Why Do Video Depositions Cost So Much?

In an age when smartphones can take great video, why are we paying $200 an hour for videotaping of depositions?

By JEFF BENNION

If you have ever ordered a video recorded deposition, you’ll know that it is expensive. It’s typically done through the court reporting agency, who sends a certified videographer to the depo. The videographer brings a cart of recording equipment to record the audio and video. This can cost as much as $1,800 for a day of video recording.

Audio/video technology has changed a lot in the last 30 years, and as is often the case, the legal field has not caught-up with the rest of the world. For example, ten years ago this week, Apple released the first iPhone with a stunning 2.0-megapixel camera. Two years later, the iPhone got the ability to record in VHS-quality videos. Now, we have cameras in cell phones that record in 4k, have sensors that perform in low light, and have a variety of zoom and exposure tools. In short, they are sufficient to capture the video of a person’s head and chest in a well-lit conference room, sitting a few feet from the camera. So, why are we paying $200 an hour and bringing in movie-making equipment to record a deposition?

What Is Required to Record a Depo?

Experienced Operator

You might be surprised to know that most states don’t require any type of certification to record video depositions, just to transcribe them. So, you need a certified court reporter to take down what is being said, which becomes the official record. The video, which is not an official record, does not need to be recorded by anyone certified.

The National Court Reporters Association provides the Certified Legal Video Specialist certification, which requires taking a three-day seminar followed by several tests. It also regulates, through a code of ethics, a set of legal videography standards, and it mandates that people with a CLVS certification complete continuing education. That being said, being a member of the NCRA or having a CLVS certification is not a requirement to record a depo. An experienced operator will do things like monitor the sound output and make sure the equipment is properly recording throughout the deposition, and know about the rules in depositions (for example, what to do when one attorney demands to go off the record, but the other attorney wants the deponent to answer the question before going off record).

Hardware

Video recording a deposition requires not only an adequate camera; more importantly, it requires a good microphone. Nuances in video, like an eyelash twitch, are not going to likely be crucial in trial when you play back a video clip, but having clear sound — especially when people mumble when they are nervous, talk over each other, whisper under their breath, or let out an exasperated sigh before answering a question — can all make a huge difference when playing a clip back at trial. While an iPhone or an Android phone or even a high-quality camcorder might be able to pick up the video, it is not enough to pick up clear audio.

So What’s the Solution?

Just because you know how to record a video on your phone of your kids playing in the park does not mean you should record a deposition. There are a number of things to keep track of when recording a deposition. For example, if a witness begins to slouch after hour three of questioning and he or she is no longer in the frame, that would need to be adjusted. You do not want to be focusing on asking the questions, absorbing the answers, and monitoring the video frame. Same goes for the audio, only the audio is more important. This is usually done with headphones during the deposition to listen to the audio that is picked up from the microphones. You certainly don’t want to be taking a depo with headphones on.

One company, StoryCloud, provides a hybrid solution between hiring a traditional videographer and doing it yourself. They have certified videographers that record depositions on an iPad using their app. They use external microphones to record audio, and they have the videographer monitor the audio and video feed throughout the deposition. Here is a screenshot of their app as they record a deposition:

As they record it, they also save a copy to the cloud, and you get a copy of your video as you leave the depo. According to their website, they charge a flat fee of between $300 and up to $700 for a full day of video recording. They also offer remote video live streaming so co-counsel or clients can watch the video remotely.

Although you would usually associate cost as a factor that primarily attracts plaintiffs’ lawyers who front money out of pocket on cases for years before they can get reimbursed, the StoryCloud website lists several defense firms, including K&L Gates, that use their services.

Conclusion

Much like the taxi industry, which had an advanced knowledge of how to drive to places, and charged people a lot of money for doing that until technology came around and shook up the industry, legal videographers might be in for a little shake-up in the near future.

Jeff Bennion is a solo practitioner at the Law Office of Jeff Bennion. He serves as a member of the Board of Directors of San Diego’s plaintiffs’ trial lawyers association, Consumer Attorneys of San Diego. He is also the Education Chair and Executive Committee member of the State Bar of California’s Law Practice Management and Technology section. He is a member of the Advisory Council and instructor at UCSD’s Litigation Technology Management program. His opinions are his own. Follow him on Twitter here or on Facebook here, or contact him by email at jeff@trial.technology.

Source: http://abovethelaw.com/2017/06/why-do-video-depositions-cost-so-much/?rf=1

StoryCloud Launches Legal Video Deposition Subscription Service by Dana E. Neuts, Subscription Insider

Depositions are recorded and saved to the cloud so they are available immediately.

StoryCloud, a real time video and content deposition service, is using the subscription model to launch a new “all-you-can-eat” legal video deposition subscription service. With the StoryCloud platform, attorneys can record and live stream depositions, with high quality audio and video. The recordings are saved to the cloud, so the content is immediately available and can be accessed from anywhere.

Phillips Legal Services Court Reporting in Sacramento is one of the first clients to test the service.

“StoryCloud’s amazing platform and service is unobtrusive and produces amazing video at a fraction of traditional videography costs…It was an easy decision to sign onboard,” said Phillips Legal Services founder Tom Lange.

StoryCloud, which has been around since 2014, provides a platform for secure, encrypted content and video depositions with or without a videographer. When a videographer is not used, an iPad tablet is set on a small tripod several feet away from the person being deposed. A StoryCloud app preloaded from the Apple store captures high quality audio and video of the deposition. Microphones can be plugged into the iPad for better sound.

Here's how it works:

 
download (1).png
 

Source: StoryCloud

“StoryCloud is thrilled to be offering a fantastic value model to court reporting companies and firms throughout the US seeking to utilize video depositions to its maximum capacity when traditionally high costs of video deterred consistent use,” said Ken Kalb, CEO and co-founder, in a statement. “We are democratizing the use of video depositions for all cases -- big or small.”

“We are delighted to introduce the new subscription model to encourage the legal industry to utilize our technology and services to better serve their clients and cases. The mission is to democratize the video deposition industry to scale so that any case can utilize video, regardless of budget or size,” Kalb added.

A representative from StoryCloud told us the subscription pricing is customized, based on the average number of depositions a court reporting agency or law firm holds per month. The average cost per month will be $1,200 to $1,500. The terms are month-to-month, so there is no long term contract, but 30 days notice is required for cancellation.

According to the StoryCloud website, its standard pricing for half-day videotaped depositions ranges between $300 to $400 and a full day ranges between $600 to $700 per deposition. Additional fees apply for remote live streaming, immediate online access, video/text synchronization, etc.

Insider Take:

With three patents issued and a dozen more pending, StoryCloud has a history of innovation. For court reporting agencies and law firms that do dozens of depositions a month, the subscription makes sense. This is another example of how the subscription model can improve accessibility and encourage innovation by making products and services available to more end users.

Dana Neuts is Subscription Insider's Senior Staff Writer, covering our daily subscription news as well as member features, case studies, and reports. Read Full Bio

Lights, Camera, Cloud: Company’s Video Is Legal Aid By John Cox (San Diego Business Journal)

San Diego — No one said depositions are fun, but is it too much to ask the videographer to stay awake during the proceedings?

The camera person taping a witness last year as part of a lawsuit involving Kenneth Kalb fell asleep “not once, not twice, but three times,” the San Diego businessman said.

Kalb remembers the experience as funny — even a good thing, in that it underscored his idea for a business that automates video depositions, thereby carving a chunk out of the litigation services market he estimates at $10 billion per year.

The company he co-founded in late 2013, StoryCloud Inc., encrypts and stores audio and video testimony on the internet. A little more than a dozen local and Los Angeles law firms have signed on since the service was rolled out in January, and he hopes to expand the service as far north as Washington state by the end of the first quarter.

Instant Access

A key element of StoryCloud is that it makes video footage available to lawyers almost instantly, not days or weeks later, as can happen with traditional deposition videos.

To Kalb, this is the equivalent of driverless cars and pilotless planes. Software running the camera zooms, focuses, adjusts lighting and frames shots automatically. It also fixes sound recording levels while a company employee monitors the process remotely or on site.

What’s more, the service is relatively affordable. Conventional videography services can easily run upward of $1,000 for eight hours of depositions, including copies and distribution services. StoryCloud charges $400 for an all-day civil deposition that uses a relatively small camera and microphone instead of large and unruly equipment that has been known to intimidate witnesses.

“We’ve democratized that deposition (process), making it pretty much available to anyone,” said Kalb, a five-time founder of telecomm and internet companies who now serves as StoryCloud’s CEO.

Theatrical Start

Merging technology and legal services wasn’t always Kalb’s thing. But he insists it’s not all that different from his original calling: showbiz.

After studying film school as a graduate student at New York University, he became involved in theater, movies and producing television. One day he woke up and decided he didn’t want to do that anymore.

“The people in show biz I found weren’t telling the truth as often as I needed them to tell the truth,” he said.

Apparently the tech world was more forthcoming. As founding CEO of San Diego-based telecom company Continuous Computing Corp., Kalb helped raise $52 million and completed two off-balance-sheet acquisitions. The company sold in 2011 to Hillsboro, Ore.-based Radisys Corp. for about $120 million.

Among other ventures, including an internet search optimization company, he co-founded Analog Analytics in 2007. The Solana Beach social couponing company sold to an arm of the British banking firm Barclays for an undisclosed sum that Kalb says returned a double-digit multiple to shareholders.

If this all sounds a bit far-removed from his start in showbiz, Kalb disagrees. It requires the same skill sets, he said: Raise money, hire talent and achieve success through product refinement.

“I found that the process of creating a tech company is almost identical to producing a play,” he said.

Body Language

The similarities between theater and legal services are clearer still.

Depositions aren’t always videotaped, but when they are, the recordings can end up being very important. Judges may allow jurors to view them as evidence of credibility in cases where the visual record shows a panicked or evasive response, with darting eyes or apparent coaching from lawyers.

That’s one reason local attorney Myra Chack Fleischer uses the service.

“There’s all kinds of body language things that you can’t see on a written transcript,” said Fleischer, a family law specialist with the Carlsbad firm Fleischer & Ravreby.

About a dozen employees now work for StoryCloud in San Diego. Many are young videographers with experience making content for YouTube, Vine and Snapchat. Kalb said his company certifies them and trains them on depositions and the company’s equipment.

Growth Plan

He said StoryCloud has been financed to date through a handful of outside investors, including Ernest Pomerantz, managing director of StoneWater Capital LLC in New York (Kalb said Pomerantz invested as an individual). Kalb estimated StoryCloud’s total investment so far amounts to $6.5 million, with part of that money coming from his own past ventures.

At this point, as StoryCloud markets its services to local attorneys and government agencies, he sees no need to raise more money. But after the company expands northward and begins an eastward push in the second quarter, he said, the time may be right for another capital infusion — “probably by midyear.”

Fleischer sees lawyers embracing the service for several reasons. Not only is it relatively inexpensive, it’s also simple.

“This is the wave of the world,” said Fleischer, one of StoryCloud’s first customers. “The world is getting smaller and closer together, so I think it was important that I got on this bandwagon early.”

STORYCLOUD INC.

CEO: Kenneth Kalb

No. of local employees: 12

Investors: New York-based investor Ernest Pomerantz and a handful of others

Headquarters: San Diego

Year founded: December 2013

What makes company innovative: It helps attorneys sharply reduce their video deposition costs by integrating video technology with cloud computing.