Over the past year, we have been getting more and more requests for Picture in Picture depositions. When covering overflow We’ve been asked to do it in various ways. What I’ve seen is there is not real “standard” for PiP.

Last month For the first time I presented at a trial that had nothing but Picture in Picture with document camera/ELMO depositions edited and played. We did not take any of the depositions, but here’s the good, the bad, and the really ugly..

Location and Layout:

Located right on the border with Mexico in Brownsville sits this courthouse. I unfortunately, did not take a picture of the courtroom, but it was large and auditorium like. The judge sits high up in one corner and the jury on the opposite side of the room looking at him, maybe 75ft away. On the back wall between them is a very large (15′ or so) permanent screen that the witness sat in front of.

The projector was in need of a new bulb and some keystone adjustment but that’s what I had to work with. Unfortunately, the witness sits in front of the screen which wouldn’t allow me to use my own projector. We turned the row of lights along the wall off during playback, which helped, but it was still nowhere near “bright”.

The Good

Example 1

Example 2

These depositions were taken by the same company. The jury was able to follow along and had no issues reading the documents or seeing the witness. What makes them good?

  • The source files were in 1280×720.
  • The elmo was focused and oriented correctly (horizontal and vertical)
  • The document camera is in HD (or a high resolution)
  • The witness is put into the corner and the document camera is allowed to take up the majority of the screen
  • The witness is in 4:3 on the PIP.
  • I was provided a stream only file for each the elmo, deponent and mix.

I do have a few complaints (that did not cause any issues)

  • The deponent only stream is in 16:9. There were many points where you could see the attorneys “working” on their laptops
  • It looks like the 4:3 PIP was a crop done in post as the date:time is cut off. We prefer no time:date

The Bad

Example 1

It should be obvious, but what makes this bad?

  • The elmo was oriented incorrectly for the first hour. Every document displayed was sideways.
  • When the camera was rotated, the operator did not horizontally orientate the camera. The document looked like it was being viewed at an angle.
  • From the start of the deposition the witness had an ipad blocking the view and red bull cans in the corner. 16:9 was too wide for this shot.
  • After the first hour we were able to read the documents

Example 2

Some issues with this one as well..

  • The witness is in 16:9, but it’s been shrunk and does not fill the whole screen.
  • There is extra black space in the PIP. Both the witness and the camera are too small when in PIP
  • The jury was not able to read any document, was more of a distraction than anything.
  • The operator did not have the capability to plug a laptop in to display a video. The solution was to put an ipad under the camera and hit play. It did not look good at all.

The Ugly

Example 1

What in the world?

  • I’m not sure what the resolution on this is. Source claims 1280×720, but it’s clearly not HD and while it looks 4:3, it’s not.
  • Placing the PIP on top of the document feed is not a prefered location (side or corner please)
  • The document camera is not in HD.
  • This was the only source recorded. There was no deponent only feed.

Example 2

You probably can not get any worse than this!

  • It came to me in a 320×420 MPG1.
  • You can’t see the witness nor the document.
  • I hope they didn’t pay extra for this.

My Takeaways

I think for PIP depositions to be accepted by the legal community there needs to be a more standard approach to layout and capturing specs. I’ve been against PIP for many many years due to the quality not being good enough to present in court. With today’s technology, it is much more cost effective and easier to produce than only a couple years ago.

Here is an example of the current way we’ve been producing our PIP (one is a powerpoint and one is a document camera):

    • We’ve disputed with overlaying the witness “on top” of the PIP feed in order to give more space to the document being displayed, but have found that sometimes the attorney highlights or points out information behind the witness feed.
    • We supply a camera, elmo/doc cam/computer and mixed feed files on every job. This allows the end user to do anything they want. I almost had an issue of playing a cut that had a document containing insurance information being shown, I would have had to take it into premier and edit it out by hand, wasting valuable time in a middle of trial, late night editing marathon.
    • We always shoot the witness in 4:3 and the document camera in 1280×720. The deliverable product is a 1280×720 mp4.

[x_gap size=”30″] – Blake Boyd (bboyd@salegalsolutions.com)