Video Captions

Not to be confused with image captions, video captions are text representations of spoken words and important sounds in a video. Often appearing along the bottom of the screen akin to subtitles, they can also be artistically placed on video frames using different fonts and formatting.

Closed vs. Open

Closed captions can be turned off, ie. the video can be shown without the captions. Open captions are always there. Everyone can see them at all times.

video still showing a close up of mushroom growing on a log. Closed captions are on and read: [gentle music] Oh no! they're here, an arrow indicates the on off button for captions

Example of closed captions

video still showing an aerial view of Skyline dorm.  Stylized onscreen text reads: Central courtyard, 5000 square feet of green space

An example of open captions

Writing captions

When authoring captions for accessibility purposes, be sure to include text for all audio that is spoken including meaningful sounds. Ask yourself, does leaving out this sound change the story, lesson or experience? The writer must use his or her own judgment.

Example: should you indicate in captions/transcript that someone has coughed?

  • Someone is giving the commencement address and pauses to cough – not necessary to include.
  • Character in a play is coughing, because it foreshadows her later death – important to the story, include.

Your goal is to ensure all visitors experiencing the media are getting the same information out of it no matter on which senses they rely.

logo for closed captions

Captions Should be

  • Accurate: Captions must match the spoken words in the dialogue and convey background noises and other sounds to the fullest extent possible, as appropriate. Identify who is speaking. 
  • Synchronous: Captions must coincide with their corresponding spoken words and sounds to the greatest extent possible and must be displayed on the screen at a speed that can be read by viewers.
  • Complete: Captions must run from the beginning to the end of the program to the fullest extent possible. 

See some sample captions

How to get your videos captioned

Resources from the National Association of the Deaf