Attorney Guide To Legal Videography

A "day in the life" is made
with admissibility in mind

With special attention to
"day in the life", animation,
and settlement documentaries

As a trial attorney, "day in the life" videos,
settlement documentaries" and forensic
are extremely valuable tools when
produced by reliable legal video specialists.
These are different realms from videotaping
depositions.  More is needed than technical
equipment skills on the part of the producer.

          Day In The Life

The day-in-the-life had its origin in the early
1960's.  (See "History of day-in-the-life")
Although some of the earlier attempts were
not accepted into court because of inappro-
priate emphasis on suffering, "day in the life"
videos are now commonly used in severe
injury cases. Admissibility is better under-
stood now, though it's still important to be
sure the video emphasizes the changes that
have taken place because of the disability.

The legal videographer who enters the home
of the plaintiff to be videotaped, needs tact
and common sense in dealing with people.
A common challenge in "day in the life" is
television watching which may need to be
interrupted so the person can be videotaped.

The legal video specialist should be aware
of camera "white balance" issues, especially
when there are fluorescent lights. Attention
to potential negative prejudicial items can
make a difference as well. An extreme ex-
ample would be if exercise equipment (that
could not possibly be used by the injured)
were in the home, it would probably need
to be avoided in the videotaping. If only
one of the jurors got a wrong idea while
watching the video with the exercise equip-
ment, it could have an negative impact on
objective jury deliberations. What an asset
when the legal videographer thinks like an
attorney and avoids such problems!

Which is better, hand-held camera work or
the use of a tripod? At any rate, some of
the hand-held work of professional camera
operators is almost as steady as if it were
videotaped with a tripod. This is the type
of decision best left up to the legal video-
grapher. One thing is certain: Don't allow
amateur hand-held camera operation. It
often makes the viewer uncomfortable.
(shaky and hard for the eye to follow)

It's also an asset for the producer to have
practical experience in the artistic matters
of media. Video and film productions, for
the most part, are methods of communica-
tion within their own "language". How a
production is divided up into scenes and
shots is part of the language which almost
all of us take for granted. Just as reading a
great novel does not change a person into
a great writer of novels, watching movies
does not give us a real understanding of
the language of film and video. Although
we follow the series of shots and get what
is intended by the media creators, we are
not aware that the long shot has prepared
us for the medium shot which led up to
a close-up, and so on. The videographer
who has an understanding of the language
of video can create a day-in-the-life that
not only documents the "life change", but
communicates clearly and effectively.
The result if an impressive presentation
that has a real impact on the jury.

   Settlement Documentary

Although a settlement documentary video
may contain part or all of a day-in-the-life,
one thing sets it apart: There are no rules.
Since it's not intended to be seen by a jury,
admissibility is not an issue. Its purpose is
to persuade  the opposition to negotiate or
to get a better settlement by demonstrating
what they would be up against if the case
were to go to court.

One thing commonly used in settlement
documentaries is interviews. Those who
might be interviewed are family members,
doctors, experts, and eye witnesses. The
attorney who ordered the video could be
a part of it himself. This would allow the
opposition to see the skills of the attorney.

  More about settlement documentaries

Camera "white balance" is an
important issue in videotaping

A settlement documentary is
for causing negotiations or
increasing a settlement figure

  Settlement Documentary, cont.

It doesn't hurt to have some low-key somber
music in the background. This communicates
the serious nature of the subject. The viewer
might try to ignore the music but the volume
cannot be turned off without losing all audio,
including testimony and narration.

Perhaps in no other type of legal video are
the skills of a professional videographer more
useful than in a settlement documentary. All
elements of the language of this medium need
to be used to their fullest. Since there are no
legal restrictions on the content, it's best to
use an experienced video professional who
is known for communicating key points very
well through video. It's very ill advised to try
to create a settlement documentary without
experienced specialized support.


Whenever the testimony of an expert witness
needs to be better illustrated with a drawing,
consider animation. This is especially true if
the image represents something in motion or
with motion. As long as a drawing would be
admitted as part of an expert's testimony, it
stands to reason that an animation (which is
actually made up of many still images) may
also be used as part of the testimony.

There are two types of animation: 3D and 2D.
The cost of three-dimensional animation is
only a fraction of what it was in the 1980's.
It's now possible to present powerful visual
presentations without high price tags. It's
even less expensive to use two-dimensional
animation, though it's not used as often.

Members of the jury remember animations
far longer and better than aural testimony.
This is one area of legal video that has not
yet been used to full advantage.

Details about the cost of 3D animation

Camera perspectives in 3D animation

When should 2D animation be considered?

More on settlement documentaries
including possible costs

Testimonial from a plaintiff
about her settlement documentary

Day in the life video in Southern California

History of day-in-the-life film/video

White balance and admissibility

Video delay and admissibility

Answers To Legal Questions

Whitcomb Legal Video
Jonathan Whitcomb, C.C.V.
Long Beach, California
562  989-1334