Frequently Asked Questions about Captioning

What you need to know about getting audio and video media transcribed and captioned.

  • Please review our tips below on how to turn on captions in various situations.  You can also contact the Learning Technology staff by calling 459-2117 or email media@ucsc.edu if you would like them to demo procedures for turning on captions.  If you need immediate assistance with utilizing technology in the classroom, contact the hotline at 459-5858.

QUESTIONS? If appropriate, clarify disability-related needs with the student directly. Otherwise, contact the DRC at drc@ucsc.edu or 459-2089.


Do I always have to use captioned versions of films, film clips, YouTube videos, and other media?

All films, film clips, and slides must be captioned or subtitled in accordance with Federal Law and University policy. Please obtain films or video clips with captions whenever you plan to use them in class.  Some professionally produced films on DVD or VHS will have closed captions which can be activated through the DVD or TV remote. Older DVD’s and VHS tapes are often not captioned.


What is the difference between captions and subtitles?

Subtitles are intended for people who are able to hear, and are most often used to display a different language than the one begin spoken in the video.  They only include the words spoken.  Captions are intended to provide access to people who can’t hear. Unlike subtitles, captions include the spoken word, sound effects, and identification of speakers.  When a video has subtitles but is not available with captions, it is generally acceptable as an accommodation for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, though captions are preferred.


How do I know if something is captioned?

If the video has closed captions, it should be labeled “CC.” Or it may be labeled SDH (Subtitled for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing).  If the video is subtitled (rather than captioned) in various languages, including English, that is also acceptable.


What should I do if I’m not sure whether my media is captioned?

Contact the DRC at drc@ucsc.edu or 459-2089 if you need assistance checking for captions.


What should I do if the media I plan to use is not captioned?

With sufficient time, it is possible to obtain captioned materials. Make sure you check your DVDs, videotapes, and web videos well in advance (preferably before the quarter begins) to determine if they are captioned or not.  If your material is not captioned, contact the DRC at drc@ucsc.edu or 459-2089 about the procedures for getting materials captioned.


How long does it take to get a video or clip captioned? 

For short videos of 10 minutes or less, please allow a week turnaround.  For longer videos, allow two weeks.  We can sometimes get videos done in less time, but we can’t guarantee it.  Preplanning will make a big difference in ensuring accessibility.


What if I am just using short film clips from longer works?

If you take clips from longer works and show them in class, the clips still need to be captioned.If you take clips from longer works and show them in class, the clips still need to be captioned.


What if the clip I plan to use is from YouTube?

If the material is on YouTube, you should check to see if it’s captioned, and if it is not captioned, request that the DRC have it captioned.

*A warning about YouTube videos:  Often YouTube videos show the “CC” symbol indicating they are captioned. However, if you click on the “CC” symbol, and it says “English (Auto Generated),” these captions are produced using voice recognition software and are less than satisfactory. When used in the classroom, they may limit accessibility for the student with a hearing loss, and the errors are sometimes so inaccurate and inappropriate that they are distracting to the hearing students in class. We strongly recommend that you always review the entire YouTube video to check the accuracy of the captions before showing it in class.  If captions are not accurate, you should request that the DRC have them captioned.


What if the instructor owns the video?

If the video will also be shown in the classroom, regardless of whether it is instructor-owned or campus-owned, it will need to be captioned.


Is a transcript of a video sufficient?

If the material has audio and video, you need to caption it. A transcript is not sufficient. However, if you can provide a transcript, the captioning process will require less time and be less costly.


Why can’t the interpreter interpret the video?

In some cases, if the video is merely “talking heads,” this is possible. However, if there are multiple speakers, and a lot of activity or visuals that need to be seen in order to fully understand the video, interpreting the video in sign language is not adequate. It is impossible for the student to watch the video and the interpreters simultaneously.  It is also difficult for interpreters to act out all the speaking parts or describe and interpret the visuals in such a way that it will be meaningful for the student.


What if I want to use an audio clip or podcast in my class?

If the material is audio only, no video, you must provide the student with a transcript. The DRC can assist in getting the material transcribed if needed.


Turning on Captions

For DVDs Use one of the installed computers to play the DVD then follow one of the sets of instructions below.

Macintosh, Mac DVD Player:

    1. Launch DVD Player.
    2. Go to: Features Menu > Closed Captioning and select "Turn On".

Macintosh, VLC:

    1. Launch VLC
    2. Go to: File menu > Open Disc and select the DVD.
    3. Select "Play Movie".
    4. Go To: Video Menu > Subtitles > Track and select "Closed Caption 1".

Windows, Windows Media Player (not available in Windows 8 or beyond):

    1. Launch Windows Media Player.
    2. Play the DVD.
    3. Click on arrow at bottom middle of the window.
    4. Go To: Special Features > Captions and select "Closed Captions".

Windows, VLC:

    1. Launch VLC.
    2. Play DVD.
    3. Go To: Subtitle > Sub Track > and select “Subtitles 1” or  Subtitle > Sub Track > Closed Captions > “Closed Captions 1”

For VHS tapes: Instructions for turning on closed captions for videotape are much simpler than for DVD.

    • In classrooms with pushbutton control systems there is a toggle switch labeled "Closed Captions". Flip that switch to the "On" position (usually to the right).
    • In classrooms with touch-panel control systems, press the button near the bottom of the panel labeled "Closed Captions" to turn them on. If the button is red, they are on. If it is black they are off.  Please note that the "Closed Captions" button does not appear on the touch screen unless "VHS" (or DVD) is selected as a source.

Turning on Captions Online There are many different video platforms used online, and these instructions will not cover all of them.  Here’s how to access captions on some common players.

    • YouTube:  Locate the “CC” symbol on the lower right of the YouTube video window.  Click it to turn captions on.  Again, if it says “English (auto-generated),” the captions may be inaccurate and unintelligible. If so, do not use them; instead, ask the DRC to have the video captioned properly.
    • Vimeo: Like YouTube, the Vimeo video window has a “CC” symbol in blue on the lower right.  Click on it to turn on captions.  You can also select available languages.
    • TED Talks:  Most TED Talks are subtitled.  Click on the play button (then you may want to pause while you turn on subtitles).  Click on the subtitles icon.  A new window appears where you can choose your language.  Click on the language you want and close the window.  Your video will play with subtitles