WORKING TOGETHER: How’s your audio?

By Mindy Sindiong

Part of a CLVS’s training is to provide great video and audio for our clients. However, we have two clients: the attorney(s) and the court reporter. Yes, I said court reporter. Part of our job is to offer the court reporter some form of audio, whether it be a live feed from our audio mixer or a digital computer file recorded onto an SD card. The better audio we provide, the more court reporters will want and request to work with a CLVS. I’ll get more into the relationship between a CLVS videographer and a court reporter in a moment. First, I want to discuss the importance of the audio.

The CLVS program teaches a CLVS the audio chain, meaning audio should come from wired microphones to the mixer, from the mixer to the video recording devices, and, from there, into a monitoring device, otherwise known as headphones. Unfortunately, many videographers seem to forget the importance of audio in video. We are sometimes swayed by the technical specs of that new camera that just came out. We want the video aspect of it to look great on that new 4K video monitor. Can we see every line on someone’s face? And, in the process, audio sometimes falls to the wayside. This is a shame because, in reality, the audio is of utmost importance, especially in video depositions. The testimony is the deposition. Try an experiment. Turn on the TV with the sound turned down and watch for a few minutes. Turn the sound up and turn your eyes away from the TV and just listen. In most cases, you will get a better understanding of what is happening by listening rather than watching. Now, mind you, I am not disregarding the importance of the video portion of a recorded deposition. Studies have shown that much of how we communicate is through body language, but that would be a different article.

A good audio recording will also capture the nuances of the spoken word. Is the voice changing in pitch? Is the speech speeding up or slowing down? How long was that pause before the answer? Did that question seem to come out right? These telltale signs are all an important part of communication. If the video-recorded deposition has audio that has a lot of distracting noise, noise that can come from a bad connection, poor quality microphones, an audio mixer that introduces a bad hum sound, and so on, then the spoken voice starts losing its relevance to the listener. That is why the CLVS training stresses the importance of setting up, monitoring, and troubleshooting your audio chain.

Back to the relationship with the court reporter. As I said before, we also teach a CLVS to offer the court reporter some sort of way to monitor the audio, whether it be a live feed or a recording. Court reporters should also be prepared for working with a CLVS and may need to know how to make some audio adjustments on their end and be able turn up or down the input levels on their laptops. Being prepared to make these minor adjustments has huge payoffs in the quality of the audio for scoping and proofing later.

Being able to offer a high-quality live feed to the reporter can have other benefits. I can’t tell you how many times we have done depositions during which one of the participants was extremely soft spoken. Having a microphone on the witness and being able to boost that audio signal through the mixer can make all the difference in the world. The court reporter will be very thankful to be able to hear that witness loud and clear using a headset. I’ve always felt that if you take care of the court reporter, he or she will take care of you. In this business, I believe the court reporter is my most valued partner and friend.

Mindy Sindiong, CLVS, of Lawrenceberg, Ind., is a member of NCRA’s Certified Legal Video Specialist Council. She can be reached at Mindy@DeBeneEsseMedia.com.

 

TechLinks: Using tech to reach your 2018 goals

NCRA’s Realtime and Technology Resource Committee is getting 2018 off to a tech-savvy start for NCRA members. It pays to keep up with the latest, and the members of the committee pulled together a great grouping of resources to aid you.

Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a freelancer from Portland, Ore., and a member of the committee, recommends getting your tech organized. “I have so many zipper bags,” said Nodland. “I have my MiFi and charger in one. I have my Shark multi-port charger with power cord and extra cables in another. I have my display port adapters and HDMI cables in another.” She sent along an article from Lifehacker offering suggestions on what to include in your tech dopp kit.

Nodland also suggested a trio of articles that help get you set up for the year. Attorney At Work suggested tips for dealing with tech based on your business goals for the year – everything from going paperless to building a new website. PC World offered a list of the top USB portable chargers for your phone, the perfect accessory for anyone constantly on the go. PC World also has a list of their top-rated laptops from 2017.

Dana Hayden, RMR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer and agency owner based in Fayetteville, Ark., and another member of the committee, forwarded an article from AmateurRadio.com, which explained the functions of different colored USB ports, including the tip that a yellow or red port will allow you to charge a phone or tablet from your laptop battery, even if the computer is sleeping.

TechLinks: Best gadgets of 2017

Who doesn’t love finding that perfect gadget that makes things so much easier? Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a freelancer from Portland, Ore., and a member of the NCRA Technology Committee, has a few suggestions from around the Web for monitor mounts, audio recording, webcams, surge protectors, and apps.

“I love my dual monitors,” says Nodland. “I have one landscape orientation and one portrait. I can edit and have exhibits up at the same time.” A monitor mount will help keep screens organized and at an ergonomic eye level. This guide by How-To Geek will help you figure out how to pick the right monitor mount for your setup.

“Every now and then, we need a solution for rerecording audio for a number of reasons,” says Nodland. She recommends another article by How-To Geek about recording sound coming from your PC. The article has three solutions, two of which use software solutions and one “relies on an old trick that connects your computer’s audio output to its audio input with an audio cable.”

“We’ve noticed a pattern after years of notebook testing: Built-in webcams generally stink,” says Andrew E. Freedman in an article for Laptop Mag reviewing the best webcams. Use a webcam for an upcoming NCRA Skills Test, a webconferenced deposition, or as a way to talk to remote clients.

“I am very protective of my surge protector,” says Nodland, and anyone who has suddenly lost power just before saving a file can relate. This article by Wirecutter reviews a surge protector with a fail-proof method of letting you know when it’s time to replace it.

And finally, to cover all your bases, Wirecutter has the best tech and apps for your home office. “You don’t need the thinnest, lightest, or most elegantly designed items for your home office,” says the Wirecutter team. “In the space you make your living, you want reliable, comfortable, efficient tools — though it doesn’t hurt if they look nice, too.” The review includes storage and backup solutions, laptops and phone docks, routers and modems, productivity and finance apps, and more.

TechLinks: Using Windows 10 and Dropbox

Lisa Knight, FAPR, RDR, CRR, who served on the 2016-2017 NCRA Technology Committee, shared a few links for getting the most out of Windows 10 and Dropbox.

In an April 17 article for Computerworld, Woody Leonhard shares the top 30 free apps for Windows 10 (just to be clear: these are for a computer). “Whether you’re a grizzled Windows victim or a faltering Windows ingénue, these programs should be at the top of your list,” says Leonhard. The apps include an incremental file backup, a tool for bringing back deleted files, an online calling/messaging program (that’s not Skype), a to-do list program, and more.

Still a Windows 10 newbie? For the one-year anniversary of the new update, Brad Chacos rounded up the 10 best new features of Windows 10 for PCWorld. These features, including the Start menu, Cortana, and The Edge browser, are all good to explore first if you’re still making your way into the Microsoft upgrade.

Finally, in a post for Hongkiat, Ashutosh KS shares 15 tips to get more out of Dropbox (plus a bonus). “I often thought Dropbox as a simple cloud storage service that you can use to save and share your files and folders,” he says. “But as I started digging deeper into its functionalities, I found myself nothing but wrong. This cloud service is so full of surprises and has many more features than you already know of.” These features include working on files as a team, accessing files without internet, and sharing screenshots on the fly.

Welcome to the digital edition of the JCR!

In addition to the print JCR, members have access to a digital version. There’s still nothing like holding a physical magazine in your hands, but the digital version is typically available a little earlier than the print arrives in mailboxes and has a few enhanced features:

  • search for specific terms
  • bookmark a page to easily reference later
  • write notes to yourself
  • share pages with colleagues

The digital edition is also hyperlinked, so clicking on any link will take you directly to the appropriate website.

Members can access the digital magazine at NCRA.org/JCRmag (you may be prompted to log in). Choose the issue you wish to read by clicking “View Digital Issue” by that month’s cover. You will need to log in again to access the magazine on the web-hosting site; this is the same login information as you use for NCRA.org. The first time you log in, you will have the opportunity to take a tutorial to become familiar with all of the digital magazine’s online features and how to navigate the digital version.

Highlights from the October issue:

The digital edition is compatible with most smartphones, tablets, and computers.

Last call for JCR Awards nominations

Nominations for the 2017 JCR Awards are closing Oct. 31. Nominate yourself or another noteworthy court reporter, captioner, videographer, scopist, teacher, school administrator, or court reporting manager for recognition through the JCR Awards.

Conceived as a way to recognize and highlight the exemplary professionalism, community service, and business practices of NCRA members, the JCR Awards is a way to tell compelling stories that bring to life innovative and successful business strategies from the past year. In addition to nominations for several subcategories, NCRA is looking for a firm and an individual who show excellence in more than one category for an overall “Best of the Year” award.

Any current NCRA member in good standing, with the exception of students, may be nominated for these awards. Court reporters, captioners, videographers, scopists, teachers and school administrators, and court reporting managers are all eligible for nomination. Self-nominations are accepted. Firms, courthouses, or court reporting programs may be nominated as a group as long as they meet the criteria for membership for one of the definitions in the JCR Awards Entry Form.

To nominate yourself or someone else, submit a written entry to the JCR between 300 and 1,000 words explaining the strategies implemented and why they were successful. Ancillary materials, such as photos, may also be submitted with the nomination. Nominations will be considered by the JCR editorial team based on the best fact-based story.

Please be prepared to offer documentation, verifiable sources, or other assistance as needed to be considered for these awards. The stories of the finalists will be published as featured articles in the March JCR.

Nominations are due by Oct. 31. Read more about the JCR Awards.

A broadcast captioner sees the future in realtime

A woman sits in front of a steno machine, set up to work from home. On her desk is her laptop and paper notes propped up for easy viewing. On the wall is a television screen with a news show.By Cathy Penniston

I live in Iowa, but I make my living listening to the Canadian news. I work for The Captioning Group, Inc., based in Calgary, Alberta, as a remote broadcast captioner four days a week. But every Thursday, I take a break from the news and travel to Newton, Iowa, to teach court reporting students at the Des Moines Area Community College. My goal is to share my wealth of experience with my students. I have worked as an official shorthand reporter, a freelance reporter, a CART captioner, and a broadcast captioner, and I bring this real-world experience to my classes.

As a busy broadcast television captioner and an instructor of court reporting students, I encourage my students to embrace realtime. If my students comment that it is difficult to learn realtime, I remind them that when I went to court reporting school, there were manual Stenograph machines and typewriters. Long vowels? That would be taken care of when reporters sat down at the typewriter to type each page into English from their paper shorthand notes. Nowadays, this is all done instantaneously through high-tech machines.

But more so, I believe that realtime is vital to the continued successful future of the court reporting profession. A digital recording in a courtroom cannot accurately provide a real-time speech-to-text feed of the live proceedings to the judge. And a digital recording cannot provide live captions of breaking news or emergency information broadcast over television stations where realtime captions are needed to save lives.

At first, realtime stenography can seem quite daunting. But excellent instructors and programs can get students on the path to achieving their goals and becoming successful in the field of realtime captioning. Here are seven tips from a broadcast captioner and court reporting instructor to get started on your journey to learning realtime.

  1. Enjoy realtime and the great feeling of success when steno words translate into English correctly. Do not be afraid of realtime.
  2. Analyze and correct every word that does not translate from steno to English correctly. There is a reason for every untranslated word. Why did that word not translate? What can you do to correct that word to make it translate properly for your next transcript? Do not ignore untranslates!
  3. Know your dictionary and how words are going to translate with your dictionary. Finger combinations that work well for one student may not work well for another student. Try the suggested way to write the word. If the finger combination does not work for you, try writing it in a way that will translate for you. Define the word in your dictionary that way and write it down. Practice that word until you have memorized it.
  4. Briefs are good only if you memorize them and remember them quickly. A bad brief is worse than no brief at all. Your goal is a good realtime translation.
  5. Write out every word and add it to your dictionary for the time when you forget your brief. Do not hesitate to remember briefs.
  6. Your goal is great realtime translations, not winning a race for having the most briefs and then hesitating during speed tests trying to remember those briefs. Briefs can be your best friend or your enemy in realtime reporting.
  7. Back up your dictionary every week. Email a copy of your dictionary to yourself and back it up in the cloud.

Realtime reporting is the key to the future of our profession. Embrace realtime as you strive to achieve your goal of graduation from school.

After working for many years as an official shorthand reporter in the State of Iowa, Cathy Penniston, RPR, CRI, CSR, “retired” to pursue her dream of completing her master’s degree in teaching and working as a remote television broadcast captioner and teacher. She can be reached at cpenniston@gmail.com. This article was originally published, in a slightly different format, on the blog for The Captioning Group as “7 Things Your Instructor Wants You to Know About Realtime Writing!”

TechLinks: Staying safe online

Nancy Bistany, RPR, found a list of five steps to take to make sure that you are protecting your privacy online. The how-to piece by VIPRE security reminds that it is always a good idea to review your setup once in a while. [Want to learn more about how the Tech Committee members protect themselves? Read the June 29 TechLinks “Understanding internet safety,” in which several of them shared their typical practices.]

Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, found a good list for security issues for lawyers in the SmallLaw blog, part of Technolawyer, which can easily be adapted for court reporters and court reporting firms. The article shares that security for a law firm should be a layered affair, covering physical, digital, and human factors. “I love the question at the end: What happens if you get hit by a bus?” Nodland says. ”I ask this of every one of our court reporters, whether they’re an employee with us or an independent contractor.” [Note that the article is free but requires a TechnoLawyer profile to access.]

Jonathan Moretti, CLVS, shared the July 2017 issue of Malwarebytes’ newsletter, which included an article on how to stay cyber safe. Tips included how to monitor your children’s internet habits, watching out for public WiFi, and avoiding credit card skimmers at ATMs and gas pumps.

Website accessibility in the hot seat

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyThe captioning firm VITAC posted an article on Sept. 26 that addresses recent issues surrounding website accessibility and how it is enforced through the ADA.

Read more.

TechLinks: Helpful products

Recently, the NCRA Technology Committee shared a few products that can help with work tasks. The products include a password management system, an education technology tool, a messaging app, and an audio solution.

Nancy Bistany, RPR, shared a blog post by Dashlane on the worldwide password problem: Internet users’ tendency toward “using the same, easy-to-remember password on all of their accounts over the security of using strong, unique passwords” on each different account. Dashlane is a password manager that can also manage other security-sensitive information, such as IDs and credit card numbers. “I use Dashlane for my Level 1 Password user,” says Bistany. “Its reminders are great.”

Bistany also shared an article from Forbes reviewing Learning Tools for OneNote. Microsoft OneNote is a now well-known note-keeping program, and Learning Tools is an ancillary product. According to the article, “Learning Tools for OneNote was originally created for dyslexics … [that leverages] a variety of already existing Microsoft technologies like Bing’s speech recognition, simultaneous audio text playback, and natural language processing … to make reading and writing more accessible to all students.” One of its features is fluent fonts, which allows “readers to adjust both the letter spacing and the number of words on the line.”

Teresa Russ, CRI, shared a link on the messaging app Slack. According to the company, it’s “oriented toward small-team collaboration” and has both a free and premium version. Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, CRC, explained, “I use Slack to talk to a captioning team that we do a lot of events together with. All or most of the tech companies use Slack to communicate. It has awesome searching capabilities, and you can tag someone in the conversation to bring it to their attention.” Frazier added that he has his own name set as a tag so he gets an alert when the conversation involves him.

Finally, Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, shared a review of Trint, an audio and transcription app. Nodland pointed out a quote from the article that explains that Trint makes “it easy to compare the audio clips to the transcript as you’re verifying and editing it.”