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University of Portland Clark Library

Multimedia: Film

This guide features self-paced resources related to design, video, photography and audio.


Film and Video Collections

Professional Organizations

Making Videos More Accessible

The following gives best practices when creating and editing captions in order to make videos and audio projects more accessible.


Why caption videos?

  • Captions allow for a wide variety of members of the public (those who have experienced hearing loss and other temporary or permanent disabilities, non-native English speakers, students of all levels, etc.) to access content otherwise unavailable.

Key terms

  • Captions: Captions are a time synchronized, verbatim transcript file that accurately matches the audio in a recorded video and paired with the video file through a media player. They also include the relevant sound effects and other audio components that convey the full context of the video.
  • Subtitles: Translation of content into different languages.
  • Transcripts: A verbatim text version of the audio presented. A transcript is not time synchronized with the video.

Want to learn more about the importance of captioning a video? Visit University of Washington Accessible Technology.

Consider the following when creating captions:

  • Minimum display time should be 1.5 seconds for very short dialog if possible.
  • Captions should not have more than two lines of text on-screen.

Sound and Music

  • Indicate singing in a video by inserting a music icon (♪) at the beginning and the ending of the text.
    • For example: ♪ Buffalo soldier, in the heart of America ♪
  • Display sound effect captions in lowercase italics enclosed in brackets. 
    • For example:  [dog barking] or [child screaming]
  • When people are seen talking, but there is no audio, use the following caption: [no audio] or [silence].


  • Use proper capitalization and punctuation (question marks, exclamation points, commas, hyphens, etc.).
  • Use double hyphens (--) or a single long dash (—) when a speaker is interrupted and another speaker finishes the sentence.
  • Use an ellipsis (…) when there is a significant pause within a caption. 
  • Use quotation marks for on-screen readings from a poem, book, play, journal, or letter. Also use quotation marks and italics for off-screen readings or voice-overs.

Numbers and Special Characters

  • Represent long numbers using traditional conventions. 
    • For example: Telephone numbers (xxx-xxxx; xxx-xxx-xxxx) or (10,000 / 100,000)
  • Write out numbers from one to ten, but use numerals for all numbers over ten.
  • Use numerals when referring to technical and athletic terms, as well as the time of day.
    • For example: He scored 4 touchdowns in today’s game!

Text Styles

  • Bold and underline are not permitted in subtitling.
  • Italics should be used only for the following specific functions:
    • A voice-over reading, 
    • When a character is thinking,
    • To describe important background or offscreen audio,
    • For uncommon foreign words and phrases,
    • and when speech is emphatically spoken.

For more information on any of these topics, visit EngageMedia Subtitling

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