Video Depositions: Attorney Requests and Incorrect Assumptions

Video DepositionsI’ve been thinking about the many requests or issues that come up during depositions between attorneys and legal videographers. As a videographer, I know I, along with fellow videographers, can be guilty sometimes of assuming that attorneys know the rules videographers live by and the reasons behind those rule. I want to address a few of those requests and issues that come up from time to time in a deposition setting.   

When attorneys hire a legal videographer, they have a specific expectation of what they need during the deposition. This is great, but if the ordering counsel is needing something done out of the ordinary, it’s good to have that information known at the time of scheduling, or at least before the day of the deposition.

One request that has come up in the past that I want to touch on is when an attorney has the expectation that the legal videographer can videotape more than just the deponent in the room.

The request is usually to zoom out and get multiple people, whether it be the family in the room, opposing counsel, or even other clients present during the deposition. Whatever the reason for needing this, videographers simply cannot fulfill this request. If this request was as easy as adjusting the camera and zooming out so everyone was in the shot, videographers would do so.  But it’s not that simple.

You might ask why not. What’s the big deal? After all you noticed the deposition for video and it’s your video. Well, not exactly.  This video will be available to all the parties and as such must be done correctly.  I have written before about the various code sections in the California Code of Civil Procedure, but legal videographers also have a set standards or best practices that should be followed for an accurate and precise video record that was written and created by the National Court Reporters Association.  This group certifies not only court reporters but also videographers all over the country.  There are 62 Standard Rules that this group strongly recommends legal videographers follow. These rules are essential for keeping all videographers great at their jobs and keeping all videotaped depositions looking consistent so anyone can use the videos for trial, if need be. Believe me when I say that videographers really want to accommodate their clients and help them the best they can.

There are two standards that refer and clarify the request I explained above, Standards 23 and 24. These standards state:

The camera shall be positioned on a level tripod, and the lens barrel shall be at a height which is near to eye level of the deponent. The videographer shall position the camera in such a way so as to provide a clear view of: the deponent's face and hand during oath or affirmation, the presentation of exhibits or documents such as x-rays, charts, diagrams or models, and the deponent and at least a portion of the document from which the deponent is reading.

A simple and maybe obvious solution to a request for filming more than just the deponent, exhibits, et cetera, would be to shoot with two cameras and possibly having two videographers present. Many legal videographers would not carry extra equipment, so this is why the ordering firm would have to request this when scheduling or well before the deposition. It would give the videographer plenty of time to schedule and prepare for the deposition and the request.

We have to remember that the videographer’s main priority is to capture the deponent and get clear audio all while following those 62 Standard Rules. I would venture to say two videographers would be a must to make sure everything flows accordingly in this type of instance.  There would be one video produced for use at trial and another video to address the other request.

Something else that comes to our attention that we assume attorneys know is when we can and cannot go off the record.

Standard 48 states:

In the event that requests to go off the record are disputed by counsel, the videographer shall continue recording the deposition until agreement by all counsel.

Let’s say two attorneys are disagreeing, one counsel requesting to go off the record or one attorney decides to stand up and walk out without saying anything to the court reporter or videographer. These instances happen more often than attorneys may realize. It is the videographer’s job and duty to stay on the record until both attorneys/parties agree to go off record. We want to make sure we are getting the same accurate record as the court reporter beside us. In this instance, videographers cannot assume anything and there needs to be a clear communication between parties, the court reporter, and the videographer.

Hiring a legal videographer, you would assume, it’s a simple hook-up, the videographer has a read-on and then they press “record.” Surprisingly there is so much more to it. It’s important to all the people in the room, the litigants and the attorneys, that the videographer is properly trained for depositions and follows the appropriate rules and standards.

If you have any questions about videotaping your next deposition, we are here to help.  Just contact us at (800) 322-4595 or email me at [email protected].  You may be interested in 5 Reasons You May Want to Videotape Your Next Deposition.