Subtitles or subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing: these are the main differences

27 June 2023  
Illustration. Book the size of the upper body with faces on it. From behind the book come 2 arms that hold the book and 2 legs.

Subtitling and subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing have a different meaning and purpose. Subtitling is a textual version of the dialogue of an audiovisual production, used as a translation or to make a speaker easier to understand. Although Scribit.Pro also provides video content with such translation subtitles, we mainly focus on subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing, so that online videos become accessible to this group of users. This blog takes a closer look at the differences and lists in which situation the two forms can best be used in audiovisual productions, such as online video.

Subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

Subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing (also known as closed captioning) is aimed at viewers who cannot or cannot properly hear the audio in a video, film, series or program and, in addition to all spoken and/or sung text, also contains all other auditory information. For example, speakers who are off screen are named, as well as relevant background sounds, (atmospheric) music and any intonation of what is being said. Think of applause, shouting, laughter, loud bangs or crackling fire. This additional information is shown in parentheses and in capital letters. For people with a hearing impairment, this form of subtitling is essential to understand the story.

In addition, this form of subtitling is also useful for hearing users in certain situations. For example, if you are on the train or at the office and you watch a video without sound, the subtitles are useful for extra information. That way you still get the full story. People with a cognitive disability or reading or learning problems can also benefit from extra textual support – and therefore from any form of subtitling. This allows them to better follow what is happening and what is being said in a video.

(Translating) subtitling

Subtitling (also known as translating subtitling) assumes that the viewer can hear the audio in the production, but does not know the spoken language (well enough). Viewers with a hearing impairment are therefore not directly part of the target group in the first instance. In translating subtitling, non-speech sounds (such as the previously mentioned background sounds, music or intonation) are not included. This form of subtitling therefore focuses on translating the spoken language within a production into another language.

Burnt-in and manual subtitles

Subtitles can be added to audiovisual productions (such as online video) in several ways: burned-in or manually. Burnt-in means that the subtitles are automatically placed in the video and are also permanently displayed. With manual subtitles, the subtitles are added using a (self-produced) .srt subtitle file. The viewer can then choose to switch the subtitles on or off.

Although the use of burned-in subtitles is many times faster than the manual version, with the help of the .srt subtitle file you can increase the findability in Google and other search engines. In addition, in the case of manual subtitling, it is also possible to add several foreign languages, by simply adding several .srt files in the various languages ​​that you want to make available to the viewer.

What form of subtitles do you use?

To determine which subtitles you should go for, it is especially important to first see why you want to add subtitles to the video. All forms of subtitling increase the reach and broaden accessibility. But while translating subtitling provides a translation of the spoken language for viewers who can hear the audio but do not know the language (well), subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing makes it possible for viewers with a hearing impairment to better understand and fully experience a production.

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