Best Tools for Legal Videographers
Kickstarting a legal videography career comes with a few hurdles. One challenge you'll likely encounter is figuring out the equipment you need. If you've recently started off as a court videographer, here's our top list of the best tools for legal videographers.
This guide has everything you'll need to record top-quality depositions and courtroom sessions. Let's dive in.
What Equipment Do I Need for Legal Videography?
Alongside your videography skills, your video equipment is crucial to recording quality depositions and court sittings. A high-definition recording will enable lawyers and judges to easily pick out the crucial details in a deposition or court session.
You don't want people struggling to figure out what's going on in the courtroom because the audio and video aspects of your recording are messy.
However, while quality is essential, it doesn't mean you should haul a truckload of equipment into the proceeding, especially if it's a deposition. Depositions typically happen in small rooms, and you may not have all the space in the world to set up.
You also won't have so much time, so you want to be economical with your equipment while ensuring that it's easy to set up and offers excellent video and audio quality. Here's all you need for an excellent video deposition:
A high-quality camcorder is a court videographer's best friend. Why? Well, for one, you obviously can't record a deposition without one. Secondly, unlike other cameras (such as Digital Single-Lens Reflex Camera), camcorders can record for an extended period without pause.
With DSLRs, you'll have a 20-minute length video before the recording stops, and you'll start all over again. Since most court sessions and depositions exceed 20 minutes, those short breaks could make you lose some valuable details.
On the other hand, with a high-quality camcorder, you can record for a long time and capture every aspect of the proceeding without needless pauses. You should also invest in some lighting for your camera.
While the courtroom will likely be well lit, you can't always count on this factor. You should come with additional lighting equipment in case the courthouse lacks sufficient lighting.
Next to the camcorder, microphones are the most essential tools for legal videographers. If you're considering using the camcorder microphone, you might want to rethink that idea.
You can't adjust a camcorder mic for each speaker (attorneys, judge, plaintiffs, and defendants), and since there'll likely be an air conditioner in the room, you'll get a windy sound alongside each speaker's voice.
Your best bet? A lavalier for each litigant. Lavalier mics have narrow fields that pick up sounds only in the direction they're pointing.
Alternatively, you can place the lavalier on a small phone tripod and set it in the middle of the courthouse.
Your tripod might just be that part of your equipment that will save your budget some hundreds of dollars. You can opt for something lightweight and sturdy, as long as it can hold your camera firmly without dropping it.
If your camera is heavier than the tripod, it'll fall off and ruin your deposition video. As such, ensure your tripod is a perfect fit for your camera.
Here's one thing you don't want: finishing up a deposition, and while reviewing the recording, you find out that the video has no audio.
As such, you should add headphones to your equipment so you can preview the audio and ensure you've got excellent sound quality. Some legal videographers also use a backup audio recorder just in case.
Additional Audio Recording Equipment
Technology fails. Even with the best headphones, microphones, and camcorders in the world, you might get home and find out that some audio aspects of the deposition recording are messy, probably because one of the speakers accidentally tempered with their lavalier.
As a backup measure, you should have an additional recording device to ensure you don't lose any aspects of the court sitting.
An omnidirectional table mic comes in handy in this regard. Set up one strategically in the room so it can pick up all the crucial details of the proceeding.
A laptop serves several purposes as a video deposition equipment. For one, clients may ask you to stream the video feed from the courtroom to a co-counsel in a different location.
Some legal videographers also use their computers as backup recorders instead of a separate omnidirectional mic. However, the most crucial reason you need a computer is to edit the deposition's video file.
You can use standard cut-and-drag software, such as Final Cut Pro 10 or Adobe Premiere to edit the video recording. You should also opt for editing software that allows you to add the case number and dates for each deposition/court sitting.
Just ensure the application you choose matches your laptop's specs.
Mixers serve one purpose while recording a deposition or courtroom sitting: blending the sounds from separate audio sources to create a more unified stream. In other words, you can monitor each speaker's volume and regulate it in a way that doesn't interfere with or overshadow others.
This function is helpful if you have speakers who aren't so audible. You can raise the volume to make them sound as clear-pitched as everyone else.
You can also reduce the volume of other speakers who might be whispering to a colleague so that they don't interfere with deliberations that are vital to the deposition.
That said, mixers come in varying sizes. Since you want to opt for lightweight and efficient equipment, look for something that isn't so bulky but gets the job done effectively. Keep your budget in mind too.
Your videography equipment plays a crucial role in the quality of your deposition recording. However, while you want to use the best tools for legal videographers for your video deposition, that doesn't mean you should go to a courtroom with a truck full of gadgets.
Instead, you want to opt for efficient and lightweight tools since you won't have all the space and time in the world to set up.
Considering hiring a private legal videographer for a deposition or court sitting? Our firm offers professional legal support services, such as legal videography and court reporting, for solo practices, small and medium-sized law firms, and individuals. Reach out to us today to find out how we can assist you.