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Video Deposition Disasters…Tips On How You Can Avoid Them

This article is from Trial Tutors website. Trial Tutors is a division of The Exhibit Company. The article is worth sharing, so I posted it here in our blog. Mark Wolfington

Video Deposition Disasters…Tips On How You Can Avoid Them

We specialize in helping clients with their in-trial technology using both TrialDirector and Sanction. After thousands of hours in the hot seat, our techs have learned a thing or two about what can really throw a monkey wrench into pre-trial preparation.

Recently our shop has seen a slew of really bad depositions so our techs have requested that we share the top 5 problems they have seen and ways you can help alleviate disaster on the eve of trial.

Horrible Synchronization

Syncing is the process of matching up the video from the videographer with the transcript from the court reporter. [More Info:What is Synchronization]. In the old days, someone literally had to sit in front of a computer and watch the video in real-time and match up the transcript. It was tedious and expensive. But, the benefits of being able to quickly access any part of your deposition by typing in the page/line was invaluable in preparing for trial and for making the ultimate cuts to be used in the courtroom.

Today, there are programs that will help synchronize deposition video with the transcript. That is both a good thing and a bad thing. It is good that the process is a bit more automated because after the computer takes a crack at matching up the transcript, the person synching the job can come back through for a thorough quality check and make any necessary corrections. The downside to automating the syncing process is that that lots of folks have started offering synching services even though they are not responsible for making the final cuts for trial. Many court reporters and copy vendors have found this to be a new revenue stream and will perform the automated portion without the human quality control process. It is similar to using dictation software to auto-dictate your brief and never reviewing it before filing it with the court.

A true synching professional, someone who is ultimately responsible for making your trial clips, will always perform the manual quality control process to make sure that the text isn’t garbled or out of sync with the video…or just flat missing in spots. It is so frustrating to be a week out from trial and find out that your entire synching job is absolutely not usable. Now you are dealing with rush charges, late nights and stress that could have easily been avoided.

Tip #1: Use a Professional to Synch Your Video

About 1 out of every 20 pre-synched videos we receive has some type of issue that needs to be dealt with. Our advice would be to have your video synchronized by the person who will ultimately be doing your trial cuts. Not only do they have the the responsibility for making sure that your clips are clean and in good working order, they will be the person in the hot seat playing the video in trial. That gives them a vested interest in making sure the synching is done properly.

If you have an in-house trial tech or paralegal that will be preparing your clips, have them test out the video as soon as they receive the synched files…don’t wait until a week or two before trial, then it might be too late.

Missing Video

For some reason we have seen a dramatic increase in video that is missing either in toto or in sections. We had one video recently where the videographer forgot to turn on the camera after a break…one full hour of video missing. Of course, it is always in a critical spot. We have had numerous instances where the video is missing all together.

We see many well intentioned folks jumping into the video deposition field because the barriers to entry are so much lower today than ever before. In addition, some legal professionals leave the selection of the videographer up to their court reporter. Many court reporting firms have great relationships with professional video shops, but some don’t have established relationships and will hire anyone who happens to cross their path or who has made a special deal to get their foot in the door.

You can’t risk having a critical moment or an entire video go missing because someone new to the profession “forgot” to turn the camera back on or didn’t have a redundant system in place for backing up their recording.

Tip #2: Use a Professional To Shoot Your Deposition Video

Deposition videographers are professionals who are seasoned and ready to roll with any issues that might pop up during a depo shoot. Choose your videographer wisely and don’t let a third party select just anyone that was available that day. Vet your videographer and check on references. Once you find a good one, keep them. Many will travel with you to out of town depositions, too…don’t rely on the video guy in the small town to which you are traveling for a critical deposition. Ask your video person about their redundancy system. If they don’t have some mechanism for backing up, either suggest they make that part of the deal or look for another videographer who knows the ropes and the importance of your case.

Really Bad Audio

There’s a saying in marketing circles that if you have bad audio, people will tune out as quickly as they can but if you have great audio, people will listen to you read the phone book. Audio is so important and yet so overlooked. Your videographer should supply the deponent and the questioning attorney with lapel microphones so that the audio quality is as clear as it can be. They should also give the deponent and attorney a few pointers to to make them aware that every paper shuffle, side bar comment or sneeze is being picked up for all to hear.

Tip #3: Be Aware of Your Audio and Ask Questions

Most seasoned videographers will supply lapel microphones and will stay on their headphones the entire time monitoring for audio levels and audio interference (i.e., mobile phone antenna signal chatter) during your deposition. Don’t feel uncomfortable asking them about their audio set up. Any legitimate video professional will be happy to go into great detail about their sound processes. If you walk into a deposition and the videographer is not wearing headphones, that is a huge sign that you are dealing with the B Team.

Godzilla Movie Syndrome

If you have ever watched a really badly dubbed movie you might have seen something humorous happening with the video – the mouth and the audio are out of sync. This is not at all funny if it is your deposition. It used to be a common occurrence when people were going from VHS tapes to electronic files but our shop has noticed a marked increase in the instance of this happening with digitally shot video.

Tip #4: Preview Your Video As Soon As You Get It

Video is a tricky thing. There are numerous reasons your audio and video can come unhinged. Be sure to watch the video as soon as you get. Watch the beginning, the middle and especially the end. If there is a problem, ask your videographer to take a look and correct the situation as soon as possible. This is not something you want to discover a year down the road when you are about to go to trial.

Venti Triple Shot Latte – Big Gulp Anyone?

Finally, we have seen way too many videos lately where the deponent is hidden behind a Big Gulp cup or a Venti Starbucks coffee. Those items are not only distracting from your message they are planting seeds as to the socioeconomic nature of your client or the witness. Keep in mind that the jurors are looking for any clue that helps them fit people into boxes they are familiar with.

Tip #5: Awareness of Your Surroundings

You might think that it is the videographer’s job to know what should be in the camera view and what should not. But, you are the ultimate decision maker in the room and as such, you can do a lot to set the scene for what is ultimately played before the jury. Is there a solid backdrop behind your witness or is there a reflective glass door? Are they drinking Starbucks or plain bottled water? Are they holding their hands defensively in front of them or comfortably in their lap? It really is not the videographer’s job to get into the nitty gritty details of what type of coffee the witness is drinking. Be proactive in setting the appropriate scene

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