Subtitle Generator: Which One Should You Be Using?

By: Verbit Editorial

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To reach the largest audience pools possible, video creators and streaming services providers often offer viewers the option to watch their content with subtitles. Subtitles are often the only way for international audiences to engage, among others who rely on subtitles to comprehend the content. Subtitle generators are a tool that can make adding this helpful on-screen text to videos much easier. While subtitle generators present helpful benefits, content creators and distribution partners need to be aware of how best to use them. Plus, there are some key differences between subtitle generators and other captioning solutions, which are used to promote not only greater audience reach, but accessibility. 

A quick note on subtitles vs. captions

The terms subtitles and captions can often be confused. In the UK, people use the terms “subtitles” and “captions” to refer to text which appears on screen in the same language as the audio heard. However, in the US, the terms mean two different things. Subtitles refer to text that translates the audio from the original language into the language of the viewer’s choice. For example, if the viewer watches a French film, but doesn’t understand French, they need to rely on subtitles as a translation of the content. Captions on the other hand appear on screen in the same language as the original audio and support viewers who are Deaf or hard of hearing, as well as others who prefer to use them as an extra visual aid. Captions also serve those who are watching without sound.  

Many people often use these two distinct terms interchangeably. In fact, Netflix presents English closed captions as a type of subtitle. For purposes of this piece, we’re referring to subtitle generators to produce any on-screen text, including captions. If you’re interested in learning more about the nuanced differences between captions, subtitles and subtitles for the Deaf and hard of hearing (SDH), check out this breakdown

Introduction: What is a subtitle generator?

When it comes to creating subtitles, it’s possible to do so manually or with the help of a digital subtitle generator. Some creators may have first received an introduction to subtitle generators through online media hosting sites like YouTube and Vimeo. These sites offer built-in, AI-based subtitle solutions for users looking to add subtitles to their content. Some video editing software platforms like Adobe Premiere Pro have in-house subtitle generator capabilities that allow users to add subtitles directly to their videos in post-production.  

How do subtitle generators work? 

All the automatic subtitle generation tools mentioned above use advanced AI software to interpret audio data and convert it to on-screen text. This technology requires a type of computer science known as natural language processing.  

Computational linguistics uses many specialized learning models to teach computers how to string together small pieces of spoken language and convert them into corresponding chunks of text. Subtitle generators require minimal human intervention, which adds to their convenience. In practice, a creator will upload their video to a media hosting or editing platform. Next, the computer will analyze the audio of the recording. The auto-generated subtitles will then display in the viewing window.  

Depending on the platform, automatically generated subtitles can either be “baked in” to a video or exported as a separate sidecar file. Users can download their subtitles in several file formats, including the subtitle text and the corresponding time stamps. From there, a creator can upload the subtitle file to their intended media hosting site, and audience members can turn subtitles on and off at will.  

Benefits of using a subtitle generator 

An automatic subtitle generator can be a great time-saving tool for content creators who want to provide their viewers with subtitles. Manually creating subtitles can be tedious, and individuals without adequate transcription training tend to produce subtitles that contain a fair number of errors. Many of the advantages of subtitle generators are their convenience and cost-efficiency.  

However, these potential subtitle generator benefits do not automatically make subtitle generators the ideal solution for every media project. Because subtitles generators rely on artificial intelligence, they, too, often produce inaccurate final subtitle files. AI software often struggles to generate accurate subtitles when a recording contains a lot of background noise or crosstalk. AI may also struggle to accurately subtitle recordings with multiple speakers or with unique dialects and accents.  

When are “captions” better than “subtitles”? 

It’s important to understand that “subtitles” that support translations are only an appropriate solution for certain media projects. That’s because if “subtitles” are for translation purposes they only represent certain audio elements from recordings. Subtitles do not typically represent non-speech audio elements and instead focus only on spoken dialogue. This means that subtitles will not represent sound effects, music cues or other ambient sounds.  

On the other hand, closed captions represent every audio element of a recording, including non-speech components. For this reason, closed captions are considered the industry standard for improving the accessibility of video content. Accurate captions provide equitable viewing experiences for individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing because they offer a comprehensive rendering of a video’s audio track. Creators also have greater control over the formatting of closed captions than they do over subtitles. 

Because even the best subtitle generators or automatic captions will likely not account for the additional audio elements represented by closed captions, creators will want to consider an alternative means of captioning their content to improve accessibility. Just as many subtitle generator reviews call attention to the sub-par accuracy rates of auto-generated subtitles, auto-captioning tools are subject to the same accuracy concerns. That’s why many creators partner with professional captioning services that don’t rely solely upon artificial intelligence to complete captioning projects.  

What is a closed captioning service? 

One of the easiest ways to support your content with accurate closed captions is to partner with a professional captioning provider like Verbit. Verbit uses advanced AI software with a team of professionally trained human transcribers to caption various video projects.  

Verbit’s highly accurate captions can support critical accessibility guidelines like the Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition to serving as a valuable resource for viewers who are Deaf or hard of hearing, Verbit’s captions can also benefit:  

  • People with ADHD 
  • Individuals with auditory processing disorders 
  • Certain audience members with autism spectrum disorder and other neurodivergent conditions  
  • Those who are consuming content in a non-native language 
  • Any viewer who needs or prefers to watch video content on mute 

Captions are ideal for any creator looking to provide accurate textual representations of their video content. Also, captions can expand a video’s reach to new and diverse communities and help all audience members engage fully and equally. 

Conclusion: A subtitle generator isn’t always enough 

Given the growing demand for accessibility in media, creators need to invest in technology solutions that are tailor-made for modern audiences. In the past, the importance of subtitle generators was linked to their on-screen translation capabilities, but today’s audiences need more.  

If you’re wondering about the future of subtitle generators, look at the work Verbit is doing in the captioning space. Rather than settling for auto-generated subtitles, Verbit allows creators to add highly accurate captions to their content without compromising on speed or cost-efficiency. Verbit’s unique approach to transcription supports content creation needs at scale and makes it easier than ever for creators to add captions to videos on multiple social media platforms and video hosting sites.  

Reach out today to learn how Verbit uses modern technology to help creators grow their audiences and demonstrate their commitment to producing more inclusive, engaging content for all.