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Using Closed Captioning In Live Video

What is closed captioning? 

Closed captioning, often confused with subtitling, is primarily used to increase the accessibility of videos for deaf or hearing-impaired viewers. Closed captions are different from subtitles in the way that they include captions outlining all actions occurring in videos, rather than just transcribing speech. To use closed captioning accurately in streams, they should be embedded using a specialist closed caption encoder. 

Keep reading to learn all about closed captions and their importance in the streaming community! 

Benefits of broadcast closed captioning:

Wider audience

Whilst closed captioning was initially invented to make video content accessible to deaf or hard of hearing people, it can be used to effectively boost the size and range of your audience too. Not everyone will have 24/7 access to sound, or people may watch videos in a restrictive setting, like at work! A surprising 85% of people online will watch video content without sound, so by failing to offer the option of closed captions, broadcasters could be missing out on a huge portion of their potential audience. 

Closed captions may not be easy to incorporate into live streams, but by maximising on the accessibility and inclusivity of your audience, they are completely worth the effort! 

Search visibility

Closed captioning your live video content can have great benefits for the visibility of your streams too. Search engines are able to pick up on your videos and rank you accordingly using the closed caption content. Again, this opens your stream up to a much larger and relevant audience by making your content much easier to locate in the masses of search results. 

Understanding + engagement

The nature of live streaming in real-time means that content can move quickly, leaving far more room for confusion with your viewers. Closed captioning can help to get your message across, acting as a reinforcement or reassurance of what’s being said. By offering viewers both audio and text, the information in your live streams can be far easier to grasp - especially if viewers aren’t listening to a stream in their first language.

There are some live stream settings that lend themselves to closed captioning, such as news stories, events, e-classes, webinars, corporate meetings, and more. Embedding closed captions is always a good idea when it’s important for viewers to understand exactly what’s being said. 

With better understanding, will come increased engagement too. Viewers are far more likely to engage with your streams if they feel confident knowing what’s going on. 

Should you use closed captioning?

While closed captions can be highly valuable for boosting the reach and engagement of your live streams, there are a number of factors to consider. 

The main factor to take into account is the additional costs and equipment that closed captioning requires. While there are cloud-based caption encoders which can automatically produce the captions for your streams, these are far less reliable than their hardware alternatives. 

When considering whether to add closed captions to your streams, your budget is the main factor. If you are a brand looking to live stream on a regular basis to wide audiences, investing in the right audio embedder hardware and a closed caption encoder is the right way to go. However, if you’re an individual broadcaster on a tighter budget, cloud-based caption encoders are far more accessible and can keep your costs down.

Although closed captioning isn’t always a cheap affair, you can reduce costs in other aspects of your stream. Zidivo’s professional video streaming and hosting platform can cost as little as £20 a month, encompassing all your streaming needs. Go live from any device and stream on multiple custom web pages, without having to compromise on quality.

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Another aspect in deciding whether your streams need closed captioning is legality. For example, closed captioning is a legal requirement in the UK and US when broadcasting on TV. Always check whether the purpose and/or content renders closed captioning a necessity to be 100% compliant!

How to use closed captions in live streams:

Fortunately, unless you’re a licensed TV channel or service, there is no universal standard format for uploading closed captions, allowing brands to incorporate captions as they see fit. 

To get it right and make sure your captions are as accurate and ‘live’ as possible, here’s Zidivo’s advice on how to do so. 

You will need:

  • Camera equipment
  • Production switcher
  • Audio embedder hardware
  • Closed caption encoder
  • An in-house closed caption team or service provider
  • Video encoder
  • Video streaming platform

Closed captioning process: 

  1. Film your live stream using your usual camera equipment, but connected to a production switcher.
  2. A production switcher is essentially a piece of hardware that allows you to ‘switch’ between or composite different audiovisual signals. Once the signals arrive at your production switcher, this is sent as a program feed to your audio embedder hardware. 
  3. Audio embedders then send your live feed to the closed caption encoder. Whether you’ve chosen to manage your closed captions in-house, or you’re using a service provider, once your captions have converted the audio into text, the feed is sent to your video encoder. 
  4. Your video encoder then has the job of sending all this info contained in a single feed to the video streaming platform of your choice, to be streamed across the web! Zidivo makes this stage of the streaming process as simple and as quick as possible. You can go live from any device or encoder at the click of a button, on as many web pages as you like, using a simple embed link. By opting for a professional and affordable streaming platform, you can use the rest of your budget to invest in effective closed captioning software! 

Using closed captioning may not be an immediate consideration for all broadcasters when going live. Actually though, it can have huge benefits on the success and inclusivity of your content! Even if you don’t have the equipment or budget to include closed captions in real-time, adding them in when embedding your recorded streams on your site is still worthwhile.

Get in touch with Zidivo today to learn more about their live streaming and on-demand video services. Their team are willing to share their expert advice on all things live video related, so you can decide if their service is right for you.

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