captions onto the file to ensure that the text formatting, position and special characters are visible.
  4. User control. Users are able to turn on or off some subtitles while not others.

How Do the Needs of Deaf Viewers Affect Subtitle Type Selection?

The needs of deaf viewers affect subtitle type selection by requiring attention to detailed descriptions of audio cues, character identification, readable text presentation, and ensuring that all relevant information conveyed through sound is also accessible visually.

Subtitling is an essential function of video content for deaf viewers, as it provides a visual representation of the dialogue on screen. Subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing follow best practices for subtitle formatting , including non-dialogue sounds, like music, sound effects or complex on-screen actions, that other subtitle types exclude.

Subtitles are equally as important for hearing impaired people who are able to lip read despite what most people assume, as it is impossible to keep up with dialogue when there are multiple speakers or when background noise is present.

How to Add Subtitles to Video?

To add subtitles to video , follow the steps below.

  1. Create the subtitle file. Subtitle files contain the captions, in sequence, with start and end timecodes. The text in the subtitle file should be accurate, on time and formatted properly.
  2. Downloading video editing software. There are a variety of video editing softwares available and the most popular options are Adobe Premier Pro and Final Cut Pro. Apple products have a built-in video editing software (iMovie), as do Windows computers (Windows Movie Maker).
  3. Import the video. Select and upload the video you want to subtitle to the selected video editing software.
  4. Import the subtitles. Upload the subtitle file (saved as SRT, SSA, TTML, SBV, VTT, TXT) described in the first step to the video editing software.
  5. Format the subtitles. It is essential to adjust the timing of the subtitles to match the speed at which the dialogue takes place in the video, as well as to adjust the font, size, color and position of the text to match the theme of the video.
  6. Export the video. The video is ready to be exported when the users are satisfied with the appearance of the video and the subtitles. There are two file formats to choose between when saving the subtitles.

Frequently Asked Questions

Transkriptor assists in creating accurate subtitles by using advanced artificial intelligence to transcribe spoken words into text efficiently. It can handle various accents and dialects, ensuring a high degree of accuracy in the subtitles it generates and provides timestamps.

Yes, Foreign Language Subtitles can be highly effective for language learning. They provide learners with a written form of the spoken language, aiding in comprehension and vocabulary acquisition.

Real-Time Live Subtitles in live events face challenges such as accurately keeping up with the pace of live speech, handling various accents and dialects, and dealing with background noise or overlapping conversations.

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