Why are video captions important?
March 4th 2021
Are video captions just a necessary evil or can they compliment the video viewing experience? That's what Think by Google spent 12 months studying.
With 85% of people watching video on social media with the sound off are video captions just a necessary evil?
We’ve all heard the stats - and we get it.
We don’t necessarily want the people around us to know what videos we’re watching for a variety of reasons.
Could be where we are (the toilet?), could be what we’re watching (!!).
But are video captions just a necessary evil or can they be used to enhance the viewing experience?
The answer should lie in the fact that we see captions all over YouTube now - where 96% of people are watching video with the sound on.
So what’s the deal?
Most of the conversations we hear about why video captions focus on people watching video with the sound off.
But what about those people for whom they are essential if they’re going to be able to enjoy the content we’re producing?
For anyone that is deaf or has a hearing impairment video captions are an essential ingredient in ensuring that the video is accessible to them.
How about those people for whom the voice in the video is not in their first language?
Video captions are a great way to make your content easier to understand and engage with.
So how can we create the captions?
The good news is that it’s really easy - and no, I’m not talking about the autogenerators or the live captioninng tools.
Let’s face it - we’ve all seen what happens when they go wrong.
- Words spelt incorrectly.
- Abbreviations misunderstood.
- Punctuation mistakes (that one really gets me)
And they somehow feel disconnected from the video that’s playing in the background.
That’s why at BlueSky Video Marketing we always recommend to our customers that we take the time to hard code the captions into the videos we produce.
- Yes - it will take a little more time.
- Yes - it will cost a little bit more if you’re getting your content produced by an agency.
But the improvement in the viewing experience makes it worthwhile.
The results of 12 months research on video captions by Think by Google
In a recent article from Think by Google they report on what they have learned about video captions having spent 12 months looking at how they can be used best to enhance the viewing experience.
Here’s what they have to say:
1 - Unpack the experience
Your video captions should not just focus on the words being spoken. They also have a job to do to help convey the mood and tone of your video as possible.
There are some simple rules they have developed to help you do this:
Identify the speaker whenever it’s unclear (or when there are several different contributors)
Describe the music - which has a huge part to play in the mood and tone of your video
Aim for brevity - where text is appearing on the screen it doesn’t need to be repeated in the captions
2 - Be guided by the context
The video used in the Think by Google article to highlight this point is below.
You can see in this how the context of a video about racial injustice required that the captions identified the race of some of the voices in the background.
This essential step helped to provide the context in the video for those using captions to consume this content.
3 - Consider the platform
Understanding how each of the platforms where your video will be hosted treat captions is an important part of any video project.
On YouTube you can add and edit captions using their built in tool once you have uploaded a video.
On Facebook and Linkedin you can upload a separate captions file along with your video - but you’ll need to be uploading using a desktop version of the platform to be able to do this.
Instagram doesn’t currently support the uploading of a separate captions file so you’ll have to embed your captions (these are called ‘closed captions’) into your video project in order to make it accessible to all.
4 - Allow time to create and test your captions
Have you ever published a blog post or sent a brochure to print and then realised there’s a typo?
Your heart sinks right?
Taking the time to check and check again makes sure that mistakes like this can be avoided.
If you use an online tool (at BlueSky Video Marketing we’re big fans of https://www.rev.com) to create your captions you’re able to edit and review these before downloading your SRT file.
As with any proof reading job it’s a good idea to get more than one person involved in this to make sure any errors are spotted.
Are we nearly there yet?
That - you’ll be glad to know - is that.
I hope that’s helped you understand how important captions are to the video viewing experience.
Hopefully we’ve given you some ideas about how you can start using captions on your video content to enhance the viewing experience.