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Old August 30th, 2010, 09:07 PM   #1
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Any forum folks doing Legal Depositions?

I understand the technical requirements for doing legal depositions but I would like to know if anyone here has done them, and if so, what you might say at the beginning and end of a taping, or when changing tapes/discs. Especially if they work in California. Currently, I'm in a catch 22, need to learn the process(and have experience) in order to get hired, cannot get the experience w/o being hired. And currently, I don't have the money for an online training program.
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Old September 1st, 2010, 07:56 PM   #2
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re: Any forum folks doing Legal Depositions?

I have done a few. Most videographers will pass a note around warning the lawyers about the tape change when their is 5 or 10 minutes left. My father is an attorney and he hated that. I ended up getting him a large firestore so that he could go for hours without interruption or breaking the "spell". I would personally love to do more depositions, but it is hard to convince most attorneys that they need quality video. Most (the ones I have encountered) could care less about the quality. Find a stenographer (court reporter) to team up with. If you have any leads in Dallas or surrounding areas let me know. One
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Old September 2nd, 2010, 01:34 AM   #3
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Aaron, thanks for the reply. Do you have to announce who the participants are, what the case is, etc.- when you start the tape? Is there a script somewhere?

Here in California, the standard is to record direct to DVD's, so there is a switch every 2 hours. I can use Adobe's On Location to record to hard drive but most legal services companies here seem to want the DVD's instead of files.
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Old September 2nd, 2010, 12:30 PM   #4
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I'm in rural counties in the Rockies of Montana and Wyoming, so I do not know about California. You really need to check your local requirements and talk to some lawyers there about what they want.

The thing I would do here for work is to contact the court reporters in addition to lawyers and legal services companies. In some places (maybe California is one of them) you deliver your DVDs to the court reporting company who submits them with the transcript. In what passes for cities out here, there are a couple of reporting companies which hire videographers to work for them on an as-needed basis. In the rural areas, however, it is pretty much a separate deal between you and the lawyers even when the reporter recommends you.

At the beginning of the deposition, I identify the date and time, the court, the case number, the parties, the persons present and myself as the videographer. This is all done before the lawyers make any stipulations and before the witness is sworn. When I was swapping tapes, I would advise everybody we were back on the record and rolling. However, because the courts here require stenographic transcripts, nobody seems to care what I say as long as the video matches the transcript. We may be getting more formal rules on this.

I've only gone direct to DVD when I was taping a trial deposition that was conducted in the evening before a magistrate and was going to be presented to the jury the first thing the following morning.

Direct to DVD would be a problem with discovery depositions here because of how often the lawyers go on and off the record.

But the lawyer you work for might not care about having a video that matches the transcript and just want the video for his or her own use. Sometimes, they want the video just because it seems more impressive or serious. Also, there are a certain number of lawyers who will might behave badly if a camera were not recording the deposition. In these instances, the lawyer requesting the video mostly does not care whether the DVD is delivered immediately at the end of the deposition, or a couple or days or a week or so later.

Around here, when the lawyers want video depositions to match the written transcript, they usually want editable and edited video. The most typical reasons are: (a) making testimony for trial when a witness might not be able to attend or it might be un-economic to have them come to the trial itself (this can be a big deal when the is in Federal Court in Cheyenne, Wyoming and the lawyer has an expert witness who is lives hundreds of miles away in Bozeman, Montana and air service is minimal and expensive); and (b) to use excerpts in making settlement presentations. Neither of these seem to require immediate DVDs and most of the videographers I know of hereabouts do not supply immediate DVDs.

When a video deposition is going to be used for trials, the judges here want to have a written transcript in hand. The lawyers have to work out all the objections with the judge and then, before the video can be shown to the jury, the video has to be edited to redact the segments where objections were sustained by the judge. I can edit from a DVD but it is faster when I've got already the video as files on the computer. (In making these kinds of edits, I've found it useful to run the "metadata speech analysis" in Adobe CS4/5 so that, when the lawyers give the page and line numbers to redact, I can quickly correlate the pertinent video passages with the reporter's transcript. That said, I've had to do this all of two times in the last couple of years and only one instance was a "right away" job.)

Up until a couple of years ago, I mainly recorded with On-Location via a laptop with a large external firewire drive. Unless the lawyers wanted a tape as a backup, it avoided the necessity of breaks for swapping tapes. When lawyers wanted quick DVD copies, I would hook the firewire drive to my main editing workstation, run unattended encoding overnight, and deliver DVDs to the lawyers in the morning.

I can deliver more quickly since I started recording to CF cards via a Sony MRC1k. For the last several years, I still bring the a laptop with me but use it encoding for DVD when I've swapped out a CF card. At the end of the day, I've only got the last hour of a depo to encode and can deliver DVDs not long afterwards. Although I offer this service, nobody here has needed it yet.

Last edited by Jay West; September 2nd, 2010 at 12:37 PM. Reason: typos
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Old September 3rd, 2010, 07:40 AM   #5
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Take a look at this thread from a few years ago. Attorney Paul Tauger has posted some very informative tips on what a videographer ought to do and most importantly ought NOT to do. It starts about the 5th message into the thread. A forum search on "deposition" is you best friend. Click Deposition Videographer
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Old September 3rd, 2010, 01:16 PM   #6
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Steve, I believe Mr. Tauger used the phrase "Magical Language", when referring to the intro that the videographer speaks into the tape at the beginning of the deposition. There are also some words used when pausing to switch tapes/dvd's, as well as pausing/restarting the taping when requested by various counsel. That magic language, the videographers script, (which changes from state to state, in my case for CA) - is what I'm looking for.

Mr. Tauger should know CA quite well, perhaps others also know the CA 'script'.
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Old September 3rd, 2010, 01:30 PM   #7
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BTW, Jay, thanks for your thoughtful reply. Aside from the CA 'script', which I'm sure isn't much different than yours, you've reminded me of the whole process I'm getting into. For right now, I'm shooting with and FX-1 which I'm assuming I'll shoot and record in SD mode. I'm going to 2 dvd recorders via an S-VHS cable and also to a hard drive via On Location. For audio I have 4 lavs and a pzm mic. I'm hoping that that is enough, as suggested by the other posts here.

From what I've gathered, even with continuous recording on the HDD, I should pause when switching out the DVD's every 2 hours? Maybe? Are those decisions up to the hiring attorney? Yeah, there are a lot of little 'gotchas' I'll have to learn, I'm sure. I'm assuming most of this is really up to the legal services company that hires me...
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Old September 4th, 2010, 12:45 PM   #8
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Try googling "ca code", and searching the actual law, I'd imagine most if not all of what MUST be in there legally is already spelled out. Federal law probably will also have a set of specific rules governing the conducvt of video depositions and use as evidence.

Almost EVERYTHING has an associated code section, and using the online resources to search the actual law is a decent start to learn what "industry practice" must of necessity include. Findlaw.com might be worth doing a search to see if there is applicable case law, which can either clarify, modify, or mud-ify the actual application of the legislated code if there have been any cases that went up on appeal.
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Old September 4th, 2010, 02:57 PM   #9
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I think the magic language for California state courts is described in CCP 2025.340(m). There are four Federal District Court districts in California. The Federal Courts often use the same procedures that the state courts do for things like this, but sometimes they go their own way. Each district may have a set of "local rules" and there may be "divisions" within each district. Also, some Federal judges may have their own "standing orders" which set rules for their particular courts. You will need to check these to see if they have different requirements.

Running two DVD recorders sounds complicated. Is the idea that you run your FX1 without tape while recording to two DVD's simultaneously (so you've got two copies) plus using On-Location for a back-up recording? Won't each one of these things need to be started and stopped manually? That could be cumbersome. (You can't slave On-Location to your FX1 unless you have a tape loaded; without a tape, the FX1's record button does not work. )

Is it possible to slave the DVD recorders to the FX1 when sending an analog feed? If you are recording to DVDs, it would seem you will need to verbally state that you are going off the record, then stop each piece of equipment, then spin them up and say "back on the record" after restarting them. Even if you don't stop and start On-Location --- you could always edit out the "off the record" parts if something happened to the contemporaneous DVD recordings --- you will still need to start and stop both disk recorders.

In Tauger's post in the link that Steve House posted, Tauger said he wanted a separate audio back-up recording. I've done this in the past by using an mp3 recorder (Creative Zen with a line feed from the camera's analog audio jacks). I have not done this much recently because most of the local court reporters now bring their own digital audio recorders for their own use in checking the transcript. (In theory, their transcribing machines have the ability to transmit transcriptions in real time to lawyers' computers, but I've only seen lawyers in this area use this capability in trials.)

You've got four lavaliers and a pzm mike. Miking the room is as much art and politics as science. The requirement is clearly audible questions, answers, objections and on-the-record discussions. If the local legal culture is that everybody gets miked, your set-up should be adequate.

Here, the lawyers differ widely on the desireability of miking each with a lav. Back in the previous century when I started doing video depositions --- okay, it was only18 years ago but it was in the previous century --- a video deposition was enough of a novelty that most lawyers accepted a lav without question. That did not last long. Most of the cases I work are small civil cases with only two or three lawyers and most of the lawyers now refuse to be individually miked. They want to be able to lean over to a non-testifying client or consultant or assistant and whisper to them without interrupting the depo or getting picked up on a mike.

I can get perfectly adequate sound without individual miking. In a quiet room, with one lawyer sitting next to the client or deponent and the other usually sitting across the table. I'll put a wireless lavalier on the witness and a pzm or wireless omni lavalier on the table between the lawyers and get everybody loud and clear when "on the record." It can be different in larger cases. I've had to video depositions in cases with seven to fifteen different parties and sets of lawyers --- I've put a wireless lavalier on the witness, put shotgun mikes on booms over either ends of the table, and had a wireless mike on a short stand that gets passed to whomever has the floor for questioning. The boomed shotguns pick up all the objections and other on-the-record interjections from the non-questioning lawyers while the passed stand mike clearly gets the questions.

Using a PZM is matter of judgment. The problem I've had with PZMs is that many lawyers are inveterate paper shufflers, finger drummers and all-round fidgeters. Want to guess what a PZM excels at picking up? And, I've had situations where a mike-aware lawyer wants a whispered side conversation with an associate (maybe telling a paralegal to pull a document) and puts his hand over the PZM, Want to guess what that noise was like? (Made me sorry I was wearing headphones to monitor the audio mix). I've had better luck with a wireless omni lavalier on a short stand down the table. Apparently, a mike that small doesn't tempt the local lawyers to try to put their hands over it and it does a very good job of getting everything that is supposed to be on the record.

Last edited by Jay West; September 4th, 2010 at 03:01 PM. Reason: typos
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Old September 6th, 2010, 12:23 PM   #10
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Jay and Dave, some great points. I've been running in other directions the last couple of days, so just getting back to this for now. First, thanks for the code section, I'll look it up right after this post.

As to the 'tech' side of things, I'm following the advice of a friend who is currently working for a legal services company. He was the one that talked about using 2 DVD recorders, one as a backup. (The issue with tapes for some seems to be the recording time, I got the sense from my friend that nobody wants to start/stop every hour.)

He was also the one that said his company used multiple lavs. Your boom mic idea sounds reasonable, usually with pzm's and tables I'll but them on a pad, like a mouse pad, and that helps with some of the finger tapping. And I am listening to him I also got a sense that different companies want different recording setups. Because he's offered an inside track to getting jobs with his company, assuming I get some real-world experience ahead of time, I am paying closer attention to what he is saying.

Being severely strapped for cash I made an agreement with a 'client' that I work/barter with, for a DVD recorder and pulled another one from my edit system, put them in a roll-around suitcase with a sound mixer, an lcd monitor and a cable bundle for the camera. That camera cable takes S video in to the DVD recorders and audio back out to the camera. There is extra room for my laptop and an external drive if needed. A recording system in a suitcase, hopefully adaptable to any legal services company's requirements. (Before back injuries, I use to engineer multi-cam flypacks :-) )

So yeah, a bit awkward in the start/stop functions for now. For now, because the dvd recorders are different brands, very awkward. Same brand- the remote will control two decks at the same time. All I'm trying to do now is be prepared for what comes my way. A little experience with what ever companies hire me will give me an idea of what is most practical, although your posts are showing me areas of refinement. Do lawyers actually waith for you to say recording has been paused before they go off the record?

Anyway, hopefully soon I'll be ready to try and find some legal work.
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Old October 28th, 2010, 10:34 AM   #11
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If I may belatedly add to the video deposition thread:

One thing that is important to many court reporters, though not as important as it used to be, is the videographer's ability to provide an audiocassette tape of the proceedings to the reporter at the end of the depo. I would strongly advise you to devise a means to make an audiotape. Even a "shoebox-style" cassette recorder with an audio input from the mixer is better than nothing.

More and more reporters have small microphones that record audio on the hard drive of their computers, so many reporters decline my offer to give them audiotapes. Even so, they're usually glad to know that a safety net is available in case something goes terribly wrong. Several times they've called me the next day to tell me they need those tapes after all.

Four lavalier microphones should be adequate for most depos. I've never had a questioning attorney refuse to wear a microphone. However, they don't like to have expensive ties ruined, so avoid mic clips with sharp teeth.

Sorry for not replying sooner, I don't always look at the "Taking Care of Business" section.
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