AI Subtitles vs. Human Subtitlers: Pros and Cons


AI-generated subtitles are produced at a higher speed and a lower cost. Given that the content landscape is becoming increasingly competitive and there’s an ever-increasing emphasis on content volume, AI subtitles offer a low-cost way to practically scale content captioning.

However, the problem with AI captions is that they are never 100% reliable. Human oversight is required because the captioning algorithm can make mistakes. Some AI algorithms are better at content captioning than others. Just like some humans are better at subtitling than others.

You cannot see the effectiveness of human subtitlers by seeing how well a baby captions content. Similarly, you cannot judge AI's capacity to caption videos by seeing a weak algorithm try to do the job.

The following options reflect AI’s content subtitling ability more accurately:

AI-powered captioning platform Relevant use case ContentFries Auto-generating captions for videos Generating a text transcript from audio Instagram Stories Optimizing stories for sound-off play


Ai Subtitles: A Brief Overview

If you try the platforms listed above, you’ll realize that subtitling AI is 99% of the way there. One human can now do the work of 10 to 20 subtitlers by leveraging AI and just proofing the result. In fact, many freelance subtitlers use AI to do their work.

AI can caption content from native English speakers, especially in America, with nearly a hundred percent accuracy. AI can find accents challenging, which keeps human subtitlers relevant.

When your audio is fed to a content captioning AI, it is converted into digital signals that are compared against the AI’s knowledge base.

The algorithm might know what “hello” looks like when converted to a digital signal. But if someone with an accent says the word, the digital signal might look like “high low.” A human would, however, know that “heylo” or “halooo” is the same as hello because of additional knowledge and context.

Since the missing element is context, this gap is set to be filled once AI algorithms are given broader data sets to learn from.

AI algorithms are efficient not just in their output capacity but also in their information intake. AI can learn quicker than humans, so complete reliance on AI captioning is likely to come about in the next five years. And the greatest indicator of this is the increase in AI adoption.


The Pros And Cons Of Ai Subtitles

To understand why AI subtitling solutions like ContentFries are getting adopted at such a rapid pace, you must know the advantages current AI captioning programs offer. Below are the pros and cons of AI captions.

Pro: AI Captioning is Scalable

The foremost advantage that AI captioning programs have over standard human subtitlers is their transcription quantity. AI can caption in five minutes a video that takes a human 30 minutes to caption. There are no stress and motivation factors lowering the quality or quantity of AI captions.

In a way, AI can offset one of the preeminent drawbacks of human subtitlers: it gets the work done. And given the content landscape today, getting work done is more important than perfection. So, why hasn't AI taken over content captioning completely?

Con: AI Algorithms Can Vary In Effectiveness

AI might have taken over 90% of transcription work, but it hasn't replaced human subtitlers completely because it is not 100% error-free. More importantly, there are some AI programs that aren't even 50% error-free. Since creators don't know which content captioning program to invest in, they resort to hiring people they can hold accountable.

Those people, in turn, use high-quality content captioning solutions like ContentFries and proofread the output before handing it over to content creators. It is only a matter of time before most creators learn that what they’re paying hundreds of dollars for is actually executed by AI for a lot less.

Pro: AI Captions Are Cheaper

A major reason behind AI subtitles' success is their price point. Sure, you may need to read through the subtitles to weed out any inaccuracies, but it is worth it because of how cheap it is. Human subtitlers cost $10/hr on the low end.

Even if they are among the most productive transcribers in the world, they can transcribe no more than 15 minutes of audio in an hour.

In contrast, a $9 ContentFries subscription gets you 100 minutes of transcription alongside a wide range of easy video editing and repurposing workflow. Not only do you get the text transcript, but you also get the captions superimposed on your video. It would cost $60+ to get the same output from the cheapest human subtitler.

So why would someone use human labor over AI labor for subtitling? Because videos are meant to be consumed by humans. If you use ContentFries, you have to play the role of judging the captions for human consumption. And if you hire a captioning assistant, he/she will do that job. The actual transcription will still most likely be done by AI.

Con: AI Cannot Process Or Emphasize Emotions

AI subtitles require human intervention before they’re ready for human consumption. Because AI cannot understand humor, it cannot withhold a punchline until the presenter utters it. This leads to a mishap where the captions spoil the punchline ahead of time.

Humor isn’t the only thing AI can miss. Sometimes, AI can misunderstand words or downplay emotions.

Imagine an Actor in your video saying, “If you don’t listen to me, you will Die. You will Perish.” Her voice is full of rage. The captions have to reflect that, right?

Something like:

“If you don’t listen to me…”

"You will DIE."

“You will PERISH!”

AI might produce something like:

"If you don't listen to me, you will."

"Die. You will perish."

With human oversight, the captions can be adjusted for maximum effect. AI may generate text that corresponds with the words in an audio or video track, but it cannot produce a humorous or dramatic effect. Fortunately, most captions don’t need to be timed dramatically or withheld for humor’s sake.

Pro: AI Can Transcribe Live Broadcasts

Humans may have the upper hand when it comes to timing captions for maximum emotional impact, but AI has an edge over real-time transcription. Many secretaries take minutes (meeting transcript) for a living. They are very good at listening and typing at a fast pace. Still, they cannot transcribe a live broadcast in real time.

AI is pretty good at transcribing words just as they are spoken. Otter AI’s workflow is an obvious example of that. You can see your words turn to words, albeit with a slight delay.

AI subtitles’ format versatility is an asset that makes AI captioning more relevant to the new content landscape. Instagram has already started autocaptioning Reels while offering an autocaptioning function for Stories. Twitch’s live subtitles are powered by AI and make its content more accessible.

Hearing-impaired and neurodivergent people can now enjoy live content as much as they enjoy pre-recorded and captioned videos. And AI gets the credit for that.

Con: AI Subtitles Require Human Proofreaders

The standard for live captions is much lower than for pre-recorded videos. Whether people understand AI or not, they know that live captions are "computer generated." They don't scrutinize errors in live transcripts as much as they point out captioning errors in pre-recorded content.

So, while you can automate live captions, you need to proof pre-generated captions manually. This drawback of AI captions will persist for the foreseeable future, but there will be a decrease in the degree of attention with which humans have to police AI subtitles.


Human Proof Readers: A Brief Overview

By now, you understand that AI subtitles are set to make up a majority of the content subtitles in the future. But you can also see why human intervention will remain necessary. AI can take the workload from humans. However, it cannot make them obsolete in the content captioning space because of their strengths.

Pro: Humans Can Identify Nuances

Humans' greatest strength in this context is their ability to understand the content they're trying to caption. AI, no matter how brilliant it may seem, is simply processing signals according to its training. It treats signals from audio as data and produces a result that's similar to what it has been trained to produce.

Humans can tell how to time captions for maximum emotional impact. They can withhold the punchline and adjust the emphasis of certain words. Most top-tier podcasters have dedicated video editors to work on their short form content.

That's because human editors can make certain aspects pop. They can change the size of the text where the words must be bold. They can animate some sentences more to reflect the high energy of the speaker.

AI is making strides in taking some queues into account. While AI doesn’t know what passion is, it can be programmed to enlarge the captions when the speaker’s voice is loud. It can also tell speakers apart with voice recognition elements. But it cannot beat humans at understanding human nuances.

Con: Humans Are More Expensive Than AI

What AI can beat humans at is the economic game. Humans are more expensive than AI, at least in the content captioning space. Even those who hire humans cannot afford to exclude AI from their operations. The humans they hire use AI to increase their output and proof captions.

If AI is less expensive, why is there a market for human subtitlers? Not all content captioning roles involve proofing AI-generated transcripts. Why are people still hiring humans? Because some people like to pay a premium for additional perks.

Pro: Humans Can Adjust To Project Demand Alterations

Even though humans are expensive, those who can afford them prefer to hire them because they can adapt their work to the project brief. Suppose you want certain expletives censored. A human may be able to adjust his transcription to reflect what you want. An AI program might not.

Surely, an engineer can program an algorithm to censor specific words. But the average Youtuber won’t know how to get his AI-powered app to pull this off.

AI-generated captions can help people access the basic content of the video in a text format. That's perfect for those with hearing disabilities. But if you want to caption your content to make it more engaging, you have to consider aspects like caption font, size, and duration.

ContentFries has plenty of high-engagement templates that can help you maximize audience retention. But most AI-powered transcription programs simply spit out a text transcript, making human intervention critical.

Small creators can personally make the changes required. This is economical until they’re making enough money from their content to hire someone else to handle caption management for them. Then, their headache is getting the right person.

Con: Humans Can Be Inconsistent

Let’s talk about human inconsistency for a moment. When it comes to the best AI subtitling programs, you have less than 10 options to consider. It is very easy to study and compare all possible choices. You can even see reviews and experiences of other creators.

Here is a video where a creator goes over her experience with ContentFries.

Compare that to humans. You cannot possibly compare all possible humans who offer content captioning. And the advantages of human subtitlers are as good as the quality of your hire.

Human inconsistency throws a wrench in the scalability of your operation.

On one hand, a subtitler might be really good at understanding words uttered with heavy accents. On the other, he might not be able to transcribe more than one video in a day, or he may transcribe 10 videos when he's in a good mood and get sick when you're counting on 10 videos.

While human inconsistency has been a never-ending struggle for HR managers everywhere, AI inconsistency has been correlating with machine learning. For now, human workers retain their relevance by being better at interfacing with each other.

Pro: Humans Can Collaborate And Coordinate With Each Other

Human subtitlers are better equipped to understand the needs of their clients. Filmmakers and content creators save a lot of time talking to a human than figuring out which buttons to press to get a specific result.

For those who can afford dedicated video editors, part of the appeal is the ease with which they can have their ideas executed.

AI might become better at coordinating and collaborating with humans and other digital tools once prompt engineering becomes common. For now, AI is relatively inaccessible to anyone who doesn't know her way around a digital interface.

Humans, like the ones who designed ContentFries, understand this limitation. That's why ContentFries can be used by people with zero editing experience. Moreover, the platform gives creators the option to upload fonts that align with their respective brands.

ContentFries’ founders understand that AI cannot understand and make those choices for creators. That’s why they have made their editing platform conducive to human input.

Con: Humans Can Make Mistakes

Of course, part and parcel of human input is human error. Having a human proofread AI subtitles can work, but what if the human makes a mistake? You have to prove humans' work as well. Doesn't that define the purpose of human subtitlers, which is to be accurate?

If AI makes 5 mistakes and a human makes 1, then both their works need proofing. The difference is that you can hold humans accountable. And that’s a significant difference.


Which One Should You Use?

With the pros and cons of human subtitlers and AI-generated subtitles out of the way, it is time to address the larger question: which one should you use? The short answer is that it depends on your situation, budget, and scale of operations.

This section will be the long answer that dives into situation markers. You'll find out the markers that point to AI subtitles being good for you, as well as identifiers that shout, "Hire a human!!!"

If Content Creation Is Your Side Hustle, Use AI Subtitles

Fresh content creators make the mistake of front-loading their ventures with expenses. Content creation is a long game, and you need to be fiscally nimble. You have to be able to sustain your expenses until you monetize your content.

If your day job is financing your content, you need to be budget-smart and choose an AI captioning program. That way, you can get hundreds of well-captioned videos for under $20.

If You Make More Than $100/Month From Your Content: Use A Human Editor

At some point, your time is spent on better things than generating content captions. Even if you use an AI-powered platform like ContentFries, which generates 30+ pieces of content in a few minutes, you cannot be your own video editor forever.

Generally, when your content starts making $100 per month, you should hire your first team member. This frees up your time to think of new content ideas, seek collaborations, and pay attention to your audience.

If You're A Control Freak, Use AI Subtitles

Many Youtubers and influencers like to take a foot off the pedal and let their teams handle smaller tasks for them. But that style of operation isn’t for everyone. The craftsman archetype is too proud and too invested to delegate. If you’re that type and will obsess over script accuracy, then you should use AI and monitor the captions yourself.

If You're Disorganized And Messy, Use a Human Editor

Disorganized individuals find it particularly challenging to follow through on small tasks. Hiring a human editor can help you pump out videos on a consistent basis if you find it hard to do the same things over and over. Many creative individuals fall into this category.

If You Like To Edit Your Own Videos, Use AI Subtitles

Every creator has an aspect of her work that she enjoys. For some, it is the editing process. If you like to edit your videos, then there's no need to get someone else to do the work you like. When editing your own videos, though, you can use AI subtitles to speed things up.

If You Have A Heavy Accent, Use a Human Editor

Finally, if you have a thick accent that is too tough to crack even for accent-smart AI like ContentFries auto-captioning engine, you should hire a human editor. Make sure the editor belongs to the same region as you, as he/she'll be better equipped to understand and accommodate your accent.


Final Thoughts

Subtitling is a rote task that many humans find boring. Fortunately, AI is taking over this work and elevating previous transcribers to the role of caption editors. Human oversight is still required for timing and optimization. But for the most part, content captions are now generated with AI. If you want to give AI auto-captions a try, get a free account in ContentFries.