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Closed Caption vs Open Caption for Aspiring Social Media Video Creators and Filmmakers 101

Christopher Nguyen
Christopher Nguyen
Posted in Zoom Sep 6 · 7 Sep, 2022
Closed Caption vs Open Caption for Aspiring Social Media Video Creators and Filmmakers 101

Aspiring filmmakers and social media video creators have a knack for visual storytelling, engaging viewers to propel them to meteoric heights. However, it’s not enough that you have the best videography equipment and filmmaking software to widen your reach as a master of visual stories. You must also add captions to your creations, specifically closed or open captions.

But, do you know the difference between closed caption vs open caption? Expanding your reach to a global audience can be tricky if you cannot distinguish one captioning type from the other. More importantly, you must decide which is more appropriate for your video material.

Are you clueless? Don’t worry. We’ll help you decide between closed caption vs open caption to empower you in your dreams of becoming a well-respected social media personality and filmmaker. 

Captioning for Social Media Influencers and Filmmakers

Filmmakers are exceptional visual storytellers. They weave meaningful life lessons into each scene, touching viewers’ hearts everywhere. Unfortunately, some people might not understand what the characters are talking about because the language is not their own. 

There are many fascinating films from overseas, such as in Japan, China, India, Mexico, France, and other countries with a robust film industry. Unfortunately, they don’t make English movies very often. Captioning allows international filmmakers to screen their creations globally, perhaps even landing at prestigious award ceremonies like the Cannes Film Festival. 

Captioning isn’t only relevant on the big screen. Netflix and other streaming platforms also use captions to reach a wider audience. For example, an English film might have Chinese, Indian, or Japanese captions. 

Using closed caption vs open caption is also prevalent in TV shows. After all, the very first use of captions in the world was in the 1972 TV show “The French Chef,” hosted by the great Julia Child. The program featured open captions from the technology created by the National Bureau of Standards researchers. 

The move was revolutionary because it allowed viewers with hearing difficulties to understand and enjoy TV shows. It’s the principal aim of captioning – empowering the deaf with the ability to appreciate whatever they see on the boob tube. 

Although captioning is a 1970s technology, it remains relevant in modern times. After all, one out of twenty people worldwide has hearing difficulties. If you put a number to this population, we’re looking at 430 million people. Unfortunately, the World Health Organization also says people with hearing impairments can reach 2.5 billion by 2050.

If you’re a filmmaker or a social media videographer, you’re losing this many potential viewers. Why? They won’t understand your videos because they won’t hear anything. They might perceive something, but it would be beyond comprehension.

Captions allow hearing-challenged viewers to read the on-screen text while watching the video. It promotes understanding of the video’s message, allowing people to learn, grow, and feel different emotions.

Closed Caption vs Open Caption

The closed caption vs open caption debate is more evident among social media video creators. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Facebook stalwart, a Twitter lord, or a YouTube giant. You’ll need captions for your videos.

Captions allow viewers to digest a video’s content without listening to it. Although we know that we understand something better if we use as many senses as possible, it’s not often possible.

Suppose you’re in the library and you’re aching to watch the YouTube video you’ve saved on your smartphone. It’s unwise to pump up the volume so you’ll understand the message. You can use headphones, why not? But who likes carrying these items anyway? 

Your best chance of viewing the content without cranking up the volume is by activating YouTube’s closed captions feature. You’re not alone. Eighty-three percent of Americans mute their smartphones and tablets when watching videos. Moreover, they’re more inclined to watch the video as a whole if it has captions.

The library isn’t the only place people will want to view videos without turning on their devices’ volumes. Mothers and nannies are also more likely to watch videos silently when trying to put babies to sleep.

Moreover, travelers won’t want to disturb others by cranking up their smartphone’s audio. People in noisy environments also prefer watching videos with captions to listening to them.

It doesn’t matter which between closed caption vs open caption you use in your videos. You’ll lose viewers if your visual content doesn’t have captions. It’s wise to remember that four out of five American viewers watch videos silently. 

The closed caption vs open caption debate also extends into the academe. Research shows that nearly all students (99%) consider captions essential in comprehending a subject presented in visual form.

Closed Caption vs Open Caption

Unsurprisingly, many educators view visual learning as more impactful than auditory learning. Students grasp critical concepts more effectively when read than heard.

Studies also prove that visual learning styles outperform auditory learning in immediate and delayed post-test conditions. Reading allows learners to process the information more effectively and stores them in memory banks, ready for access when needed.

You’re doing a great service to students and other learners if you add captions to your educational videos. And if you’re looking to improve your follower base, you’re on the right track if your social media videos have captions.

Differences between Closed Captioning and Open Captioning

Adding captions to your videos is one of the most effective ways to engage viewers while expanding the viewer and follower base. If you’re a social media video creator, putting captions in your videos can boost your authoritativeness and credibility. Filmmakers can also reach out to people with hearing difficulties.

The question now is, how do you differentiate closed caption vs open caption? In a word, it’s all about control. One captioning type allows people to turn it on or off to suit viewer preferences or situations. The other captioning type doesn’t. 

Closed Captions

Closed captioning is that type that empowers viewers to toggle the captions on and off. You can turn on the feature if you’re in the library, in a noisy environment, traveling, or in any circumstance where silent watching is a must. People often turn off closed captioning if they have headphones or are alone in the room without fear of disturbing anyone.

In the ongoing closed caption vs open caption argument, aspiring social media video creators and filmmakers tend to favor closed captions because they are a cinch to create. You can transcribe your films or videos and upload the transcription to the social media platform.

Alternatively, some social media platforms (i.e., YouTube) automatically add captions to the video file. Sadly, this technique isn’t as accurate as transcribing the video yourself.

Unfortunately, closed captions have downsides. For example, not all social media platforms allow closed captioning because it translates to two separate file uploads – one video and one text.

Video creators must recognize that closed captions come in a discreet text file that “rides” with the video. Unsurprisingly, content developers call these “ride-on” text files “sidecar” files.

Although Facebook has a closed captions feature, it automatically plays the video on silent. The problem is that videos with captions turned off by default have lesser chances of grabbing Facebook users’ attention. Many viewers would scroll the page, potentially passing your video. 

It’s not only social media platforms we’re worried about when using closed captions. Some devices and video players also don’t have closed captioning functionalities. In rare instances that they have, these technologies might produce a different captioning output from the original. 

We understand your reasons for choosing closed captions in the closed caption vs open caption debate. It’s effortless to create and empower your viewers to how they want to experience your movies or films.

Open Captions

Open captioning robs viewers of the chance to toggle on and off the video’s captions. The on-screen text is permanent, forever present on the video screen. It’s the choice of people with hearing difficulties, allowing them to understand the video without requiring additional setups or screen navigations.

One disadvantage of closed caption vs open caption is its incompatibility with some devices, video players, and social media platforms. You won’t have that problem with an open caption because the on-screen text is part of the video file. The transcript doesn’t reside in a “sidecar,” allowing any device or player to accommodate the video.

Social media platforms are also more accommodating to open captions because there’s only one file to upload. You won’t have issues playing your videos because of a fully-integrated caption.

Now comes the challenging part.

If the advantage of closed caption vs open caption is its ease of creation, you can expect embedding an on-screen text into the video to be more challenging.

It’s a more tedious process that requires excellent knowledge and skills related to video creation and editing. After all, the only way you can make captions permanent on the video is by embedding it as a single file.

The other downside of open captions is your viewers cannot remove the on-screen text from their video displays. Let’s face it. Some of us don’t like having words obstructing the full view of what we’re watching. It detracts from an immersive experience.

Subtitling: Adding Confusion to Captioning

Let’s look at another concept that’s confusing many people – subtitles. Adding this element into the closed caption vs open caption equation can make most people scratch their heads. After all, isn’t a subtitle the same as a caption?

Although Americans can differentiate a subtitle from a caption, other nationalities might consider them the same. 

Here’s a tip. Captions reflect user control preferences – they can choose to toggle the on-screen text or not. On the other hand, subtitles focus more on language translation.

It’s like watching a Chinese Kung Fu movie. You love the action sequences, but you wish you also comprehend the conversations. Wouldn’t that be awesome? That’s where subtitles come in. Filmmakers add subtitles to their movies to appeal to the international market. So, the Chinese film might have English subtitles for English-speaking moviegoers. 

Local distributors can also add regional subtitles to the film to appeal to the local market. For example, a South Korean film might have both English and Bahasa Indonesian subtitles if it wants to cater to this regional market. The film distributor might also add Chinese characters for the Chinese market or Hindu language for the Indian subcontinent.

We must point out that subtitles don’t care if viewers have hearing difficulties or not. This concept is irrelevant in the ongoing closed caption vs open caption debate. However, experts also recognize that people with hearing difficulties have the right to enjoy films in a different language. Hence, some videos have “subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.” To put it simply, it’s a subtitle that functions as an open caption. 

Implications for Social Media Video Creators and Filmmakers

It’s easy to distinguish closed caption vs open caption. However, social media video creators and filmmakers must know which captioning type is appropriate for various video-playing platforms. Let’s look at four of the most common avenues for watching videos.

Closed Caption vs Open Caption

●       YouTube

Did you know that YouTube has more than 51 million channels and is growing at an annual rate of 30 to 35 percent? That’s roughly the number of YouTube video creators we have, from novices to the more seasoned. More than 500 hours’ worth of videos gets to YouTube every minute, satisfying the desires of more than 122 million daily YouTube viewers.

So, should you use open or closed captions for YouTube? It doesn’t matter. Even if you don’t add captions to your YouTube videos, the social media platform has a fully automated transcription feature that users can activate anytime. This feature empowers YouTube viewers to toggle the captions on and off after transcription. Of course, you can always embed the on-screen text in your videos as open captions. 

●       Instagram

Although Instagram now has closed captions, the feature is only available in select locations. Users can activate the on-screen text by setting the closed captions mode in their Instagram accounts.

Hence, Instagram video creators must embed their captions in their videos before uploading them to the social media platform. It’s the best way to reach more audiences because you’ll never know if everyone has a closed captions feature in their locations. 

●       Twitter

Twitter now recognizes the value of captions, allowing its users to toggle the feature on and off. This social media platform has 330 million active users, now accommodating SRT (SubRip subtitle) files. 

Unfortunately, the Twitter Feed makes it more convenient to use open captions by burning the on-screen texts into the video file. Twitter users are quick to scroll the feed, potentially missing out on your video if you don’t use open captioning. 

●       Netflix

This video streaming service is like YouTube relative to captions. Netflix has a redesigned algorithm that allows users to control the on-screen text. They can also choose different subtitles. Remember, subtitles focus on language translation while captioning reflects user control on on-screen text displays.

It would be best for filmmakers to add closed captions to their movies, empowering Netflix users to toggle them on and off. The viewing experience is more immersive than on YouTube because of the automatic subtitle rendering.

●       Movie Theaters

The decision to use subtitles for cinematic films rests on the distributor. For example, a Chinese film distributor might want to market the latest Tom Cruise film to more than 11,000 movie theaters across China. Unfortunately, less than one percent of the Chinese population understands English. Adding Chinese subtitles to the movie is a must. 

The Question: Is Captioning Worth It?

Captioning is a must for aspiring filmmakers and social media video creators who’ve invested a lot in video production. Adding captions boosts value to every video that comes out of production. Social media influencers can rely on captions to expand their reach and grow their follower base. It’s one of the best ways to build credibility in a highly competitive environment. So, is captioning worth it? You bet it is!

Final Thoughts

Aspiring social media video creators and filmmakers must be diligent in weighing their options in the closed caption vs open caption argument. Closed captions are perfect because they’re easy to create.

However, they tend to limit your audience reach. On the other hand, open captions are more versatile, empowering you to expand your follower base and make the most out of your video rig. Unfortunately, making open captions can be tedious.

A professional captioning company can make your social media video creation and filmmaking adventures more worthwhile. It doesn’t matter if it’s closed or open captioning. A professional service provider gets the job done. You’ll have more viewers and followers across social media platforms, allowing you to build your reputation.


Our captioning services are some of the industry’s best. You can trust us to get your filmmaking or social media video creation career on the right path.