Closed Captioning Standards: What, Why and How To

What is Closed Captioning?

Closed captioning (CC) and subtitling are both processes of displaying text on a television, video screen, or other visual display to provide additional or interpretive information. Both are typically used as a transcription of the audio portion of a program as it occurs (either verbatim or in edited form), sometimes including descriptions of non-speech elements. 

Over 28 million American adults are deaf or hard of hearing. For those individuals, having accurate captions is vital to conveying information. Without captions, they are kept from accessing the same information. However, captions also help those who are listening to the video in a noisy room, are commuting on a bus, have better reading than listening comprehension or simply prefer to have the captions running. It is estimated that 85% of Facebook video is watched without sound

Why is it Important?

In keeping with our convictions of Pursuit of Truth, Dignity, Diversity, and Personal Attention, the University of St. Thomas is committed to providing a website that is accessible and barrier-free to the widest possible audience. We do this by striving to comply with best practices and standards defined by Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA.

Automated VS Professionally Generated Captions

When you produce a video, one important consideration is, “Should this be professionally captioned, or are auto-generated captions sufficient?”  

The St. Thomas' primary video platform and preferred platform for all academic videos is Panopto; however, media tools including YouTube, Zoom and Panopto automatically include machine-generated captions. Because of specialized nomenclature, personal names, and pronunciations, those captions may still be inaccurate, incomprehensible, or even silly. If you are recording or producing a video, it is YOUR responsibility to ensure that even auto-generated captions are accurate! This means reviewing the entire video and reading the captions, then making any corrections to the captions before sharing the video. Learn more about editing automated captions in Panopto.  

Even though most video platforms use auto-generated captions (varies by platform), there are conditions that warrant professionally generated captions:  

  • Your video will be kept in circulation for more than one academic year 
  • Your video contains important university information 
  • Your video has a large audience or reach 
  • You want to maintain the highest quality 
  • Your video has specialized information 
  • If someone requests captions for an accommodation need 

Options for Adding Closed Captions to Videos

Below are three options available to university community members for adding closed captioning to videos they produce. For both academic and non-academic content, the university works with an outside vendor called Verbit to generate professional captioning. Depending on your comfort level, you can also generate your own captions using Adobe Premiere. Note that this process requires a lead time of approximately a week, so plan ahead!  

Option 1: Automated (machine-generated) Captions

  • Record your own media through a tool such as Panopto. Or upload a video created in another platform into Panopto or YouTube (both offer automated captioning options).  
  • The system will automatically generate closed captions with varying degrees of accuracy 
  • Review, and edit, if necessary, all machine-generated closed captions through these systems. 
    • Make sure you review/add grammar and punctuation.
    • Provide information about significant sound effects. For instance, add descriptions of sound in square brackets (such as [music] or [laughter]) to help people understand what is happening.
    •  Check names and places! (I.e., Tommy vs Tommie) 
    • Acronyms can sometimes be translated into random words, so be on the watch out for those (I.e., OEC to “Oh I see”). 

Option 2: Professionally Generated Captions for Academic or Non-academic Videos  

Professional captions for academic video content
  • ITS supports the Office of Disability Resources, who ensure ADA guidelines are met and individuals receive appropriate accommodations. 
  • Instructors can upload their video content to Panopto and submit a request via Digital Accessibility Closed Captioning ticket for academic videos. 
  • Currently, only videos that live on Panopto and YouTube can be captioned by the Digital Accessibility Support Team.
    • Music videos cannot be captioned. We recommend providing a transcript of the lyrics as an alternative format.
Using Professional captions for non-academic video content
  • For non-academic video content work with your Marketing, Insights and Communications (MIC) partner, sometimes referred to as your Embedded MICer. Your Embedded MICEer is your point of contact in getting non-academic videos captioned. 
  • Consider using either Youtube (autogenerated), Vimeo, or Adobe Premier (see Option 3) for non-academic video content.
  • If you upload your video to Vimeo, make sure you take this step! Vimeo only has auto-generated captioning on paid accounts.  
  • Timing: 3-5 days, but maybe longer depending on time of year. 
  • Recommend you review captions, particularly names. 
  • File type: .srt file for download. 
  • Talk to your embedded MICer about the cost per minute for professional captions and also free options. 

Option 3: Generate Captions with Adobe Premiere

  • Self-generated, purchase of Adobe Creative Cloud license required. 
  • Easiest if you have an existing transcript. 
  • Generate automatic captions with Speech to Text (requires you to review like in option one).  
  • Timing: immediate, but may take longer than using YouTube auto-generated captions. 
  • File type: .srt file for download. 

Unique Scenario: Social Media Videos

Any video posted to a University of St. Thomas social media platform should also have captions.  

  • For short-form video sites like Instagram and TikTok, you will often see Open Captions which are manually placed over the video, instead of Closed Captions which can be turned on and off. 
  • Read the article How to Make Social Media Content More Accessible 

Additional Details

Title Placement

Use the graphic below as a guideline for the proper placement of closed captions over your video content.



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Article ID: 133934
Wed 7/7/21 9:43 AM
Wed 12/20/23 4:32 PM

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Services to help you to improve your digital accessibility use including Academic Technology, Closed Captioning with Media, Documents, Website, and Other Areas for Consultation.