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Online streaming has radically changed how captioning and subtitling is delivered. In fact, text formats like SRT and WebVTT are now the most common request for video accessibility and localization projects. But some clients still ask for burned-in delivery. Why? Because in a few cases, it’s critical to project success.

This post will look at the four reasons a multimedia localization professional may require burned-in captions or subtitles.

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Why are text formats so great for accessibility & video localization?

Two main reasons.

First text-based formats allow for easier deliveries and better online playback. Producers can upload just one video, and then all the different caption and subtitle tracks alongside it. Users then simply pick their language from a drop-down menu right on the video player. Moreover, new language subtitles files can be added quickly and seamlessly as audiences demand more video localization. And of course, since the files are readable text, they increase a video’s search engine optimization.

Second, most online video platforms (including YouTube, Vimeo, Netflix and Hulu) allow viewers to change font size, color and text formatting. Viewers with poor eyesight can make the text larger and brighter, for example. Or likewise, viewers with high definition TV systems can make the text smaller, allowing for more screen visibility.


For an in-depth look at the two options, see our previous post, Video Translation 101: Burned-in vs. Text for Subtitles Delivery.

Why pick burned-in captioning and subtitling?

Despite its limitations, burned-in videos offer producers one key advantage – complete control over the playback and final look of the caption or subtitle text. In the following cases, that can be the critical factor when picking a deliverable.

1. Videos with very specific formatting or a branded “look”

Marketing producers trying to maintain a branded look may opt to burn to picture so that they can choose font, text size, formatting, style and text placement. In particular, this option is critical to match any localized on-screen titles or supers. That said, since users can’t pick their subtitle language, it’s really only useful for content going into a single market, or that’s targeted at a relatively monolingual audience – for example, a localized TV spot going into Japan.

2. Event, in-store or field videos

This is a good option for content that won’t stream online – for example, videos played at events (like a company-wide meeting), as in-store advertisements, or in the field (like a video on disease prevention for an NGO). In these cases, the videos will usually play off of a stand-alone file on a hard drive, meaning that there’s no guarantee the player will support text-based files. Moreover, the people setting up the playback – event organizers, store managers, or field workers – won’t have the time or knowledge to troubleshoot player issues. A video with burned-in text eliminates these potential problems.

3. Multilingual subtitling

If you have an international audience watching your video (for example, a multinational workforce at a yearly employee meeting), you may need to provide multilingual subtitling – that is, subtitles in two or more languages that appear on-screen at the same time. Text-based formats are great with single languages, but not so much with multiples – especially if the languages have different encoding or text direction. In these cases, burning to picture ensures that all languages display correctly, and that a post-production studio can make visual tweaks to ensure fit and readability.

4. Linguistic or client reviews

Sometimes linguists or end-clients won’t be able to work with text deliverables. Or, likewise, they may not want to upload draft text files to their videos online for review, especially if the content is already live. These cases require a burned-in intermediate review video. Two caveats with this approach – first, while a professional studio like JBI Studios can support this workflow, it’s important to lock it down before production starts, to lower costs and minimize timelines. Second, it’s necessary to do an additional QA check after final text file implementation, to ensure there are no issues during upload.

Lock down your multimedia localization deliverables

Text and burned-in deliverables have similar workflows – but ones with critical differences, mainly in the way that videos are time-coded. This is particularly true for large suites of videos, like e-Learning scenarios for multiple courses, or prompt videos for an app. For this reason, it’s important to know which deliverable your client requires before the caption or subtitle workflow begins. If you or your clients don’t know exactly what is needed, knowing the video distribution platform can help determine a workflow, and even run a test. This is a service that JBI Studios can provide, of course. As with all multimedia localization, proper setup is critical to a seamless workflow – and it’s the only way to ensure that projects deliver on scope and on budget.

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