Open captions vs closed captions: Whats the difference

Open captions and closed captions are valuable for all people and that is why they are used in television, movies, video games, video software and streaming services.

But, do you know what is the difference between open and closed captions?

In this post I will tell you what it is, what these subtitles consist of and their advantages and disadvantages. This way you will be able to use them more accurately in your videos.

Difference between open and closed captions

Subtitles are texts that show what is happening on the screen and include the dialogues.

The essential difference between open and closed captions is that open captions are always visible and cannot be disabled.

Closed captions, on the other hand, can be turned on or off, whether on streaming platforms, YouTube, on TV and movies via set-top boxes.

Open captions should not be confused with classic subtitles, as the latter can be deactivated.

Closed captions and subtitles are also often confused with each other, but there are differences.

What are open captions?

Open captions are those that are permanently visible on television, movies and online videos.

They show all audio and dialogue information and there is no option available to disable them, because they are recorded on the video track.

open vs closed captions

This type of subtitles are always there and are ideal for people who find it difficult to use the technology.

Advantages of open captioning

Open captioning has a number of advantages, among others:

  • The viewer does not have to search for how to activate them
  • There is no risk of unintentionally disabling them
  • They are automatic on short clips, e.g. Tiktok videos, Instagram and others.

Disadvantages of open captioning

Like everything else, they have some disadvantages:

  • Can distract attention
  • They are more difficult to add to the video
  • They adapt to the size and quality of the video, but this makes them difficult to read in small videos.

Examples of open captions in a video

The best example of the use of open captions is in movies. Surely you have seen sequences in which the characters speak in another language, in Spanish, for example.

Automatically, open subtitles will appear in the movie with the English translation and cannot be turned on or off.

open captions

And if you are watching a movie in a language that is not the language most people speak, the entire movie will be presented with open subtitles.

Open subtitles are truly valuable, otherwise we would not be able to understand the content of the movie.

What are closed captions?

Closed captions, identified as CC, are the most common. They are offered as an option in almost all video viewing experiences.

These captions are created on a track that is separate from the video and added later, as an external file. This makes it possible to turn them on or off.

closed captions

When videos have this type of subtitles, they can be viewed in places where it is not possible or convenient to listen to the audio. They are an example if you are on public transport with a lot of noise, or in the silence of the night.

They are the most popular option in most video content and especially on Youtube and Facebook platforms.

Advantages of closed captioning

Among others, they have the following advantages:

  • Viewers are in control of the experience and video can be viewed in all kinds of situations
  • Compatible with almost all platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube
  • Easier to edit, delete and re-upload, if necessary.

Disadvantages of closed captions

Disadvantages include:

  • They are not offered on all platforms, this is the case for Instagram and Tik Tok
  • Some viewers may not be aware of, or have difficulty activating them

Examples of closed captions in a video

Closed captions are included in almost all online videos. One of the best known examples is YouTube closed captioning, which can be turned on or off with a click on the settings option.

closed captioning

Other examples include television, streaming services and other online video platforms, which offer this closed captioning option for all viewers.

When to choose open captions?

If you want your content to be as accessible and understandable as possible, then open captioning is the best option.

This type of subtitles is preferably used by the educational, corporate and organizational sector to ensure equal access to their content.

closed vs open captioning

Additionally, these subtitles contribute to the brand positioning and user experience they want to create.

When to choose closed captions?

Taking into account that people like to choose their content viewing experience, it is best to use this type of subtitles.

Additionally, if you want to improve the SEO of your content, your best option will be to use this type of subtitles.

closed captions vs open captions

This is because search engine robots can crawl the separate files in which the subtitles are recorded, so they contribute to the optimization of the content.

How can you add open captions or closed captions to your videos?

The process for creating closed and open captions for your videos is the same. The only thing that varies is the way you add the subtitles to the video.

First, you create an SRT or VTT file by transcribing your video to text and then you synchronize the text and media.

Publishing is done by uploading a separate subtitle file to your video player or platform.

The platform associates the caption file and the video file and plays them together, giving the user the possibility to enable or disable captions with the CC button.

open vs closed captioning

To publish open captions, you have to burn the captions into the video file itself.

In reality, adding subtitles to a video is a manual and time-consuming process for those who do not have the technological resources and experience.

At ScriptMe, we can do it for you efficiently. We will perfectly include the type of subtitles you want in your video in the best possible time.


Open and closed captions are equally valuable because they make it easier for viewers to view and understand content.

On the one hand, open captions are foolproof, and on the other, closed captions give the control and viewing flexibility that users prefer.

When choosing whether to edit with open or closed captions, think about how you want the viewing experience to be and how viewers relate to the content you publish.

Emil Nikkhah
Hi, I'm Emil Nikkhah.
For over 25 years, I have successfully built several television post-production companies.
Frustrated by the high cost and slowness of manual transcription and subtitling in this industry, we decided to create ScriptMe, a powerful software for automatic transcription and subtitling.
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