Caption Software vs. Captioning Service - Which works best for me?

Traditionally, bringing closed captioning in-house just wasn't feasible for most organizations, due to the high cost of the necessary hardware and software--not to mention the specialized training required to run the system. However, recent advances in affordable and easy-to-use closed captioning software encoders have made it possible for anyone to create their own closed captions, right from their NLE system. These advances have eliminated the need for expensive hardware and put closed captioning skills within the reach of content providers. 

However, most people still hire a caption service provider to handle all of their captioning needs. With affordable captioning software available, why would organizations want to use a captioning service? 

The Case for Captioning Services
Most captioning services can deliver your captioned videos quickly, with a two- to five-day turnaround. If you're overwhelmed by a large amount of captioning, it makes sense to get help from an outside source. Likewise, if you have a project with particularly complex captioning requirements, hiring a captioning service can save you frustration and even costly mistakes. 

Another reason to use a captioning service is if you need closed captioning infrequently. Why invest the time and money into a software product if you'll only be using it periodically? And, some organizations decide that they simply do not have the time or resources to devote to captioning, so they prefer to always outsource this service. Depending on your individual needs, hiring a captioning service may be the best option.  

The Case for Captioning Software
Although you may experience situations where hiring a service is ideal, closed captioning software can be a great option, too. Closed captioning software has never been easier to use. In fact, most people are ready to begin creating their own captions after just a 30-minute training session. Advances in end-user software workflows are slowly, but steadily, helping to reduce the complexity of closed captioning. Now, it is practical for most editors with modest NLE systems to do their own captioning--even in HD. 

Even if you use a service for the bulk of your captioning needs, having the ability to edit and convert for the Web and other formats, closed captions in-house can be extremely useful. For example, if you need to make a last-minute edit or correction, you will be able to do so without having to print a new un-captioned tape, and then wait several days for the service company to make a new captioned master. If you need multiple versions of a program for different markets, you can have the service company do the bulk of the captioning work and make the small changes yourself, without incurring additional fees.  

Using software will also allow you to re-use and convert closed captions you have done on past projects. For example, if you want to take a captioned tape from your library and re-master it for DVD, Blu-ray, or the web, you can convert the closed captions on the master into captions or subtitles for any other delivery method.

A Note on Transcriptions
When you caption in-house, it is important to create a transcription for each of your videos. The bulk of the closed captioning work occurs in the transcription step, during which the dialogue and audio cues of the program have to be entered as computer text. This step is very labor-intensive. Having a script can drastically cut down the time required for this step. Captioning in-house may be time-consuming, but can it also save a lot of money.

The Best of Both Worlds
If you're like many organizations, when it comes to closed captioning needs, you'll benefit from having the best of both worlds. Creating a custom solution, from a combination of service and software, is an effective way to tackle all your captioning needs. Look for a captioning service provider that also offers captioning software. Not only will you have access to qualified client support for the software, but you'll also have a service provider who is ready to tackle your more complex captioning services for you.

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