Planning Ahead for Video Testimony Can Save Cost and Lead to Advantages at Trial or Mediation

Michael Bragg
August 26, 2009 — 1,063 views  
Become a Bronze Member for monthly eNewsletter, articles, and white papers.

When I started in the Paralegal profession, the use of video testimony was limited to impeachment or when a witness was not able to appear in court and their non-appearance had to be excused by the Trial Judge.   Video testimony was limited to a VHS or BETA tape and it was extremely difficult to skip over portions of the video that were not played to the Jury.

With modern technology, video testimony can be presented in almost every case with very little ease.   Videographers use digital video cameras that provide for crisp video images with clear sound.   The video can then be synchronized with the transcript allowing for any part of the testimony to be played before a jury.    With some pre-planning you can have video testimony become an essential part of your case.   

BEFORE DEPOSITION

When you are ready to take the Video Deposition of any witnesses, you need to first make sure you have the proper tools in place.   Many court reporting services will package together a videographer and court reporter at a set price.  Other may charge for both the court reporter on a per page charge and the videographer at per hour rate.  National firms like, West Court Reporting Services, will even provide the video testimony synchronized at no additional charge.  You only have to pay for a court reporter and videographer. 

If you are using a court reporting service that also provides Videographer, check with them to insure what you will be receiving:

-          What format is your videographer recording the deposition.   Many videographers tend to use digital cameras but some older companies may still use older tape formats.

-          Is your videographer using a high definition camera to record the deposition.  This format can have its advantages or disadvantages as the clarity it provides may show your witness in a less favorable light.

-          Is your videographer using a background that is simple or is it cluttered.  If the videographer is not using a simple background, the jury may be distracted by the area behind a witness and not necessarily focus on the testimony the witness is giving.

-          Is your videographer using a picture in picture format.  Some trial presentation software warn against using this format as it could cause your video to crash during playback.  Check to see if your trial presentation software has such a warning.

-          Is your videographer using a separate microphone for the witness and counsel.  If both are being recorded on the same microphone, you may not be able to hear the witness over the voice of counsel.

-          What format is your videographer providing as a final product.  Many videographers will provide you the video in DVD format.  This provides a clear and crisp video but some Trial presentation software require the MPEG-1 format to be able to edit any synchronized videos. Check to see your trial presentation software video requirements are.

-          Can your videographer provide synchronized services where they can synchronize the video with the testimony. 

This last point brings up some interesting points.  Many videographers have the ability to synchronize video to testimony using various programs.  Some use the Yes Video software for synchronization and can provide a load file for use in most trial presentation software.  The videographer need to insure that they use the version set for litigation and not the non-litigation version.

Many videographers have taken the expense of obtaining professional audio and video editing equipment that will allow for proper synchronization and provide you with  proper video file format for use playback depending on the software you have.  It is important that you tell your videographer what software you are using to playback any video.  If you do not have, Trial Director or Sanction you can work with your videographer to provide your video in Windows Media player or other similar type format.

AFTER DEPOSITION

Suppose that you were not involved with making arrangements for the videographer and thus could not work out the details mentioned earlier.  The attorney has now given the DVD containing the video testimony they want to have edited.

Unless your firm owns video editing software such as Pinnacle Studio, Adobe Premiere Pro or other type program you may not be able to accomplish this and be left with playback in an old format.    There are many "Free" software programs that will allow converting DVD to MPEG-1 format but some work well and some do not.  You risk having problems with playback using these programs.  It is  best that if you are going to use this software, you learn what you are doing before trying it out on a key video that will make or break a case.

Many videographers will synchronize the video after the fact but may charge rates that are equivalent to higher than the rate originally paid at the time the video was taken.   If you wish to have this done, please insure you ask the questions outline before to receive the product your are actually wanting to receive.

Both Trial Director and Sanction do provide video conversion services that will conform to their respective products.  These will require uploading video and text to secured sites and then downloading the final product.  The rates for these services are based on market rates and can be comparable to those charged by videographers or other service providers.  The quality of the final product tends to be better as it is geared toward use with specific trial presentation software.

Outside of videographers and Trial Presentation Software providers, Litigation Support companies can provide similar services in video/transcript synchronization and at trial be able to provide the equipment to play this video testimony before the jury.  The Litigation Support such as Trial Consulting Services or Trial Graphix can provide support from synchronization of video to text to providing any equipment necessary to playback your video at mediation or trial.  The rates these companies charge are based on market rate and can be very competitive to those charged by videographers or other services.  Many times you can work an even better rate with packaging the trial presentation services with any video synchronization. 

 No matter who you use to prepare Video testimony for trial or mediation, proper pre-planning will help provide you the best you can for your attorney or client.  If you are able to get the video testimony synchronization done early and very little additional expense, it will save you additional time and cost later.    In today's marketplace, companies are looking to gain your business.   This can provide you with the opportunity to get exactly what you need early on.

Michael Bragg

Website

MICHAEL BRAGG is a paralegal with Banker Lopez Gassler P.A. where he specializes in aviation litigation, products liability and personal injury. He focuses on all aspects of case management, from early discovery and document management to assisting attorneys at trial. Mr. Bragg has lectured to various professional groups and is a frequent speaker on litigation topics.