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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 essentially the same and typically used as a transcription of the audio portion of a program as it occurs sometimes including descriptions of non-speech elements.

The term “closed” (versus “open”) indicates that the captions are not visible until activated by the viewer, usually via the remote control or menu option. “Open”, “burned-in”, “baked on”, or “hard-coded” captions are visible to all viewers.
HTML5 defines subtitles as a “transcription or translation of the dialogue … when sound is available but not understood” by the viewer (for example, dialogue in a foreign language) and captions as a “transcription or translation of the dialogue, sound effects, relevant musical cues, and other relevant audio information … when sound is unavailable or not clearly audible” (for example, when audio is muted or the viewer is deaf or hard of hearing”).

Closed captions are also used in public environments, such as bars and restaurants, where patrons may not be able to hear over the background noise, or where multiple televisions are displaying different programs. In addition, online videos may be treated through digital processing of their audio content by various robotic algorithms (robots). Multiple chains of errors are the result. When a video is truly and accurately transcribed, then the closed-captioning publication serves a useful purpose, and the content is available for search engines to index and make available to users on the internet.

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