Hardcoded or burn-in subtitles are subtitles that automatically play within the video. They are also called “open subtitles” to separate them from closed subtitles which can be turned on or off by the viewer. Open subtitles are actually part of the video file, displaying along with the other visuals in a video. This is different from closed captions or subtitles which are a separate file overlayed on top of the video. Learn more about the differences between open and closed captions in our media article on the subject!
What are the benefits of open captions?
We all know that adding captions to video gives many benefits. But what about open or “burn-in” captions specifically? When captions or subtitles are burned in or hard-coded onto a video, they automatically play along with the video. This can be beneficial, especially for videos that need to follow accessibility guidelines in public spaces like schools, governmental departments, or public film showings. Having the captions play automatically can help ensure that a video is ready and accessible to an audience immediately.
With burn-in captions, the viewer doesn’t have to dig through whatever video player interface they are using to find the “ON” switch for captions or subtitles. They are already playing! And they are playing in sync with the video’s timing, too. If a subtitle file is separate, the subtitles themselves might have the wrong time codes and appear too early or too late. Some video players allow shifting subtitles, but it can be a hassle for audiences. Font, color, size, background, and more are all under the control of the video creator instead of the software creator. Learn more about subtitle styling and formats!
With open captions, you get to decide what the final product will look like. For separate subtitle files, the file is accessed by the video player and the subtitle style may be dependent on the settings of that video player.
What are the downsides of using hardcoded captions or subtitles?
With burnt-in subtitles or captions, you can only choose one language to burn into the video. Otherwise, you might fill up the screen with burnt-in original language captions, translations, audio descriptions and more. Including hard-coded captions means that it will be more difficult to add translated subtitles later, so creators should decide what kind of subtitles would benefit their audience best.
Most online creators use closed captions because they allow for multiple languages, software-sensitive text styling, and user control. For subtitling in online spaces, having a global reach opens up a lot of doors for creators. Adding multiple languages to a video can connect content with audiences that you might not have been able to reach before. Locking into one language limits the number of people who can enjoy that content.
How to burn in subtitles on a video
There are many services for adding burn-in or hardcoded captions to videos. There are do-it-yourself methods as well as do-it-for-you services to choose from. For people wanting to try it out themselves, there are many services where you upload the video file and subtitle file and follow the provided steps to get a copy of the video with burn-in subtitles. But for larger projects or teams, it can be a huge time-saver to have a standalone service to do burn-ins for you. Our Amara On Demand subtitling team provides burn-ins, so send our team a message and we’d be happy to work with you on making your content accessible for your audience!