Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Video Deposition Tips.

The witness is a doctor who had surgery duties today and he or she is exhausted. Opposing counsel prepped them while you waited in the lobby with the court reporter for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, the videographer walks out to the lobby to verify the equipment is setup and the prep session is over. You sit patiently and wonder if the sound of your stomach rumbling with hunger pains will be captured by the microphone. What else could go wrong? Unfortunately, in a video deposition much more.

My big break in the litigation support industry was about 15 years ago. I took what I thought was a summer job as a legal videographer. Little did I know what was about to happen in terms of my career path. I only lay that foundation because even now so many years later little has changed with video depositions. OK, sure now we have better technology but the basic underlying mistakes made are the same. So I just thought I would share a few tips and observations here on my blog.

There are many legal videographers, different certifications and various levels of experience. Depending on who you use mileage will vary. This brings me to my next suggestion of researching who you retain. There is nothing worse then dusting off some DVD to use at trial two years later to learn the quality absolutely stinks. Now the video is in the can and you are stuck with what you have.

Many firms rely on their chosen court reporter to select a videographer which I have always considered a risk. Would you let your court reporter select the rest of your experts as well?  Even if the agency has its own in house video staff ask for examples of their work before you use them. Let us not forget our jury is full of visual learners who are assaulted by media on a daily basis. Low quality video is something they expect to see with old family movies and not trial presentations.

Once at the video deposition be sure to comply with your videographers’ request to turn off handheld devices. There is nothing worse then the constant buzz created by a Blackberry during a video deposition. Or worse an interruption with some ridiculous ring tone during an important question/answer. Take a break and check your email or text messages out in the hall. Again your jury will be unforgiving of these noises during playback at trial.

Another helpful tip is to be in control of your microphone. Many amateur videographers’ place it and never follow-up when it has shifted. The microphone should never be so low on your tie or blouse that it can be covered by flipping up a some papers or leaning forward on a table. Remember muffled questions, answers and audio in general lead to a ruined video deposition. Be mindful of where microphones are and don’t cover them up (or worse your mouth) in any way.

Your positioning during the video is important as well. This is especially true if the deponent is your witness. Seat yourself as close to the camera as possible so the witness is addressing the jury (camera) with their answers. Watching the side of someone’s head because the case team insisted on sitting right next to them at the conference table never looks good.

Finally, if you are just doing a straight video shoot and not using PIP (picture in picture) technology take your time with visual exhibits. Always provide your videographer with time to zoom in on any film or demonstrative being used. The best practice is to go off the video record and set everything up to avoid any confusion. This just makes for a cleaner video and much nicer presentation. The old adage of haste makes waste could not ring any more true!