Captionist vs. Transcriptionist: What’s the Difference?

By: Verbit Editorial

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Recent studies have shown that 80% of consumers are more likely to watch a video in its entirety if it includes captions. This is likely due to the fact that people are viewing more videos on mobile devices, in public places and with the sound off. Producing videos without captions can cause a loss of messaging. As a result, it’s business leaders and content creators need to support their digital media with captions and written transcripts.

The value of investing in captioning and transcription for audio and video content has been made evident in recent years both in research studies and in practice. In addition to improving accessibility for individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing, captioning and transcribing content can significantly boost overall engagement among audience members of all backgrounds and abilities. Incorporating captioning and transcription into media production efforts requires that creators employ professional captionists and transcriptionists.

Transcription vs. Captioning: The Basics

Captioning and transcription are similar in many ways, but each process serves a unique purpose and meets specific sets of needs.


Transcription generally refers to the process of converting audio to written text. It’s possible to generate transcripts from audio and video content. The results provide a word-for-word account of the spoken text and other audio components within the content. Transcripts are essentially long-form readouts of recordings that audiences can access while viewing/listening to recordings or after the recording ends.  

Verbatim transcription is the practice of transcribing a recording EXACTLY as it happened and in its entirety. This transcript format will convey repeated words, filler words, pauses, unintelligible speech and more. Non-verbatim transcription, on the other hand, condenses a recording into its main ideas. In this form, a transcriber edits out any audio elements that muddy the overall messaging.  


Captioning is similar to transcription in that it produces a readable version of audio elements. People use captions most often for video content, as they are designed to appear on-screen while a video plays. Captions also sync to a video’s audio track to display text in real-time. As a result, the words appear as people say them and descriptions of sounds match the audio as well. 

Closed captioning is a style of captioning that allows users to control their own captions. Viewers can use a remote control or on-screen [cc] button to turn closed captions on and off. Open captions differ from of closed captions because viewers can’t control them. Open captions are sometimes referred to as “burned-in” or “baked-in” captions because they are hardwired into a video and will always be visible while the content plays.  

What is a Transcriptionist?

A transcriptionist is someone who produces written transcripts of audio and video content. Transcriptionists often use specific equipment to help them generate transcripts more efficiently. Examples of transcriptionist equipment include certain types of digital transcription software or physical equipment like foot pedals and ergonomic keyboards.

Tackling transcription projects effectively requires that transcriptionists type at high speeds as they listen to an audio track. These professionals are responsible for typing out what they hear as accurately as they can. However, transcriptionists will commonly need to revisit portions of a recording several times over. Once they’re satisfied with their work, a transcriptionist may be able to deliver a transcript file in a number of different formats depending on the specifications of a client or project.

What is a Captionist?

The primary role of a captionist is similar to that of a transcriptionist. Like a transcriptionist, a captionist will first need to transcribe the audio components of a recording. A captionist will complete their work in much the same way as the transcriptionist’s process outlined above. The primary difference between a transcriptionist and captioner is the need for a captioner to not only document the audio elements but time them accurately to sync with a video.

Once captionists complete their initial transcript of a video, they focus their attention on syncing their captions with the content. This task requires the review of videos scene by scene to time the captions to correspond with the original audio. Captioners construct the final file to include the text of the captions and their corresponding time codes. These timecodes are what ultimately allow captions to play in sync with the content.

Transcriber vs. Captioner: Who Should I Hire?

So, which is better: a transcriptionist or captioner? In reality, it’s not so much a question of transcriptionist vs. captioner because neither professional is better nor more qualified than the other. Instead, it’s a question of which process would best meet the needs of a specific client or project.

For example, a university professor hoping to provide their students with an easily digestible summary of a long lecture may employ a professional transcriptionist. In this scenario, a non-verbatim transcript of the discussion might be the ideal option.

On the other hand, a business leader who is investing in producing video content for social media marketing purposes may wish to hire a captionist. These professionals can create on-screen captions that will boost the marketer’s audience engagement.

Outsourcing Captioning and Transcription with Verbit

Captioner vs. transcriptionist? You may not need to choose. Professional transcription services like Verbit are equipped to handle both captioning and transcription projects with ease. Verbit’s process combines the speed of artificial intelligence with the accuracy of human transcribers to help clients produce highly accurate captions and transcripts at scale in as little as 24 hours.

In addition to producing captions and transcripts for recorded content, Verbit’s seamless software integrations make it easy to caption and transcribe webinars, Zoom meetings and other digital communications in real time. Reach out today to learn more about how Verbit’s captioning and transcription solutions can help boost audience engagement and improve the accessibility of online media.