Art of Facts

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  • What You Get When You Mix Timelines and George Orwell: Design, Intellectual Honesty and Control
    by Stacey Manela Originally published in The Art of Advocacy: Online with ACT of Communication August Issue 2011 Orwell said, “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” There is a certain curiousness to this quote when he speaks about controlling the past. It…
    Written on Tuesday, 03 April 2012 19:48
  • Secret Weapon Series #3: Videotaped Depositions—Pointers for Best Playback in Court
    As we all know, video in court can be a magnet for any number of possible failures and subsequent migraines. Here are some suggestions to help prevent disaster — because the most critical witnesses somehow always seem to have the worst videotapes. Here are some ideas to achieve success with…
    Written on Tuesday, 03 April 2012 19:45
  • Secret Weapon Series #2: Pitfalls of Powerpoint
    PowerPoint has become a standard, but not a very good one. Litigators should use caution when preparing critical presentations and avoid the software’s inherent problems. PowerPoint slide shows can shift focus to the presenter rather than the content of the presentation. The suggested structure of bullet point lists with multiple…
    Written on Tuesday, 03 April 2012 19:43
  • Secret Weapon Series #1: Getting the Most out of Data-Driven Graphics
    Statistical graphics are made to reveal data in a more sophisticated manner than spreadsheets or traditional formulas. These types of tools are commonly used in the damages portion of a case to demonstrate or repudiate values to the audience. These graphics should be done precisely with clarity, keeping in mind…
    Written on Tuesday, 03 April 2012 19:38
  • The Art of Facts Team
    The Art of Facts Team: Stacey Manela This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. During her seven year tenure with a Houston law firm Stacey earned a reputation for hard-hitting information graphics in high-stakes litigation and effective client communication materials in the mass-tort arena. In 1997, upon a strong desire to create an impact in the…
    Written on Tuesday, 03 April 2012 19:33

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Secret Weapon Series #3: Videotaped Depositions—Pointers for Best Playback in Court

As we all know, video in court can be a magnet for any number of possible failures and subsequent migraines. Here are some suggestions to help prevent disaster — because the most critical witnesses somehow always seem to have the worst videotapes. Here are some ideas to achieve success with deposition video:

(1) It’s okay to ask your videographer questions. Ask to look through the camera and make sure you like the way the witness is framed in viewfinder. Keep in mind how you would like it to look while playing on a large screen in court. Avoid having objects, especially large ones, in the foreground. Check the background. If it is a portable screen, make sure the ENTIRE screen is in the frame. If no screen is used, avoid backdrops that are distracting like windows, mirrors, reflective glass in picture frames, doors, or credenzas where refreshments for the room are accessed.

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A misplaced portable screen creates a distraction for the viewer, taking attention away from the testimony and focusing it on the leather couch in the background.

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Distractions in the extreme—make sure that nothing sits between the camera and the witness.

(2) TEST THE AUDIO. TEST THE AUDIO. TEST THE AUDIO. Insist on the best microphones your provider has to offer. Make sure they aren’t hidden under lapels or obstructed in any way. Choose a room that is free of chiming wall clocks, passing fire engines, nagging speakerphone interruptions, squeaky chairs and other external sources. (We have even seen birds ruin deposition video!) Remember also if you are typing on a laptop, this can often be picked up on the audio. This goes for blackberries and phones too. Turn them off if you can stand it. Wireless devices can create interference that is very annoying during playback. If you need to whisper to your associate during an examination, remember you are miked. The potential for embarrassment here is huge.

(3) Whenever possible, rehearse with your witness on video prior to the deposition. You can be very surprised with the result. One of my most dreaded courtroom  moments was telling my client his expert had picked his nose throughout the video they designated for playback in court. Mannerisms and wardrobe choices can play a big part on video. A safe choice is to wear solid colors. Avoid reds, small patterns or loud stripes or prints. Shiny accessories can also create problems.

(4) Objections and side bars. This may sound obvious, but pay particular attention to not speaking over others and caution others who do. Not only will the court reporter adore you, it will ensure your best chance at a cleanly-cut video.

(5) Technical FAQ’s. If you intend to use a trial technician to edit and play your videos in court, the standard format for video is MPEG-1. MPEG-2, which is higher quality, is now an accepted standard too. Ask for your videos in one of these formats, it will save time and money. Also be sure to get the digital transcript from the court reporter. Your tech will need an ascii or a .ptx (E-tran) to synchronize the video to the transcript. “Synchronization” of videos allows for quick editing capabilities in court, instant (almost!) access to random page/line in a video and scrolling text during playback.

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