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How and why should you set up subtitles and closed captions (CC)?

In this article, we will explain why people prefer videos with subtitles more often, and what is the difference between subtitles and closed captioning.

Subtitles are used by different types of videos:

  • Movies,
  • TV shows,
  • Social Media videos,
  • Educational content, etc.

Subtitled videos are usually watched by people who do not know the language.

Moreover, background audio effects, including musical accompaniment, are also transcribed in subtitles in order to provide context for the content.

According to the Muvi blog, 80% of TV programs offer closed captioning. Interestingly, they are primarily used not by people with hearing problems, but by people who want to better understand the video's content.

What is the difference between closed captioning and subtitles for videos?

Subtitles are for those who do not understand the language spoken in the video, while closed captions are transcripts of dialogues, speaker IDs, and other non-speech content. 

Basically, they help people with poor hearing or problems with sound output.

There are two types of captions: open and closed. The closed ones can be turned on and off at any time, while the open ones are built into the video and cannot be removed.

Video subtitles are translated dialogues that help non-native speakers understand the meaning of the video. They are often used in films. For example, an English film that is shown in France.

Do you really need to add subtitles or closed captions?

Hearing problems affect 5% of the world's population. That's approximately 402, 797 553 people. To put this into perspective, this is more than the population of North America.

And this is your potential audience too.

By adding text, you make the information more accessible. Content that is accessible engages audiences more actively.

Did you know that 69% of people watch videos in public places without sound? 

25% only watch videos when they are alone.

Subtitles will increase the likelihood of them watching your video.

According to Muvi, most social network users prefer to turn off the sound when watching videos on social networks. Be mindful of that when posting your videos on Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok.

The combination of pictures and text creates the best conditions for learning and understanding. Adding subtitles is therefore a good idea if you wish to make your message clear and understandable.

Subtitles are an excellent way for content providers to reach audiences globally. It will help a person who does not speak the language see how unfamiliar words are spelled and understand people speaking in the video or voiceover, regardless of their accents.

To expand your options, you can make subtitles in multiple languages.

For example, in Callaba Cloud there is a function of organizing conferences, taking into account the fact that people who speak different languages take part in it. Simultaneous translation is organized via using SRT audio channels.

A couple more words about involvement. In a study conducted 14 years ago by PLYMedia, subtitles increased video views by 80%.

On social networks, video also works better if it has text:

  • reach increases by 16%
  • views increase by 15%
  • 17% more reactions
  • 26% more clicks on the call to action button.

A person working in SMM can even specialize in adding subtitles as a profession. He or she doesn't just translate, but also develops a design, selects the right font, rhythm, and colors so that the text is easy to read.

Another really strong argument in favor of subtitles - search engines’ crawlers love them.

People spend time watching videos - average watch time increases - SEO scores improve.

Besides, Google indexes subtitles, and that also increases the chances that more people will see your video.

Globally accepted rules for creating subtitles


Subtitles are positioned at the bottom of the screen. So as not to close the areas of the video that are important for the plot and aesthetics.

Bottom margin: 1/12 of the frame height. There should be at least 1/12 of the full screen width left and right of the text.

Location: the text is centered on the center of the screen width. The exception is dialogue.

The number of lines is two/one.

The number of characters per line is 35 characters per line.

Font: Sans serif font (like Helvetica and Arial)


In order to avoid eye fatigue while viewing, the text must not be a bright color. The outline of the text is usually grey for the same reason. Plus, it's neutral and doesn't block the background image.

For two-line subtitles

The average person reads 150-180 words per minute. This means that the full two lines of the subtitle (containing 14-16 words) must linger on the screen for at least 5,5 seconds.

However, in fact, you’ll need to increase this time to 6 seconds, but not more, because it takes 0,25-0,5 seconds for the brain to process the text.

For one-line subtitles

3 words per second or 0,33 seconds to read the 1st word. It is important not to keep a line on the screen for more than 3,5 seconds, so that automatic re-reading does not occur.

For one word subtitles

1,5 seconds.

Introductory time before subtitles start

Your subtitles shouldn't appear simultaneously with the spoken line. Make a short delay of 0,25 seconds. This is the time the brain needs to process the fact that the cue has appeared and lower the eyes to read it.

You can experiment and do everything in sync just for testing. In viewing, you'll notice a funny effect - you'll have trouble concentrating and reading.

Subtitle delay time

After text is spoken, do not leave it in the frame for more than 2 seconds. Otherwise, there will be a feeling of lagging behind. Because of this, users will have an impression that one thing is read and another is said, even if this is not the case. That would be distracting and annoying.

The time between adjacent subtitles is 0,25 seconds.

If this gap is reduced or removed, the viewers' eyes will not have time to read the next text.

Foreign characters must be encoded in UTF-8 to display correctly.

Reading speed for adults is 250 words per minute and for youth is 180 words per minute.

For dialogues, Identify the speaker in capital letters with a colon before the speech.

Music and lyrics are written in italics.

Write the numbers from one to ten (1-10) in text, and the rest as numbers.

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