We’ve all heard the expression “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, in the case of a deposition,
a video is worth a thousand pictures, so powerful is the impact of preserving the image of a witness
testifying. In conjunction with a court reporter’s transcript, a video deposition can prove to be a
powerful weapon in your litigation arsenal.
The benefits of video-recording testimony are plentiful. You can:
- Capture non-verbal gestures and body language for a more realistic portrayal of the testimony
- Highlight sarcasm or flippancy in a witness’s voice
- Display the witness’s handling of a physical exhibit to provide greater clarity for the jury
- Reveal the time lapse between a question and the witness’s answer
- Review a witness’s credibility when preparing for trial
- Discourage disruptive behavior by the witness or opposing counsel
- Prepare a witness for live testimony by having them review their performance in a practice video
- Present witnesses unavailable at time of trial
- Save on expert witness travel cost by preserving testimony via video
- Impugn the credibility of a witness by juxtaposing impeachment video clips as the witness’s testimony changes
- Employ picture-in- picture technology to display the witness testifying in conjunction with the exhibit being referenced
- Easily locate a section of video by searching the corresponding synchronized transcript
- Create video clips to share with your expert or co-counsel or for use at trial
- Provide impressions of a witness in a way that makes the testimony more memorable
The ease of using video depositions really comes into play via a process known as synchronization,
through which the reporter’s transcript text is “married” to the video images. This enables you to
search for any word in a transcript and then immediately view the corresponding section of video,
eliminating the need to fast-forward through the footage.
Synchronized video depositions can come to you in formats that not only allow for searching capability
but also enable you to easily make video clips that can be imported into PowerPoint or other trial
presentation software. No matter your preference regarding Apple or PC products, the synched file can
be produced in formats that support either platform.
Although there is no state certification for videographers, the National Court Reporters Association
confers the designation Certified Legal Video Specialist (“CLVS”) on those who attend training on video
in the legal environment and pass a production exam. Many other videographers technically skilled in
the commercial realm learn the nuances of legal video through on-the- job training. Although some
jurisdictions allow attorneys to video-record their depositions themselves, using a third-party service not
only eliminates a distraction to your deposition strategy but also ensures technical videography
expertise and provides for integrity with the courts. Videographers can also edit out objections after
post-deposition rulings by the court.
Here are some things to keep in mind both prior to and during the deposition:
- Be cognizant of state court rules regarding specific notice requirements for video depositions
- Advise the videographer beforehand if you desire special services, such as picture-in- picture or video streaming over the Internet, which can require additional equipment
- Allow time for the videographer to zoom in on a given exhibit at your direction
- Pause when going off or back on the record, to give the videographer time to make an announcement for the record to such effect
- Keep extraneous noise, such as pen-tapping or clicking or paper-shuffling, to a minimum, as they can serve as major distractions to the audio portion of the video record
- Stay conscious of your own verbal tics, such as starting every question with “ok,” “all right,” etc.
- Be aware that lavaliere microphones may pick up sotto voce comments not intended for the transcript
Whether you have a witness who will be unavailable to testify at trial or you simply want to add punch
to your impeachment strategy, video depositions can make a memorable impact.