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What are captions vs subtitles vs transcripts?

May 16, 2024

Captions, subtitles, and transcripts are pivotal tools for businesses in prioritizing accessibility and inclusivity to serve distinct purposes and their audiences. Here’s a breakdown of each term and how they differ from one another. 


Captions are described as the textual representation of speech within a video placed during playback. This can include video dialogue, a description of video action or background noise, or speaker identification. Captions are created in the language of the original video, rather than a translation into another language. In a business context, captions are essential for making corporate videos, webinars, and e-learning modules accessible to all employees and clients. Closed captioning for virtual events ensures that all participants can engage without any barriers. Additionally, attendees have the flexibility to enable or disable closed captioning according to their preferences.

2023 M-Enabling Moment, Media Player with captions & Sign Language Interpreter, People attending an event.


Subtitles are designed primarily for translating spoken dialogue into different languages. Unlike captions, they do not include non-verbal sounds or background noises. Subtitles are a vital tool for making multimedia content accessible to viewers who do not understand the original language being spoken, such as when watching foreign films or videos. 


A transcript is a comprehensive written document that captures the entirety of the spoken content, including dialogue, narration, and descriptions of relevant audio elements. Unlike captions and subtitles, which are embedded within the video itself, transcripts exist as separate files or documents that can be read independently from the multimedia content. Transcripts serve multiple purposes, including enhancing accessibility, facilitating content repurposing, and enabling searchability and indexing of the audio/video material. 

Key Differences:

  • Purpose and Audience: Captions are for accessibility, subtitles are for language translation, and transcripts are for comprehensive documentation. 
  • Content: Captions include dialogue and non-verbal sounds, subtitles include only dialogue, and transcripts capture all spoken words. 
  • Format: Captions and subtitles are synchronized with media playback, while transcripts are standalone text documents. 

By leveraging captions, subtitles, and transcripts effectively, event organizers can create an engaging and inclusive event experience for all participants. At Performedia, we understand the importance of inclusivity and we are dedicated to empowering organizers to host accessible hybrid events.