August 23, 2021

Closed Caption vs. Live Captions: What’s the Difference and When to Use Each

Did you know that closed captions were invented in 1947?

Whether you know them as subtitles, closed captions, screen text, or open captions, these terms all refer to the same thing. For most of us, we don’t really spend time thinking about the differences between closed captions and open captions.

However, that doesn’t mean that in some cases, we might prefer a specific kind of captions in comparison to another. If this is your first time hearing about the existence of open captions, no worries. You’ve come to the right place.

Keep on reading for our full breakdown on the differences between closed captions and live transcription, as well as the unique uses for each one.

Closed Captions vs Open Captions: The Differences

Before we start our deep dive into the uses of closed captions and live captions, let’s highlight their basic differences.

When it comes to online versus offline closed captioning, there are a few key distinctions to keep in mind. For live events or films, online closed captions, also known as live closed captions, are generated instantly and shown concurrently.

After the event, closed captions are produced using a video recording. If urgent captions are required, they may be produced in a short amount of time, but they are not ‘live.’ When looking at live closed captioning, the most essential thing to remember is that live captions cannot be stored or exported.

Open captions, on the other hand, are always visible and cannot be turned off, while closed captions may be switched on and off. As a result, when videos are viewed over the Internet, they may have open or closed subtitles. Only when the user agent (for example, a media viewer player) supports closed captions will they display.

What Is Closed Captioning Used For?

Alright, so it’s time to explore the different ways organizations use closed captioning in their daily video content. There are specialized kinds of closed captioning, like closed caption audio description.

But, for now, let’s start with the most common of the bunch, which is television, to regular workplace uses.


As previously said, CC was created to assist the deaf. It guarantees that they could completely understand what was occurring on-screen during a television show.

Closed captions are still utilized for this reason today. And, they are available on most major streaming services. Those include platforms like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, Disney+, and others.

Live Theatre

Interestingly enough closed captions are often provided as part of assistive listening services at live theaters.

The words of the performers are shown in real-time on an LED device, which is typically placed adjacent to the stage or in the set.

Social Media

Video material may be uploaded, shared, and interacted with on almost every social networking site. Adding subtitles to videos on Facebook and Instagram, TikToks, and other platforms may make your work more accessible to a wider audience.

YouTube provides automated transcription. And, individual content producers are responsible for providing correct closed captions.

Closed captions make videos on social media accessible, equitable, and easy for everyone. Whether it’s for the hearing impaired or for that individual who loves to watch videos on a loud subway to work.

Universities and Workplaces

CC may assist promote inclusion by fostering a more inclusive and accessible workplace and institution.

Live captioning for meetings, conference calls, and training films may make a big impact in the workplace. Closed captions for recorded workshops and seminars may assist students with hearing loss at institutions.

What Are Live Captions?

We have live transcription on the opposite end of the spectrum.

In the traditional sense, it’s the process of converting audio into plain text, often known as live captioning. Transcribers listened to the audio recording and typed down what they heard, and this is still the case in many cases.

Closed captions are not the same as transcriptions since the latter is precisely synced with the audio. Transcriptions are just a document that contains all of the text transcribed. The source of the text is the spoken words throughout the video or audio clip, with no time-coding.

Transcriptions were historically made by transcribers after the video or audio clip had been created.

However, technological advances have made live transcription feasible. Live transcription can transform voice to text in real-time. That is very useful in situations when creating correct closed captions would be time-consuming.

Naturally, since live transcribing is a computer-assisted process, it has limits. So, it can’t guarantee the same level of accuracy as closed captioning. The correctness of any live transcription is usually determined by a number of variables, like:

  • Speech clarity
  • Background noise
  • Speech volume
  • Accents and dialects

And, as the live captioning technologies keep evolving, the accuracy keeps getting better as time goes by.

The Uses of Live Captioning

Live transcriptions are frequently a more appropriate and practical alternative than CC. Especially, for events such as daily conference calls and meetings.

Moreover, more companies highlight the need for accessible technologies. The popularity of live captioning has spread. Even for those who are able-bodied, but would prefer to read the captions instead of listening to the conversation.

Platforms for Video Sharing

If the original author does not return to add closed captions, video-sharing sites such as YouTube provide real-time live transcription for their films.

For example, you can always see the option for “auto-generated” captions on every single YouTube video.

The Working Environment

In the workplace, live transcribing may make conference calls more inclusive and accessible to everyone. Live transcription can help everyone keep up with a fast-paced meeting. Especially ones with numerous presenters. It’s great for a hard-of-hearing coworker or a client in a loud setting.

Additional speech intelligence features, such as real-time sentiment analysis and voice recognition, are available via conferencing systems. You can find a variety of those services online.

Personal Calls

Live transcription may also be useful during personal phone and video conversations, whether you have hearing problems or the connection isn’t great.

Especially for those with hearing impairments, it can make the whole process much simpler and easier to navigate.

Closed Captioning vs Subtitles: Unlocked

We know that the topic of closed captions in their different iterations might be quite strange for the majority of people online. However, it’s truly a shame to forget about the existence of open captions and how useful they can be.

We hope that our article has shed some light on the nuances of closed and open captions. And, if you want more information, you can always check out our technology and business sections for the latest news and tips.

About the author 

Peter Hatch

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