(Note: This article talks about video depositions in a legal setting, but any Mac user who needs to be able to present and annotate photographs and other documentation, and record those presentations, might find it useful.)
There has to be a better way. That was my thought as I prepared for my last trial. If you are a lawyer who does trial work, you’ve probably taken many video depositions for use at trial. In doing so, your method of presenting exhibits might have been to have your videographer zoom in on exhibits that were referenced by the witness. That’s how I did it, until recently.
I kicked that process to the curb for my last set of trial depositions, and switched to a digital method of presenting exhibits. Caveat: If you’re going to do this, you will want to work with a videographer who is tech savvy, and who already may have his own process for the digital presentation of exhibits. I found such a videographer in Drew Halton of Key Legal Video1.
Here were the pieces to the system I used in conjunction with Key Legal Video. Some of these pieces came from me, and some came from Drew Halton:
I used TrialSmart for the presentation of exhibits. TrialSmart is a Mac app that allows a lawyer to present and annotate exhibits. The beauty of TrialSmart is that one lawyer really can use the app himself, unlike some of its Windows counterparts.
TrialSmart’s zooming and annotating features were helpful in my case. For example, an issue in one deposition concerned the structural integrity of a metal pole. TrialSmart allowed me to direct the witness’s attention to a section of the pole, by zooming in on that section. In another deposition, I zoomed in on a section of a medical exhibit. Throughout that deposition, the doctor also used the mouse cursor to point out various portions of exhibits.
TrialSmart does have some bugs (I’ve been hoping for an update for several months), but nothing that was a showstopper. An alternative to TrialSmart might involve using TrialPad on your iPad and Reflector on your Mac, but I haven’t tried that yet.
As I was questioning the witnesses, I used TrialSmart to throw exhibits onto a large external monitor connected to my MacBook Pro via an HDMI cable. That monitor was positioned just off camera, to the right of the witness. I kept a mouse in front of the witness (keeping the trackpad on my MacBook for myself), so the witness could point out parts of the exhibit during his or her testimony. TrialSmart offers a dual monitor option, allowing me to see a file manager of sorts on my MacBook screen, with the exhibits appearing on the external monitor.
ScreenFlow is Mac screencasting and video editing software. During the deposition, it recorded everything displayed on the witness’s exhibit monitor. For the final product, Key Legal Video used time code and audio to perfectly sync up the exhibit video with the video of the witness.
Key Legal Video brought Zoom, an online video conferencing service, to the process, even though we were all in the same room. Zoom, along with ScreenFlow, gave the setup some redundancy in the event of a glitch. The exhibit feed and the witness feed each joined the videoconference, and the videographer then recorded both feeds. To use Zoom, you need a solid Internet connection (even with everyone in the same room), so it might not work in some situations.
Those were the main tools – at least the ones to which I was privy. I’m sure there was lots of other magic going on behind the videographer’s big board. The important point – find yourself a good videographer like Key Legal Video. During trial prep, the last thing you want is to get bogged down with the technical aspects of the process (well, unless you’re like me and really enjoy that stuff).
The Final Product
The image at the top of the article, as well as the one below, are a couple of screen grabs from the testimony of an orthopedic surgeon. For most of the testimony, the witness filled the entire screen. When the witness referred to an exhibit, though, the video went to picture-in-picture mode.
If you have questions about the process, feel free to contact me via the contact form here at the site, on Twitter, or in the comments below. If you’re located in Central Pennsylvania or the Mid-Atlantic Region, I heartily endorse Key Legal Video. I’m not affiated with Key Legal Video, nor have I been paid to mention it here. I’m just a very happy customer. I’ve exchanged a few messages with Drew Halton since my case concluded, and he’s informed me he’s already upgraded his process with some new equipment and procedures.
- Drew could have done this on his own, without my additions to the process. So, if the thought of learning new software, on top of trial prep, daunts you, find a videographer who can run the show himself. ↩︎