Video depositions are an increasingly common and valuable tool used by attorneys during discovery and trial. Every day we use screens to view information on televisions, computers, tablets and smartphones. Because this is the way we gather and consume information, using screens to show video of a witness’s testimony makes the information much easier for your jury to absorb. This is only one of the many reasons video depositions are becoming a common tool for attorneys to use in litigation.
What is a video deposition?
A video deposition is simply a deposition with, in addition to a court reporter, a videographer present to record the testimony. The videographer brings the equipment and expertise necessary to record the deposition. As the scheduling attorney, all you have to do is ensure your Notice of Deposition lists video on it. When the deposition begins, you will question the witness in the same manner as you would if the deposition were not videotaped.
Why have video depositions become so popular?
With time and experience, the legal profession has discovered there are many reasons to use video in depositions. When video depositions were first available, they were usually taken if a witness was not going to be available or physically able to attend trial. Video depositions also allow attorneys to save on travel costs if the deposition is located out of state. While these advantages are still true today, attorneys have discovered other benefits of using video in a deposition.
During a trial, the jury’s job is to listen to a witness, determine credibility, and absorb facts about the case. Your jury will be able to hear your absent witness emphasize certain points or hear voice inflections that can add meaning to words alone. They will also see the demeanor and manner of the witness which could be key in your success informing and convincing a judge and jury of the facts as you present your case.
One of the most direct advantages of using video depositions is to impeach a witness. Inconsistent statements can be demonstrated by playing back a particular portion of a video deposition. Hearing and seeing a witness testify from a deposition can help a judge and jury determine a witness’s honesty, memory and sincerity.
Some indirect advantages of using videotaped depositions are that your opposing counsel’s objections or witness’s antics can be viewed in context throughout the case. Sometimes having a videographer present can even cause opposing counsel or a witness to behave in a more professional or honest manner.
How do I find a good videographer?
If you are the party taking a video deposition, most likely you are responsible for arranging to have a videographer present. Most court reporting firms have videographers on staff and will arrange for a videographer to be present. Ideally you should hire a videographer who has experience recording legal video and presenting it in the courtroom. Certification is one way for videographers to demonstrate they have sufficient knowledge and experience in recording legal proceedings. The National Court Reporters Association offers a Certified Legal Video Specialist certification.
What do I need to know to take a good video deposition?
If you have never seen or taken a video deposition, here are a few tips that will help you get started.
Speak to your videographer before the deposition if you have questions about camera placement. Often the camera will be aimed primarily at the witness, with their head and shoulders appearing on the screen. Your videographer will be able to suggest the room setup that works best for video including placing the witness in front of a bare wall or backdrop to eliminate any distractions in the background of the video.
Be sure the videographer is ready when you go on the record. If your videographer is having any technical issues, he or she will ask for a break to correct any equipment issues.
Be sure your questions are completely verbalized, just as you would for a non-video deposition. The audience may not be able to see you, therefore, will not be able to determine meaning from your gestures. Remember, video is forever, so be sure to conduct the deposition in a highly professional manner.
Consider using multiple video cameras at the deposition. This provides the option for editing the footage to use in trial showing both the questioning attorney and witness. By having the ability to have this sort of movement when presenting video clips to a jury, you can keep them engaged. The effect is one like they experience when watching different camera shots on a television show during what could otherwise be tedious and boring footage.
If you will be preparing the witness for the deposition, there are a few instructions you will want to cover with them beforehand. They should dress professionally, ideally with clothing that does not have a bold pattern. Ask your witness to refrain from fidgeting or giving facial expressions such as eye-rolling or grimacing. Ask the witness to look at the questioning attorney, rather than the camera, when answering questions.
How do I play the video in the courtroom?
Should your case go to trial, you can hire the same videographer or someone from their team to present the video in the courtroom. They will edit or clip the video per your request pretrial and bring the equipment necessary to court to show the video clips in court. If you have questions about how video will be played, call your videographer and ask. They will be happy to give you information on your options for playing back video testimony.
High quality and concise playback is very important in the courtroom. Attorneys should provide the videographer editing their video with as much time as possible to prepare and quality control the clips. The easiest way to handle this is to provide both your proposed clips and opposing counsel’s proposed clips to the editor pretrial. The videographer will prepare the edits. As objections are ruled upon, it is easy for them to then take the already edited video and remove small sections as needed. This process will help in cutting down the number of times the video is edited and the time it takes to complete those edits. Contact your videographer or court reporting agency if you have questions about the editing process.
Besides video depositions and courtroom playback, there are an array of other trial presentation services that can be provided by court reporting agencies. If you are interested in learning more about services that may be available to you, read the article, “Gaining Courtroom Advantage with Trial Presentation Services.”
If you have yet to take a video deposition, now is the time to get started. A good way to start is one case at a time. Most attorneys quickly see the benefits of working with a videographer and appreciate the ease with which they can present video testimony at a later date. They also recognize the advantages and success video gives their cases and their clients during litigation.
PohlmanUSA provides professional video experts combined with industry-leading equipment to deliver high quality, cost-effective video services at depositions and trials nationwide. To learn more about video services available visit http://pohlmanusa.com/our-services/videography/