If you’re making videos for social media, they need to have captions. So what are captions? Captions – also referred to as Closed Captions, CC or subtitles – are transcripts of any dialogue, song lyrics or significant noises (such as clapping, laughter or doors slamming) that are essential to the viewer’s understanding of the video. Captions/ subtitles are usually positioned at the bottom of the screen so they don’t obscure the footage.

What’s the difference between subtitles and captions?

Subtitles are transcriptions of dialogue, either in the same language or translated into different languages. When using subtitles, you assume that the viewer can hear the other sounds that are integral to the meaning and experience of the video such as those non-verbal noises mentioned above.

Captions are transcriptions of dialogue PLUS other sounds. Captions provide meaning to a silent viewing experience. Captions were first introduced to provide accessibility to deaf viewers, and indeed they are still essential for making videos disability compliant. There are, however, two new reasons to add captions to every video you share online.


The first reason is search engine optimisation (SEO). Search engines are incredibly sophisticated, but they can’t yet search for recognisable words in video or audio files. If you transcribe your video’s dialogue into a text document ( known as a .srt file) and upload that along with your video, search bots are able to recognise key words that your audience is searching for.


The second reason is that most social media news feeds play videos with the sound off. All the stats show that if users aren’t drawn to content as they’re scrolling through a news feed, they’ll pass right on by. So if your video isn’t easily understood without sound, it will take some incredibly compelling images to get people to turn the sound on and commit to viewing. But not only that, some people will be watching on the train, at work, or even in bed with someone asleep beside them, so they might prefer to do so without sound. For this reason, captions are essential.


There are two ways to do this: embedding and adding them separately.

Adding captions as a separate file

We’re used to this from TV. Remember that button on your remote control that allows you to turn on the subtitles? Some social media channels have this button too. It says, CC. YouTube and Facebook both allow captions to be turned on or off, and it will only be a matter of time before other channels follow suit. In order to turn the captions on or off, they need to be separate from the video, rather than embedded into it.

When you upload a video to either of these channels, you are provided with options to generate captions. When you select this option, the channel will use recognition software to generate a text version of the dialogue. It doesn’t always get it right (in terms of words and timing) so you then need to tweak the text so it matches the dialogue. Of course, if you’re uploading your video to Facebook and YouTube, you’ll need to go through this process for both channels – which can be time consuming. The benefit of doing this, however, is that your videos can be understood without sound AND the text is searchable by search engines.

Embedding captions

This is where you add captions during the editing process so they become an integral part of your video. You may also hear it referred to as ‘burnt in’. You can do this from within your editing app, either by adding separate lines of text or by using the app’s captioning function (if it has one). When you embed captions in this way, the video will always display captions regardless of what channels you upload it to, so you don’t need to use the caption generation function every time you upload to a new channel. The downside of embedding captions is that they are not searchable by search engines.


That really depends on the purpose of your video. If it’s to increase traffic to a website and you want it to be seen by as many people as possible then use the caption function on the individual channels. Also, if you plan to crop your edited videos to a square aspect ratio, then it’s best not to embed captions because you may crop them off on either side of the video. Add them as a separate file instead.

If you just want it to be eye catching in a news feed, you want to upload it to multiple channels (some of which won’t have a caption function), you don’t want the hassle of generating captions channel by channel and you don’t intend to crop your video square, then embed the captions during the editing process.

To find out more about embedding captions or generating captions in channels, we’ll be making an advanced video tutorial very soon, taking you step by step through the process.

In the meantime, for guidance on how to shoot and edit videos using your mobile device, we can help you.

Buy our handbook, Make Your Own Videos, from www.myovdo.com/handbook

Book onto one of our video training workshops at www.myovdo.com/workshops. The next workshop is on 26th and 27th April in Birmingham.