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Old May 7th, 2016, 10:58 PM   #1
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AGCV vs. NCRA Certs for Legal Video Work

I've been doing some research on getting certified as a Legal Vidoeographer and trying to determine if I should go for the CLVS Cert with the NCRA (National Court Reporters Assoc.), or the CDVS & CEVS certs with the AGCV (American Guild of Court Videographers)? Or both?

One thing worth noting, while I was attempting to research on website, I found that almost every link from the home page is broken and gives a 404 error. This makes me wonder if they are still an active and viable association?

Can anybody give any advise on these certs and if there is anything to be concerned about with AGCV?
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Old May 8th, 2016, 11:04 AM   #2
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Re: AGCV vs. NCRA Certs for Legal Video Work

I went with CLVS. It was good, tbh a bit expensive as I recall they made it 3 parts (Seminar, Exam at your local testing center, hands on course). Luckily for me things aligned where I went to a seminar in ATL, then took my exam and drove to a production course in their VA location all within about a 6 month period.

It had pluses and minuses, the pluses are it showed me how to shoot a a deposition, as I'm not sure it's something I'd advise doing going in cold, unless you knew the attorney well and they helped walk you thru it. Otherwise you're a novice and they dep's vary in nature at random. I shot one for a lawsuit over a $20 million yacht that sank in FL where the owner demanded to ask questions over the speakerphone (I think the other attorney objected but they allowed him to ask to assauge his ego), mesothelioma cases with 20 attornys present, to silly little slip and falls & employment disputes. So you're really taking a chance if you go in cold on your first one. Another plus is they take it seriously, maybe too much, but I think overall they help you to be professional. Admittedly some attorneys didn't like it or need it, saying "What the heck is a read on" (Where I announce they case once recording) to one instructing me all I need to do is hit the red button. So there's that, overall tho it's better to be overly professional than under imho. And lastly I was in their directory and did get a few gigs straight from that alone, secondly court reporting firms do like to see that (or some form of training), than not. They also give some suggestions on marketing, but really nothing you probably wouldn't or couldn't have thought of yourself.

Minuses are of course cost, flying to seminar, hotels, seminar fees, testing cost, production skills test etc. Probably about $1500 or something. Although think of it as an investment, similar to your camera & equipment. You'll probably make it back over time, although if you're lucky enough to have already gotten gigs without it you might be ok continuing on, although again some firms might sway away from you. Production information is basic, if you're on this forum you probably already know it well enough. They seem to cater to people with little to no A/V experience. I'd be curious how many with no video experience at all ever make it, or if they just came across an ad somewhere or heard its a way to make good money. Some seemed to know court reporters in some capacity who suggested they take it up.

I don't know much about ACGV, but I think it is a bit quicker and less formal. However otoh that may not be a bad thing. As I said really think could be made into a short video training series of some do's & don'ts. If you know video inside & out I don't really think $1500 is validated to learn this, similar to weddings, you don't necessarily NEED training or a certificate to do it, just the right skill sets and equipment. I do agree broken links on a website doesn't instill confidence to me.

Anyway either one may help get your foot in the door. Firms would likely prefer to see it rather than some rando with a video camera. Obviously the basics a SD, burn date/time, numerous mics with an audio mixer, and a variety of recording formats available along with backups. I haven't shot for about 2-3 years so I think it's more media cards now, but previously alot requested tapes &/or DVD directly, so I burned to DVD livetime.

That said, it isn't a secret society either where once you become a member you'll suddenly be getting gigs. Think of it like a website, you can be a pizza shop or car mechanic, and get your website online, but that alone doesn't increase your business per se. It's just another way to establish yourself. You still need to market yourself, send business cards, letters, emails etc. You may get one job a month the first year, you may get 8, it really varies. One thing for me, the cancellation rate just killed it for me. It seemed well over a third would cancel last minute, cases settle out of court and never bother to tell anyone until the time comes. Sure, you can charge a cancellation fee I suppose, but when marketing yourself and your asked for your rates be sure to tell them of your 'cancellation fee', because they'll likely factor that in to if and how often they choose to send work your way.

Good luck, if you have any questions feel free to PM me. There's a couple other depo shooters on here who'll likely respond.
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Old May 10th, 2016, 10:06 AM   #3
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Re: AGCV vs. NCRA Certs for Legal Video Work

I would also recommend going with the NCRA. I originally went with another company, and while I worked for several years with no problems (my state does not require any certification), when I finally did do the NCRA CLVS program, it made a big difference. It is too bad they can't somehow have a version of the training for people who are already skilled at video, though. Much of the original training sessions could easily be skipped for somebody who already knows how to shoot and do basic audio. I think having the "CLVS" designation after your name makes a world of difference to attorneys, especially ones who don't already know you. Being in the directory is also a big advantage as any attorney traveling from out of town to take a deposition will probably look first in the directory for a videographer in the area. So even though it costs a bit, and takes some time, I believe if you are going to do more than the occasional depo, it is well worth going through the NCRA program.

Just my $.02.

Taking the course has been known to cause side effects in some videographers such as drooping eyelids and nodding heads. Do not take this course if you are taking other courses in deposition work as this may cause an irreversible thinning of the wallet. If you experience a deposition lasting more than 4 hours, call your doctor immediately.
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Old May 10th, 2016, 11:27 AM   #4
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Re: AGCV vs. NCRA Certs for Legal Video Work

Originally Posted by Rob Neidig View Post
Being in the directory is also a big advantage as any attorney traveling from out of town to take a deposition will probably look first in the directory for a videographer in the area.
I found "Lawyers" didn't care, nor law firms. Court Reporters seemed to & when court reporting firms inquired me for rates, some did ask or acknowledge it as an asset.

On a side note, I did find the personalities of lawyers interesting. Most were pretty cool, laid back & chatted a bit with me during breaks or after. Some, usually opposing attorneys seemed to have a bit of a chip on their shoulder. Some were just indifferent, arriving and saying "Oh I didn't know this was being videotaped" (not that it affected the proceedings), only a few were jerks.
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