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My name is Nicolas Steenhout.
I speak, train, and consult about inclusion, accessibility and disability.

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No Caption On Your Video? I Can’t Get Your Content!

Over the last several days, many people on Twitter posted links to what appear to be interesting videos. Unfortunately, none of these videos were captionned. I am "only" hard of hearing and mostly have no big issues functioning. But phone calls and online videos are two occurences of giving me a really hard time. Hard to subtitle or caption phone calls. Not so hard to caption videos – if the system you use allows it.

I Chose YouTube

I looked at many options when I was looking at options to host my video footage for The Wheeling Gourmet. I ended up going with YouTube. Because they allowed the addition of captioning *and* subtitling files to videos (captions and subtitles are different altogether). The advantage of that is I can have the videos available to people with hearing issues (including those at work, or situations, who cannot openly listen to videos or use headphones…). I can also create subtitles for different languages, making my videos available to non-English speakers. I write French subtitles as well as the English captions as part of my "target market" will be speaking French. Does It Well

One video was hosted on Their system does allow subtitles. It’s nicely done. Unfortunately, the video in question did not have any subtitles offered: Derek Sivers: Weird, or just different? But another had 21 languages offered! Dan Dennett: Cute, sexy, sweet, funny. So does allow for captioning/subtitling, and it’s up to whomever puts the video up to offer such captions. But then, is NOT a video hosting service!

Vimeo Flunks

The other video was offered by @SkeeterNYC. Liza hosts her videos on Vimeo. When I pointed out to her that I couldn’t get the content because her video wasn’t captionned, she immediately asked what she could do to make the content available. That is a great attitude. Love it.

Unfortunately, unless Liza selects a different video hosting service than Vimeo, she won’t be able to do a thing about it. You see, Vimeo doesn’t offer the ability to provide captionning. From the Vimeo FAQ:

Does Vimeo support closed captioning?

Vimeo does not currently support the use of separate closed captioning text files. If you want any kind of text to appear in your video, including closed captioning, it needs to be added to the actual video, like any other graphics.

We hope to have time to develop proper support for closed captioning soon.

The interesting thing is that this is a request that has been requested a lot for a long time. But they aren’t moving. They are sending mixed messages, on the one hand saying it’s important to them to offer captions, on the other hand, they still don’t offer the ability to offer captions. A most interesting October 2009 blog post by Eric Stoller discusses this a bit more in depth – Vimeo and Closed Captioning.

What Now?

Captioning videos can be time consuming. And it can be tricky to find the right service that allows it. But you will expand your "market" by making the content available to a greater audience, whether that be people with hearing "boo-boos", or people who don’t speak English "too goodly".

Here are some pages I found helpful on the topic of captioning:

11 thoughts on “No Caption On Your Video? I Can’t Get Your Content!

  1. “captions and subtitles are different altogether”

    Nic, I’d really like it if you could give a quick explanation of the difference between these two.

    As someone who makes 3 minute instructional videos it would be very helpful for me.

    I add text in the video itself to each ‘chapter’ that explains the key point. Is that a subtitle? Or a caption? Or something else?

    It’s all rather confusing.

  2. Good question Miraz, thank you for asking :)

    What you’re doing is neither caption nor subtitle :) It’s “recap” ;)

    Captions are aimed at people with hearing impairments, are usualy “closed”, and in the same language as the one spoken in the video. They also often describe “sounds” (i.e. door slams shut).

    Subtitles are aimed at people who can hear, but don’t understand the language in the video. They are usualy open.

    Joe Clark has a more in-depth explanation. :) I hope this helps.

  3. True, Vimeo’s failure to offer captioning capability is sad, and would take little effort to make it happen, but the same video could be entered on DotSUB and captioned/transcribed/translated, either by the host, or volunteers.

  4. Thanks for your comment Bill. Your short soundless video is brilliant :) I’m gonna have to tweet it :)

    As for Vimeo vs DotSUB, I was just pointing out that you have to be selective on which system you go for :)

  5. This is an excellent post… your conclusion about Vimeo influenced a decision about video on a website I’m working on.

    I’d like to know who you recommend that provides captioning services in NZ. Is there anyone? Or is there someone overseas who you know of?

  6. Hi Stephen, thanks for your comment, I’m glad I was able to help a little (the invoice’s in the mail ;) ).

    Unfortunately, I don’t know who does captioning in New Zealand, or abroad. I’m *sure* there is someone, but not sure who.

    Depending on how many videos/how much to caption, the website you’re working on might want to caption their own. My experience shows that the mechanics of it are pretty straightforward, if time consuming. Of course, there is a fair bit to be aware of to do commercial captioning, so it really depends on the site’s needs.

    Alternatively, you could ask the The National Foundation for the Deaf or Deaf Aotearoa

  7. Subtitles usually apply to translate dialogue into another language. Captions describe not only the dialogue but also other sounds that contribute to the meaning of a video.

  8. I don’t think you or I mentioned, that dotSUB is the company behind’s subtitling project.

Comments are closed.