Video depositions create a visual record of the deposition testimony. They go beyond typical written transcripts because videos convey emotion and inflection, silences and sighs that are all lost in text recorded via traditional depositions. Videotaped depositions often become the tipping point toward trial or settlement of a case.
Video depositions offer the opportunity for attorneys to better convey witness testimony in either trial or settlement settings. Video depositions can be presented in lieu of live testimony in certain cases, like when a witness has passed away, is ill, cannot be reached, etc. or in certain jurisdictions, for expert witnesses who are not required to appear in person. Also, excerpts of video depositions can be shown during trials to impeach a witness who gives contradictory live testimony.
Here is a list of do’s and don’ts to make the most of video depositions. First, the do’s:
Ask for your needs to be accommodated
When scheduling your video deposition, let the agency know of any specific needs or special instructions you may have. Do you need a DVD right after the deposition? Do you need a projector? A livenote court reporter? A video conference connection? If so, let the agency know, and they will be glad to accommodate you.
Bring business cards and notice
Bring several business cards to the deposition. This helps the court reporter keep name spelling accurate. Also, a case notice can be very helpful to both the legal videographer and court reporter.
Check out your videographer’s video framing
Before the deposition actually starts, ask your videographer to show how he or she framed the witness. If you don’t like something about the shot, ask your videographer to alter the framing before starting the deposition.
Ensure that only one person speaks at a time
Just as it is hard for a court reporter to capture everything correctly when multiple participants speak at once, videos can also become confusing when there are many voices speaking at the same time. Another reason to take turns speaking is to get your video deposition back more quickly. Videos will take longer to edit if multiple people are speaking over each other. Also, cuts may not be smooth in this case.
Keep your mic on if you plan to speak
Don’t take off your mic when you finish your line of questioning. If you do, the court reporter and videographer may not accurately capture your comments, objections or questions.
Cover your mic if you don’t want to be recorded
Videographers will make every attempt to not record sidebar conversations, but the safest bet is cover your mic if you plan on saying something that you don’t want to be included in the record.
Cut out distracting noises
Avoid touching microphones with paper or fidgeting with papers near microphones because the sounds distort the audibility of questions or answers. Ask witnesses not to fold their arms over mics, cover mics with exhibits, touch mics or have hair that would brush up against the mic.
Properly record exhibits
Hold up exhibits individually for the camera so that the videographer can zoom in and record each. The attorney presenting the exhibit should wait for the videographer to give a cue that the exhibit has been recorded before putting it away.
Here is a list of don’ts:
Don’t move around a lot or make odd facial expressions
Certain body language and facial expressions, besides being distracting, can give the impression that a witness is hiding something or being less than truthful. Especially during a video deposition, witnesses should avoid these common mistakes and their corresponding implication:
- Exaggerated or frequent eye movements = Agitated by the topic or speaker
- Scratching nose while speaking = Lying, exaggeration, embellishment or fabrication
- Hand over mouth when talking = Being deceptive or lying
- Head pointing down = Negativity or feeling ashamed
- Crossed arms = Defensive, reluctant or threatened
- Gripping opposite upper arms = Insecure
- Finger pointing = Aggressive or threatening
Don’t make light of the situation
Depositions are serious. People’s livelihood, freedom and even lives are often at stake. While joking and laughing are common coping mechanisms during stressful situations like depositions, these actions can make others infer that the witness thinks he or she is above the proceeding or as if they don’t care. Instead, witnesses and legal professionals alike need to maintain a pleasant and professional demeanor throughout the deposition.
Don’t be defensive
Witnesses are often unfamiliar with the deposition process and can take offense to some questions that are asked of them. It is best for attorneys and paralegals to prepare witnesses for this before it happens. When being peppered with attack-style questioning witnesses should try their best to remain calm, polite and understand that it is simply the attorney’s job to probe into all areas of the subject at hand. After all, a calm witness is viewed as a reliable witness. Witnesses should feel confident that if a line of questioning goes too far, opposing counsel will step in to clarify or object.
Don’t lose control of emotions
Blowing up in the middle of a deposition, sobbing dramatically, or even worse, storming out, will ruin every bit of good testimony a witness gives. It is not only uncomfortable and embarrassing for everyone involved, but also incriminates the witness. After all, during video deposition, each action is scrutinized just as much as each statement.
Don’t try to video the deposition yourself
As an attorney or paralegal you have enough to worry about during a deposition. Just like you don’t simultaneously represent your clients and act as court reporter, you can’t focus on video quality as well as questioning. Instead, leave the task of recording your deposition to the pros. Certified Legal Videographers are trained with the knowledge and skills to use video equipment to provide a/v related services to the litigation industry. They use professional camera and microphone equipment to record testimony and are skilled at eliminating unwanted distractions.
Diamond Court Reporting & Legal Video has served the New York and New Jersey areas for over 30 years with litigation support services. We believe that every customer is important commit to provide highly trained, certified videographers for your legal proceedings. Diamond’s videographers are skilled in operating their equipment to best preserve the testimony for your case. Our attentive, customer service-oriented videographers are experienced with the deposition process and understand attorneys’ needs. That’s why we capture video accurately and make it available quickly in formats including DVD, VHS, MPEG or Synchronized Video Transcript. Because of our commitment to top-notch customer service, New York Law Journal readers vote us #1 Court Reporting and Video Deposition Service year after year. Schedule your deposition or contact us today to find out more about our legal video services and see the Diamond difference.