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Closed captions and subtitles are similar in presentation but different in use. Both are used for showing the text of spoken words or sounds on screen.
That’s because a lot of content is consumed online in public places or transport with no sound. To get your message through, it’s often a good idea to add either subtitles or closed captions to your video content.
This article will explain the differences between closed captions and subtitles as well as how to create, edit, import, and export closed captions and subtitles from Premiere Pro.
If you’re new to Premiere Pro, I suggest you take a look at Best Free Beginner Tutorials For Learning Premiere Pro Fast first.
So let’s dive in.
Closed captions vs. subtitles
As mentioned above, closed captions and subtitles are used to show spoken words or to display important sounds.
The main difference between closed caption and subtitles is that subtitles are used in instances when another language is spoken on screen, whereas closed captions are used throughout an entire video or film.
For example, the majority of films produced in the United States are spoken in English. However, some films may have certain selected scenes filmed in a foreign country. The filmmakers can either present those scenes in English or in that country’s native language.
Subtitles would be used to translate the foreign language into English subtitles so the audience understands what is being said. The subtitles would be presented on screen as those words are spoken.
Closed captions are like subtitles, but are presented during the entire film or video. The purpose of Closed captions is to give accessibility for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The words are presented for the entire duration of the film or video. However, closed captions are not natively burned into a video like subtitles. “Burned in” simply means the titles are on the final exported video.
Closed captions require a separate file that can be imported wherever the video is presented.
The most common closed caption file is the SubRip Subtitle .srt file, but there are a few others as well. We will be using the .srt file format in this article because it is the most common.
Open Captions are the same as closed captions, however, the captions are burned into the video. We won’t be focusing on Open Captions in this article, but it’s important to know of its existence.
Let’s look at how to create a subtitle and closed caption file in Premiere.
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How to create a subtitle or closed caption file
Subtitles are simple because you can create a general text file. This is the easiest method to display a subtitle on screen, so it’s what I would recommend doing. However, you can use this next method for creating both.
Creating closed captions is also simple inside of Premiere. First, we will want to work inside Premiere’s designated Captions workspace. Go to Window > Workspaces > Captions.
You’ll notice we have three options for captions on the left side of the screen: Transcribe sequence, Create new caption track or Import captions from file. We will focus on the first two in this section.
Recent Premiere updates have included the ability to transcribe a sequence automatically into captions with machine learning. This method isn’t perfect, but it will improve with future updates. A popup window will appear once you select this option.
Your selected sequence should appear in the top section along with the sequence length.
The next section will allow you to customize how you would like the captions done. You can select clips labeled Dialogue, or clips on a specific audio track.
Note, clips labeled Dialogue will need to be labeled as such in the Audio workspace. This article won’t focus on this aspect, but here is a brief explanation. Go to Window > Workspaces > Audio.
The Essential Audio panel will appear on the right side of your screen. You have the ability to tag selected clips as either Dialogue, Music, SFX, or Ambience as shown in the Essential Sound panel. You can label the clips as Dialogue, and then use those specific clips for your captions.
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Back to the captions, the next section you can adjust is the language. The number of languages is limited to English (US and UK), Simplified or Traditional Chinese, Spanish, German, French, Japanese, Portuguese, Korean, Italian, Russian, and Hindi. More languages will most likely come with future updates.
You then have the option of choosing if the transcription should only happen between the in and out points, merging the output with an existing transcription and if Premiere should recognize when multiple speakers are talking.
Select transcribe once you are happy with the selections, and Premiere will begin to transcribe the sequence. Once completed, a transcript will appear in the Captions window as well as separated captions on the sequence.
The captions are easy to edit. Simply click on the box in the Transcript window, and correct any invalid captions.
You can also change the text styles in the essential graphics panel such as the font, size, color, etc.
You can also change the timing of the caption directly on the sequence. Simply click and drag the head or tail end of the clip until you are satisfied with the placement.
Again, you can use this method for creating subtitles as well. Simply use the option of transcribing between a specific in and out point on your sequence.
Create new caption track
Creating a new caption track is a bit more complicated. Selecting this option will bring up a popup window with a few different options.
The first and main option is the Format. All of the options could be an article by itself, so we are going to stick with the standard for closed captions.
The current standard is CEA-708, and we will use Stream Service 1. We will make no changes to the Style as there are none.
To create a new caption, hit the Add new captions segment button shown in the photo below. This will add a new caption similar to what we’ve seen with the auto-captioning used previously.
The Essential Graphics panel will be displayed on the right side of the screen. You can see we can adjust the caption’s placement, type, color, font, etc.
To create another caption, right-click on the current caption and select Create caption after. Repeat for all captions.
You can also adjust the timing of the captions manually, as described earlier, directly on the sequence.
Importing a caption file
As mentioned earlier, .srt files are the standard close caption files. These files can be created outside of Premiere in other captioning software, or with an online service such as Rev.com.
Selected Import captions from file. Locate your .srt file in the import window.
The New caption track window will appear. You will have the option to select the Format, Stream, and Style just as if you were creating a new caption track yourself. You also have the option of selecting the Start Point of the caption.
Once imported, you will be able to adjust the text, timing, and formatting of the captions just as the other methods.
How to export closed captions and subtitles
The two primary methods for exporting closed captions or subtitles are by either burning them directly into the video or creating a separate sidecar file.
Subtitles more commonly have the text directly burned into the video. You won’t have to do anything differently if you used a regular text file, but there are a few extra steps if you used the closed caption method.
Burned in titles
Go to the Premiere’s export screen by either hitting keyboard shortcut Mac CMD+M or Windows CTRL+M.
Check out our guide to Premiere Pro shortcuts [PC/Mac].
Select your desired video settings. Select the Captions tab near the center of your screen.
The first option is Export Options that includes a dropdown menu. You have the ability to pick None for no captioning, Create sidecar file for creating a .srt sidecar file, or Burn Captions Into Video. We will choose Burn Captions Into Video.
Export like normal. The subtitles should appear in the video. This same method can be applied if you are creating an Open Caption file.
Sidecar .srt file
You will use the same process as above to create the .srt file. Replace Burn Captions Into Video with Create Sidecar file. Export the video like normal. You should see both the video file and .srt file in the export folder once complete.
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Closed captions and subtitles can be a very complex subject. We only covered the basics as there are many more aspects to both.
This article should be a guide to get you through the basics of understanding how to create both types of files. The basics are enough for creating YouTube videos or even posting films on platforms such as Amazon Prime Video.
The complexities don’t come into play until you are posting content to broadcast television or movie theaters. Take your time, learn the basics, and you will be well on your way to adding another important skill to your editing tool bag.
Alex is a certified Adobe Premiere Pro video editor and independent filmmaker in the US. He is most known for writing, directing, and editing his debut feature film, Cashing Out, which has won multiple awards at film festivals across the US. Currently, Alex is the owner of AWS FILMS and works as a freelance video editor for several large companies and content creators.