Closed Captioning vs. Subtitles

What exactly is the distinction between closed captioning and subtitles? We're here to break down the similarities and the differences.

October 29, 2023
5 min read
Closed captioning vs. subtitles

You’ve probably heard of both closed captioning and subtitles. Maybe you’ve even equated them both in your mind or used them interchangeably — a lot of people do. But despite how similar they sound, closed captioning and subtitles actually have unique purposes and traits that make them very different from one another.

So what exactly is the distinction between closed captioning vs. subtitles? We’re here to break down the similarities and the differences.

Closed Captioning vs. Subtitles

Similarities between closed captioning vs. subtitles

First, let’s start with what these two things have in common! On the most basic level, caption and subtitles are very similar, which is why it can be easy to use the terms interchangeably. Both closed captioning and subtitles are displayed as text at the bottom of the screen, whether that’s on your television, laptop, phone, etc. They also both represent the speech of people or characters on the screen. 

But that’s pretty much where their similarities end. So let’s talk about what how subtitles and closed captions are very different.

Closed captioning

Essentially, closed captions are intended for viewers who can’t hear the audio in whatever video they’re watching, for whatever reason. They could be in a noise environment or watching a video on their phone in a place where they need to keep their volume on mute.

As a result, captions include background noises and non-speech elements and identify who’s speaking. They also change position on-screen so as not to obscure any visual elements. Here’s a good example of closed captions ⬇️

Example of closed captioning

Closed captioning can refer to both open/burned captions and closed captions. Both types of captions help to make your video accessible to a wider audience. But the difference between these two types of captions is pretty simple.

Basically, burned/open captions are hard-coded into your video, meaning they are always in view and can’t be turned off. Whereas closed captions are an option that can be turned on and off by the viewer (think the closed caption setting on YouTube videos).

While closed captions are a great solution for the hearing impaired to turn on, open captions ensure that all viewers are able to see the words that are being spoken in a video. When you use a subtitling tool like Zubtitle, you’re always creating burned captions.


While closed captioning is intended for people who can’t hear the audio, subtitles are designed for people who can hear the audio perfectly but don’t understand the language being spoken. 

Subtitles typically translate spoken dialogue into another language, they’re time-synchronized with the media, and they don’t include background noise or non-speech elements. Here’s the same example from above but with subtitles instead of closed captions: 

Example of subtitles

Subtitles are most often used when you want your content to spread internationally or when you operate across multiple markets, all with different spoken languages. 

Do you want to add closed captioning the easy way? 

More than 80% of social media videos are watched online. So if you want to make your videos more accessible and get them in front of more eyes than ever before, then you need to add closed captioning. And Zubtitle makes it easy. 

With our state-of-the-art software, you can convert your audio into timed captions in just a few seconds. You can also use our tool to edit and optimize your video with an eye-catching headline, logos, progress bars, and more. You can even use our AI features to automatically generate captions, hashtags, and other written content, allowing you to streamline your content creation process faster than ever before.

Just log in to Zubtitle and upload a video! If you don’t have a Zubtitle account and you’re ready to start creating for FREE, sign up today!

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