VIDEO DEPOSITIONS AND COVID-19
We are receiving questions from court reporters and attorneys regarding the feasibility of conducting video depositions during this unique time in our country. Hopefully, this answers a lot of questions you may have, or others may have asked you. Many attorneys are wondering if it’s possible to hold video depositions remotely during the coronavirus crisis. The short answer is: absolutely yes. And often without any additional cost to do so. But did you know that there are several ways to do this, with differing levels of quality?
By incorporating videoconferencing technology, as well as a few additional internet technologies, you have several options available to you at this time, from a technological standpoint:
OPTION #1–everyone attends remotely, including the videographer:
A video recording of this type of deposition with a certified legal videographer is not only possible, it was being done before COVID-19 when a deponent was not able to attend in-person. Please note: While Zoom itself has the option to video-record internally within its software, there are three serious problems with this risky approach:
PROBLEMS CONDUCTING A ZOOM VIDEO DEPO W/OUT A CERTIFIED LEGAL VIDEOGRAPHER
- First, no one is dedicated to ensuring the quality of the video every moment as the deposition unfolds–attorneys are focused on their questioning and the reporter is focused on getting everything down verbatim. Without a dedicated videographer, regrettable issues related to framing, lighting, quality of audio, etc easily occur unnoticed until reviewing the final video afterwards, and then it is too late. You cannot depend on the deponent to ensure he/she remains in frame with their webcam or is viewable acceptably from a professional video standpoint at all times. Also, there is no date/timestamp option available without a certified legal videographer video-recording the deposition.
- Secondly, exhibits often need to be shown electronically. The reporter is unable to do this efficiently while taking down testimony, but the videographer can handle this additional task, as long as exhibits are provided electronically to the videographer before the deposition starts. The videographer can allow everyone during the deposition (including the deponent, attorneys, and court reporter) to see the exhibits during the video-conferenced deposition when they are presented, using Picture-in-Picture technology for the deposition (additional cost for picture-in-picture depositions).
- Lastly, and even more importantly, unlike Zoom, every certified video deposition is always recorded simultaneously to several different video devices, in case one recording device is faulty or simply fails. This unfortunately happens more than one might think. Simply recording with Zoom internally does not provide this safeguard. Zoom is great for remote depositions, but its software is not trustworthy for recording several hours of testimony at one time with no issues. A certified legal videographer will still record the Zoom deposition to their camera, as well as to their backup devices to ensure that the deposition truly is captured in its entirety when all is said and done, just like a normal video deposition. This is much more reliable than Zoom’s internal record function. Zoom is scrambling right now to devote more resources/bandwith to its platform, due to a surge in its use during this time. Zoom reliability cannot be guaranteed–you’ve been warned.
OPTION #2–everyone attends remotely, except the videographer:
In this scenario, the legal videographer is present with the deponent, maintaining safe social distancing at all times. Everyone else appears remotely with Zoom. By allowing for the videographer to attend safely with the deponent, the videographer does not need to record indirectly via Zoom, but instead records the deponent directly, providing a much cleaner video that attorneys have come to expect from a video deposition. The videographer can also present the exhibits electronically via picture-in-picture to everyone, if requested (additional cost for picture-in-picture depositions).
OPTION #3–everyone receives a special microphone
Everyone knows that video-conference or teleconference audio is less than ideal. There are often dropouts. Even without dropouts, the voice quality over a telephone or via Zoom is poor, compared to audio captured by a videographer directly with microphones. High-quality audio is possible even when doing a Zoom deposition, provided that microphones can be shipped or delivered by a courier to each deposition participant prior to the deposition starting, and the microphones are returned following the deposition (additional cost for this service). I have developed a workflow for making this work. Using Zoom plus mics and additional internet software, the audio for each participant will sound the same on the final video as if everyone was attending the deposition in-person.
Amazingly, combining options #2 and #3, your final video will look and sound exactly as if the deposition was not done remotely! However, even if these last 2 options are not available for your particular video deposition, a legal videographer can still ensure your Zoom deposition results in an acceptable legal video for trial or your discovery.
As you can see, there are several ways to conduct a video deposition, even if everyone is appearing remotely. With Integrity Video, there is no extra cost for Zoom video depositions during the COVID-19 crisis–standard video deposition costs apply. Extra costs do come into play for providing of microphones (option #3), or if the videographer is requested to provide Picture-in-Picture for the display of electronic exhibits. If you have further questions about any of these options or anything else regarding remote video depositions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We are happy to help clarify anything.
Stay healthy and safe during this difficult time.
Tim Falk, CLVS | Owner
Integrity Video LLC