Video in litigation: everybody's a star

As a kid, I would shoot film of my friends playing sports at the local playground. My Kodak camera was a dinosaur by today's standards, but it did the job at the time.

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Video everywhere

Today, things are different. Video is everywhere and the technology is outstanding. We have the ability to shoot video from our phones and instantly post it up on the web. There are over 2 billion mobile device users worldwide. More than 1 billion hours of video is uploaded on YouTube every day. That's the equivalent of 65 years of footage every 24 hours. Last year there were over 13 trillion video views on the internet.

We are constantly being recorded almost everywhere we go. There are cameras shooting us while we drive on the highway, from office buildings, in stores and on police body-cams. These relentless video streams capture everything from happy family events to horrific accidents and crimes. We are blessed and cursed with video technologies.

Lawyers can benefit from this use of technology, beyond simply doing video depositions. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

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Editing video getting easier

Today's software tools allow for multiple versions of a video to be created. Trial lawyers can easily test different ways of putting together a video story. With the use of Adobe Premiere, for instance, synchronization and color correction allows for different camera angles and vibrant colors with astounding simplicity and accuracy.

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Unlocking surveillance video

Using surveillance video can be a challenge for lawyers and law enforcement.

There are all types of proprietary surveillance camera systems capturing our every move. They each have different software with proprietary algorithms that record the video at different frame rates, aspect ratios, and recording formats for maximizing the storage of the digital video.

Each method comes with a unique software player that allows the user to view the recorded video. But that video is not easily imported into a standard video editing software package. There are, however, software packages, such as Input Ace, that can fix that problem and allow the video to be directly downloaded from the proprietary video recorder. It can also be used to pull the images from the surveillance system's software files.

Understanding exactly what happened

Knowing precisely and sequentially what happened in an officer-involved-shooting (or any incident that has been recorded with multiple recording devices) is critical to understanding the legitimacy of police actions.

In order to make sure the details of the events are fully understood, it helps to prepare a synchronized videotape of all video cameras and cellphones, highlighting with colored circles the important aspects of the scenes.

From there, a timeline of the precise sequential order of each event can be gleaned. For a trial lawyer, having access to the exact order of events is gold. This is especially true when your opponent has only a vague understanding of the order of events.

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Video at mediation

In a day-in-the-life or settlement video, today's trial lawyer can make a star out of the average witness. I call them "Life After" videos.

This is when a video is specifically produced to explain the events in the aftermath of an accident in which a person has been injured or killed. It is used to explain how the accident has changed the person's ability to live and take care of himself on a daily basis or to explain the impact on the family and co-workers before, during and after the accident.

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Video at trial

Often, video clips are disjointed and hard to comprehend. I worked on a criminal trial in which a school teacher had been murdered by her student and the defendant's actions before and after the killing were caught on approximately 50 different camera locations from various positions around the school.

Using a 3D model of the school, we built an interactive timeline of events that showed the location of the path of the defendant as he walked throughout the three floors of the school building that day. At each stage of the presentation, a different video clip coincided with the precise path of his movements, making for a clear understanding of his actions that day.

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Video for marketing

Video is the fastest way to get your message to your potential clients. Lawyers are not great television producers and the legal video they produce online is mostly self-promoting.

What really works well is educational video - providing your clients and prospects with a few tips and promoting your knowledge at the same time. Video on your website and social media platforms helps promote you and your firm, as well as increasing your website's SEO rankings. It needs to be good-quality subject matter if you want people to stay and watch.

Marketing video that is built for attracting attention and cultivating new clients is video that teaches the potential clients about substantive subject matter. At the same time, it delivers the message that the lawyer is competent, qualified and hardworking.

Online video allows potential clients to get to know you as an individual and begin to feel comfortable with you as their lawyer, even before you meet. And that's good for business.

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Attorney Brian J. Carney is president of WIN Interactive, a multimedia company dedicated to helping trial lawyers win cases at mediation, arbitration and trial. He can be contacted at b.carney@wininteractive.com.

Published: Mon, Jun 25, 2018

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