Mastering the Technology of Virtual Depositions
Mastering the Technology of Virtual Depositions
We’ve rapidly transitioned to a virtual world where different communication rules apply. Your expert witnesses will have questions about how they can perform effectively in a virtual deposition. (By virtual deposition, I’m referring to one conducted using the internet on a platform like Zoom.)
Don’t leave this critical part of a deposition to chance. The expert’s physical environment is critical. Experts feel most confident when they know how to present themselves well. Even experienced experts may not know how to control their background, lighting, microphone, and camera.
A pre-deposition virtual meeting is essential. Request the expert conduct this meeting in the same setting where he or she plans to undergo the deposition. Schedule this far enough ahead of the deposition so that the expert can order equipment based on your analysis of the setup.
Look at the room in which the expert sits. Is it clean and uncluttered? A cluttered background distracts from the expert’s professionalism. If the expert cannot sit in an office or a neat environment, suggest the use of a screen. There are freestanding trifold panels either plain or printed with a pattern. Screens effectively block the room’s view behind the expert and can be easily set aside when not in use.
Another solution is for the expert to purchase a projector screen which pulls up and is hooked to the top of a pole. Its plain white background creates a neutral background, and its black back wall blocks light. It is also possible to drape a piece of fabric over the screen and secure it in place with clamps.
A third option is to have the expert set up a backdrop frame (think of the design of a swing set – with two legs and a bar running across the top to connect the legs.) The expert can drape a neutral fabric to create a backdrop or use a greenscreen cloth (a specific green shade called chroma key). The green color is useful for projecting a virtual background.
Although virtual backgrounds were popular when we first started heavily relying on Zoom, I see a trend away from their use in favor of more natural backgrounds. We’ve all learned to spot the effects of a virtual background as it creates webbed fingers or halos around the head. But if the expert wants to use a virtual background, adding the greenscreen cloth will create a better image than doing without it.
Pay attention to the experts’ lighting. If they sit in front of a bright window, their face will be in shadow. The alternative is to reposition the computer so that, ideally, natural light is shining on their face. When that is not possible, experts can supplement their lighting with an overhead light, a ring light, and/or a rectangular light, such as the ones made by Viltrox.
Viltrox makes an adjustable light that video experts recommend. You can adjust the intensity of the light. It sits on a tripod and can be run on a battery or by a power cord that plugs into a USB port. The power cord and tripod do not come with the light and must be ordered separately.
Sometimes it requires using several types of light to put light on the expert’s face. The objective is a natural look.
Although it is tempting to rely on the microphone built into the computer, it is often inadequate for clear sound. Recommend the expert invest in an external microphone. You can spend from $40 to $800 on a microphone. There are great USB microphones made by Yeti, which serve as an affordable choice. The mic must be positioned close to the expert so that it does not pick up other sounds.
As you talk to the expert, listen for echoes or harsh sounds. Ideally, the expert is in a small room containing objects that absorb the sound. A room with hardwood floors or tiles, no curtains, and little furniture will lead to
annoying sound bouncing around.
Depending on the expert’s computer’s age, the camera quality can range from good to blurry. Advise the expert not to rely on the computer’s camera for a clear image. Logitech makes excellent cameras that you can attach to the top of the monitor and improve any camera image even on recent computers. The Brio model is a popular choice right now (and makes you look 10 years younger). eBay, Logitech, and Amazon sell them.
Experts should position their head so that their face fills most of the frame and is close to the screen’s top. And although it is tempting for the expert to look at the face of the person asking questions, the most effective communication occurs when the expert makes eye contact with the camera lens.
Overall, we suggest sending these guidelines/suggestions to the expert before the pre-deposition virtual meeting so that the expert can be ready for you to see their set up.
Lights, camera, action! Now that you’ve guided your expert to the best tech choices for background, lighting, camera, and microphone, you are ready to prep the expert on the case.
OnPoint LNC is ready to help you with your cases by providing well-qualified experts. Please contact us for assistance.
Kimm Ebersole, MHA, BSN, RN
A L W A Y S__O N P O I N T !