Captioning/Subtitling 101

What Do I Do First?

At times, especially if you are new to the process for captions and/or subtitles, it may seem overwhelming.  There are questions to answer and decisions to be made.  However, it’s really not that bad once you walk through the process for your first time.  We like to consider the introduction to our services for those novices, as our “Caption/Subtitle/Webcast 101 Course.”

To find out more about the options and processes of these services, read through the tabs to introduce yourself to the workflow and details that need to be discussed.  With the latest choices in technology and various formats available in this media industry, the one question that is most important is “what type of caption/subtitle/webcast file do you need delivered?”  Or, “what format is needed for your captioned/subtitled video master?”  Keep in mind, that SD and HD are two entirely different digital formats in this world of media. Also, for your convenience, your video reference for these projects can be uploaded to our FTP site, saving you time and money! (An FTP site is basically a place on the internet that is used-- sort of like a holding place-- for large files that are not able to be emailed.  No shipping costs for you to get your media to us!)


A caption file is prepared by importing a script into our caption software.  Either you will supply us a verbatim script, or we can offer you our transcription services.  Our team of caption experts prepares the caption file by ‘breaking’ the script into sentences or partial sentences, making sure that the captions are prepared properly with grammar and punctuation and places them on the screen as not to interfere with graphics, such as lower thirds, titles or bullet points.  A caption may consist of 1 – 3 lines of text.  A caption can be a pop-on style of caption or a roll-up style of caption.

Once the caption file is prepared, the question remains, how will it be exported to accommodate your requirements for your project.  For example, do you need a video master recorded with captions that are embedded on line 21 of the vertical interval?  Do you need captions for a non-linear edit system, such as Final Cut, Avid or Premiere?  Do you need captions for a DVD only?  Or will you need a caption file for HD digital files or tape format?  Browse our tabs for some of the options and the workflows for each. 


Subtitles are similar to pop-on captions, as they pop on and off the screen. They are prepared using 1 – 3 lines of text per subtitle.  Most commonly, subtitles are centered at the bottom of the video throughout the program.  However, some clients want subtitles positioned as pop-on captions, as to indicate who is speaking -- your choice.

Subtitles are used for various media.  For example, you can subtitle a video master, digital video, DVD/Blu-Ray disc, web videos and even import a subtitle file (Alpha Channel) into your non-linear editing system.  Most subtitles are in foreign languages over the English narration.  However, some clients want English subtitles on their media products with English narration to make their media accessible.  We can export various file types to accommodate your project.



This style of captioning is when the script continuously rolls-up from the bottom of the screen with 2 - 4 lines on the screen at one time. This style is used for documentary, narrated, educational videos or videos with minimal characters. Our eyes are trained to effectively read in this manner in the United States. The investment for this style of captions is less than pop-on.


This style is used for both subtitles and captions. The sentence structure is broken into fragments and pops on the screen to keep pace with the rhythm of the speaker’s narration. The captions are strategically placed on the screen, which helps the viewer identify who is speaking. This style is used in theatrical, dramas, sit-coms and videos with multiple characters.


Subtitles are similar to pop-on captions, as they pop on and off the screen.  Most commonly, subtitles are centered at the bottom of the video throughout the program.  However, some clients want subtitles positioned as pop-on captions, as to indicate who is speaking --your choice.  We can offer most languages, including Asian Fonts!

608/708 Captions

CEA-608 captions was the original closed caption standard for analog TV.  At times, this is referred to ‘line 21’ or ‘VBI’ captions since they reside on line 21 of the vertical interval.  This type captioning appeared as little dots and dashes on the top of the video image and made it possible for TV sets to read this code and turn it into text for hard of hearing viewers.  It became the standard for tape masters and made it possible to duplicate tape master without losing closed captioning information.  The CEA-608 is now moving away from line 21 or VBI dots and dashes into metadata tracks for digital television.  For these DTV workflows it is also required by the FCC that not only CEA-608 data is present but also the new CEA-708 data is also included with the video.

CEA-708 captions have many more options for the viewer for both SD and HD formats.  For example, the font, color, size and background of the caption ‘look’ can be chosen through the TV menu.  It gives the viewer more options for their preference for the ‘look’ of the captions.  For HD tape masters, the 708 captions are placed in line 9 of the VANC area and can contain multiple languages.

Captions and Subtitle Services is able to export files for your project for both CEA-608 and CEA-708 captions, thus allowing your media to be accessible for all TV sets and for your required specs for broadcasting. Please note that 608 and 708 captions are required for all DTV broadcasts.

There are many options for HD captions. Captions and Subtitle Services can offer you HD captions in a variety of ways.


There’s a fundamental process in which all projects will flow in the caption/subtitle process.  What is going to be different for your project is exactly what you need Captions and Subtitle Services to deliver to you as a final product.  Or, what your client needs as a deliverable for the final product.  This is applicable for both HD and SD formats.  Keep in mind, details will be discussed prior to every project so we can establish a mutually beneficial working relationship and there are no surprises at the end of the process….We want satisfied clients who are happy and can depend on us and allow us to be an extension of your production team.


  • Send verbatim script to Captions and Subtitle Services.  If a script is not available, we will transcribe the video for a minimal fee.
  • Upload proxy video to our FTP site as reference video. 
  • If you want a captioned/subtitle video master, send in the master that has continuous time code.
  • If it’s digital video files with captions or subtitles requested, send us the high quality video via external hard drive, thumb drive, or upload to our FTP site (considering the size limitations).
  • Confirm type of file that needs to be exported by Captions and Subtitle Services.

Captions and Subtitle Services

  • We will consult with you on every project so we both understand what is expected as the final deliverable product.
  • We will produce the caption/subtitle file as requested with our state-of-the-art caption technology assuring correct placement, sync with the narration, sentence structure, grammar and punctuation.  We follow a very strict quality control process to assure excellent work for your project.
  • We will export the final captioned/subtitled digital file to accommodate the requirements of your project. Tapeless process, saves time and money!!
  • We will encode a video master in either SD or HD when your project calls for a video master as a final deliverable. We will confirm you receive what you expected for your project and verify you are satisfied with our services and quality.