Closed Captioning vs Live Transcription header

At first glance, transcription and closed captioning sound like they're the same thing. After all, aren't they both processes that convert audio to written text? That is true, but the approaches to this conversion differ in fundamental ways. Both have their unique applications, advantages, and legal requirements, and the right one for you is going to depend on your business requirements and the specifics of your use case.

Here, we'll go in-depth about what closed captioning and live transcription are and the main differences between them so that you can figure out what is best for your business needs.

What Is Closed Captioning?

Closed captioning—often abbreviated as CC—is the process of presenting text on a visual display to provide additional information. Closed captions on a television screen or mobile screen are more than just a direct speech-to-text conversion and sometimes include descriptions of non-speech elements.

Initially developed for people with hearing loss, closed captions are incredibly useful in a variety of situations. For example, CC would be ideal on screens in a boisterous environment like the airport.

CC involves breaking up transcript text into "caption frames" and synchronizing each frame with the audio. This process's output is a stream of closed captions that you might find at the bottom of a screen. These captions allow viewers to follow along and read the captions in real-time as the video or audio plays. They typically depict:

  • Non-verbal utterances—grunts, sobs, screams
  • Music
  • Speaker identification
  • Sound effects
  • Words spoken

Since closed captions were initially developed for those with hearing loss, the process assumes that the viewer cannot hear the audio at all. Therefore, every sound that appears—even off-screen—is taken into account.

Fun Fact: The term "closed"—as opposed to "open"—refers to the fact that captions are not visible until the user turns them on, usually via a menu option on their television or another device.

When Is Closed Captioning Used?

There are a wide variety of use cases for closed captions. Some of them are as follows.


As noted earlier, CC was initially developed to support the hard of hearing and ensure that they could fully comprehend whatever was happening on-screen during a television program. Closed captions are still used today for this purpose, and most major streaming services incorporate them, including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, among others.

Social Media

Nearly every social media platform has the option to upload, share, and engage with video content. Adding captions to Facebook and Instagram videos, TikToks, and more can make your content easier to consume for a wide variety of people.

CC is also available on video-sharing platforms like YouTube, and while YouTube offers automatic transcription, it depends on individual content creators to provide accurate closed captions.

Whether it's for the hard of hearing or that person who likes watching videos on a noisy subway to work—closed captions make videos across social media accessible, inclusive, and convenient for all.

Live Theatre

Surprisingly, live theatres often include closed captions as part of their assistive listening services. The performers' words are displayed in real-time on an LED unit, usually positioned right next to the stage or in the set.

Workplace and University

CC can help foster a more inclusive and accessible workplace and university and help promote inclusion. In the workplace, live captioning for meetings, conference calls, and training videos can make a huge difference. At universities, closed captions for recorded lectures and presentations can help students with hearing loss.

What Is Live Transcription?

Transcription, in the conventional sense, is the process that converts audio into plain text. Transcription was—and still is in many incidences—carried out by people known as transcribers, who would listen to the audio file and type out what they heard.

Transcriptions are not the same thing as closed captions, as the latter is synchronized perfectly to the audio. Transcriptions are simply a document with all the text transcribed from spoken words uttered throughout the video or audio file, with no time-coding.

Transcriptions were traditionally produced by transcribers a while after someone created the video or audio file. However, advancements in technology have made live voice transcription possible. Live transcription can convert speech to text in real-time and is incredibly convenient for use cases in which developing accurate closed captions might be excessive.

Of course, as live transcription is a computer-automated process, it has its limitations and does not promise the same accuracy as closed captioning. The accuracy of any given live transcription typically depends on several factors, including:

  • Accents and dialects
  • Background noise
  • Speech clarity
  • Speech volume

When Is Live Transcription Used?

For events like daily conference calls and meetings, live transcriptions are often a more suitable and convenient option than CC.

The Workplace

Live transcription in the workplace can help make conference calls more inclusive and accessible for everyone. Whether it's for a colleague who is hard of hearing or a client in a noisy environment, live transcription can help everyone keep up with a fast-paced meeting with many speakers. Conferencing systems like Dialpad Meetings provide additional Dialpad Ai features, including real-time sentiment analysis and voice recognition.

Video-Sharing Platforms

Video-sharing platforms like YouTube offer real-time live transcription for their videos if the original creator does not go back to provide closed captions.

Personal Calls

Live transcription can be helpful during personal phone and video calls, too, whether it's because you struggle with hearing-related issues or the connection is less-than-stellar.

What's the Main Difference Between Closed Captions and Live Transcription?

To recap, the main difference between closed captions and live transcription is that closed captions are typically developed by somebody—a real human being or group of human beings—to display in text everything that is going on within a video or audio file.

CC is very detailed and time-coded so that the correct text appears at the proper time while you're watching a video or listening to a piece of audio.

Live transcription can be a real-time process. However, the text is computer-generated and may not be entirely accurate. Live transcriptions also might not offer detailed information regarding non-verbal sounds, like the song playing in the background of a movie scene, a car honking, or other extraneous noises.

What Are the Benefits of Live Call Transcriptions?

Live transcription may not be ideal for something like a movie or a TV show but can be very convenient for day-to-day tasks like conference calls and meetings, as the process is fully automated and no extra work is required.

Improves Accessibility

By enabling live transcription for every call and meeting, you can help foster a more inclusive and accessible workplace for employees with hearing issues.

Takes Advantage of Sentiment Analysis and Real-Time Alerts

Conferencing systems like Dialpad Meetings offer features that neatly complement live call transcription to help make your customer calls more effective. Some of these features include:

  • Sentiment Analysis. Live Sentiment Analysis picks up specific words from your calls, and based on that, determines how customers are feeling on the other side of the line in real-time.
  • Note-Taking. You can use voice commands to note down crucial Action Items during your calls, so you can put your notes away and be fully present with your clients, customers, and co-workers.
  • Voice Recognition. This advancement's capabilities can help you distinguish between different call participants so that transcripts like call center transcripts are easy to follow.
  • Conversation Search. Identify critical moments or find crucial information by searching through past conversations like you would a plain-text document.
  • Call Summaries. You'll receive a Post-Call Summary that includes essential details like a searchable transcription, sentiment analysis notes, and critical Action Items that came up during the meeting.

Keeps Records of Customer Conversations

Transcripts are helpful to have on hand for both business and legal purposes. You can provide evidence of the discussion between customers and your call center agents in a legal situation.

On a lighter note, having transcripts of customer calls can help you serve your customers better. For customers calling in several times over a few days or weeks, you can review transcripts of previous calls and pick up wherever the last call ended, fully updated and ready-to-go.

Transcripts can also help you learn more about your customers, identify key pain points and concerns, and analyze call quality to improve the customer journey.

Allows You to Review and Revisit Transcriptions for Training Purposes

You can use your past calls to improve your future calls, and there's no easier way to do this than revisiting transcripts of previous calls. While live transcription is instrumental while a call is happening, they are equally helpful in conducting a quality review. You can also use transcripts in call center training sessions and on-boarding programs as examples of what to do or what not to do.

Want to Experience the Benefits of Live Transcription?

CC and live transcriptions both make video and audio communications more inclusive, accessible, and convenient. Live transcription, in particular, provides an automated way to convert speech to text in real-time, with no extra work needed.

Are you interested in using live transcription to supercharge your corporate communications? Sign up for a free trial for Dialpad here.