THE IDEA FACTORY- Video Settlement Brochures
By Bob Ketchum

Because Advanstar Press ceased publication of Newtekniques Magazine recently, all links to the original articles are down. Due to the number of requests for the content of my Idea Factory and Hear Ye! Hear Ye! columns, and in the interest of making the information in these articles available to the public, I have posted them here through my site. I am told that the original html docs and image files are being released soon. When I get them I will add the extra text and images and the columns will LIVE AGAIN!.

Idea Factory
Subject: Video Settlement Brochures
OCT/NOV 1998
By Bob Ketchum

Since I get a lot of email from Toaster/Flyer users out there asking me more about how I utilize my system in the workplace rather than technical support (which I'm not too good at anyway), I decided to write a series of articles dealing with the "real world" application of finding new ways of using this system to produce more income. There are a number of "Flyers" who have the technical expertise to give instruction on software and operations, but rarely have I seen any articles written about how to use this system to increase one's profits. Sure, we know about commercials, weddings, corporate/industrial videos, training and safety videos and the like, but there are many more ways of using the Toaster/Flyer's unique abilities. Since I have had many new experiences in video production in the past 5 years I thought it was time to share some of these avenues with the reader.

One of the most asked about questions I receive is "What the heck is a Video Settlement Brochure"? Well, today I am going to tell you, and this is a good topic to start with, since there appear to be lawyers EVERYWHERE! All you need to do is make yourself known to your local attorney and ask if he has been involved or interested in producing a Video Settlement Brochure (VSB). If he hasn't, then it's a good opportunity to give him an update.

The VSB is fast becoming an integral part of the society of Law. Attorneys use the VSB as a means of giving the "other side" an idea of what they will be defending themselves against if that particular case goes to trial. It's sort of a "pre-trial run through" with some notable exceptions. In trial you cannot make insinuations, accusations, lead witnesses, or play on the sympathies of the jury. Such is not the case with a VSB, since the video is not actually used in court or ever seen by the jury. Therefore, many things that would not be allowed in a courtroom are "fair game" in a VSB. For instance, many attorneys use provocative music beds to increase the emotion of the case, or use clips of the deceased taken from home movies, showing typical family life before the accident. Family members might be interviewed after the catastrophe, emoting to the camera about their great loss. These videos are not for the squeamish. Many times I have had to really concentrate on the technical task at hand and try to disassociate myself with the scene, but in almost every case I have to bring along a hanky for myself while taping.

This may sound distasteful to some, but when you think about it, there are many useful and positive reasons for producing such videos. If the situation were reversed, I would much rather talk about my loss in front of a camera and three or four people in the comfort of my living room, instead of a courtroom full of strangers and antagonistic attorneys who's main purpose is to discredit your testimony. Also, statistics show that, more often than not, a VSB gets the point across so strongly that out-of-court settlements are the rule rather than the exception, so taxpayers dollars are being saved and court dockets can be utilized more efficiently for criminal cases.

So how do I go about producing a VSB? First, let's assume we are handling a case where the "victim" was killed in a catastrophic auto accident where the driver of a gas truck lost control of his tanker and careened into oncoming traffic. We begin by doing video interviews of immediate family members; at-the-scene witnesses who saw the accident; the State Trooper who handled the accident; the paramedic who arrived at the scene; the ER doctor who attempted to revive the dying patient, the expert witness who is an authority on the faulty brake linings used by the truck lines (which has been the cause of previous accidents); the victim's boss who tells what a nice guy and solid family man he was .. You get the idea. Sometimes it's as little as an hour's worth of footage. Sometimes it's several tapes of interviews. I always use a good wireless Mic and indirect lighting, preferring to shoot doctors and professionals in a professional office setting (usually their own office). I have the attorney sit as close to the camcorder as possible and, when necessary, the attorney might prompt witnesses with leading questions. We only use the answers in the finished video and request the witness to make their answers in the form of a statement. When they stop to think about an answer or stop in mid-sentence, I NEVER stop tape. Sometimes it's the silence in a person's account that is more emotional than what they actually wind up saying.

If covered and available I will locate and procure news footage and TV coverage of the accident. Stills of newspaper headlines can also be used. I may go in the victim's home and shoot stills of family pictures from a scrapbook, review home movie footage for selected clips, and general shots around the house to establish the family scene. If the victim has lost an arm and I find movie footage of them water-skiing or skeet shooting, I will use it. It takes a certain mind set, but once you jump in it will become clearer what to use as you proceed. Remember, in a VSB you want to make it look as damaging as possible. Obviously, a great amount of tact and respect must be used when dealing with family members, but it's up to YOU to make them as relaxed as possible while discussing such a heavy topic. This is not an easy task for family members who have lost a loved one, and it's not too easy on the shooter either. It usually takes me several hours after a day's shoot to clear my own mind from the depressing subject material.

In the post production process the attorney and I sift through the footage until we find what we're looking for. Then we digitize that section into the Flyer and move on. We usually take 3-6 good clips from each witness, but there are no set rules. I create CG overlays for each person's name (and title where applicable) and bring it up on their first clip only. Our method is not to just throw them all together in the Project window, but to arrange the clips into a storyboard and weave an intricate and compelling account of this person's life and what has happened to the remaining family members since the accident. Rather than me recording a narrative, we let the witnesses and experts tell the story.

During an account by a family member of what life was like before the accident, I will use the Toaster to "fly in" some still pictures. I generally stick to "Trajectories" or the occasional "Van Gogh" and avoid any flashy transitions. "Dip-to-Matte" with a white background color also works quite well when changing from one witness to another. When a medical expert is talking I usually show stills of medical papers, illustrations, death certificates, hospital images, etc. During a police report I will fly in stills taken by the authorities or footage taken after the accident of the skid marks and surrounding scene. Sometimes I am even asked to produce a 3D animation of the accident. That's where good old LightWave comes in very handy, and it NEVER ceases to astound my attorneys when I play back a 5 or 10 second animation of the scene. If it's a faulty product that caused the situation, then a 3D rendering of the object shown at several angles sometimes has a great deal of impact.

I try to keep the total time of the VSB to under an hour, but sometimes that's just not possible due to the content. My longest one was 90 minutes. A young DEA agent has been killed under suspicious circumstances and there were a lot of details and literally miles of footage from several sources including other agents who were shot behind a screen for confidentiality and news footage from no less than 8 major TV sources. We also had footage of the huge funeral service held for this obviously well loved and respected young man. My shortest VSB was an easy one that clocked in at 8 minutes but was nevertheless very powerful.

Out of the Video Settlement Brochure's that I have produced in the past 5 years, I (we) have had a 90% success rate. That means that 90% of "my" cases were settled out of court. Not a bad record. Also, since I have been doing these cases for a while I have the distinction of being recognized as an "expert" at producing these videos and have been invited to give lectures at Trial Lawyers Association Seminars, instructing other attorneys on "How To Produce Video Settlement Brochures In Catastrophic Injury Cases For Less Than $10,000". These speaking engagements usually bring in other clients from surrounding areas, so it has a snowball effect. Attorneys are a tough group to break into, and they prefer to use someone with a track record, so it may take some time to build this particular avenue of work. But in the end it is exciting, rewarding, challenging, and can be very profitable.

I do not give package rates, but prefer to charge per hour. I charge for drive time and my animation work and Project DAT back up is also charged separately. When working with attorneys, I am always early for appointments and conduct myself as professionally as possible at all times. They work in a constantly changing environment, so I try to make myself as accessible as possible. I have had cancellations frequently, but I do not charge them for this inconvenience. It always pays off.

I do not wear a suit and tie as I need freedom to move around quickly, but I usually wear subdued colors and always maintain a neat appearance. I refer to my client's witnesses as "Sir" or "Ma'am" no matter what age they are. My clients appreciate it and treat me with respect as a professional.


Video Recorded Depositions:
Depositions are usually conducted during the "discovery phase" of a law suite. The purpose of a deposition is for the attorneys to gain as much information for their clients as possible prior to going to trial. This is accomplished when the deponents (witnesses) are questioned under oath by the attorneys. The Video shows the demeanor of the witness in a way that a type written transcript can never do!

Activities of Daily Living Documents: ("Day-In-The-Life")
These are video recordings that are shown to a judge or jury during a trial to show how a victim's life has been significantly altered due to an accident usually caused by someone else's negligence.

Video Recorded Will Execution Cermonies:
The main reason for this type of video document is the Estate Planning Attorney to establish the fact that the person signing their "Last Will and Testament" has the mental capability to understand the purpose and content of what they are signing.

Pre-Construction Video Surveys:
These video documents are normally produced prior to any equipment arriving on a major project. They will show all pre-construction conditions including all defects, faults or fractures in the immediate or surrounding area of the proposed project. It is protection for the contractor or governmental agency from false claims of damages caused by the contractors during the construction of the project.

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