Closed captioning, as we all know, is the textual interpretation of speech and non-speech elements presented on visual display screens. Closed captions help to reach out to a wider audience including hard of hearing and people with different language capabilities. There are many closed caption service providers operating in the market. Let us look at some best practices that can be adopted by the service providers while creating closed captions.
- Closed captions should be displayed on the screen in synchronization with the visuals.
- Captions should fade away from the screen once the corresponding visuals disappear.
- It is essential that the captions stay on screen long enough for the viewers to read them.
- Minimum display time can be set as 1.5 seconds for dialogs that are short as a word or two; however, this cannot be applied for rapid dialogs.
- Closed captions should be placed in a fashion that the visuals are not obstructed. Viewers should be able to read through the captions and at the same time follow the visuals.
- There should not be more than two lines of text at any given time on screen.
- Try not to end a sentence and begin another sentence on the same line and retain all the words as it is spoken.
- Do not avoid words like “so”, “because”, “but”, “too”, etc. These words are essential to convey the exact meaning of spoken words.
- Where ever there is an “inaudible”, place a label to explain the cause. For example; crowd noise sinks speech, noisy market, etc.
- Display closed captions describing sound effects in lowercase italics inside brackets/parentheses. For Example; (child crying) (car screeching).
- Identify speakers and display their names against the captions. Example; (Joe) How are you? (Mary) I am doing great.
- Inserting music icon is a method to indicate that a song is being played on the screen. A hashtag can also be used to indicate songs.
- Movies and TV content closed captions do not generally use full stops/periods, but it should be left to content owners’ discretion. However, question marks or exclamation marks should be used to give clarity to a phrase.
- It is always good to start sentences in capital letters. Capitalize an entire word only if it indicates screaming.
- Spell numbers out from one to ten and numerals for numbers higher than ten. For technical and sports terms, use numerals. Example: (scored 5 goals out of 6 penalties)
These are general closed captioning styles in practice; however, these rules can be tweaked or altered as per specific customer requirements.