Closed Captioning and Subtitles Are they the same?

Closed Captioning (CC) is a method of inserting text into a television signal. The text can be displayed by a TV with a built-in decoder or by a separate decoder. All TVs larger than 13 inches sold in the US since 1993 have built-in Closed Caption decoders. Closed Captions can also be put on to DVD, videotape, broadcast TV, cable TV, etc.


Although the terms captions and subtitles have similar definitions, captions refers to on-screen text specifically designed for hearing impaired viewers, while subtitles are straight transcriptions or translations of the dialogue. Captions are normally positioned beneath the person who is speaking, and they might include descriptions of sounds (gunshots, closing doors, etc) and music. Closed captions are not visible until the viewer activates them. Open captions are always visible, such as subtitles on foreign videotapes.


Nowadays many shows and commercials carry closed captions. Older programs made before captioning became widespread have captions added to their reruns. Captioned programs are marked in TV listings by "CC".


Some shows are captioned in real time. That is, during a live broadcast of a special event or of a news program, captions appear just a few seconds behind the action to show what is being said. A stenographer listens to the broadcast and types the words into a special computer program that adds the captions to the television signal. The typists have to be very skilled at dictation and spelling and they have to be very fast and accurate at typing.


Other shows might carry captions that get added after the show is produced. Caption writers use scripts and listen to a show's soundtrack so they can add words that explain sound effects; for example, when there is no dialogue but there is laughter, the caption will say "Audience laughing".

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