Video and Audio Checklist

Quick Checklist for Video and Audio


Elements of Quality Captions

As adapted from the Described and Captioned Media Program's (DCMP) Captioning Key

  • Accurate: Errorless captions are the goal for each production.
  • Consistent: Uniformity in style and presentation of all captioning features is crucial for viewer understanding.
  • Clear: A complete textual representation of the audio, including speaker identification and non-speech information, provides clarity.
  • Readable: Captions are displayed with enough time to be read completely, are in synchronization with the audio, and are not obscured by (nor do they obscure) the visual content.
  • Equal: Equal access requires that the meaning and intention of the material is completely preserved.


  • Captions appear on-screen long enough to be read, at least one second and usually no more than six seconds.
  • No more than two lines per caption.
  • Captions are synchronized with spoken words.
  • Speakers should be identified when more than one person is on-screen or when the speaker is not visible,
  • Punctuation is used to clarify meaning.
  • Spelling is correct throughout the production.
  • Sound effects are written when they add to understanding.
  • All actual words are captioned, regardless of language or dialect.
  • Use of slang and accent is preserved and identified.

If Captioning Tool Permits

  • Nouns and verbs are not separated from their modifiers.
  • Prepositional phrases remain on the same line.
  • Italics is effective when a new word is being defined or a word is heavily emphasized in speech.
  • Translating speech to text sometimes requires creative use of punctuation, but always remember the rules of good grammar.

Caption Guidelines

Caption Placement

  • Placement must not interfere with existing visuals/graphics.
  • In the case where essential sound effects are used simultaneously with dialogue that is captioned, the captions that identify the sound effects should be placed on the first line.
  • When a person is thinking or dreaming, use italicized captions and add a description in brackets, such as the word "thinking" before the captioned thoughts.

Line Division

  • Do not break a person's name nor a title from the name with which it is associated.
  • Do not end one sentence and begin a new one on the same line.
  • Do not break a modifier from the word it modifies.
  • Do not break a line after a conjunction.
  • Do not break a prepositional phrase.


  • Characters need to be in a non-serif font similar to Helvetica medium, easily readable, and include upper- and lowercase letters.
  • Font is usually white letters on a black background.


  • Do not caption the same, or nearly the same, information that is already shown onscreen.


  • Do not emphasize a word using all capital letters except to indicate screaming.
  • Be consistent in the spelling of words throughout the media.


  • When captioning music, use objective descriptions that indicate the mood. Avoid subjective words, such as "delightful," "beautiful," or "melodic."
  • If music contains lyrics, caption the lyrics verbatim. The lyrics should be introduced with the name of the vocalist/vocal group, the title (in brackets) if known/significant, and if the presentation rate permits.
  • Caption lyrics with music icons (♪) if available, or hashtag symbols (#). Use one music icon at the beginning and end of each caption within a song but use two music icons at the end of the last line of a song.
  • For background music that is not important to the content of the program, use a single music icon.


  • When a speaker is interrupted and another speaker finishes the sentence, the interruption should be conveyed by double hyphens or a single long dash.
  • When a speaker stutters, caption what is said.
  • Use an ellipsis when there is a significant pause within a caption.
  • Beginning quotation marks should be used for each caption of quoted material except for the last caption. The last caption should have only the ending quotation mark.
  • Use italics to indicate an offscreen voice-over reading, when a person is dreaming, thinking, or reminiscing, offscreen dialogue.

Sound Effects

  • A description of sound effects, in brackets, should include the source of the sound unless the source of the sound is visible onscreen.
  • Include onomatopoeia when possible.
  • Caption background sound effects only when they're essential to the plot.
  • Use specific rather than vague, general terms to describe sounds.

Speaker Identification

  • When a speaker’s name is known, the speaker's name should be in brackets.
  • When a speaker’s name is unknown, identify the speaker using the same information a hearing viewer has (e.g., [FEMALE #1], [MALE NARRATOR]).
  • If there is only one narrator, identify as [MALE NARRATOR] or [FEMALE NARRATOR] at the beginning of the media. It is not necessary to identify gender for each caption thereafter.
  • When an actor is portraying another person or character, identify the actor as the person being portrayed.


  • Caption the actual foreign words. If it is not possible to caption the words, use a description (e.g., [SPEAKING FRENCH]). Never translate into English.
  • Indicate regional accent at the beginning of the first caption, if known.
  • Keep the flavor of dialect and the speaker's language.
  • When a word is spoken phonetically, caption it the way it is commonly written.