Videos with Subtitles vs. Videos without Subtitles

Why is it that there are no subtitles for the last 15 minutes of Titanic?

A good caption always goes down with the ship….*ba dum tshh*

Welcome to this edition of the #STMBlog, where we will be exploring the topic of using videos with subtitles vs videos without subtitles!

The pros of having subtitles on your video

The biggest one is that your video will become accessible to people who are hard of hearing. 

It’s estimated by 2050, that over 700 million people across the world, or one in every 10 people, will have disabling hearing loss. 

If you think about that in a business sense, then one in 10 people might not be able to access your video if you don’t have subtitles on it. 

Another pro of having subtitles on your video is that you’re more likely to have an audience that will understand your video. 

If it’s an interview for example, and if you have an accent like Mike, it might not be understandable to many people outside of Wolverhampton. Subtitles break that barrier and allow everyone to understand what’s being said. 

Having subtitles on your video can further increase your reach if you have them in multiple languages. It will cost slightly more to get them done in different languages, but in theory it means you can have one video that’s understood all over the world. 

Even if it’s something a bit more visual, like a product video, the same concept applies. We’ve all been there, on the train and scrolling through our Twitter feed when a video pops up that looks interesting, but you’re surrounded by people and don’t have your earphones. There might be a voiceover and the video may autoplay. 

If the user, with every intention to, thinks “I’ll watch that later”, the chances are they probably won’t and it’ll get lost in the depths of their feed. Subtitles allow them to watch the video without disturbing everyone around them. 

In a study in the US of A, where nearly 6,000 consumers were surveyed, 69% of them viewed video with the sound off in public places and 25% of them watched with the sound off in private places. 

Consuming Content

Furthermore, 80% of consumers are more likely to watch an entire video when the captions are available. 80%! 

Ultimately, the power is with the viewer as far as the option of subtitles are concerned. The best option is both options, so if they can toggle them on or off, your video is in a good place.

The cons of subtitles

So what are the downsides to having subtitles on the video? 

If you’re picky, probably a couple. If you aren’t picky, probably none. 

But! We’re a thorough bunch so let’s go through them. 

If you’re very fortunate to have good hearing, you might find it slightly distracting when the subtitles are on. 

Let’s assume everyone here has watched Squid Game on Netflix (if you haven’t, you should). Let’s also assume that everyone got fed up of the English dubbed version very quickly and switched to Korean audio with English subtitles. 

A far better overall experience in many ways, but, for something as visually striking as Squid Game, it was quite easy to fall into reading the subtitles rather than looking at the mayhem on screen. 

Subtitles can also add a wee bit of time to your project. We use an online service and then you can make amends to it if it’s slightly wrong in places and that’s probably the best and quickest way to go. If you were to type them all out yourself and include timestamps for each word, you’d be there for days. 

Of course, as mentioned, then there will be a cost to doing it as well. It’s not particularly expensive at all; the video attached to this blog cost around £3.50 to subtitle, but it will obviously increase incrementally with the length of the video. 

In conclusion

In conclusion, you need to cater for different audiences and different scenarios. 

Whenever you create a video, ideally you should create one where you don’t have any subtitles at all. This might be a product or company video for a presentation or face to face meeting, or maybe you need a visual aid to demonstrate something over a Zoom call. 

A version with closed captions is a great thing to have; they can go on social media or your website and people have the option to toggle the subtitles on and off. 

The third way to go about it is to have a version with hard embedded subtitles. Become a totalitarian dictator and don’t allow people the freedom of choice. Force them to read your subtitles and don’t let autoplay potentially mean the user misses a part of the audio. There’s a weird sense of power in this option that we don’t recommend to anyone with access to nuclear weaponry. 

Thanks for reading this #STMBlog! Head to our knowledge centre if you’re interested in any more video industry tips and tricks and if there’s something you’d like to know the answer to but we haven’t done so, contact us today and we’re happy to help!

We’ve also got a YouTube playlist full of all of these sorts of questions and answers, so feel free to check it out!

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