Legal Videographers, Court Reporters – Videotaping the Deposition

Legal videographers are typically the first professional that shows up at a deposition and has the job of configuring the room for the court reporter, witness, and attorneys.  The legal videographer has to take into consideration space, windows, and the table shape.

I have traveled the country to report depositions, and in some regions it is typical for the videographer to shoot down the table and have the court reporter sitting to the left or right side of the witness with the questioning attorney next to the court reporter.  This is my very least favorite configuration, and when I walk in the room and see the camera on the other end of the table, I am not happy.   If the videographer is hired by our company, we insist the shot be across the table, “over the shoulder” of the questioning attorney with the court reporter at the end of the table between the witness and questioning attorney.

There are two reasons why I prefer the shot across the table.  One, the witness is looking into the camera, not looking at the attorney with the camera focused on the side of the witness’ face.  Two, as the court reporter, I can watch the mouths of the witness and attorneys as they speak and physically face both speakers without twisting my body.  Sitting in a twisted position after a couple of hours is incredibly hard on the neck and lower back.

Because the steno machine needs to be in front of the court reporter, the reporter has to be three or four feet away from the table, and if the reporter sits next to the questioning attorney, the reporter is either behind the questioning attorney (so the court reporter has to lean forward trying to see the attorney’s mouth and hear) or sitting alongside and having to twist to see/hear the attorney. (Typically court reporters choose to face the witness rather than the attorney.)

I believe the CLVS training by NCRA teaches the down-the-table method to videographers.  I wish they would reconsider their teaching.  Our clients have been educated and prefer the over-the-shoulder method.  The only time we would shoot down the table is when there is no choice because of the room and/or table, which is about .0005% of the time.

The videographers around the country that I have had the pleasure to work with are always very considerate of the court reporter, and I salute them.   Whether shooting across the table or down the table, I look at the legal videographer as an ally and respected professional in the world of depositions.

@rosaliekramm  Twitter

4 replies
  1. Gene Betler, CLVS says:

    My name is Gene Betler, and I’m currently the Chair of NCRA’s CLVS Council. I can tell from your blog post that you view the videographer and court reporter as partners in making the record, and I can’t tell you how much that’s appreciated. I would like to clarify one point regarding the CLVS curriculum.

    Both down-the-table and across-the-table shooting styles are taught as part of the program, and we instruct CLVS candidates on the strengths and weaknesses of each style. A CLVS is expected to use his or her best judgment, keeping in mind any stipulations, court orders, or special requests from the parties, as well as the reporter’s need to both see and hear all speakers.

    A CLVS is also trained to provide an audio feed, complete with appropriate hookups, to assist the court reporter in taking down the proceedings.

    Of course, this only applies if you’re working with a CLVS-certified videographer, which is why it’s important to insist on certification.

    More information about the CLVS certification is available on NCRA’s website at http://www.ncra.org/clvs. We’re also always happy to discuss the program with reporters, videographers, firm owners and anyone else via email at clvs@ncra.org.

  2. Rosalie Kramm says:

    Gene, Thank you so much for your comment. I stand corrected. I am happy to hear CLVSes are given both across-the-table and down-the-table options in their training. I always look at the videographer as my friend when I walk into a deposition. I know there is someone there who has my back and vice versa. I appreciate the professionalism of CVLS-trained videographers.

  3. Tony Wright says:

    I’m a videographer in Naples, Florida. Here, we are typically taught the “down the table” method unless space is limited. I haven’t heard any complaints from the court reporters, but what you say makes a lot of sense. I think if the court reporters ever voiced their opinion to me, I would be happy to oblige unless the room just didn’t allow for it.

    For the video side of things, it is slightly easier for a videographer to capture a better picture shooting down the table because it puts more distance between the camera and the subject. The narrower field of view makes it easier to keep unwanted objects out of the shot, such as court reporter laptops, documents, flailing arms, etc. That way we can make more subtle adjustments with the camera if we need to pan or tilt. It also keeps our equipment further away from everyone, which is especially nice in tight conference rooms.

    I think the first thing I look at when I enter a room for a deposition is where I’ll be the least intrusive and where I can have access to power without running extension cords across the room. All videographer’s goal should be to be invisible. We don’t want anyone, be it witnesses or attorneys, feeling uncomfortable with our bulky equipment right next to them.

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