video captioning basics

Video Captioning Basics for Compliance and ROI

Video Captioning Basics: Best Practices for Compliance and Video Performance

The following video captioning basics will explain how to choose the right accuracy level and the best captioning provider according to your needs.

Choosing an Accuracy Level

The first item on the video captioning basics to-do list is to figure out what quality level you need for your captions. Various considerations may direct your decision-making, such as budget, time, accessibility, and manpower.

Captions can be added to videos using free software or professional captioning companies. These each have their own level of guaranteed accuracy. Unless your company has a strict set of needs, professional captioning is the recommended route. For some, professional captioning is the only way to proceed because of legal requirements for your industry.

Machine Captions

There are many free software applications that can caption videos to about 50-70% accuracy. The publisher can then go in to review and edit the captions.

While editing the captions for accuracy can be a slow process, it is acceptable if you: are on a tight budget, aren’t under any time pressure to caption, and only have a few short videos. But note when using free software, the inaccuracy of auto-captions will actually have a negative impact on viewer engagement.

In terms of accessibility compliance, auto-captions and automatic speech recognition (ASR) do not meet federal requirements for accessibility. These types of captions are great for search but do not generate complaint captions.  If you want to reach your hearing impaired audience or are subject to ADA and Section 504 and 508 requirements, you need 99% accurate captions.

Professional Captions

For a higher return on your media investment, the best practice for captioning is to use a captioning provider that can guarantee a high level of accuracy. The higher the quality of the captions, the higher your viewer satisfaction will be, and the lower the costs will be in the long run.

Ninety-nine percent accurate captions are important for viewer engagement and crucial for accessibility compliance. Accessible technology guidelines have been developed for use by government agencies, educational institutions, and others. These guidelines, such as the WCAG 2.0, define measurable standards for giving all users equal access to all online information.

video captioning basics
Video captioning basics: Be inclusive for individuals with disabilities

From an ethical standpoint, complying with these guidelines prevents discrimination based on disability. At the professional or business level, complying with the guidelines is a means to commercial success.

If you are not an organization that is required by law (ADA, Rehabilitation Act, FCC, CVAA, etc.) to provide captions with 99% accuracy, it may still be in your company’s best interest to provide compliance level captions.

Choosing a Captioning Provider

It is important to evaluate your company’s needs before choosing a captioning provider. Ask the following questions.

Regarding your videos:

  • Volume: How many minutes/hours of video do we have?
  • Turnaround Time: How fast do we need the captions to be rendered? Do we need them in a few hours or can we wait a few days? Do we want the ability to specify different turnaround times for different videos?
  • Quality Level: Do we need different quality levels such as 70% machine generated for search, 95% accurate for internal notes, or near perfect for published transcripts or captions?
  • Difficulty: Do we have videos with poor sound quality, multiple speakers, heavy accents, or technical/rare terms?
  • Language: Do we need videos to be transcribed in multiple languages or translated into any other languages?

Regarding your intended uses:

  • Integration: Do we need the caption provider integrated into our custom workflow via a comprehensive API?
  • Video Hosting: Do we use a video platform like YouTube, Kaltura, BrightCove, Panopto, etc. that already has an integration with a captioning service?
  • Caption Editor: Do we want to have the power to edit the captions ourselves to make minor corrections?
  • Video Intelligence: Do we want to create high-quality video tags for Youtube, Google search including topics, keywords or Google Adwords?
  • Interactive Transcript: Do we want viewers to be able to search and navigate videos through transcripts or tags?
  • Video SEO: Do we want our videos to be ranked and discovered by YouTube or Google search?
  • Customer Service: Do we want reliable daily support for questions or issues?
  • Account Management: Do we need a service that can provide access and support for multiple departments at our organization?

The answers to these question will help you narrow your search and find a provider who is the best match for your needs.


Youtube and other applications offer free machine captions with a 50-70% accuracy rate. These are ideal if you only have a few short videos and have the time and resources to edit the captions. These are useful for search within video libraries.

If you are looking for accessibility compliance, inclusion for all of your audience members, and captions that foster greater reach, engagement, and retention, 99% captions from a professional provider is the best option.

Lastly, knowing your specific video captioning needs is crucial to finding the right provider.

We hope these video captioning basics ease the captioning process. For more information on captioning, check out these resources:

Nicole E. Flynn, CMO at cielo24, is deeply interested in exploring and communicating the ways in which Artificial Intelligence (AI) intersects with various aspects of our daily lives. She is passionate about exploring the ways in which AI can be ethically harnessed to improve the quality of life and make our world a better place. Nicole seeks to educate and inform audiences about the potential of AI technology and how it can be used to drive innovation and growth.