Ask the Techie: Mixer recommendations

The Realtime and Technology Resource Committee is taking your questions on topics surrounding realtime and technology. Send the questions you want the technology committee members to tackle to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

Dear Techie:

I’m in the market for a new mixer. Do you have any recommendations?

Mixing it up in the city


Dear Mixing:

It’s always great when you have the opportunity to update or upgrade your equipment, and doing so proactively lets you really research your choices. Good luck on finding the one that’s right for you!

There are many options available for a mixer out on the market, but our needs can be so specific. Here are our suggestions.

Lou Chiodo, CLVS, a videographer who has also earned NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator and Trial Presentation Professional certificates, of New York City, N.Y.:  I recently added the Zoom F8 – Recorder/Mixer into my deposition kit. I cannot say this is an inexpensive audio solution; however, I do believe that it is a crucial item in my audio workflow.

I was persuaded to select this model based on the following key features:

  • It is a professional field mixer and sophisticated recorder in one, with eight channels, in a lightweight, aluminum, tiny form factor.
  • It comes with flexible SD card recording options, providing redundant recording; safety track recording; or a combination of isolated channels with a second mix containing all channels.
  • It includes an iOS companion app for iPad or iPhone and it handles remote control of its mixing and recording features. (This app satisfies my only complaint of it having small knobs.)

If this mixer/recorder combo is for you, it is readily available online for $799 – originally priced at $1,000.

My preferred setup for recording audio for court reporters or their scopists is to always keep one of the left or right channel, peak signal levels, slightly lower or behind the other channel for safer recording and to prevent distortion or clipping. I then record all individual channels onto one SD card and a mix of all channels onto the other SD card during the deposition. The files are then available for immediate transfer to the reporter, especially for a next-day expedite.

 

Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a freelance court reporter and captioner based in Mobile, Ala.: I do use a mixer for my court work. I like the Rolls MX410 4-Channel Microphone Mixer. I think professional XLR connections provide the best quality audio for any mixer, which is what most videographers use as well. You can buy the XLR in a variety of different lengths, so you can accommodate almost any room.

For captioning, I just use a simple Pyle Pro amp. What’s most important to me is the headset. You need something super light, since you’re wearing it most of the day. I prefer a full ear cup, so my favorite headset is the Bose Quietcomfort. You can find wired and wireless versions out there. Most of the wired ones have been retired, but there are plenty on eBay right now that you can get at a reduced price.

 

Scott Aaron, a videographer based in Memphis, Tenn.: I utilize the Shure SCM268 Microphone Mixer for my audio recording during depositions. It has four transformer balanced XLR microphone inputs and one transformer balanced XLR mic/line output. Each of the four line inputs are adjusted individually, giving you control for each person using a lapel mic. As with most mixers, the volume adjustments are easily made, ensuring a great-sounding final product.

The main reasons I chose this mixer are: 1) Reliability: This mixer has been tried and tested for many years with excellent reviews; 2) Compact size; 3) Cost: Around $200-$250. I have used this mixer for 11 years and have never had any issues.

 

Cheryl Erwin, a videographer, Nashville, Tenn.: Looking for the perfect audio mixer for depositions was a challenge. Most of the mixers we considered had far more functions than we needed. We did not need three bands of EQ or built-in effects. What we did need was a mixer that was lightweight and portable, with XLR inputs for good quality. We decided upon the ROLLS ProMIX-IV. It’s a four-channel mixer with four XLR connectors in and two out. It has four rotating input volume controls and two auxiliary out connectors, 1/4-inch phone plug, and a mini plug. This mixer also has 48-volt phantom power, which we don’t use because we have battery-powered condenser microphones. We have found that EQ is not necessary and four microphones are enough for most depositions. This mixer sells for about $150, it’s lightweight and fairly small, 6 in. x 4 in. x 3 in. The audio quality is outstanding!

 

Rob Sawyer, a videographer based in Memphis, Tenn.: I have used Yamaha and Peavey over the years for audio/video deposition units. All these units have four pro-level XLR inputs with individual volume controls for each microphone plus a master level and a separate level for the output. The mixed output is used to send the audio to the court reporter’s computer or audio recording device. Four inputs allows separate mics for each primary opposing lawyer, the deponent, and an overall room mic. The room mic is used primarily as a backup. I like Yamaha the best because it is compact and durable. The cost is usually $150-$200.

 

Julie Coulston, a videographer based in Jackson, Tenn.: I use a Shure Mixer that I purchased five or six years ago, and I am almost positive it has been replaced by a newer version, so I wouldn’t know which one to recommend to new videographers. For the court reporter audio, I use a TASCAM recorder that records onto an SD card. I can give it to the reporter on site, or I can email them the audio, which the reporter can download when convenient.

Ask the Techie: Microphone recommendations

The Realtime and Technology Resource Committee is taking your questions on topics surrounding realtime and technology. Send the questions you want the Committee members to tackle to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

Dear Techie:

I am a court reporter who freelances with several different court reporting agencies. My trusty laptop is on its last legs, so I am going to purchase a new computer and will use my existing machine for backup purposes.

One of my upcoming assignments is a jury trial — a first for me. The courtroom is in an old courthouse and so I am unsure about the acoustics and whether I will be able to hear all of the participants. The voir dire is scaring me to death, actually. There will be no microphones for prospective jurors. I need my backup media to be as clear as possible.

Yikes! Please help! I need some guidance about which microphone options I should be considering.

Muddled Mike


Dear Mike:

Good luck on your upcoming assignment. It’s always good to go in prepared to handle anything. Here are a few recommendations from some of the Committee members.

Myrina Kleinschmidt, RMR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer and agency owner in Wayzata, Minn.: I have used many great microphones. Now I am using the SoundTech CM-1000 3.5 mm Omni-directional Conference Microphone. I use the SoundTech to connect to my separate recorder (Marantz Professional, which is plugged into a power strip). I have connected up to three via daisy chaining down a long conference table. There’s a USB version if you want to connect to a computer and then daisy chain more from there. The microphone costs about $39.

I currently use CaseCat and DigitalCAT, and I have a Dell Latitude; but I do not use a microphone with my computer at this time. In the past, I used the DepoBook Stealth Microphone and that was a plug and play, which worked well with my Latitude. Since all software and computers have different audio systems, it’s best to have your CAT company and the microphone company help you get the settings perfected.

I like the low profile of the SoundTech, the daisy chaining ability, and the fact the SoundTech can be plugged into my computer (USB version), sound amplifier (Pocketalker), or recorder.

I don’t use a microphone connected to my computer. I use the Williams Sound Pocketalker (personal amplifier, $189) on many of my depos. The SoundTechs connect to the Pocketalker as well. I set it all up and have it ready to go — if the deponent is difficult to hear, I then turn it on at the next break, or stop the proceedings and turn it on if need be. When I can hear the words more clearly in the first place while writing, I write better, have a better record, which means that I have an easier time editing and I am less tired at the end of the day.

Recently, I connected a lapel mic (Sony ECMCS3 Clip style Omnidirectional Stereo Microphone – about $20) to a low-speaking witness. The lapel mic was connected to the Pocketalker and then I had an earbud to listen with one ear. Also I recently used the Pocketalker on a two-week arbitration where the background noise was awful. I again connected lapel mics (using a splitter cable so as to have both mics go into the Pocketalker) and had the witness and the questioning attorney wear the mics. The arbitrators kept asking participants to repeat, while I had no difficulty hearing.

Lynette L. Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, is a freelancer based in Memphis, Tenn.: I use the MXL AC-404 Conference microphone. This microphone is designed to capture crystal-clear intelligibility for multiple uses and has easy plug-in-play connectivity. Bonus: There are no drivers to download! It is compatible with Windows and Mac. For my Luminex, I utilize the Martel HGM-2. The cost is about $99, but check online for the best price. Some vendors offer free shipping. My go-to sources are either Amazon or B&H Photo Video. The cost of the HGM-2 is around $179.

I am on Case CATalyst. I find that the microphone settings that get me the best audio quality are as follows:

  • MXL Microphone Sound settings: Speakers Properties: Levels: Balance, 37; Advanced: 16 bit, 48000 Hz (DVD Quality)
  • Audio Settings in my software: 11025 Hz, 80MB/hr
  • HGM-2 microphone sound settings on Luminex: Microphone gain: 52%, Audio Format: ADPCM (14.7MB/hr)

As a freelancer, my court reporting assignments involve a variety of venues: depositions, arbitrations, hearings, and courtrooms. The number-one reason I landed with the MXL microphone is for the judicial reporting aspect. Backup media is an important tool for us. I go into several different courtrooms and am the official court reporter for trials and hearings. I wanted to ensure a seamless way to handle bench conferences. Since the courtrooms are on the small-ish side, it is easier to stay in my seat, slap some headphones on, and I’m ready to roll! Some other court reporters were using Scotch tape to adhere their microphone to the judge’s bench. Needless to say, the finish is wearing off on his bench. This conference mic has a low profile and will lay flat on any surface.

The second reason I bought the MXL was for the sound quality. I’ve utilized several different brands of PCs over the past five years. Each laptop has different specs for the audio quality. With each one of my purchases, though, this mic has always enhanced my BAM with generally no concerns.

The third reason was the USB plug-in-play. I like the idea of never having to install drivers. When I do have the need to switch to my backup computer, I know I am ready to go at a moment’s notice because of the plug-in-play feature.

 

Keith Lemons, FAPR, RPR, CRR, a freelancer based in Brentwood, Tenn., (and frequent JCR contributor): It depends on the venue. Right now, for most applications, I use my HGMUSB mic and set it up on the table for a deposition or on a tripod at the bench for bench conferences and normal courtroom sound. I also have purchased the SP-USB-Mic-Model-6-Plus from Sound Professionals that I can also use as a standalone mic in depos, or with two boundary mics at the bench and at the witness stand via a 10-foot cord. It sells for about $300 from Martel. The Model 6 plus with the boundary mics was about $525 together.

I’m currently on Case CATalyst, and I use the default settings on the USB mics. Using the noise-canceling feature may work in some really bad deposition suites, but I’ve found that noise canceling will keep you from hearing the whispered bench conferences. Most of the time, I keep the mics at about 80-90 percent, keeping watch on the sound bar provided by my CAT system. If it starts to run to red, I reduce the volume. If it barely registers, I increase it. I set my systems to always listen and set my default audio as the USB devices. That forces you to use an earbud or headphones to monitor or play back. But there’s nothing worse than having your monitor be your system speakers: You cannot stop the caterwauling feedback quickly enough.

I’ve bought the cheap ones and the not-so cheap ones. Frankly, I had a lot of problems because the Lenovo Yoga Power Converter interfered horribly with all of my USB mics. Once I bought a different computer, I could hear again with crystal clarity. So my reasons for setting on the HGMUSB mic were: 1) Reliability; 2) Sound clarity; and 3) Ability to adjust the sound easily. All USB devices are similar. Cost is not a true consideration when a lot of my cases are realtime jury trials. I have to hear. These mics (and a great pair of Bose headphones) allow me to hear the bench conferences without too much difficulty.

As far as microphones for my writer, I use the Martel HGM-2. It’s a condenser mic with a battery that lasts forever, almost. I’ve used this mic on my writer as a backup to the CAT system numerous times. A USB is subject to audio environmental whims more often than I’d like, and the writer backup stays consistently outstanding.

 

Lou Chiodo, CLVS, a videographer who has also earned NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator and Trial Presentation Professional certificates, of New York City, N.Y.: I use the following two types of microphones in every deposition. These particular models are somewhat pricey, but I believe the audio is as important or likely more important than the images. If you want a demonstration of why, put the news on your TV at home sometime and move to the next room; and you will (if audible) hear and understand the information. Try that with the picture only — and even stay in the room — and it likely will not convey the information being provided.

There are a myriad of available models and styles that may work for videographers and court reporters alike. The Audio-Technica AT899 lavalier microphone is designed to be mounted on or hidden underneath clothing. Its slim low-profile design is ideal for depositions and broadcast applications. The tailored frequency response accentuates the frequency response of voices while minimizing low frequency noise, such as the air conditioner in many board rooms where depositions take place. A low-frequency roll-off switch further minimizes noise due to hum, ambiance, and proximity effect. The AT899 features a condenser element with a cardioid polar pattern. The cardioid pattern is effective in minimizing noise and ambiance at the off-axis sections of the microphone capsule. (The most common unidirectional microphone is a cardioid microphone, so named because the sensitivity pattern is “heart-shaped,” i.e. a cardioid. The cardioid family of microphones are commonly used as vocal or speech microphones, since they are good at rejecting sounds from other directions.)

The U841A from Audio-Technica is an omnidirectional condenser boundary microphone for surface-mount applications. It is designed for surface-mount applications such as sound reinforcement, conferencing, television sound, and more. A boundary microphone is essentially a small diaphragm condenser mic mounted in a housing that directs the diaphragm parallel to the surface onto which it’s mounted. You can see a diagram of a boundary mic’s setup in the illustration above. The parallel setup allows the mic to pick up the sound that is reflected off the surface that it’s mounted to, such as a wall or table.

TechLinks: What you need to know about scanners

NCRA’s Realtime and Technology Resources Committee members tackled the subject of scanners this month to give NCRA members a leg up on finding the best solution in going paperless.

“Among the scanners I have used, the Fujitsu ScanSnap and also the Epson Workforce scanners are my two favorite,” says Dana Hayden, RMR, CRR, CRC, of Fayetteville, Ark. She offers the advantages and disadvantages of both.

Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500

Advantages

  1. It has a small footprint.
  2. It works wireless and wired.
  3. It will auto-detect two-sided and automatically delete blank pages.
  4. It will OCR, which makes the text in the PDF searchable.
  5. It can be set up so that the program automatically pops up when you open the dust cover/lid.
  6. Its scan destinations include Google Drive and email, as well as Dropbox, Sharepoint, Evernote, OneNote and SugarSync.

Disadvantages

  1. You cannot put in a preconfigured naming series with auto number advancing.
  2. It does not have a flatbed for scanning.
  3. You need to choose the highest resolution setting if scanning photos to get good quality.
  4. The wifi is awkward to set up.

 

Epson Workforce ES-400

Advantages

  1. It offers a preconfigured naming series with auto number advancing.
  2. It will OCR (optical character recognition), which makes the text in the PDF searchable.
  3. Epson offers great customer support.
  4. It can scan to destinations including Google Drive and email, as well as Dropbox, Sharepoint, Evernote, OneNote and SugarSync.

Disadvantages

  1. It does not have a flatbed for scanning.
  2. The OCR is slightly more clunky, but it uses ABBYY FineReader as an adjunct.

 

Dana Hayden, RMR, CRR, CRC

“Make sure you configure your default scans to automatically OCR (found in the scanner settings),” recommends Hayden.

“I find myself using a scanner app lately a lot,” says Christina Hotsko, RPR, CRR, Arlington, Va. “I’ll use it to scan in exhibits if the office needs something quickly. I’ve scanned over files to my scopist during a break on a long job. I scan in receipts to keep track of travel expenses. I’ve even had my passport scanned and saved on my phone when I needed to pull it up in a pinch.”

Hotsko recently started using the app, Adobe Scan, which she keeps on her smart phone. “It’s a little more user friendly and offers a few more options,” says Hotsko. “What’s convenient about a scanner app is you open it up and let the app do the rest. It searches for the document, image, or whatever you’re trying to scan, auto-captures a shot, and then adjusts and fits the captured image to page.”

With Adobe Scan, documents are stored in an Adobe DC account on your computer. Adobe Scan lets you search your photos for documents, and from there you can select which ones you need to send.

There are many scanning apps available for smartphones. “Try a few different apps and see what works with your style,” advises Hotsko.

Need more information?

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

Committee chair Lynette Mueller, RDR, CRR, of Germantown, Tenn., provided some additional resources to research the best scanner for your needs. “Document scanners are all about being able to process documents in a seamless way,” says Mueller. “I recommend purchasing a dedicated sheet-fed scanner rather than a flatbed one or an all-in-one device.”

PC Magazine, one of Mueller’s go-to sources for products, offered a chart on April 6 of best scanners.

TechGearLab, a well-known online tech review website, listed their favorite scanners of 2018.

Also in April, Best Reviews published a list of the best scanners. “My scanner is a Fujitsu ScanSnap, and it made this list,” says Mueller. “I absolutely love it for its size and fast scanning options.”

Still need convincing to go paperless? Mueller offered a number of reasons on her blog.

Additional Links

Lynette Mueller’s ScanSnap settings

How to reduce the size of a pdf file

Legal Eagle expands services with acquisitions

Legal Eagle, based in Greenville, S.C., announced in a press release issued May 7, that the firm has agreed to acquire Cannon Court Reporting, also based in Greenville, and Freelance Reporting Services of Spartanburg, S.C.

Read more.

How to reduce the size of a pdf file

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

By Lynette Mueller

When you have a large file, it may not be easy to share through standard methods. It’s useful to know how to compress pdfs.

Prior to scanning your exhibits and documents, be sure to adjust your settings in your scanner app. For those times when perhaps you get scanned docs from a paralegal or attorney and the file size is extremely large and you want to link the exhibits to your transcript or you need to send a transcript via email and not sure a client will be able to receive it, reduce the file size of the doc using these options:

  1.  My first choice is Smallpdf. Just drag-and-drop your PDF file in the box, wait for the compression to complete, and then download your file. It’s that simple. All the file compressing takes place in the cloud and will not consume any capacity from your own computer. Best of all? Smallpdf.com is browser-based and works for all platforms. It doesn’t matter if you use Mac, Windows, or Linux.
  1. Acrobat offers a tutorial to reduce file size.
  1. Another option for compressing pdfs is Split_pdf.

Lynette Mueller’s ScanSnap settings

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

By Lynette Mueller

If you decide to use ScanSnap, Lynette Mueller, RDR, CRR, of Germantown, Tenn., chair of the Realtime and Technology Resources Committee, shared her settings.

  1. You can choose the destination file of all your scanned documents. I scan to Dropbox because it’s so easy to access all my files from one device to the next.
  2. Prior to scanning, you may choose your File Name Format (custom name). Then, choose serial number so that as you scan the software will automatically add the number of your exhibit at the end of your custom name. This saves so much time.
  3. Scanning Tab: Image Quality, Normal; Color mode, Auto color detection; Scanning side, Duplex Scan (double-sided). Check the box for “Continue scanning after current scan is finished.”
  4. Select your File Format options. PDF or JPEG
  5. Paper tab: Paper size, Automatic detection; Multifeed Detection, Check Overlapping (Ultrasonic).
  6. Compression tab: Compression, (Low); File size, 3. I find the 3 setting still provides a very legible and readable PDF.

Lynette L. Mueller, RDR, CRR, is a freelancer reporter in Johns Creek, Ga. She can be reached at lynette@omegareporting.comShe reports that a short video will be on her blog at the beginning of the article.

Refresh your CLVS skills before taking the Production Exam this June

The next testing dates to take the CLVS Production Exam will be June 8-9 at NCRA headquarters in Reston, Va. Registration is now through May 31. Space is limited, so candidates are encouraged to sign up early.

Something new this year: We are providing candidates an opportunity to do a Hands-On Training session prior to the production exam. Register now to get another step closer to earning your CLVS certification.

The Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS) program sets and enforces standards for competency in the capture, use, and retention of legal video and promotes awareness of these standards within the legal marketplace.

“The CLVS certification is the gold standard for identifying competent and vetted legal videographers and sets them apart from the rest of the field,” said Jason Levin, CLVS, Chair of the CLVS Council. The CLVS Council leads the CLVS Seminar and administers the Production Exam.

The cost of the exam is $325 for NCRA members and $425 for nonmembers.

During the Production Exam, candidates will run the show at a staged deposition and be graded on their ability to follow video deposition guidelines and to produce a usable, high-quality video of the deposition. Candidates must have taken the mandatory CLVS Certification Workshop first, available online through InReach. Candidates must complete the educational components prior to taking the CLVS Production exam. Candidates can take the CLVS WKT at any time, but we strongly encourage candidates to complete the educational components first as questions on the WKT are developed from the education provided.  Learn more about the CLVS program at NCRA.org/CLVS.

The CLVS Production Exam is administered two times a year: spring and fall (depending on interest). Please contact NCRA by calling 800-272-NCRA (6272) for more information, or contact the CLVS Staff.

NCRA members who hold another credential, such as the RPR, can earn 0.25 PDC each after passing the CLVS Written Knowledge Test and the CLVS Production exam.

 

Ask the techie: Condensing software

The Realtime and Technology Resource Committee is taking your questions on topics surrounding realtime and technology. Send the questions you want the technology committee members to tackle to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

Dear Techie:

I am a freelance reporter and thinking about starting my own business. It’s so intimidating thinking about the many facets of running my own firm! First on my list: Which condensing transcript software should I be considering? There are so many options available that it makes my head spin and I’m not sure which one to choose. Please help!

Concerned About Condensing


Dear Concerned:

Congratulations on taking the next step in your career! Indeed, there are many things to consider when starting your own firm. Glad we are here to help get you started on the right track.

There are several options available for word indexing and condensing. Here are our suggestions.

Cheri Sullivan, RPR, of Memphis, Tenn.: We selected YesLaw after meeting them at the convention in Nashville in 2013. The customer support team has always been great to work with. It is easy to link exhibits, insert a signature/notary seal, insert a picture of the witness, and even place “original” or “copy” on the style page. All eight of us have been happy with YesLaw overall.

Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, of Portland, Ore.: We have ReporterBase, a.k.a. RB, for calendaring, transcript production, and invoicing. We produce the transcripts with RB. With it, we can digitally sign, hyperlink exhibits, and create bundles that include full size, condensed, and word indexes. We create these paperless PDF bundles for all clients. We still have clients that want paper and Etran as well.

Keith Lemons, FAPR, RPR, CRR, of Nashville, Tenn.: For cross-CAT platform use, our company uses Min-U-Script.

Myrina Kleinschmidt, RMR, CRR, CRC, of Wayzata, Minn.: After testing several programs, we decided that YesLaw was the best program for our needs. It’s easy to link the exhibits, and the transcripts look great. An added benefit is the transcript generator software integrates with their video synchronization tool so it is a good program to have in case you ever decide to try video/transcript syncing.

Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Mobile, Ala.: I use Min-U-Script Pro. It’s easy to use, and the final product looks great! Support is available and very helpful as well.

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, from Memphis, Tenn.: I use Min-U-Script and absolutely love it! The exhibit linking is another great feature of this particular software. You may add in multiple users, along with their signatures and notary seals for electronically signing the transcripts. I can’t say enough good about it.

Dana Hayden, RMR, CRR, CRC, of Fayetteville, Ark.: I currently use YesLaw for all the reasons already mentioned: It’s very user-friendly, and they have good customer service. You can link exhibits, provide a link to the attorneys for them to download the transcript in every imaginable format (although you have to manually create and include the ptx version, which I would love to see YesLaw incorporate like Stenograph did in their CaseCAT), and all the attorneys have to do is click the link to download/save to their computer. It also has lock-out restrictions if needed, such as to send for read/sign only.

Send your questions about realtime and technology to the technology committee members at jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

LADB expands captioning services, adds industry vet Schuster

M&E Daily reported on April 24 that digital media and content services facility Los Angeles Distribution & Broadcasting (LADB) has named closed captioning specialist Deborah Schuster as its new EVP of accessibility services, a role that will see her spearheading LADB’s expansion into the live captioning business.

Read more.

VITAC captions quest for the Stanley Cup

The Sports Video Group reported on April 18 that VITAC Captions will provide captioning for the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup playoff games.

Read more.