There will inevitably come a time in every attorney’s career when theyare faced with the task of conducting a video deposition. We would like to share some insights regarding this process to help make it as seamless and productive as possible for you.
Most legal videographers are independent contractors who are hired by court reporting agencies to represent them during the proceeding. As most court reporters are certified, so too are legal videographers through the NCRA or AGCV. This is important because certain standards should be followed to ensure certification of the deposition video meets acceptable standards and procedures and thereby is not challenged if shown in court.
The videographer is part of the legal community as a non-biased representative of services and should dress accordingly. The legal videographer’s job is to videotape the deposition and not be a distraction to the proceedings.
When the deposition starts, the legal videographer will do a read-on stating the date, time, witness, the case and case number, the court it is in, location of the deposition, his/her name and that of the court reporter too. He/she will then ask all lawyers present to introduce themselves for the record, after which the court reporter will swear in the witness. There are times where the examining lawyer does not want to do a read-on. The legal videographer will ensure that the attorneys representing the plaintiff and defendant are in agreement not to do a read-on or do a shortened read-on before moving forward with the deposition.
What challenges does the legal videographer face when videotaping a deposition?
First, doing a deposition in a closet is not good for the videographer, court reporter, lawyers and/or witness…nor is a bathroom or an exam room (come on, we’ve all been there!) However, there are times when limited space is all that is available. Preferably, the deposition should be taken in a conference room, but break-out rooms, even lobbies have been used. Your videographer will do their best to set up the room so that you will be comfortable with the setting. We do the best we can under the circumstances.
Videographers will come with a lot of fancy equipment. It is more than just a camera and tripod. It additionally includes audio mixer, video capture equipment, audio cables, microphones, background screen, and so on. The word “tape,” as in “videotape,” has been changed to “media”. Almost all legal videographers record directly to DVD or a capture card. In the past, when the “tape” was about to run out, the videographer would provide a 5-minute warning and hope that the lawyer did not go beyond the tape running out. With DVDs and other captured devices the recording time limits are luckily much longer.
Importance of quality audio
First, you want the best audio possible. Below are some of the issues a videographer deals with and how they can affect the quality of your videotaped deposition.
Generally, the videographer will arrive at the deposition site one hour before it is scheduled to start. This provides enough time to set up equipment, run microphone cable, set up background screen and test equipment prior to lawyers and the court reporter arriving. There are times when the deposition is set up for 7:00 a.m. for a doctor, but no one shows up to open the location until 7:00 a.m. This obviously would waste the time of the lawyer and the deponent (almost always a doctor). It is better to set up these depositions after normal business hours or other free time convenient to all parties.
The Heavy Breather
Microphones in the deposition setting are very sensitive. Some lawyers, who we’ll call “Heavy Breathers”, will wear their microphone in close proximity to their face (nose) so that when they are looking at their notes their heavy breathing is picked up on the video recording. The videographer can often find themselves adjusting audio to minimize the noise when the lawyer is not speaking.
The Note Flipper
The “Note Flipper” is the lawyer who is going through their notes flipping pages toward their chest hitting the microphone and causing extreme static on the audio recording. To avoid being cast as the dreaded “Note Flipper”, attempt to keep all note flipping as quiet and as unobtrusive as possible.
The lawyer who shuffles papers on the desk will often create enough noise (microphones are sensitive) to be distracting. Understandably, looking for an exhibit in a pile on the table can often be frustrating for the “Shuffler”; nevertheless, it can cause audio issues. Yes, your videographer should be using a sound board (audio mixer) to adjust inputs to minimize these audio issues, but often it can be a challenge of balancing testimony and these other noises in the room.
The videographer will be shooting at an angle that is normally mid chest to just above the head of the witness. In most cases, laptops, drinks, and so on are not in the camera’s view. But there are those times when a lawyer will “reach” forward with a document into the camera view to read, and often it is their witness. This will be distracting to a jury, as will the heavy breather, note flipper, and shuffler.
The videographer will do their best to ensure there is a clear path between the camera viewing lens and the witness, i.e., laptops, drinks, etc. Make a mental note to not obstruct or interfere with the picture or risk the wrath of the videographer!
The Angle of the Camera
If the ordering attorney has a specific desire on how they want the videographer to set up, they should let them or the agency they work with of their preference, i.e., over their shoulder or long shot where the witness sits at the end of the table. Your videographer normally takes 30 to 40 minutes to set up and test their equipment. To re set-up equipment at the time of the deposition will take time and also be distracting.
There is the chance that this video will be shown to a jury, so you want it to look as best as possible. So here are some do’s and don’ts for your witness:
Don’ts for men and ladies is to not wear sweat shirts or t-shirts to their deposition. A nice shirt or blouse, preferably a solid color, presents itself much better than stripes or zig zag patterns on the video. The videographer will place a Lavalier microphone on the witness for audio recording. If the microphone cannot be attached to a jacket lapel, tie or buttoned shirt, its appearance on the video can be distracting. In rare cases a small tripod mounted microphone can be used, but the method of clipping the microphone on the witness’s clothing is preferred.
If this is your witness, you want them to present themselves as best as they can as this video may end up being viewed by a jury. As they say, “What you are speaks so loudly I can hardly hear a word you are saying!”
Ladies should wear clothing that a Lavalier microphone can be attached to and not brush against their hair. There is a balance between distance of the microphone to the voice and quality of the audio. If this becomes a problem, the videographer should use a small tripod with the microphone attached and place it on the table in front of the witness out of camera view. The audio level can be adjusted by the videographer, though the quality will be about 90% of normal.
What are some popular formats for the DVD?
During the deposition, the legal videographer will put the deposition on and off the record for each media used. At the end of the deposition, the legal videographer will ask each lawyer what format they want the video delivered in. If they have a standing order with the court reporting agency, that will be noted. Most lawyers order DVD or Synched DVD. The Synched DVD is when the video is synched up with the transcript through trial presentation software so you can see the transcript on one side of the screen and the corresponding video on the other side of the screen. This allows one to jump around with the transcript from one line to another and the corresponding video clip will appear too.
Periodically lawyers will ask for an mp4 or mpeg-4 format, which they can play on their tablet or laptop. For the attorney who scheduled the deposition, the DVD is provided as part of the contracted service. If they wish for the video to be synched or converted to mpeg-4, or other format, there is normally an additional fee.
When the deposition is over
Finally, it takes time for the legal videographer to pack up after the deposition is over. He/she should make sure that the room the deposition was held in is returned to its original layout and all extras, such as empty drink bottles, papers, etc., are properly thrown away, and leave the room as clean and orderly as possible. Those who work at the facility will greatly appreciate this effort. No one wants to be left with a mess.
So now it’s finally time to sigh a huge breath of relief and congratulate yourself as you have successfully completed your video deposition. And always remember to relax and show them your best side. After all, the spotlight is indeed on you!
About the Author: At Queen City Court Reporting, you are our main priority. We tailor our services to meet your needs and will provide accurate, dependable, and experienced reporters. Contact us at 704-300-9770 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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