Captions vs Subtitles

person signing on video chat


Captions are transcription equivalents of all audio elements in a recorded program, prepared for CRTC-compliant accessible broadcast to deaf or hard of hearing audiences. They generally convey dialogue, music, sound effects, and speaker changes, synced with a program’s audio track, in a fixed visual style.

Captions can be turned off at will and are not a permanent part of video.

Captions can also be known as: Closed captions, CC, 608, 608/708, broadcast captions, text tracks, SDH


Subtitles are transcription equivalents of selected audio elements in a recorded program, prepared for a given media outlet/platform and its targeted audience. The text is conveyed as a graphic image in flexible visual styles that can be customized by request, and then either burned onto a video or provided in an overlay file.

Subtitles are typically permanent and cannot be turned on and off.

There are two types of subtitles: SDH and Non-SDH


SDH is an initialism for “Subtitles for the deaf or hard-of-hearing” and refers to transcription in the original language where important non-dialogue information has been added, such as music and sound descriptors and speaker identification.


Non-SDH transcription is designed for a hearing audience and serves as more of a timed transcript of dialogue. We do not include music and sound descriptors and speaker identification in non-SDH since it’s intended for an audience that will be able to hear these cues.

Subtitles can also be known as: Open captions, open subtitles, captionbox, subs, SDH, SDH subtitles, graphic captions/subtitles, stylized captions/subtitles, PNGs, XML/PNGs

Do I Need Captions or Subtitles?

Captions or Subtitles flowchart