How captions add value


Closed Captions are subtitles that not only display the dialogue of the TV program or film, but provide additional or interpretive information. This additional information typically includes speaker IDs, sound effects and musical cues.

Closed Captions are generally used by the deaf or hard-of-hearing, but are also often used when the audio is not available or not clearly audible, for example, when the audio is muted in a bar or restaurant.

They are also used as a tool by those learning to read or speak a new language. For example, in the United Kingdom, of 7.5 million people using TV subtitles (closed captioning), 6 million have no hearing impairment.

Films with captions guarantee equal opportunities to people with disabilities and they give everyone equal access to enjoy all the great content that is produced around the world.

One thing that’s important to remember when creating a Closed Caption file is that the captions must match the spoken words in the dialogue and convey background noises and other sounds to the fullest extent possible, as they are aimed at the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

If someone is watching a show with captions, they ought to have the same sort of experience. If someone says ‘Kill that bitch!’ then caption it as such. Everyone should be able to have the same shocked reaction to the word ‘bitch’ as anyone else. Why should people who use or need closed captions be different?

However, this does not imply that every sound must be communicated. If the viewer can clearly see what is happening in the video, it is not necessary to caption obvious sound effects (especially not actions) as this can upset or offend the audience.

A good example of this is as follows:


As you can see, this is a caption describing the visual content of the video, not the audio.

Fun fact: The term “closed” (versus “open”) indicates that the captions are not visible until activated by the viewer, usually via the remote control or menu option.

About the author:

GOSUB was born from a passion and enthusiasm for subtitling and teaching.
Having started as a linguistic teacher and then moving on to become the Operations Manager of a leading subtitling agency, I used my know-how, affection, and savvy to create efficient and exciting audiovisual courses.

From my years of experience working with producers, dubbing agencies, video-on-demand platforms, entertainment distributors, encoding houses and more, I have learned a mountain of information about subtitling and closed captioning. I decided to couple this involvement with my other skill set, which is teaching. GOSUB was created for you, and I hope that you will find my courses of value.

Best wishes

Kelly O’Donovan


3 thoughts on “How captions add value

  1. Very nice article, but of course sometimes it’s impossible to match all the spoken words as there wouldn’t be enough time to read them. So editing has to be done at times.


  2. Very true, I use CC as sometimes the background noise drowns out what is said, or the ambient noise interferes, or just the way the actor speaks (intended dialect etc.) – With my high pitched hearing loss, which causes me to frequently misunderstand what is being said, this is an invaluable aid for me, as well as my children who are learning to read and write, and also when it comes to learning songs e.g. Christmas Carols.


  3. Subtitled ‘movies’ on TV and at the cinema have laid a strong basis for the professional English skills I have today. The aspect of literacy was secondary since in my generation the primary sources of information were print formats, books, newspapers… But watching a subtitled feature film gives you a good aural grasp of the language and language variety, which definitely helped me overcome some of the accent problems foreign language learners usually have and improved my ability to understand spoken English and its varieties. I would strongly encourage the use of such media by foreign language teachers.


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