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As a trial tech, backups for everything are a must and should be standard operating procedure when going to trial. Cables, adapters, switchers, amps and most importantly, laptops, all need to be duplicated in the event something fails. Having your case backed up and updated is like car insurance – you have it but hopefully never need it. While car insurance is a legal requirement, backup devices are not, unfortunately. I’ve been doing trials since 2009 and I will admit, I only needed my backup laptop a handful of times. Still, I find myself overly cautious and bring the backup system every time I go to trial. I should add that when I say backup laptop, I’m not talking about an “off the shelf computer.” No, a backup laptop should virtually mirror your main laptop, so it can still function alike.

Most recently, I went to trial in Orange County and while transferring the case during lunch, my backup laptop failed. With the limited time I had, I couldn’t trouble shoot in time for the afternoon session. Rather than roll into the courtroom without a backup, I looked in my bag and saw my iPad. As the bells start dinging in my head, I turned it on, hooked it up to my computer and started loading the exhibits. I have TrialPad, a popular app for trial presentation on an iPad. It’s a simple interface that has some of the same features as Trial Director and OnCue. Luckily, there was no video involved in this trial (TrialPad has limited video editing features), so it was a quick transfer.

Watch the TrialPad demo below.

We resumed trial at 1:30 pm and concluded at 4 pm. Smooth sailing and no need for the iPad, of course. However, since then, I’ve been putting everything on my iPad in addition to my backup laptop. I’m sure I speak for most trial techs when I say that you can never have too many backups or plan B’s. Well, I’m sure I speak for all the GOOD trial techs in that regard. I will also add, at this particular trial, I did not have an Apple TV but only the adapters to plug the iPad into the projector. One of the features of using an iPad is that you don’t have to be tethered to cables (presenting wirelessly would present potentially another challenge). At the very least, I was prepared to still present digitally instead of the using the ELMO.

Every trial tech has their bag of gadgets and their own method for backing up cases. As I write this, I know a lot of techs that hate iPads and the TrialPad app. I certainly understand. Depending on an app-based product to present your entire case can be risky as apps are prone to crashes and failures. However, in a technology driven world where there is an abundance of options, it certainly couldn’t hurt to bring something as a third option before going back to butcher paper. In the end, the jury will appreciate not being subjected to the low-tech ELMO. More than likely, your clients will appreciate it as well.

About the Author: Mike Tisa is the Director of Litigation Technology for Aptus Court Reporting. He is a Certified Legal Video Specialist through the National Court Reporters Association. Mike has been in the legal field since 2007 and is continually researching advancements in the legal technology industry. For more on Mike’s background, visit him on LinkedIn.

After shooting over 1,000 depositions , I look back and reflect on what helped me improve as a legal videographer. Seminars, conferences, technical upgrades and compacting my kit have helped bolster my development and expand my skill set. But the one thing I truly believe made a difference, Trial Presentation. Every videographer knows (or should know) the final deliverable of a deposition can come in a synchronized version. But how many videographers actually know what a sync can do? How many videographers have actually navigated their way through a ‘sync?’ Sure, explaining and understanding the concept of a sync is important, but not as important (in my humble opinion) as seeing it in action. It’s critically important that a videographer understand the full function and limitations of any product they deliver or recommend to a client.

In my view, if a videographer has learned the sync interface and actually played back video clips in trial, it improves their sense of awareness during the original recording of the deposition. Things like microphone and backdrop placement become more important after hearing and seeing some poorly mic’d and framed witnesses played back before a judge and/or jury. Sure, you might be able to hear the deponent when you mic’d them up, but when played back it a large room, the audio might not be as clear as it could have. That one clip could be the turning point to a case and if not properly amplified and heard, it might not resonate with the judge or jury.

I’m not saying videographers can’t be great without going to trial. Anyone that takes pride in his or her work should perform the proper prep to ensure the best quality. But imagine a videographer that has seen the product from beginning to end. They were present for the depo and then present for the playback. They know their product inside and out so that the final deliverable will be flawless. Even if they aren’t the ones who will be showing it at trial, they can relate to the trial tech or consultant that will and would not want to put that person or persons in a difficult position.

A quick story to end on – When I was presenting at trial in St. Louis several years ago, I made clips of a medical experts testimony. The video was from early 2009, when the older BlackBerry phones were still prevalent in depositions. Anyone who remembers them will also remember the annoying buzzing they would create on video when ringing or receiving notifications. In this instance, the buzzing was coming through OVER the answers of the doctor. Of course, as the trial tech I was…scolded (to use a nice term) for letting that happen. Now, though the videographer should have notified counsel that the he was picking up interference, he continued without doing so. Imagine if that videographer knew what could happen at trial if he heard the answers weren’t coming through clearly and how that would affect the video testimony.

As litigators turn to more cost effective ways to conduct out of town depositions, web-based video conferencing is becoming increasingly popular. As an alternative to traditional video conferencing, web-based video conferencing allows more flexibility requiring only a high speed internet connection and a computer equipped with a webcam and microphone. This eliminates the somewhat difficult task of locating two locations that are equipped with traditional video conferencing systems. So if all you need is a computer, internet, webcam and microphone, everything should be set to go, right? Think again…

While having all those items are paramount in order to proceed with your deposition, there are some preliminary steps to consider and take. Here are my top tips for conducting a smoother web-based video conference:

 

1.) Verify that both locations have high speed internet, not just internet. A hardwired connection is usually the best source for the fastest bandwidth. Since this is an increasingly popular way to conduct depositions, some law firms have dedicated WIFI networks designed specifically for this type of service. This is a luxury and not common, especially at hotels. Make sure your scheduling coordinator asks for a high speed, hardwired internet connection.

 

2.) Make sure your computer monitor is big enough or at least has multiple outputs. You probably wouldn’t want both the deponent and opposing counsel to have to huddle around a tiny laptop screen. Make sure the monitor is big enough to allow both parties to comfortably participate or use one of your outputs to connect to a larger monitor or TV.

 

3.) Be prepared by having an audio backup through the phone. As we all know, the internet has a mind of its own. Even with traditional video conferencing systems, freezing and audio dropouts can AND DO occur. Nothing is more frustrating to all parties, especially the court reporter, to be in mid-answer and lose the rest due to poor connectivity. If you are unsure of the internet connection, try setting up an audio backup that integrates the phone with the video. This allows you to see the witness and hear them through the phone while the audio and video sync up with virtually no latency.

 

4.) Test, test and test again. There is no such thing as over testing when it comes to technology. Have both parties sit at different angles and talk to see where it might be best to place the deponent to ensure they are both seen and heard. Also, try to test using the equipment you will actually be using for the deposition. One computer might work great and the other might require a little tweaking. DO NOT put yourself in the position of having to troubleshoot on the day of the deposition, especially when it could have been avoided.

 

5.) Make sure the deponent is a good candidate for conducting a deposition this way. While this can be a great and cost effective way to conduct a deposition, it might not be the best way. If the deponent is hard of hearing or soft spoken, it could make for a potentially long day. Constantly asking a deponent to repeat his answer and having them constantly ask counsel to repeat his question can become extremely tedious. It also might sacrifice the quality of the record because more than likely if you are having trouble hearing the witness, the court reporter is also having trouble.

About the Author: Mike Tisa is the Director of Litigation Technology for Aptus Court Reporting. He is a Certified Legal Video Specialist and a Trial Presentation Professional through the National Court Reporters Association. Mike has been in the legal field since 2007 and is continuously researching advancements in the legal technology industry. For more on Mike’s background, visit his LinkedIn profile. http://www.linkedin.com/in/miketisa/