Captions aren’t only about the speech. Descriptive captions describe anything audible which isn’t spoken. This could be the tone of voice, a significant, non-verbal sound made by a speaker, a substantial interruption which blocks out speech, media being played within a recording – the list goes on.
Whatever the case, descriptive captions are all formatted the same way – (ALL CAPITALS), in round brackets (parentheses).
Here are some commonly used descriptive captions:
|(LAUGHS), (LAUGHTER)||Use if there’s a significant reaction by either the speaker or the audience, so the viewer gets the joke.|
|(OVERLAPPING SPEECH), (CROSSTALK)||Sometimes speakers will talk over or interrupt each other. Caption everything you can make out,
but if the speech isn’t clear, use this label.
|(PHONE RINGS), (DOOR SLAMS)||Common interruptions which might occur in talks or lectures. Only use if referred to by the speaker or
if they block out audio.
|(WHISPERING), (SARCASTICALLY)||Used to indicate the tone of voice. Use only if necessary for understanding.
Eg. “(WHISPERING) But don’t tell anyone.” “(SARCASTICALLY) I’m so excited for class today.”
|(VIDEO PLAYING), (VIDEO STOPPED)||Sometimes speakers will play media within a lecture or presentation. These labels don’t replace captions – if there is audible speech, sound effects or music, this must be captioned as usual.|
|(WHISTLES), (SNAPS FINGERS), (SIGHS HEAVILY)||Common sounds that speakers might make during talks. Only use if they add meaning to speech.
Eg. “And it was gone, just like… (SNAPS FINGERS).” “(SIGHS HEAVILY) I’ve had a tough day.”
|(CLASSROOM CHATTER), (AUDIO DISTORTS),
|Use when there is any significant break in audio, not just natural pauses during speech. Make these captions five seconds long, and begin captioning with a speaker label when captionable content resumes.|
More questions? See our Recorded Captioning Style Guide.