Is Closed Captioning Important? What Media Professionals Need to Know About Transcription Services
Video is the future. That’s what everyone says! We’ve all seen the infographics stating that by 2020 (crazy to think that that’s now!) video will account for 80% of online content. For many content creators and media professionals, this means learning new skills and becoming acquainted with new tools.
Closed captioning is one of these new tools that is often overlooked as a broadly unnecessary afterthought. But, including text-based closed captions within your video content delivers benefits that you need to understand.
First, closed captioning enables your content to be enjoyed by the hearing impaired. Second, in an age where the majority of us enjoy video content on mobile devices, it may not always be appropriate to view video content with the sound on. For those enjoying video content on a mobile device at work or on public transport, closed captioning is an invaluable bonus. If you want to maximise your potential audience, closed captioning is a must. Lastly, closed captioning delivers SEO benefits that can prove critical to getting your content in front of the right people in the first place.
With all of those benefits, you might wonder why every video online doesn’t include closed captioning. A lack of understanding is a big part of that failure, along with the perceived challenges of getting quality closed captioning done on a budget. This is your quick guide to everything you need to understand, as a media professional, about closed captioning, starting with how it is different from traditional transcription services.
Transcriptions vs. Closed Captions… What’s the Difference?
Closed captions and transcriptions are virtually the same thing… except that they’re totally different. Both decode audio dialogue into text, but transcriptions and closed captions have separate and discrete functions.
Think of transcriptions as the back end and closed captions as the front end. While closed captions may come from transcriptions they are not the same thing. Time-coded transcripts are the raw data from which closed captions are mined, but these are by no means the only use for them.
Transcripts can be an essential part of the editing process. They provide a reference point which enables editors to cut in time with the flow of dialogue to add pace to scenes. They’re also vital in providing reference from which soundbites may be extracted. When you’re submitting a release to a broadcaster or preparing it for international distribution transcripts become an integral part of the process.
There are a host of services open to media professionals who want to transcribe their video content and from this generate closed captions. However, while some may be faster and more affordable, these will likely be automated service and may come at the cost of accuracy. And as we’ll discuss later, accuracy is extremely important in both transcripts and closed captions.
Automated Services vs. Human Services: It’s All About Accuracy
Budget-conscious production houses may be drawn to the affordability and fast turnaround times of Automated Speech Recognition (ASR) software. However, what they offer in speed and cost-effectiveness they lack in accuracy.
A lack of accuracy can lead to a jarring misspelling of a homophone. It can lead to meaning becoming lost in translation. It can lead to a disparity between on-screen actions and the content of closed captions. If there are several people speaking at once or there is background noise, ASR solutions can produce almost unintelligible results.
Although ASR has grown in sophistication over the years, and may one day be the more accurate solution, it cannot yet bridge the gap between syntax and meaning. A human transcriber still brings to bear a far greater ability to handle complex audio than anything offered by software solutions. If something is exceptionally complicated, human transcriptionists can refer back to the visual cues in the video — something an ASR solution has no ability to do.
That said, the areas in which automated services fall down the most are in voice notes and interviews — natural dialogue that includes “umms”, “aahs” and lapses in clarity. Scripted film and TV dialogue is often more structured than this, mitigating some of the risk.
Nonetheless, for superior accuracy, media professionals should opt for a human-based transcription and closed captioning service. It is by far the best way to ensure synergy between captions and the action on screen. It also prevents important, SEO-driven keywords from getting lost in the shuffle. This brings us neatly to…
SEO and Engagement Reasons to Include Closed Captioning
SEO (search engine optimisation) is all important for your brand and content. It helps ensure visibility even on potentially competitive platforms like Vimeo and YouTube. Closed captioning is more than just an aid for the viewer, it’s also an extremely important aspect of the video’s SEO.
Search engines and video platforms all have crawlers and the right closed captioning can make all the difference between a user clicking on your video content vs. a competitors’.
Search crawlers cannot watch video. What they can do, however, is pick keywords out of transcriptions and match these to user queries. Likewise, search engine crawlers can trawl through closed captions stored in the huge archives of video platforms to bring your content directly to their target audiences.
The impact of closed captioning on user engagement can be quite surprising. YouTube videos that have captions have been found to garner 13.48% more views in the first two weeks of testing and 7.32% over their lifetime. A similar study by Plymedia showed that videos with closed captions demonstrated a 38% engagement boost in videos — being watched on average to 66% completion without subtitle, compared to 91% for those with closed captioning.
This can mean the difference between your video and its message being heard and not — between breaking even and turning a profit.
Different Kinds of Closed Caption Services and Rates
The great thing about transcription and closed captioning services is that whatever your budget, it’s easy to find an effective solution that boosts visibility while also making your content easier for users to engage with.
A combination of human-based transcription and automated time alignment allows you to enjoy all the SEO benefits of closed captioning without having to expertly match the action on screen to the text in your closed captions with the same dexterity and accuracy you’d get from a premium service. Because the transcription element is human-based you can ensure a high degree of accuracy although you may find that the flow is not quite as seamless as you might get in, say, a subtitled feature film.
For clients who insist on nothing short of the highest quality, a premium service will ensure that dialogue is transcribed and edited by specialists; providing perfect synergy between text and action on-screen. What’s more, this service allows for an extra degree of quality-control as captions can be customised to your requirements (or your clients’), with one last final sign off before they are finalised. If you’re looking to create a perfectly professional product these are worth the additional expense.
Production houses and media professionals with a limited budget may choose to match an existing transcript to an automated closed caption creation service. This process is called transcript alignment and offers the best of both worlds. If you already have a transcript of your own that you’re happy with, this can be converted into closed captions to save you time and money. By timecoding every word, you can produce a caption or subtitle file that can easily be uploaded to or burnt into video content. Because transcript alignment is indexable by search engines it offers you a lot of SEO benefit for a negligible cost.
Closed Captioning Should Be Standard
Both transcription and closed captioning are essential in high-quality video production. Whatever your budget and schedule, there’s an automated, human-based or combination service to suit you and help get you the visibility and user-friendly content that you need.
You have been reading about closed captioning and its importance to video content and media professionals. If you have more questions about transcription services, the different options on the market, how to find a secure service and how to get the best deal, we have written an Ultimate Guide to Transcription Services just for you!