What Is Legal Videography?

It’s important to create an exact record of court proceedings, in case of future legal review. If and when a defendant calls for an appeal, or if the case needs to be referenced by another case in the future, it’s vital that the legal professionals working on the case have the original case in its entirety.

Historically, courts have used stenographers to record spoken words in writing; if you’ve ever seen a televised or film court drama, you’ve likely seen some engagement with this person, with lines like “strike that from the record,” or “read back the last line.” Stenographers are still employed by many courts, but they’re now being complemented by an additional form of court recordings: legal videography.

The Basics of Legal Videography

Legal videography is, as the name suggests, the practice of recording court proceedings professionally. Capturing only the words spoken during the trial is inherently limited. With video, you’re able to capture things like tone of voice, facial expressions, the length of various pauses, and the subtleties of personality that can’t be accurately noted or conveyed with written words.

In addition to courtroom service, legal videographers can assist in other legal matters. For example, they may work by recording depositions, or recording the signing of legal documents like wills or property transfers. Some legal videographers can also capture evidence for use in the courtroom, such as the condition of some immovable object.

These days, legal videography is done with digital cameras to avoid the need for tape changes (which might otherwise interrupt proceedings). Some legal videographers take the time to edit the footage down after the case is finished, trimming anything that isn’t necessary, while others only provide the raw files.

Who Can Become a Legal Videographer?

Almost anyone can become a legal videographer, provided they have the right training and are willing to be certified. The people best suited for the role tend to be people familiar with and comfortable around technology. They have a steady hand and are willing to adapt to changing circumstances. They must also be patient, as some trials and legal proceedings can be time consuming and tedious.

Legal videographers may be hired on a per-trial basis, or may be employed directly by a specific court. Because most legal videographers are good with cameras, the legal side of their work is only one element of their profession; other days, they may spend their time recording weddings, filming advertisements, or filling other videography needs.

Before you can become a legal videographer, you’ll need to be formally certified as a court reporter. To do this, you’ll need to attend a 3-day seminar that’s offered twice a year by the National Court Reporters Association. Here, you’ll learn about the 3 basics of the profession, the rules and regulations (including a code of ethics), and you’ll engage in a hands-on workshop. From there, you’ll take a written test and will need to engage in a production exam; in other words, you’ll record a mock trial, of sorts, to determine whether you can record the real thing adequately.

Why Legal Videography Is Becoming More Popular

Over the past several years, legal videography has become much more common, even though courts and the legal system are notoriously slow to accept change. There are several reasons for this. First, video recording equipment is getting less expensive, higher quality, and easier to work with. Accordingly, videography is getting less expensive and more accessible. Second, lawyers and other legal professionals are starting to realize the massive benefits of recording video over merely having a transcript; being able to judge someone’s facial expression at a later date can make a massive difference. Third, there’s a kind of snowballing effect; as more courts in the United States make use of legal videography, other courts start seeing the value, and adopt it for themselves.

If you’re interested in becoming a legal videographer, the best place to start is refining your current videography skills. You’ll need to be able to hold a camera and concentrate on a subject for long periods of time if you want to succeed in this field. And if you’re looking for a legal videographer, make sure you find an individual or organization who is a master of their craft. Solid legal videographers will be formally certified, with ample experience and examples of work they’ve done in the past. If you work in the court system, try to keep one on staff.

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