These days, video content is very popular in social media services and other websites. And why wouldn’t it be? Videos can be watched anywhere on a computer or a mobile device, and data transmission is fast and affordable. Videos offer both entertainment and facts, making it possible for organisations and other content creators to present their messages in many different channels. Through videos, we get information, we can study, be entertained, get excited, laugh and, of course, receive commercial messages.
Why is it a good idea to add captions to a video?
Video content is subject to the same accessibility requirements as other digital content. This applies especially to the audio part of a video. In practice, the content of a video should be accessible and available also to viewers who cannot hear the audio track. In most cases, this means that things that are heard in the video are also made available in a text format in the language of the video (more about subtitles below). The text format is not precisely defined, but the most user-friendly method is adding captions that can be easily followed at the same time as watching the video.
However, the accessibility requirement is not the only reason to add captions to a video. Internet use has largely shifted to mobile phones and tablets, allowing video content to be viewed anytime, anywhere. This means that the sound is not always on when watching videos – for example, out of consideration for others on public transport or on the couch at home. If you have to watch a video with a lot of speech without sound, it can go from interesting to boring very quickly. Have you ever stopped watching a video because it was pointless without sound? I certainly have. And have you ever returned to that video some time later? I haven’t.
In order for viewers to remain interested in a video and finish watching it, it is important that they have access to all of the content in every situation, including the content they cannot listen to at any particular time. Adding captions to a video is usually an affordable part of the video production process, but it can also be the crucial element that keeps users watching the video.
How are captions created?
Video captions are created by teamwork between automation and a human editor. A speech recognition system creates a draft of the video’s audio track, which roughly matches the content of the speech. Sometimes you can choose automatic captions for videos that are produced in this way. Captions like this are fairly reasonable at best, especially if the language being spoken is English; however, in practice, there are still many mistakes. This is why the human element is such an essential part of producing useful captions. A human editor can correct mistakes in the draft captions, such as words misunderstood by the speech recognition system, and remove unnecessary repetitions in the text as well as unnecessary words related to hesitation, which are very common especially in webinar content.
A human editor will also check the captions for readability and, for example, organise them into different lines so that they are easy for the viewer to read. Depending on the purpose and budget, it is possible to determine how much the captions are fine-tuned. Are we aiming for perfect readability or is something less than perfect sufficient? Should the captions be produced in standard language or should they stick with spoken language? These are the issues that are addressed every time video captions are ordered.
How are captions added to a video?
Captions can be added to videos in two different ways: as a separate file or by ”burning” them to the video. Both have their pros and cons.
When publishing as a separate file, the captions are usually added to the video in an SRT file format. The caption file contains time codes that allow, for example, YouTube and Vimeo to display the texts in the right places. The most obvious advantage of having a separate file is that the user can choose the language that the captions are in or if they want to view the captions at all. Publishing is also easy as only one video is needed and you can attach as many caption files as you want to the video. In addition, the user can adjust the size of the captions and devices of different sizes are better taken into account. On the downside, the video’s captions can sometimes go unused, and it’s even possible the user doesn’t notice the captions are available at all. However, this can be avoided, for example, by specifying the language of the captions already in the video’s embedded link, in which case the video will automatically start with the captions.
Burning the captions on the video is also widely used. This publishing method offers two clear advantages: the captions are always automatically in use and their layout and position on the screen can be defined in advance. This prevents the captions from covering other text or important visual content in the video. In addition, the company’s own font can be used in the captions. The disadvantage of burning is only one set of captions can be used per video, which means that adding new languages requires adding new videos.
If you’re not sure how to publish your captions, ask your supplier for advice. The same method is not always the best for everyone.
When should you use subtitles?
Finns and other Nordics are used to subtitles on the television. In this part of the world, it doesn’t often occur to you that in, say, Germany you hardly see subtitles at all. In many countries, the main method used is dubbing. In Finland, this method is mainly used for children’s programmes.
The subtitles for any video content can be translated into another language in the same way as television subtitles. This makes the content more appealing and accessible also to non-native speakers.
The translation takes into account general requirements, such as the organisation’s own style and terms, but also the video content’s requirements for fluency and brevity. When ordering subtitles, it is advisable to specify the purpose of the translation and the target audience. For example, is the content a short marketing video or a long webinar? Do you want the style of the subtitles to be spoken or standard language? Good subtitles feel like a natural part of the video’s content, but you always have to weigh up the balance between your budget and the quality of the end product. Your language service partner will help you find a good compromise.
Bilingual subtitles are a special case. Here we mean two sets of subtitles appearing at the same time, such as Finnish subtitles in the upper line and Swedish subtitles in the bottom line. Many people are familiar with this form of subtitling from the cinema, and the advantage is that a very large number of viewers get all the information they need from the same content. The disadvantages include slightly poorer readability and more work in production, so this method should only be used in carefully selected cases. However, it might be a suitable way to subtitle your next short social media video. For more information about captions and subtitles, please feel free to contact us!