What exactly are closed captions? Are there open captions? Should you add them to your live stream, and how exactly you go about doing that? In our comprehensive guide to closed captioning for your Twitch stream, we will answer all these questions and more!
What are captions?
Not all captions are created equal! While there are various styles, formats, and types of captioning, the underlying idea is to convert audio content into text. That text is then displayed over the video enabling your content to reach a broader audience, including deaf or hard of hearing individuals.
Captions vs Subtitles
While colloquially, people generally mean the same thing, captions contain more information than just what is being said. Often, captions display essential sounds that are happening that add to or clarify what is happening on screen. To add to the confusion, in the United States and Canada, the terms have clearly defined meanings, whereas most other countries rely on the general term “subtitles”. Closed captioning on Twitch more closely represents subtitles, with the rare exception of a few large live events. Here, captions are typically typed out live by a stenographer and may cover more than what is just being said.
Open vs Closed Captioning
Closed captioning is the process of encoding all that transcribed audio into the video feed and allowing the end-user to control when the text is visible or hidden. Open captions are used by some streamers and integrated directly into their overlays in a set location with a style that fits their branding.
Why should you add captions to your stream?
Captions allow for your content to be accessible to a much broader audience. Someone in a noisy location can enable captions to understand better what’s happening in a stream. Maybe you’re in a library and need the audio low or muted but still want to know what’s going on. Reading what’s being said while watching the video can also help with better understanding the content.
Available programs and plugins
While this list isn’t all-inclusive, it should give you some solid choices. We’ve split it into two separate categories – Twitch Extensions and 3rd party solutions. Before we dive into the extensions available directly on Twitch, we’ll cover how exactly to find and install extensions. If you’re already familiar with this, skip ahead to the programs below!
How to Install Extensions on Twitch
Since installation will remain the same no matter what extension you choose, we’ll cover that here first. Twitch extensions allow for an interactive experience embedded directly into the Twitch player or panel section below your stream. This makes it a perfect place to integrate closed captions with your stream, as viewers can decide customization preferences or whether to enable it or not.
To start, you’ll need to navigate to your Twitch Dashboard and click the Extensions tab on the left-hand side. If you’re already logged into Twitch, you can go directly to dashboard.twitch.tv/extensions. From here, you can browse the wide selection of extensions or search for specific ones by name. Once you’ve found something you like, click the “Install” button located to the right of the extension. A pop-up will ask if you’re like to configure your extension right away or continue browsing. It’s also worth mentioning here that while you can only have 1 active overlay extension at a time, there’s no limit on how many extensions you can install and configure.
The configuration will vary but can be accessed by clicking the cog/gear icon for each extension. Once installed, you’ll find it located under the “My Extensions” tab. An extension won’t work on your steam until it’s been activated. Click the “Activate” button located under the extension you wish to enable and assign it to the appropriate slot. For a more detailed look, be sure to check out Twitch’s extensive How to use Extensions article.
Closed Captioning Extensions on Twitch
From the extensions page, type “captions” into the search bar located in the upper-right section of the page. Here you’ll find all currently available closed captioning extensions. Currently, the “Meditek Close Captions” configuration page is broken, so we’ve left that out for now.
Closed Captions for Streams: Once installed, you can activate it as either a panel, component, or overlay from the “My Extensions” tab. You can configure the extension by going to https://cc.alejo.io/guide and following the simple setup guide.
Stream Closed Captioner: While having fewer available configurations with only an Overlay option, setting up Stream Closed Captioner is still super simple. Once you’ve activated it, click on the gear icon on the extension and follow the steps.
Both of these options require you to log in with your Twitch account and have an additional browser window open to record your microphone input. While having additional tabs open might bother some people, the simplicity of integrating captions into your stream through extensions makes this a great option for someone just getting started.
OBS Plugin: The great thing about using the OBS plugin is it doesn’t require an additional open chrome window! It provides a much cleaner look on your end and displays directly in your OBS. Because this works using Twitch’s Closed Captioning capabilities, these captions stay on your VOD and allow your viewers to use Twitch’s integrated built-in controls to change font size, colour, or turn them on or off. The plugin also supports captioning of all the stream audio, not just a single source. It provides additional safety features, such as only captioning your microphone when it’s active and unmuted. There’s also a ton of other options to check out! You can find it directly through the OBS forums or by checking out the source code on GitHub. There’s also a great video tutorial from SnugiBun on installing the OBS Plugin that shows you step-by-step how to add it.
While open captions offer less flexibility for your viewers, it allows you full control over the captions’ placement, sizing, colour, and general look. They’re baked into your VOD automatically as it’s a part of your stream. These methods also require you to keep a browser window open while using it. This can sometimes be an issue when needing to remember to open up the browser each time.
Web Captioner: Web Captioner does exactly what you might think. It provides real-time captioning directly in your web browser. It allows for you to save your file to keep a history of your transcripts, censor blocked words and is even able to recognize speed in over 40 different languages and dialects. To add to your stream, you can add it as a browser source in OBS, SLOBS, XSplit, Lightstream, etc. Unlike some of the previous methods discussed here, Web Captioner doesn’t require you to connect your Twitch account and is exceptionally easy to run. It offers a decent array of options to customize and requires browser permission to use your microphone! You can check it out by visiting https://webcaptioner.com/.
Pixel Chat: While this application also utilizes Google’s advanced Speech-to-Text engine via an open browser window, it offers something fairly unique; multi-captions. If you’re co-streaming, you can send those you’re streaming with a one-time use link. From here, they can enter their name, and their captions will show up in the overlay with yours! You can learn more about the Pixel Chat closed captions overlay here: https://pixelchat.tv/overlay/PixelCC
PubNub: While it gets the job done, Twitch Subtitles by Stream Elements on PubNub leaves a lot to be desired. Customization options are limited to some premade styles, and there’s no option to “start recording” – your microphone is always actively being listened to while on the page. Setup is straightforward, where you’re provided with a custom link to paste directly into a browser source.
Whether you decide to use open or closed captions, you’re making your content more accessible to a wider audience. This is extremely important, both from an accessibility perspective and a discoverability perspective. Once you’ve added captions, don’t forget to add a closed caption tag for your stream! This allows people to find your stream using the tag. You can also include it in your title (CC or OC). There’s a wide range of free tools available, so whether you go with a Twitch extension, a browser captioner, or the OBS plugin, you’re sure to find something that meets your needs.