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Digital Accessibility

Open v. Closed Captioning

Your decision about whether to use open or closed captioning will depend on your video and where you'd like to publish it. 

Choosing Between Open and Closed Captions

Open captions are embedded in the video itself. Closed captions are uploaded to a video hosting service and displayed by the video player when the viewer turns on closed captioning. 

Open Captions Pros and Cons

  • Required for platforms that don’t support closed captioning, such as Instagram and TikTok
  • Harder for the editor to add to a video
  • Give the editor control over how and where captions display
  • Can’t be translated or turned off by the viewer
  • Scale according to video size and quality, so small videos may be hard to read

Closed Captions Pros and Cons

  • Supported by most platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Vimeo and YouTube
  • Easiest to implement for the editor
  • May be customized by the viewer on some platforms
  • Can be translated and turned on or off by the viewer
  • Not offered by all platforms, such as Instagram and TikTok

YouTube Captions on USC Digital Products

YouTube is the preferred video hosting platform for all videos appearing on a USC digital product. While you can upload open captions through YouTube, the service offers auto-generated closed captioning and transcript that you can edit for accuracy. 
Editing Auto-Generated YouTube Captions »


Writing Your Captions

You'll need to follow specific steps for writing your captions, depending on whether you've chosen open or closed captioning.

Open Caption Writing

Write open captions in your video editing software of choice. Instructions will vary by platform, but usually there is a menu option under audio settings for captions.

Suggested Caption Writing Software Options
  • Adobe Premiere Pro or Adobe Captivate (subscription)
  • AegisSub or DivXLand (free software)
  • Amara or Subtitle Horse (in-browser editor)

Closed Caption Writing

Write closed captions in an .SRT (SubRip Transcript) file, which can be created and edited with any plain text editor. You'll type what was said in your video, along with time codes for when each line of text should be displayed. 

Formatting Your .SRT File
  • Use numbers to designate the order of captions.
  • To force a line break, use a blank line.
  • Use two dashes and a right arrow (-- >) to indicate a time span.
  • To designate sounds, use square brackets. For example: [intro music].
  • Add two right arrows (>>) to identify speakers or a change of speaker.
  • For transcript documents in a language that is not English, save the file with UTF-8 encoding to improve display accuracy.
.SRT Sample Formatting

00:00:00 -- > 00:00:04
>> INSTRUCTOR: Hi, class. Today we’ll be moving on to the next chapter, and we’ve got a lot of ground to cover so let’s turn to page 

00:00:04 -- > 00:00:05

00:00:05 -- > 00:00:10
>> STUDENT: Excuse me, can I ask about the homework first?

Uploading Your .SRT File to YouTube

YouTube is the university’s preferred hosting platform for videos that will appear on a USC digital product.

1. Make sure your file type is supported on YouTube.

2. Follow the instructions on YouTube's Add Your Own Closed Captions page to upload your .SRT file.

Instructions for Other Platforms

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