Captions make video more accessible no matter where your videos are hosted. But what are the additional benefits of putting captions on your online content?
Videos that have web captions are:
- More discoverable: Captions act as metadata for your videos, which can be read by search engines. People looking for content like yours will be able to find it more easily.
- More enjoyable on-the-go: With captions, your audience can enjoy your videos on mute wherever they are without having to worry about public noise pollution.
- More accessible around the globe: For both non-native speakers and for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, captions make your video accessible to a much wider online audience.
- Easier to localize: Captions can be a great reference for translation later if you want to reach audiences in multiple languages. Make sure to create closed captions instead of burning them into the video.
How are web captions different from broadcasts?
Of course, web captions and broadcast captions both capture the speech in the video and are aligned with the video’s timing. But what makes web captions different?
Captions were first developed for broadcast television so that Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals could receive emergency messages as well as enjoy publicly funded content. At this time, captions were burned-in to the video and could not be turned off or customized. If you would like to discover more, check out this article about the history of captions to see how the usage changed over the last half-a-century.
While broadcast captions have more options now (the ability to toggle them on and off for example), there are more styles to discover with web captions!
Another big difference is the reach of your captions. We mentioned before that both search engines and people will have an easier time discovering your videos if you add captions to them. But when we compare web captions to broadcast captions, it is clear that the scales are very different between the two mediums. For broadcast video, you have to go through the correct channels (pun intended) to get your video in front of people. And your potential audience doesn’t have to have a cable package to connect with your content, either! There aren’t as many middle men to deal with when you are putting videos up online instead of through broadcast television.
Now, on the other hand, there is a lot more competition on the web. We’re no longer looking at competing with hundreds of channels. You could be competing with 1000 times as many content creators! It’s a trade-off, because while your competition has increased, so has your potential audience.
The best advice we can give for online video creators is to know your audience so that you can speak directly to them.
Which languages do people in your audience speak? Why are they interested in your videos? What can you bring to them that they can’t get elsewhere? These answers can help you connect with the right people!
Where will people see your videos on the web?
It’s important to know where your videos will be hosted when they are ready to be viewed. This will tell you what file format you should use for your web captions. For most online platforms, WebVTT is a good choice. This file format gives you styling options and is used on YouTube, Vimeo, and Brightcove (just to name a few). But some platforms only take unformatted SRT files for captions, like Facebook and Instagram.
As a content creator, it pays to know where your content will be hosted when it is done. Keep that in mind as you create web captions for your audience to enjoy. Here is a more detailed article about choosing file formats for different platforms and usages for those curious captioners out there!
What will your captions look like?
When captions first came on the scene in broadcast television, they all looked pretty much the same: burned in, white text at the bottom of the screen. Then a new style developed when closed caption technology was developed.
Now that captions have moved onto the web, we have even more options for style and flair! If your chosen video hosting platform allows caption styling, you might have the option to change the font, text color, background color and more! All of these can be a great way to customize your viewer experience. You can make the color contrast between the text and background color easier to read. Here is WebAIM’s color contrast checker tool if you want to make sure your color choices are accessible.
Get to know more about caption styling options in this informative article.
Why are auto-captions not enough for web captions?
Now, especially if you are a YouTube-based content creator, you may be thinking, “What about auto-captions? Why do I need to worry about captions at all if it can be done for me?” Well, the answer is quality. Yes, automatic captioning technology is an exciting development in the world of captioning. But right now the technology does not replace human-created captions.
Machines can’t recognize speech as well as humans can and that can result in major errors in the text of captions. Names of people, brands, and products can be mis-transcribed automatic captioning technology. Slang, idioms, and colloquialisms that might have been captured correctly by a human transcriber can often be missed by auto-captions because computer programs lack the context of human communities.
ASR can save time, especially in synchronization. But make sure that you understand the limits of this technology if you want to use it in your creative workflow. Using automatic captions responsibly is possible if you have standards for your captions and make sure to review your captions before publishing them.
Where can you create web captions?
If you know the platform, format, and style that you want for your captions, you might start wondering, “Is there some kind of caption website where I can get started?” And of course, we would say “Try Amara!” but that’s no surprise. The Amara Editor is free to use and has an intuitive interface that is easy to pick up. Easily add web captions to your videos with a free account.
But we also want to encourage you to check out some other tools to see which one is right for you or your team. We compiled this list of free tools that can make your captioning process a breeze. No matter which option you choose, you will be making your video more discoverable, more accessible, and more enjoyable for audiences everywhere.
How can I make great web captions?
If you’re not sure where to start or are intimidated by the task, we’ve created some quick guides on creating, translating, and reviewing captions:
There are other resources out there to help you become a truly skilled web captioner, like WCAG’s standards for online media. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), are published by the World Wide Web Consortium for the purpose of keeping content creators informed about digital accessibility.
Thank you for your attention today, and happy captioning!