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Old December 18th, 2006, 03:35 PM   #1
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Need advice on videotaping legal depositions

I've been a professional videographer for almost 15 years but have never videotaped a legal deposition. I just got a call from a law firm looking for someone to be their videographer for such things, but I'm somewhat clueless. What should I charge? What is involved? How do I find out more?

Last edited by Bill Edmunds; December 19th, 2006 at 09:01 AM.
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Old December 18th, 2006, 04:19 PM   #2
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There was a lengthy discussion on this a while back. My search turned up:
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...gal+deposition

Not sure if the link will work but search for Legal deposition and read what Paul Tauger posted. Very helpful stuff.
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Old December 18th, 2006, 06:43 PM   #3
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If you have a neutral grey background to place behind the witness/deponet, use it.
Use a tripod. Place so table vibrations won't affect it. Set exposure. Manual focus. Once your roll the tape, don't touch the camera. Set camera to record time and date. Use fade-in/out (if you can) every time you start and stop the camera. This is only for "going off record", which can only happen upon the request of any of the attorneys present, and all must agree.

You will need at least three microphones. I use four. Table mics with shock mounts for the attorneys. Lapel for the deponet. One hand held with switch for me. I also use a four channel audio mixer.

In most states you must introduce the event. This means stating the event is a video deposition of the witness with very specific reference to the Case name, it's Case Number, and the Name of the Court where the case is being heard. You must identify yourself as videographer. You have no association with the individuals involved. You must identify the court reporter. You must then ask all attorneys present to identify themselves. Then you instruct the Court Reporter to swear in the witness. After that is done you state that the proceeding is "on record".

As your video tape approaches its end, announce end of tape at 7, 5, 3, 2, and possibly 1 minute.

Other than fade-in and fade-out for beginning, end, and "off/on record" moments, you can not edit the tape in any way, shape, or form.

The depositions are usually presented to the noticing attorney in the form of a DVD, but can be VHS. Their preference. If a DVD, chapter it every 10 minutes (makes locating specific comments a bit easier).

The attorney that hires you pays the bill. Beyond your hourly rate, you can charge for tape stock and any copies you give to the court reporter. All other attending attorneys must purchase copies from you.

However your charge for your time, do not, for any reason, deliver any copies until payment has been received and cleared!

Lastly, remember that you are creating a legal document. You must keep all records and all original video tapes forever, or legally sign them over to the noticing attorney.
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Old December 19th, 2006, 09:01 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Waldemar Winkler
As your video tape approaches its end, announce end of tape at 7, 5, 3, 2, and possibly 1 minute.
Interesting. What is the purpose of doing this?

Great post, BTW. It was extremely helpful!
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Old December 19th, 2006, 11:24 AM   #5
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Hi Bill,

I've done a few of them over the years, so here's my 2C's worth:

the info you've received and been referred to, is good stuff.

be ready to go for 4 to 8 hrs plus on the really tough ones. ( like enough tapes, drinks, snacks, kleenex, etc. )

I used cards with the "Time to Tape's End" times to show all, so I did not have to speak it out loud.

I used a cassett tape recorder to make audio tapes for Court Reporter to have at the end of session.

Take a GOOD seat pad and back support, as you may not get a good chair to sit in.

Be very sure you can (are able) and want to sit very still and quietly for hour's on end, and can "hold it" if the "call" comes. I discovered on my last Deposition that my older body did not like sitting that still for that long (8 hrs) I could barely stand and walk at the end of the day. Knees and hips stiffened up and got very sore. Great stuff to listen too, but sitting so still and quiet for so long can be tough on your mind and body, especially if you consider doing doing this kind of thing day after day.

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Old December 19th, 2006, 12:15 PM   #6
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What's the going rate?

I've been curious about this.
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Old December 20th, 2006, 09:36 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Edmunds
Interesting. What is the purpose of doing this?

Great post, BTW. It was extremely helpful!
Simply to advise the attorney time to end of tape. Sometimes attorneys get on a line of questioning and forget the passing of time. I had one attorney ignore my warnings until the camera ran out of tape.
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Old December 20th, 2006, 10:02 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cascio
I've been curious about this.
The will depend upon where you are, the competitive market, and who hires you.

Large court reporting firms who have corporate contracts like to subcontract deposiitons for $50.00 to $75.00 per hour and will usually cover incidental expenses like parking fees, etc. They generally won't offer a guarantee of a minimum fee if the deposition is cancelled. From my perspective these firms either accept my stated fees or they can find someone else.

Most independent court videographers expect to earn around $700 a day. My rates are based upon an "appearance fee" which is applied to the first three hours of a deposition. Then an hourly rate thereafter. Additional fees are tape and DVD stock, mileage, parking, back-up audio tapes/discs for the court reporter and other incidental costs. The attorney who hired me gets a complete copy of the depo on dvd as part of the package. All other counsel must purchase copies directly from me at $40.00 per hour of content. In metropolitan areas a legal videographer can earn a very good living. One can not only document a deposition, but prepare the video for presentation if the case goes to trial (which is a much more detailed process).

Being certified as a legal video court reporter is worth investigating if the work opportunities look promising. An internet search on "Legal video" should bring up a number of certifying agencies. I've been told by one career cour reporter that the certifying agency in Casper, Wyoming is quite good. In my area the local population is not large enough to justify certification. A good year in legal video for me is 8 - 12 depositions. A metro area should provide that quantity of work every two or three weeks.

In any case, make your video and audio the very best possible. If the quality of the video is poor the noticing attorney can make you pay for a second deposition, which includes anything and everything associated with rescheduling the deposition. That could amount to several thousand dollars.

Lastly, don't let anything out of your hands until you have been paid!
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Old December 20th, 2006, 09:24 PM   #9
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Can you record digitally?

I wasn't sure if there is an issue with this?
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Old December 21st, 2006, 06:50 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cascio
I wasn't sure if there is an issue with this?
Absolutely. Ask the attorneys requiring copies how they would like to have the video delivered to them. Most are fine with DVD. Some want VHS. MPEG1 is also a possibility. A few will want the video paired with the court reporter's transcript. That takes a specialty program. Most of these are for PC's. A few run on the Mac platform. I don't know any more, as I've never been asked to have a video prepared this way.
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Old December 22nd, 2006, 06:49 AM   #11
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No 2 people do it the same.

and it can vary by state based on rules of procedure and rules of evidence. (that's one reason the NCRA and AGCV exist...to establish standards for their members and attempt some enforcement of them.) Be aware that an attorney who wants to be very picky could have a video deposition excluded as evidence with relative ease.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Waldemar Winkler
A few will want the video paired with the court reporter's transcript. That takes a specialty program. Most of these are for PC's. A few run on the Mac platform. I don't know any more, as I've never been asked to have a video prepared this way.
I know a few folks who do legal. "Pairing" can involve hiring a local independent steno person to make a copy of the transcript as a text file, then synching and displaying that as sub-titling or closed captioning. That can sometimes lead to court presentation and better, i.e. more, $$, and can be done by the indie stenographer right from a copy of the audio track.
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Old January 10th, 2007, 04:26 PM   #12
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What to use for live PiP?

Just stumbled across this thread. Great info so far, guys.

For over two years, I've been in the business of synchronizing legal video depos and presenting them at trials, hearings, etc. Just recently, I've considered branching into the deposition videography end of things, but as a somewhat newcomer to the procedures/equipment used therein ,here's something that's been stumping me:

In this video link, I'm aware that the videographer used a Canon GL2 for recording the primary video of the witness, and an Elmo document camera for the x-ray images. Obviously and at a minimum, some kind of video switcher was used to alternate between the sources.

What, however, was more than likely used for the PiP effect that's shown at the 35-second mark? FWIW, I transferred this video from the original miniDV tape.

I ask because I foresee many of my potential clients requesting this technique where the document is in the background via the elmo camera and the deponent is in the PiP foreground? Is some kind of video mixer used? If so, what kind? Does the GL2, itself, have the ability to accept secondary video and key it in as PiP?

I'm stumped.

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Old January 10th, 2007, 04:58 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Christopher Davis
What, however, was more than likely used for the PiP effect that's shown at the 35-second mark? FWIW, I transferred this video from the original miniDV tape.
Beats me but what makes you think the PIP wasn't done in post using footage from a cutaway cam? I know running legal depositions through an NLE is a big no-no, but that's what it looks like to me.
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Old January 10th, 2007, 05:11 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Steele
Beats me but what makes you think the PIP wasn't done in post using footage from a cutaway cam? I know running legal depositions through an NLE is a big no-no, but that's what it looks like to me.
The commonness of it (I receive many untouched miniDV depo tapes with this technique) makes me think it wasn't done in post.

I'm 95% sure it's done onsite. Just not sure how it's done & with what kind of equipment.

Thanks for the response, anyway, Rick!

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Old January 10th, 2007, 06:14 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Christopher Davis
The commonness of it (I receive many untouched miniDV depo tapes with this technique) makes me think it wasn't done in post.

I'm 95% sure it's done onsite. Just not sure how it's done & with what kind of equipment.

Thanks for the response, anyway, Rick!

Chris Davis
DigiSync, Inc.
A video switcher would provide this capability for PiP and the switcher's output would be what gets recorded to tape.

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