COVID-19: Looking back through the lens

COVID-19 has been a huge learning experience for many legal videographers. We, like our court reporters, watched as the jobs on our calendars quickly disappeared, seemingly without end. This time of uncertainty provided us with ample time to reevaluate what the future of legal video may look like while also challenging us to provide our services without having to be in the same room.

What have we learned? Most importantly, we’ve learned to adapt. We’ve learned that the record button in videoconferencing software may look enticing but does not compare to the training and technical ability of our certified legal videographers. Our continuous monitoring and redundant recordings are unmatched for reliability. We have taken the standard in-room equipment and reconfigured it to allow us to record proceedings remotely.

The CLVS Council, together with the NCRA Board, released a statement this past spring, highlighting a few issues with using the record function built in the videoconferencing software. We cautioned: “Due to factors outside of anyone’s control, one may be surprised to have no video at all.” But what factors are we referring to? Why is it not advisable to record video depositions using this “record” function? The CLVS Council is providing further details here for those who are interested in learning more.

We recognize that the various videoconferencing software options have been a godsend to our industry during these times. We also recognize that they are first and foremost just that, videoconference platforms. While it is nice that they offer many options that enhance their abilities, the record function, though enticing to use, is not in your best interest to press into service. You are documenting a video deposition for a court of law, and reliability is of the utmost importance. Case in point: Zoom’s website indicates that if the Zoom meeting unexpectedly shuts down at any time, any recordings of the meeting could be irretrievably lost. In addition, after the meeting is concluded, the video recording requires a lengthy conversion process before files are made available to the user. If that conversion process fails for any reason or is interrupted, Zoom warns that the recordings could be irretrievably lost as well. This is one reason why the CLVS Council recommends to all reporting agencies and legal videographers that remote video depositions be recorded outside the videoconferencing platform. While this alone may warrant such a warning, there are further reasons why the CLVS Council offers this recommendation.

Additionally, videoconferencing platforms do not provide a dedicated recording monitor while the meeting is taking place. Without a recording monitor, no assurance is given of what precisely is being recorded and exactly how in real time. For example, did you know that videoconferencing recordings are often recorded at wildly different resolutions throughout the meeting due to bandwidth issues? There’s no way to tell whether a bandwidth problem is occurring or when.

Here’s another example: If you pin the witness to your first monitor and allow screen-sharing on your second monitor, what will the videoconference record? What is on your first monitor? Your second monitor? Both monitors together?

What about other setups? As videoconferencing platforms tweak their software from week to week due to growing demand, could this inadvertently affect precisely how the recordings take place? With no recording monitor and only after the conversion process is complete can one go back and review the recorded files, and at this point the deposition is already over. One has no recourse at this point if the recording is not as expected or is lost entirely.

The NCRA/CLVS standards for recording video depositions include the ability to continuously monitor the video recording, as well as to record simultaneous, redundant recordings of the deposition in case one recording fails or is corrupted:

CLVS STANDARD #6: “Any video format is acceptable for the purpose of recording depositions provided that a simultaneous backup video recording is made.”
CLVS STANDARD #43 and #44: “The videographer shall continuously monitor the video recording…[and] the videographer shall monitor the audio continuously throughout the deposition…”

These standards ensure a complete and faithful capture of the deposition even if one device or piece of software inadvertently fails. Clearly, the “record” function in videoconferencing software was never intended for legal procedures. The good news is there are multiple ways for a legal videographer to record a remote deposition outside of the videoconferencing platform using additional software and hardware.

CLVS members across the country have quickly responded to provide safe and reliable recordings of remote video depositions, just as court reporters have learned how to do the same for remote depositions not requiring video. If you are a legal videographer, stay informed on best practices for remote videos.

All of these things are positive, knowledge-building skills that better position us for our future. What if attorneys have found they enjoy having the extra time added to their schedules and not having to spend time in the airports? What if they want to continue remote videography for years to come? Now we know that we can handle whatever the world may throw at us while capturing the record whether in person or remote.

If you have further questions about how a legal videographer can safely and properly record remote depositions according to NCRA standards, you can reach out to the CLVS Council directly at clvs@ncra.org.

This article was written and published on behalf of the NCRA’s Certified Legal Video Specialist Council. Thanks to all of the members of the CLVS Council: Chairs LaJuana Pruitt, CLVS, and Melinda Sindiong, CLVS; and members Louis Chiodo, CLVS; Tim Falk, CLVS; Doug Gerash, CLVS; Tim Janes, CLVS; David B. Jenkins, CLVS; John Jensen, CLVS; Andrea M. Kreutz, CLVS; and Rick Spector, CLVS.

Earn your CLVS this spring — Your first step is online!

Start now and you can earn your Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS) certification this spring. The process for earning the CLVS includes three steps: 1) completing the educational training, consisting of a mandatory online workshop and an optional hands-on training session; 2) passing a hands-on test of what you’ve learned in a simulated deposition; and 3) passing a written knowledge test.

The first step is to complete the CLVS Mandatory Certification Workshop, which is available online. The Workshop includes an introduction and nine modules covering everything you need to know to be prepared to record a deposition with confidence. The materials include a review of the equipment needed, ethical considerations, how to work with the court reporter, and much more. The online component includes all of the information you need to complete the mandatory educational portion of the CLVS certification.

The second part of the educational component is an optional Hands-on Training, which is scheduled in conjunction with this spring’s CLVS Production Exam. During the hands-on session, CLVS candidates have the opportunity to go over the practical test, participate in a mock deposition, and gain valuable experience with the camera they will be using in the test.

“We did not have a hands-on class when I took my practical test,” said Mindy Sindiong, CLVS, owner of De Bene Esse Media in Cincinnati, Ohio, and co-chair of NCRA’s CLVS Council. The Council leads the CLVS Seminar and administers the Production Exam. “Having the hands-on session would have saved a lot of worry and anxiety had I been able to take it.”

In March, registration will open for both the Production Exam and Hands-on Training, which are scheduled for April 5-6, at NCRA’s headquarters in Reston, Va. Space is limited so candidates are encouraged to sign up early. Registration closes on March 22.

For the Production Exam, candidates will run the show at a staged deposition and be graded on their ability to follow video deposition guidelines and to produce a usable, high-quality video of the deposition. Candidates must have taken the online CLVS Mandatory Certification Workshop, available online through InReach, prior to taking either the Production Exam or the Written Knowledge Test. Candidates must complete the educational components prior to taking the CLVS Production Exam. Candidates can take the CLVS WKT in January, April, July, and October each year.

Registration for the Written Knowledge Test for the CLVS will next open in March. Register for a test by March 31 and schedule your test between April 9-23 to complete the three-step process, and you will be well on your way to earning the CLVS.

To learn more about the CLVS program, visit NCRA.org/CLVS

NCRA members who hold another credential, such as the RPR, can earn 0.25 PDC each after passing the CLVS Written Knowledge Test and the CLVS Production Exam.

Please contact NCRA by calling 800-272-6272 or email testing@ncra.org for more information.

NCRA Board recognizes Brian Clune for contributions to legal video program

Brian Clune, shown here with NCRA President Christine Willette, is recognized for his contribution to the legal video program at the 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference

Brian Clune, CLVS, was presented with a plaque recognizing his 20 years of service to the court reporting, captioning, and legal videography professions. Clune was instrumental in creating NCRA’s Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS) program, including developing an ever-changing seminar and creating an exam for program participants to prove a basic knowledge of the techniques and ethics required by videographers pursuing a legal video career. NCRA President Chris Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC, presented the plaque to Clune, who had retired from the CLVS Council and committee work in 2017.

“The NCRA Board of Directors wanted to formally recognize Brian Clune for his 20 years of service to the profession through his dedication and arduous work with the CLVS program,” said Willette. “The work Brian has done for the CLVS certification and the Trial Presentation programs helped lay the groundwork for what we have today. We are thankful for all that he has done to bring court reporters and legal videographers a greater understanding of each person’s role in the legal process so that together we can offer our clients a better product. His expertise in the field has been an integral part of the success of the program.”

The CLVS program not only teaches participants the mechanics and best practices for providing a consistent and impartial video record, but it also reaffirms the cooperative nature of the legal videographer and court reporter in the deposition setting. “I am grateful to be the first CLVS to be recognized by the Board for my volunteer service,” said Clune, “but it is the hard work of the many associate members on the CLVS Council that that keeps the program up to date and running smoothly. … Each council member spent extra hours beyond the regular meetings to keep the program fresh and in step with the current technology. It was this collective effort that created the success of the program for these many years.

“The council members I worked with are too many to list here, but they remain good friends even after they left the Council. I truly appreciate the opportunity to have worked with such a selfless group of people whose only reward was a more respected CLVS program.”

Clune first served as a member of the CLVS Committee and then eventually became the Chair of the CLVS Council, offering his advice to newcomers to the profession, court reporters, and the profession at large. Clune also championed the need for additional, ongoing education for legal videographers, just as is required of their reporter counterparts, and was an integral member of the group that created NCRA’s Trial Presentation Program.

“It is a rare thing when one individual can make such a tremendous contribution to shaping the development of a program like the CLVS certification,” said Jason Levin, CLVS, who currently serves as the CLVS Council Chair. “Brian had a hand in influencing every aspect of this curriculum, from co-authoring the CLVS study book to designing the practical exam to writing questions for the written exam to teaching the majority of CLVS classes at our conventions. The list of his efforts is too large to enumerate. I will miss working with him on the CLVS Council, but I take comfort in knowing that he will easily be found at the YesLaw booth at NCRA Conventions for years to come.”

“I had the pleasure of working side-by-side with Brian for many years as a Council member and as an instructor for the CLVS program,” said Robert MacTavish, an early member of the CLVS Committee. “Throughout those years, Brian skillfully guided us from the VHS era into the digital recording era.”

MacTavish added: “I have many fond memories working with Brian, and I would like to congratulate him on his twenty years of service to the NCRA.”








WORKING TOGETHER: How’s your audio?

By Mindy Sindiong

Part of a CLVS’s training is to provide great video and audio for our clients. However, we have two clients: the attorney(s) and the court reporter. Yes, I said court reporter. Part of our job is to offer the court reporter some form of audio, whether it be a live feed from our audio mixer or a digital computer file recorded onto an SD card. The better audio we provide, the more court reporters will want and request to work with a CLVS. I’ll get more into the relationship between a CLVS videographer and a court reporter in a moment. First, I want to discuss the importance of the audio.

The CLVS program teaches a CLVS the audio chain, meaning audio should come from wired microphones to the mixer, from the mixer to the video recording devices, and, from there, into a monitoring device, otherwise known as headphones. Unfortunately, many videographers seem to forget the importance of audio in video. We are sometimes swayed by the technical specs of that new camera that just came out. We want the video aspect of it to look great on that new 4K video monitor. Can we see every line on someone’s face? And, in the process, audio sometimes falls to the wayside. This is a shame because, in reality, the audio is of utmost importance, especially in video depositions. The testimony is the deposition. Try an experiment. Turn on the TV with the sound turned down and watch for a few minutes. Turn the sound up and turn your eyes away from the TV and just listen. In most cases, you will get a better understanding of what is happening by listening rather than watching. Now, mind you, I am not disregarding the importance of the video portion of a recorded deposition. Studies have shown that much of how we communicate is through body language, but that would be a different article.

A good audio recording will also capture the nuances of the spoken word. Is the voice changing in pitch? Is the speech speeding up or slowing down? How long was that pause before the answer? Did that question seem to come out right? These telltale signs are all an important part of communication. If the video-recorded deposition has audio that has a lot of distracting noise, noise that can come from a bad connection, poor quality microphones, an audio mixer that introduces a bad hum sound, and so on, then the spoken voice starts losing its relevance to the listener. That is why the CLVS training stresses the importance of setting up, monitoring, and troubleshooting your audio chain.

Back to the relationship with the court reporter. As I said before, we also teach a CLVS to offer the court reporter some sort of way to monitor the audio, whether it be a live feed or a recording. Court reporters should also be prepared for working with a CLVS and may need to know how to make some audio adjustments on their end and be able turn up or down the input levels on their laptops. Being prepared to make these minor adjustments has huge payoffs in the quality of the audio for scoping and proofing later.

Being able to offer a high-quality live feed to the reporter can have other benefits. I can’t tell you how many times we have done depositions during which one of the participants was extremely soft spoken. Having a microphone on the witness and being able to boost that audio signal through the mixer can make all the difference in the world. The court reporter will be very thankful to be able to hear that witness loud and clear using a headset. I’ve always felt that if you take care of the court reporter, he or she will take care of you. In this business, I believe the court reporter is my most valued partner and friend.

Mindy Sindiong, CLVS, of Lawrenceberg, Ind., is a member of NCRA’s Certified Legal Video Specialist Council. She can be reached at Mindy@DeBeneEsseMedia.com.

 








The CLVS experience at the NCRA Convention & Expo

Back view of a packed classroom. In the front left, a man sits on a chair in front of a PowerPoint presentation; the slide is on the topic "computer as recorder."

Jason Levin leads a discussion on equipment during the CLVS Seminar at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo

By Jason Levin

Each year at the NCRA Convention & Expo, videographers from across the country (and even from around the globe) meet for a three-day intensive course. Instructors and attendees go over everything necessary for starting a career as a deposition videographer. While the primary purpose of the CLVS Seminar is to instruct both novice and experienced videographers on how to become legal videographers, perhaps even more crucial is impressing upon them the importance of a professional and respectful relationship between reporter and videographer. Any reporter who has had a bad experience working with an uncertified videographer can appreciate the value of the CLVS certification process.

The curriculum for the CLVS Seminar is developed and taught by the CLVS Council, which is a team of volunteers who already have earned their CLVS certification. Attendees at the Las Vegas Convention had the privilege of being taught by a legend of legal video, Brian Clune, CLVS, who after twenty years of service to NCRA, stepped down from his post on the CLVS Council. Brian’s wealth of knowledge and inimitable charm will be greatly missed!

Attendance at this year’s Seminar was higher than anticipated. It was standing room–only until we brought in extra chairs to accommodate the high demand. An added benefit to having the CLVS Seminar at the Convention is the networking opportunities available to both videographers and reporting firms alike. I hear from firm owners all the time that they have great difficulty finding qualified videographers to cover their jobs. The CLVS certification is the gold standard for identifying competent and vetted legal videographers and sets them apart from the rest of the field.

In addition to teaching the legal video curriculum at the Convention, the CLVS Council also administers the Production Exam. This is a thirty-minute timed examination in which the candidates video a mock deposition under real-life circumstances. We grade them on how they conduct themselves in the deposition as well as the video record they produce. I am pleased to report that the results of the CLVS practical exam at this Convention had the highest passing rate in many years, which I believe is a testament to the quality of teaching at the Seminar.

The next opportunity to take the practical exam will be Sept. 30-Oct. 1 at NCRA headquarters in Reston, Va. Based on the attendance in Las Vegas, NCRA expects the time slots for the Production Exam to fill up quickly, so reserve your spot now! Visit NCRA.org/CLVS for more information about this program or to register.

 

Jason Levin, CLVS, of Washington, D.C., is chair of NCRA’s CLVS Council. He can be reached at jason@virginiamediagroup.com








Register for the September CLVS Production Exam

VideographyThe next testing dates to take the CLVS Production Exam will be Sept. 29-30 at NCRA headquarters in Reston, Va. Registration is open Aug. 25-Sept. 22. Space is limited, so candidates are encouraged to sign up early. The registration form is available here.

The Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS) program sets and enforces standards for competency in the capture, use, and retention of legal video and promotes awareness of these standards within the legal marketplace. “The CLVS certification is the gold standard for identifying competent and vetted legal videographers and sets them apart from the rest of the field,” said Jason Levin, CLVS, Chair of the CLVS Council. The CLVS Council leads the CLVS Seminar and administers the Production Exam.

“I am starting down a new career path and have chosen the CLVS program to add to my video skills. I found the CLVS workshop to be extremely beneficial and well organized,” said Benjamin Hamblen, a multimedia producer in New York who attended the CLVS Seminar at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, Nev. “I now know that the CLVS certification will help me down my new career path and will let others know I can produce to the CLVS standard.”

During the Production Exam, candidates will run the show at a staged deposition and be graded on their ability to follow video deposition guidelines and produce a usable, high-quality video of the deposition. Candidates must have taken the CLVS Seminar first; the Production Exam and the Written Knowledge Test may be taken in any order. Learn more about the CLVS program at NCRA.org/CLVS.








Advance your legal video skills at the NCRA Convention & Expo

VideographyNCRA offers legal videographers the opportunity to complete several steps toward their Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS) certification at the NCRA Convention & Expo. Work toward the CLVS certification through the three-day CLVS Seminar and Production Exam while networking with both up-and-coming and highly regarded CLVSs and court reporters. There is also a ticketed Legal Videographers Reception on Friday from 6-7 p.m.

Robin Cassidy-Duran, RPR, CLVS, a freelancer and firm owner in Eugene, Ore., offers this advice on becoming a CLVS: “As a court reporter, I had observed many videographers over the years, and I sometimes envied their job as I struggled to get every word down on my machine. I decided that if I was going to do it, I wanted to do it right. I wanted to be taken seriously when I walked into the deposition. I decided to begin with the Certified Legal Video Specialist program.”

Put CLVS after your name

Videographers new to legal video can take the three-day CLVS Seminar. If they have already completed the CLVS Seminar, then they can sign up for the CLVS Production Exam on Friday or Saturday.

Craig F. Mitchell, CLVS, states: “Had I not studied the CLVS standards, invested in top quality professional equipment, practiced, and intensely tested every aspect of what was expected, that first deposition certainly would have been my last.”

Legal videographers with sufficient deposition-taking experience may apply to take the CLVS Seminar and CLVS Production Exam concurrently. Once approved by the CLVS Council, experienced videographers will be notified that they can take the CLVS Seminar on Saturday and the CLVS Production Exam on Sunday.

CLVS candidates are encouraged to take advantage of the NCRA room block while in Las Vegas.








NCRA’s CLVS Council plans launch of online seminar content

VideographyBy Natalie Dippenaar

In conjunction with the Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS) Fall Event, held at the NCRA offices in Reston, Va., NCRA’s CLVS Council launched an exciting and long-planned project. Rather than offering training to prospective CLVS candidates, NCRA and the council members opted to spend the weekend capturing the contents of the seminar with the goal of bringing the majority of the three-day program online. Typically, the CLVS Council travels two or three times a year to offer the three-day seminar and production exam testing required for the CLVS certification.

With this in mind, the National Court Reporters Foundation offered space in NCRA headquarters as a production studio. Brian Clune, CLVS; Jason Levin, CLVS; Gene Betler, Jr., CLVS; and Bruce Balmer, CLVS, presented and captured topics as diverse as what it means to be a legal videographer, the components of a deposition recording system, the CLVS Code of Ethics, and the CLVS Standards for Video Depositions, as well as applicable Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The project is still in its infancy, but NCRA plans to make the online version available by early to mid-2017.

The weekend concluded with a number of candidates taking the production exam. For some, it was the culmination of their studies and will result in them becoming newly certified, while for others it was the second step as they prepare to take the Written Knowledge Test in January 2017.

Natalie Dippenaar is NCRA’s Professional Development Program Manager. She can be reached at ndippenaar@ncra.org.








NCRA’s 2016 Convention & Expo: Something for everyone

Convention-JCRcom-BoxAdOnline registration for NCRA 2016 Convention & Expo happening at the Hilton Chicago, Chicago, Ill., Aug. 4-7, closes July 29, so hurry and register now to participate in the vast array of networking opportunities, certification preparation workshops for the Certified Realtime Reporter and the Realtime Systems Administrator, and, of course, all that’s new on the Expo floor.

Whether you are an official, freelancer, broadcast or CART captioner, legal videographer, educator, student, or legal services provider, this year’s schedule has something to help you be the architect of your future. Plus attendees who need CEUs can earn up to 2.45 of them with a full registration and optional workshops.

Among the educational session highlights are:

Freelancer business 101. Presenters: Lisa DiMonte, RMR, CMRS; Jan Ballman, RPR, CMRS; Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR; and Dave Tackla, CLVS

Compassion fatigue and job stress. Presenter: April Kopp, LCSW, MFA

Your cloud-based office. Presenters: Nancy Bistany, RPR and Kim Neeson, RPR, CRR, CRC

The secret business of court reporting. Presenter: Debbie Bridges Duffy, RPR

Beyond the captions:  Captioner roundtable. Presenters: Merilee Johnson, RMR, CRR, CRC; Bill Graham; and Deanna Baker, FAPR, RMR

90 apps in 90 minutes. Presenter: Sara Wood, CAE

Tax tips for court reporters. Presenter: Charlotte Ogorek

Best practices for realtime reporting. Presenters: Jason Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC; Christine Phipps, RPR; and Sandy VanderPol, FAPR, RMR, CRR

Anywhere, anytime:  Online testing. Presenter: Marybeth Everhart, RPR, CRI, CPE

Are you an independent contractor or an employee? Presenter: Chris Wojcicki

Video equipment configuration:  Real world equipment setups. Presenters: Richard Hayden, CLVS, and Jason Levin, CLVS

In addition, students, educators, and school administrators will enjoy a selection of sessions tailored specifically to their interests and needs.

Other highlights for the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo include professional speaker and humorist address the topic of “Pride in the Profession” when he takes the stage as the keynote presenter during the Premier Session; the national Speed and Realtime Contests; the installation of NCRA’s 2016-2017 Officers and Board of Directors; and the presentation of the Distinguished Service Award, the highest award bestowed by NCRA. Networking opportunities will include receptions, the annual awards and NCRF Angels luncheons, and the President’s Party.

Remember, the deadline for online registration is July 29. For more information and to register for the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo, visit NCRA.org/Convention.








NCRA’s CLVS Spring Event draws professionals from around the nation

DSC_0148The NCRA CLVS Spring Event held March 11-13 at the Association’s headquarters in Reston, Va., drew 36 participants for the three-day seminar and 22 candidates for the required test. The seminar, which is held twice a year, is led by some of the best and brightest in the legal video profession. The program provides CLVS certification candidates with skills in video-recording depositions and courtroom proceedings that follow accepted Rules of Civil Procedure.

“The CLVS conference was awesome. It was well worth the time and money spent to learn from the experts in the field. From guidance in assembling your first video kit to how to properly end a deposition, they covered everything from A to Z,” said Andrea Kreutz, a videographer for Huney-Vaughn Court Reporters in Des Moines, Iowa.

“The networking session allowed us to meet other videographers from around the country,” Kreutz added.

Candidates for NCRA’s CLVS certification must complete a three-step process: attend the CLVS Seminar, pass the Written Knowledge Test, and pass the hands-on Production Exam. Steps two and three can be taken in any order once step one is completed.

DSC_0190NCRA’s CLVS Spring Event also offered an Experienced Track, which allowed qualified experienced legal videographers the opportunity to attend only the mandatory Saturday session of the Seminar followed by the CLVS Production Exam on Sunday.

“I had the pleasure of being one of the instructors in the hands-on section on Sunday. For most of the participants, this was their first time setting up the equipment and actually operating the camera in a mock deposition,” said Jason Levin, CLVS, with the Virginia Media Group in Washington, D.C.

“The feedback I got was extremely positive. In fact, one woman pulled me aside to tell me she felt a bit overwhelmed Friday and Saturday, but by the end of the hands-on training on Sunday, her confidence was at an all-time high and her spirit was greatly lifted. So as far as I’m concerned, mission accomplished!” Levin added.

In addition to the seminar’s attendees, eight members of NCRA’s CLVS Council were also on hand. The CLVS Council is made up of a group of experienced legal videographers who volunteer their time and share their real-world expertise when leading the CLVS Seminar, which provides a huge benefit to the candidates who attend. Participants in the CLVS Seminar also experience valuable networking opportunities that can lead to future job assignments.

For more information about NCRA’s CLVS certification or to register for next the seminar, visit NCRA.org/CLVS or contact Angie Ritterpusch, Assistant Director of Professional Development, at aritterpusch@ncra.org.