Captioning – Unravelling the confusion.


If you work with video, you have undoubtedly come across captions in one format or another. In this blog we will be discussing the various types of captions and the correct terms to accurately describe them.

Types of Captions

  • Open Captions
  • Closed Captions
  • Subtitles
  • Captions for the hearing impaired
  • AD (Descriptive audio)
  • Transcription

Open / Closed Captions

  • Open captions always are in view and cannot be turned off. Also known as ‘burnt in’ captions. Not widely used these days.
  • Closed captions can be turned on and off by the viewer. Closed captions are used in Blu-ray, DCP, Television and many other applications.


  • Generally speaking the term ‘subtitles’ refers to a foreign language translation displayed over video content.
  • Subtitles contain only the translations of spoken words.


Captions for the Hearing Impaired

  • Captions are words displayed on a television, computer, mobile device, or movie screen that describe the audio or sound portion of a program or video. Captions allow viewers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing to follow the dialogue and the action of a program simultaneously.
  • Captions not only contain written dialogue but other audio cues such as ‘doorbell rings’, ‘music playing’.


AD (Descriptive Audio)

  • Also known as audio description, video description or described video.
  • Intended primarily for the blind and visually impaired.
  • It is an additional narration track mixed in with the native audio describing what is happening on screen – visual details that cannot be understood from the native audio.

Caption File Types

  • There are many hundreds of types of caption files. They are specific to the platform they are being used for.
  • DVD, Blu-ray, DCP, iTunes, Broadcast applications all use different type of caption files.
  • We always must clarify the intended use of the caption file to ensure we create the most appropriate version.


  • Transcripts differ from subtitles / captions in that they are not critically aligned to timecode and are more a list of words spoken.
  • Often used in audio only scenarios.



Now that you have an understanding of the various types of captions and their uses, you should be able to use the correct terminology to accurately describe your project and needs.

FATS Digital can take care of all of your captioning requirements. We can arrange for foreign language translations, descriptive audio, or anything else you may require.

Once the captions have been created, we can export them in the correct format to suit the application, whether it be for Blu-Ray, DVD, or iTunes.