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Difference Between Real-Time Captions and Post-Production Captions

Not all captions are created equal. It depends on a type of aural information – whether it is a live event or a video recording or a podcast or an aural announcement. Different types of captioning access follow different sets of quality guidelines and produced by different types of captioners.

In this article we will talk a little bit about the difference between two commonly used types of captioning access – real-time (live) captions and post-production (offline) captions. Real-time captions are meant to be used for events, webinars, news broadcasts. Post-production captions are meant for movies, videos, and post-production media in general.

The following are some basic examples of the differences between live captions and post production captions.

Real-time (live) captions

Good quality live captions are expected to have a minimum of 98% accuracy. If you see some mistakes here and there it’s expected. Live captions can be delayed for a few seconds and usually scroll up. When live captions pop up with random chunking and delays, they are harder to read than if they scroll up.

Below is an animated gif showing what live captions look like.

The text scrolls up in two lines and says: “>> Narrator: There are to – – two beautiful birds singing on a tree. One is [indiscernible], another is robin. Their voices are so beautiful. You can hear”

Post-production (offline) captions

Good quality post-production captions, on the other hand, are expected to have 100% accuracy rate and cannot have errors. They need to be synchronized with speech and cannot be delayed. They are popped up and need to be chunked properly in one or two short lines with logical grammatical breaks.

Below is an animated gif showing what offline captions look like.

The text is chunked into 1-2 lines with logical grammatical breaks and says: “Narrator: There are two beautiful birds singing on a tree. One is keel, another is robin. Their voices are so beautiful.”


If you compare both examples, you may notice that the double chevrons are included in real time captions, but not in post-production captions. You also notice some errors in live captions while there are none in offline captions.

That’s one of the basic reasons why real-time captions are okay for live events, but cannot be used for video recordings and post-production media in general.

You can do captions and transcripts yourself for your personal videos and podcasts, but for formal media and events, it’s best to hire a specialist to make captions and transcripts look more professional and easy to read.

Want to learn in detail about quality captioning best practices? Check out our services and contact us. We have an experienced accessibility consultant and a long time captioning user who is deaf and can help you with optimal captioning access for your media and events.

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