The next big factor in high-quality captions is length. This is another one where many companies falter. The lines will be too wide or too short. Or they’ll show three more lines of captions. The ideal length is one or two lines with no more than 32 characters per line.
Long lines of captions convert the captioning experience from scanning to reading. The most effective captions are scannable. They allow people to view the video without being hung up on the captions. But when the captions are long, then it forces people to read and miss out on the action on the video.
Another problem with length is bad breaking points or line division. This is the last word of the caption lines. When not done right, it causes cognitive overload and confusion.
It’s one of those things deaf/HH will notice and hearing people won’t. Captioning Key’s line breaks section is the best one. Check out the examples on the page and you can see what a difference it makes.
Here are examples of bad breaking points:
ending. Starting another sentence
in one line.
Splitting names like the author is Meryl
Meryl Evans should stay together. It’d be better to do this:
Splitting names like the author
is Meryl Evans.
She ate an orange, banana, and
apple for breakfast.
Avoid ending lines after a conjunction, so the following works better.
She ate an orange, banana,
and apple for breakfast.
And then there are captions that leave you hanging like ending a caption on words like “to,” “and,” for” and you have to wait for the next caption to complete the thought. Little things like this minimize cognitive overload.
The next factor in quality captions is position. This is the easiest one. Put the captions on the bottom. You can move the captions up temporarily to display on-screen text. Just be sure to bring them back down once the text clears. I’ve conducted many polls on position and 99 percent choose the bottom.
When I watch videos with the captions at the top the whole time, I miss a lot more of the action on the screen. Some explain this by saying the captions on the bottom put them closer to people’s faces.
However, the camera pans out for many scenes where you can see the whole person or maybe no one. There’s no scientific study, but many of us agree that we can watch more of the video with captions on the bottom than on the top. Captions belong on the bottom with occasional exceptions.
Sound, or lack thereof, is a real problem that frequently happens in international films. These films contain captions for audio that’s not in the viewer’s language. And that’s it. If you’re watching a Japanese film. Anytime they speak Japanese, the captions will show the English version.
But if they switch to English, there will be no captions. If there is music, song lyrics, or important sounds, those won’t be captioned either. This is one of those things you can’t turn off the sound to test the captions. And sometimes living with hearing, you become accustomed to sounds that you don’t think about it being missing for the deaf/HH.