Questions to Ask When Booking Legal Video
1. Is my assigned videographer a “Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS)” as recognized by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA)?
There are other legal video certification programs out there, but this is arguably the most rigorous and the only one recognized by the NCRA, the same organization that has certified your court reporter. It requires a candidate to attend classes, pass a written test and pass a production examination. The written test includes knowledge of the laws of civil procedure, meaning that the person who shows up for your job has a grounding in the protocol required for legal admissibility of evidence in a court of law. The production exam tests each candidate’s proficiency using the equipment and troubleshooting during a mock deposition. The CLVS certification process involves time and money, so you know you are getting a videographer committed to the legal profession and not just a wedding videographer trolling for fill-in work.
2. How long have you or your company been offering legal video?
This is not fail-proof, but generally if a legal video business has survived for a lengthy period of time, they have repeat clients and offer credible service. The field of legal video first appeared in the late 1970s, so don’t believe anyone who claims they were videotaping depositions much before that. If you are particularly concerned, don’t be afraid to ask for references---and follow up. If you are looking for a service other than a standard video deposition, be sure and ask about the firm’s length of experience with that particular service, e.g. independent medical examination (IME), day-in-the-life, construction site inspection, legal video edits, etc.
3. What kind of equipment do you shoot on?
If this is for a video deposition, you want someone that will set up a professional model camera on a tripod connected to equipment (e.g. a DVR) to record a backup video simultaneously. Shooting on smaller cameras without backup is appropriate for vehicle inspections and IMEs where the videographer may have to move around a lot or fit into tight spaces.
If someone offers to shoot video in HD, remember you will only see the result in HD if it is recorded on a Blu-ray™ disc and played out of a Blu-ray™ player. Otherwise, there is no improvement over any other digital recording, although you’ll probably be paying a lot more for it.
4. What are your fees?
This can be tricky. Virtually all firms will quote you an hourly production fee, e.g. $X per hour for labor. Ask whether that hourly production fee applies only to videotaping time or whether you also have to pay for the time it takes the videographer to set up and take down equipment. Ask if there is a minimum time requirement. Many firms have a 1, 2, or 3 hour minimum that you will have to pay even if the actual video taping time runs only a few minutes.
Besides production fees, be sure and ask about costs for your preferred end product: e.g., MPEG1 or DVD. If you are interested in having a video deposition synchronized with the court reporters transcript, ask what the cost is for that. Some firms charge by the hour for synching time, others charge by the tape or disc.
Some firms charge for the actual videotape stock they shoot on even though your end product may be a MPEG1 or DVD. This is not necessarily a negative as it probably indicates that the firm does not re-use tapes, assuring higher quality.
Ask about any archival costs. For example, Arizona requires that the videographer store a copy of the video deposition or legal proceeding for 10 years. If the deposition site is in a different city than where the legal video firm is located, ask about mileage charges.
4. What length of tapes do you shoot on?
Some firms shoot on 2-hour tapes. Some firms shoot on 1-hour tapes. Besides added interruptions to change tape during a deposition, 1-hour tapes can actually be more expensive in terms of end product costs. Two hours of video fit on a standard DVD, but legal video firms usually don’t merge tapes. If two firms charge the same for a DVD, but Firm A shoots on 2-hour tapes and Firm B shoots on 1-hour tapes, then a 2-hour depo with Firm B is going to cost twice as much as Firm A in terms of total DVD costs. More tape changes also mean more billable production time, compounding the cost.
5. Can you provide video streaming if one or more of our attorneys can’t travel to your location?
Sometimes you will need a fully equipped video conference facility to accomplish this goal, e.g. if you have multiple attorneys in multiple locations all requiring to interact with the witness. At other times, you can save money by using a service such as LiveNote™ Stream or Desktop Depo™ or even Skype™. For example, if an attorney cannot attend a local deposition, the video can be fed through a proprietary network that can be viewed on the internet by logging into the private network. Audio is usually provided through the phone. Skype can also relay audio and video, but is less secure and can be interrupted if the Internet connection isn’t good.