What Is Video Synching?

In legal terms, video synching is matching up an electronic written transcript to its videotaped counterpart. It usually comes from a deposition of a witness in a court case. When the witness’ testimony is played back, those words are displayed in text on a computer screen next to or underneath the videotape picture using special software. It is used in many different ways for court trials to display the question and answer session which previously took place. The videotaped deposition is first converted into a digital .mp3 file that links to the electronic transcript. The lawyer can simply click on a word or sentence, then see and hear the witness speak those written words. The product is time indexed so that the two versions happen simultaneously.

Contradiction Video depositions are questions and answers of a witness who has been placed under oath in a legal case. Sometimes attorneys will later try to trip up the witness in court by contradicting, or impeaching, their testimony. Oftentimes, the date of the deposition and the court date are several months apart.

In the old days, the lawyer would stand up in court and read a portion of the witness’ deposition testimony from the certified court reporter’s written transcription. Counsel would ask the witness if that’s what he said and, more often than not, the witness would half-heartedly disagree, not too sure one way or the other. They might say that’s not quite what they meant and it was taken out of context. They might say they don’t remember or that the court reporter wrote it down wrong.

Now, the attorney simply clicks on a computerized video playback button and the witness clearly states it on video for all to see. Is it just the attorney trying to put words into someone’s mouth, or did they really just say two very opposite things? The jury can decide for themselves.

Opening and Closing Statements Before and after trial testimony begins in a civil court case, lawyers for both sides get to stand up before the judge and jury and make opening and closing statements. These are summaries of their arguments and highlights of the most important points of their case. Sometimes they can drone on and on, leaving the jurors to ignore much of what is said. When video synched clips from depositions and daily life are pieced together to supplement what the attorney is saying, it becomes more compelling to the ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Not only do they pay attention, the statements have more impact when shouted or mumbled by witnesses on the video display. A witness having an emotional breakdown on video is much more compelling than an attorney saying someone was upset. Face and voice recognition set the scene for major players in the case. After the jurors have seen some of the witnesses on video, they will be more familiar and memorable when taking the stand.

Preparing for Trial Like all modern technology used in court cases, video synching has reduced the amount of time it takes to get ready for a trial. Before videotapes were produced in a digital format, lawyers and their assistants would have to watch large portions of a videotape just to find one tiny little part of testimony. They would take wild or educated guesses about how long to hold down the fast-forward button until they came to the right part – the important part – that they wanted to see.

Now, it is simply a matter of searching for the words on the computer, then double-clicking on the synching software. Voila. The important part of the transcript flashes on the screen in a matter of seconds. That leaves more time for getting ready for the big trial, whether it is research, strategy or getting the all-important good night’s sleep.

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