The necessary differences between a Legal Video Deposition Set Up and a Court Reporter Deposition Set Up might not seem like a big deal till one realizes the importance of optimum comfort for everyone in the room for the next 2 to 10 hours, give or take.
Comfort is welcomed when one is at work. Court Reporters like to sit at the head of a table so they can see and hear everyone. However, when legal video arrived at the party the set up had to change. In the early days of legal video there were some court reporters who fought this change of being pushed from the head of the table aka center of the table, off to the side or the corner of the head. For a well-shot video deposition, that affords everyone optimum comfort for the long day of work, the witness should be at the head of the table, and the camera at the other head. The court reporter sits between the witness and the questioning attorney. It is good practice for a videographer to set the lead seat on the other side of the witness one to 1.5 spaces back. This ensures that the attorney who doesn't have a CR between them and the witness isn't sitting to close thus projecting themselves into the shot. It also allows the CR to have a better view of them. If the witness looks at either side of the table the camera will still capture most of the face and not a profile. All other attorneys can sit in the chairs between the leads and the camera. A 4 mic system will require the 4th mic to be placed in the center of the table near the second chair position but mostly focused on the 3rd, 4th, etc chairs and turned up when needed for the recording. Should the mixer have more than 4 ports/buses more mic's can be placed out as needed. Not all videographers like to travel around with a 6 or more port mixer due to the weight and bulky size. As tech has improved quality and shrunk in size, most legal videographers opt for a more streamlined compact system.
Setting up for the length of the table this way affords everyone a place at the table. Should the court reporter be worried about hearing everyone, an audio line can be offered or hooked in. The court reporter is still able to view the room, hear everyone, and mark exhibits. The videographer is able to capture the subjects full face, have fewer issues with others entering the shot, and be less distracting when needing to search for something in their bag. Usually a quiet snack after hearing they will be working through lunch.
Still, there are videographers who don't care to claim their own comfort at the table and allow Court Reporters or older attorneys to bully them into setting the room for a traditional non-video deposition. That set up requires one of two uncomfortable setups. The first is using the conference table for the mixer, burners, computers etc, and basically sitting on top of the court reporter with the questioning attorney to the right. That attorney usually puts too much space between the camera and themselves, which causes the deponent to sit sideways to the camera, aka profile shot. It also requires the videographer to handle the exhibits before they are marked. In my early years, I remember reading a rule that the exhibits must be handed directly to the CR for marking and not to pass between any hands before marking. Should the videographer need something from their bag they are then distracting the questioning attorney with their actions. This set up also causes the mixer and burner to be at an uncomfortable distance. I am also forced to keep the laptop on my lap. This is a painful set up due to the heat of the machine which can cause 3rd-degree burns. I learned of that in a deposition. There is also the angle of strain this puts on my neck (looking down) and my wrist being at such an awkward angle. There is also the worry of losing my video feed to the laptop because it is being moved about, a lot. It hurts my feelings and years of training when forced to set up in an awkward fashion and told to set up in a way that makes the shot look bad.
The second side table set up I have had to use at times due to the configuration of the room.
Basically, it is like the previously CR depo set-up only I am further back. The questioning attorney sits next to the CR, the other attorney sits to the right of the camera while delivering cross. There is still worry about someone getting into my shot, my neck and wrists are still in pain, and depending on the chairs, my ass is also in pain.
For a doctor deposition, awkward set-ups are the norm and is easier to deal with due to the shorter nature of most doctor depositions, but I'm sure many osteopathic doctors will disagree. Doctor depos are about 1 to 2 hours ish if they don't go off the video record or the focused topic too much. There are some doctor depos that can be all day. Over time Videographers and Court Reporters get to know the names of doctors and the kinds of depos they have.
The only attorneys who seem ok with using a traditional CR set-up for a Video depo are those who allow themselves to live in the blissful ignorance of unknowing. Personally, I find that disturbing. However, there are many times I am disturbed by the lack of knowledge many attorneys have of deposition setups or the connections between injuries affecting different parts of a human body, ecosystem, buildings, etc. Then I must remember my profession affords me an unobstructed, no blindfolds view of the world. Yet, when it comes to videoing cases I am bound to the duties of my profession to be an uninterested, unbiased party who must be as quiet as the camera I shoot with. At the same time, I feel compelled to share the knowledge of the different types of deposition setups in hopes to enlighten and encourage healthier setups.
At times Lighting can also cause problems with setting up. Some offices have 3 walls of windows and hopefully some kind of shade or blinds to pull, but that forces the witness on the only wall with a door 3 feet behind them. That makes it hard to have the backdrop behind them, and the videographer might have to set up across the room on chairs. There is also the chance of the lighting being too dark, some videographers have a small lighting kit. There are times when that small light kit is still not enough. So I have had to go out into the other spaces of locations to find lamps of any kind. Preferably floor lamps, but if forced to use a short table lamp I then hunt for thick books or boxes of some kind to give the lamp hight and thus more light cascading down the witnesses face instead of right into their eyes. By the end of such depositions, the attorneys even thank me for bringing in more light because they were having a hard time seeing their notes. Even more fun when I go back to a location I know to be dark to find that they have improved the lighting situation.
Although there are many ways to set up due to each location being different. There are two main setups for traditional Court Reporting and Video Depositions. I do hope that I have described them well enough to understand in this blog posting. Thank you for reading and if you have deposition setup tips of your own please add them into the comments below. I tried to stick with the general setup positions which do have more details when further examined.
(Photos grabbed from a Google search on Legal Video Set-Ups)