Several years ago, I was working on an elearning course to teach police officers about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I was at the stage where it was time to add captions to the videos we had curated. I had been using a tool called Descript to transcribe the videos, but there was one video that was producing no transcript. Was something wrong with Descript? Maybe there was a problem with the video upload?
It was strange. I seemed to recall that this particular video taught me the most about PTSD when I originally watched it – my favorite video in the course. Something was definitely wrong.
I watched it again. Sure enough, I discovered that the reason there was no transcript was there were no spoken words in the entire video. The effects of PTSD were demonstrated in the video through sounds such as sirens, a door slamming, the sound of fireworks, and other noises that can trigger someone suffering from PTSD. As it turns out, I learned an important lesson that day – the difference between closed captions and subtitles.
While they may seem similar, closed captions and subtitles serve different purposes.
Closed captions are text that is added to a video and can be turned on or off by the viewer. They are often used to provide a transcript of the audio in a video, including spoken words and sound effects. This can be particularly useful for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing, as it allows them to understand the content of the video even if they can’t hear the audio. Closed captions can also be useful for viewers who are watching a video in a noisy environment or who speak a different language than the one used in the video.
Subtitles can also be turned on or off by the viewer. However, the text is a transcript of the spoken words only. They are typically used to translate the spoken words in a video into a different language. This can be particularly useful for viewers who speak a different language than the one used in the video.
When creating instructional videos, closed captions are the better choice. They make the video more accessible and inclusive to a wider range of viewers.
What did that mean for my PTSD video? I needed to create closed captions that described what could be heard throughout, keeping in mind the relevance of those sounds to the content.