Ask the techie: How to use a foot pedal to listen to a videographer’s audio while you edit

The NCRA Technology 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:

Videotaped depositions are being scheduled more frequently for me lately. I’m one of those reporters who likes to listen to the videographer’s audio when proofing my transcripts — it’s so much clearer because of the witnesses and attorneys being mic’d up! I’d like to know how I can easily listen to the videographer’s audio with my foot pedal. I know I can convert the .mp3 file to a .wav file and then associate the audio with my transcript; but I want a simple and easy way to just listen to the .mp3 file. Help!

Playing footsie


Dear Playing:

It’s great to hear that you are getting more work! Congrats! Here are a few ideas on what to look for when you are considering a foot pedal.

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a freelancer based in Memphis, Tenn., and Chair of NCRA’s Technology Committee, offered the following. 
Backup audio media (BAM) is the term used for any audio recording and can include the audio synchronization tool built into a court reporter’s computer-aided transcription (CAT) software. Here are three best practices related to audio backup:

  1. It is the obligation of a professional court reporter to stop the proceedings when the speed of testimony presents an issue, if you didn’t hear a word, or when speakers are talking at the same time.
  2. One must never rely on the audio backup to create an official record. Readbacks occur often during the proceedings, and you don’t want to play back the audio for your client when a readback is requested.
  3. If audio backup is requested by a client, check with your specific state rules in regard to your obligation to do so. If you do, however, provide a copy of the BAM, be sure to offer the same service to opposing counsel. Ensure that no off-the-record discussions are included in the recording.

NCRA has additional guidelines to help court reporters regarding best practices related to audio recordings. Look on the NCRA website for Section IV: Backup Audio Media in the COPE – Guidelines for Professional Practice.

Vpedal USB Transcription Foot Pedal, 3 Function

There are several options for good foot pedals for court reporters to aid in transcript production for playback of audio. I have used the vPedal for several years and love it! It works with my CAT software for those times I need it and it works seamlessly in conjunction with AudioSync. Look to your CAT software vendor if help is needed to set up the foot pedal for use during edit. Amazon is every court reporter’s friend and you can purchase the vPedal on Amazon.

For videotaped depositions, it’s always great when the videographer provides the audio backup. It’s a great resource for us, for sure! The witness and attorneys are mic’d up, and the audio is clear and crisp. Most of the CAT software requires a .wav file as the backup media. While there are plenty of options to convert the .mp3 from the videographer to a .wav file, sometimes there are occasions where it’s faster and easier to just upload the file to Windows Media Player and you’re good to go! Another added benefit of using the foot pedal is that it saves time because of not having to take your hands off the keyboard during edit. WMP is included in clean installs of Windows 10 as well as upgrades to Windows 10 from Windows 8.1 or Windows 7.

Things you’ll need to get started

  1. Foot pedal of choice. Mine is vPedal, as mentioned above.
  2. Foot pedal installation CD or get the Hot Keys application
  3. Windows Media Player software
  4. vPedal Windows Media Player Plug-in

Steps for Installation of Windows Media Player and Foot Pedal

  1. Connect the foot pedal following the instructions on your installation CD or from the Hot Keys application downloaded from the website. The installation CD will configure the foot pedal to the computer and install a control application from which you may set up shortcuts and commands. Again, if you wish to use the foot pedal within your CAT software, check with your vendor for assistance, if needed. I pinned my Hot Keys application to my taskbar for easy access!
  2. Install the vPedal WMP plug-in from their website. This plug-in has been tested on Windows XP thru to Windows 10.
  3. Here is a detailed list of steps to take once your plug-in has been installed.

Steps for uploading audio files to Windows Media Player

  1. Know the location of your audio file you wish to utilize.
  2. Open the WMP application. (I have it pinned to my taskbar.)
  3. Locate the videographer’s audio, select it, then highlight the file to drag it into the WMP application.
  4. Next, open up your vPedal Hot Keys application. My settings on the application: Back seconds step: 5; Forward seconds step: 5; Release seconds step: 2; Tap Enabled.
  5. Highlight the file you wish to listen to and double-click. The file will start to play.
  6. I strike the middle of the foot pedal to stop playback of the file.
  7. I strike the middle of the foot pedal to resume the audio.

Tip: If you have your audio file associated with your text file, you may want to consider using a text-only file when using the videographer’s audio within WMP. You could get two audio files playing at the same time when using the foot pedal.

WMP supports many different file types.  Learn more about Windows Media Player, troubleshooting problems, and how to customize Windows Media Player with easily installed skins, visualizations, and plug-ins for a new look and extra features.

Myrina Kleinschmidt, RMR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer and agency owner based in Wayzata, Minn., and a member of the Technology Committee, shared the following suggestions. 
We’ve used GearPlayer by TranscriptionGear for three years. The transcription software we were using before GearPlayer did not allow us to play back audio and view video files — only audio. We specifically switched to this software so that we could have the option of listening to audio alone or listen to audio and view the video — all accomplished with the ease of foot pedal control. With some witnesses it helps to be able to see their mouth while preparing a transcript (slurred speech, mumblers, low talkers, accents). Sometimes I like to verify if the witness nodded or indicated, so the video is also nice for that. If the videographer can give you the full video file(s) versus just the audio, then you have the full advantages of having mic’d audio and video viewing when needed in preparing the transcript.

Infinity USB Digital Foot Control with Computer plug (IN-USB2)

This link is all you need to know about the GearPlayer software. It’s $119 for each computer; so if you want it on two computers, you will need two licenses. You can download a full-feature free trial and test it for five days. I purchased the USB foot pedal from them ($49 at the time – IN-USB-2 Foot Pedal by Infinity). With this program you have the option of using a foot pedal or the keyboard and mouse, so you could try out the trial program without a foot pedal to see if you like it before purchasing.

It’s simple to use. I drag and drop the file into the work space. It figures out the format and will play it back. Some of the audio format files I’ve played on this recently are .mp3, .m4a, and a .wav file. For video format files, I recently have played back an .mp4 and .mov — all drag, drop, and play. The program has a built-in converter so if it doesn’t recognize the format, it will give you an option of trying to convert the file to something it can play. You can play back from the videographer’s video CD or DVD as well, no converting needed. A nice feature is you get audio feedback when rewinding and fast forwarding, sounding similar to the old tape dictation machines. Sometimes when I need to play a file and am not at a computer that has GearPlayer, I realize how much I like the feedback feature. It makes it easier for me to know when to stop rewinding.

Sound quality can be adjusted for soft voices and noise reduction, as well as playback speed. There are other features which I have not used that are all explained in this GearPlayer link.

Sandra Mierop, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer and agency owner based in Anchorage, Alaska, uses Express Scribe and offers the following.
I’ve used Express Scribe Pro for many years. A free version is available, but after I used it a couple of times, I made the purchase on Amazon. The Pro version accepts virtually any audio format, including videos.

Express Scribe Pro Transcription Software with USB Foot Pedal

Express Scribe has many features that help you work faster, including shortcuts for starting/stopping the audio, rewinding, forwarding, playing fast speed, and playing slow speed. I like the “auto backstep on stop” feature when scoping a video, allowing you to automatically rewind a word or two from where you left off. I up the speed to about 150 percent when proofreading with the foot pedal, and the audio is still surprisingly clear.

Express Scribe is very easy to use. Once you have it installed, it is just a matter of dragging and dropping an audio file into it, and you can begin listening immediately. A challenge with Express Scribe is that some of its shortcuts interfere with my CAT shortcuts, and those shortcuts cannot be changed in Express Scribe.

Tip: Save your codes when you purchase Express Scribe so that you don’t have to purchase it again when you change computers.

Disaster Preparedness and Evacuation Tech Essentials

By Christine Phipps

Were you prepared for last year’s emergencies? Hurricanes Harvey and Irma may now be behind us for the most part, California has started to rebuild from their wildfires, and innumerable other areas have worked through dangerous weather conditions, and during that time many of us discovered how ready – or not – we were to deal with these impending crises.

A disaster tech kit that you can get ready in advance will help you be prepared in the event catastrophe strikes — be that rioting, terrorist threat, breakdown somewhere, or natural disaster.  Your mission in preparing your tech kit is to ensure that your basic needs are met if you’re forced to evacuate your home or leave a dwelling or abandon a vehicle. The kit should include nutrition, water, medical supplies, and some way to communicate with loved ones and stay up-to-date on crisis alerts. Of course, your smartphone is the number one piece of technology to help with the latter, but the following apps and gadgets are also essential for a bug-out bag should you ever need to cut and run.

Motorola Consumer Radios MT352R
Should phone networks get overloaded with cities full of people trying to reach each other, a long-range walkie-talkie set could help you connect with your loved ones. The Motorola MT352R walkie-talkies can work over a 2-mile range in an urban setting through buildings, 6 miles over water, and up to 35 miles if nothing is in the way. $74.99 at Amazon.

 

Kaito KA550 emergency radio
If phones, internet, and electricity are all down, you’ll be glad you have this hand-crank multifunction AM/FM and shortwave radio to get updates on breaking situations and access to the Emergency Alert System. It doubles as a portable lamp with a 5-LED reading light, a flashlight, and an SOS beacon mode. It can be charged by a NiMH rechargeable battery pack, 3 AA batteries (not included), hand-crank generator, solar panel, or AC/DC wall adapter/charger (not included), should you have access to power; the radio also has a USB port to charge other mobile devices when you’re on the move. $49.99 from Amazon.

Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter
“Society is three square meals away from complete anarchy” suggest researchers — but with the Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter, you can hold off hunger-fueled rioting by rubbing together a ferrocerium rod and metal striker to make a nice big meat- (or portobello)-grilling fire. It comes with a waterproof storage compartment for tinder, as well as an emergency whistle and a pocket survival booklet with instructions on attracting rescuers’ attention. $13.30 from Amazon.

 

GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier and Bottle
If ‘they’ have gotten to the water supply, filtering your H20 will be crucial for survival until order is restored. Fill up the GRAYL with water from any fresh or tap water source, then push the purifier like a French press to remove 99.9999 percent of viruses and bacteria, and filter out particulates, chemicals and heavy metals. Bonus: It’s also handy for travelers who want to avoid the eco-impact of buying bottled water. $59.50 from Amazon.

 

ThermaCell Heated Insoles
In addition to the head, the feet are one of the greatest areas of heat loss in the body. Should a freak heavy rain or snowstorm come your way, these rechargeable heated insoles will keep your toes toasty, saving your energy for figuring out an escape plan. From $60.21 at Amazon.

 

 

Luci EMRG solar-powered light
You can’t overestimate the fundamental human need for light. In disaster scenarios, reliable, solar-powered and portable lighting like the Luci EMRG can reduce stress simply by providing illumination for your community to come together. The EMRG has long-lasting, solar-powered LEDs that can be used in four intensity settings, including flashing SOS alert. It’s also inflatable and collapsible, so you can pack several into your bug-out bag. $14.95 from Amazon.

 

VividLed rechargeable headlamp
If you have to brave a flooded cellar when the power’s out, this rechargeable headlamp keeps both your hands free for fussing with the fuse box. There are five light modes, including a strobe for getting attention and a red light, which helps you see your surroundings while keeping your eyes adjusted to the dark — handy to avoid feeling temporarily blinded when you look away from the lighted area. $12.97 (on sale from $29.99) from Amazon.

 

ThruNite TN4A LED Flashlight
A flashlight is an essential for any emergency kit, so pick a long-lasting LED one like the ThruNite TN4A, which has a lifespan of over 20 years. You can use it in one of five brightness settings, going up to a hyper-bright 1150 lumens with a range of up to 450 meters, or put it in strobe mode to attract attention. It’s also waterproof to 1.5 meters and impact resistant to 2 meters. $49.95 from Amazon.

 

Gold Armour Camping Lanterns
Brightest LED lantern for its size: Latest technology Chip-On-Board LED technology illuminates more area with more light than the commonly found 30 LED camping lanterns. Its light is also warmer in color than the competition’s 30 LED lanterns, eliminating that cold, harsh feel. The warm light also leaves your sleep rhythm intact, helping you to avoid the insomnia that other brands might cause. Dependable build: Each of our premium LED Camping Lanterns are hand-built with military-grade, water-resistant plastic — making them extra durable wherever you may be. The lantern is built for both the indoors and outdoors. Advanced collapsible design: Superior design and construction allows our lantern to be super lightweight and compact. It is also collapsible with a simple push. $35.99 on Amazon.

Portable battery pack
Murphy’s law dictates that when you need your smartphone most, its battery will be nearly empty. Sidestep this by keeping a charged-up portable battery pack in your bug-out bag, and you’ll be good for at least 72 hours. We like the Anker PowerCore, which can fast-charge an iPhone 7 or Galaxy S8 around three times from its 10000mAh battery. Or if you need more power, try the three-USB RavPower Portable Charger, whose 22000mAh, can hold about a week’s worth of power (or charge an iPhone eight times). Anker PowerCore $25.99 (currently on sale from $49.99) from Amazon. RavPower Portable Charger $39.99 (currently on sale from $109.99) from Amazon.

Birksun solar backpacks
Get maximum use out of your bug-out bag itself by using a solar-powered, charge-packing backpack. Bags in the Birksun range cannot only store all of the above survival essentials, but also charge up your gadgets so you can access critical updates and communicate with others. Every two minutes of sunlight provides enough energy to charge your phone battery another 1 percent. The waterproof, scratch-resistant solar panel can juice up your tech for up to 20 years, with a 3000mAh battery that stores around one full charge for a new-ish smartphone. When you get back to civilization and power sockets, you can also charge the bag from the mains. From $109 at Birksun or from $99 on Amazon.

For your smartphone

First Aid app by American Red Cross
This app has step-by-step advice for everyday first aid for issues from asthma attacks to strains and sprains, as well as instructions on handling out-of-the-ordinary scenarios such as hazardous chemicals. It’s integrated with 911, so you can call emergency services directly from the app. It also has safety tips for dealing with extreme weather, from severe cold to hurricanes and tornadoes, and includes addresses of the nearest hospitals. And in case of a power loss or evacuation off-grid, all this content is available offline. Free, Android, iOS.

Life360 Family Location app
In the event of a disaster, it can be a vast relief just to know where your family members are. Get your loved ones to download this app, and you’ll be able to view their location on a map — either whenever they make it available or continuously if they so allow. You can add emergency contacts to alert others on behalf of anyone in your family group, or press a panic button in the app to alert each member of a group that you’re in trouble. Other handy features include the ability to save “Places” so you can be notified when one of your group arrives at home, school, or another designated location. The paid-for Plus service lets you save unlimited places, while the Driver Protect add-on can detect a car accident, then call for an ambulance, and raise the alarm within the app. Free, Android, iOS; from $2.99/month for Plus; $4.99/month for Driver Protect.

bSafe
An app designed for personal safety can be well-suited for emergency use. bSafe lets out an audible alarm that can aid in rescue attempts and will also broadcast video of your surroundings, along with your GPS location. Outside of emergency situations, the Follow Me Timer can automatically send an SOS message to your chosen contacts if you don’t check in before a preset time — handy for staying safe if traveling alone. To receive this info, however, friends and family also need to download the app.

 

Dropbox
Dropbox truly is the easiest way to back up your entire life, from court reporting note and wav files to pictures of generations of family members.  This was probably the number one thing I heard during these disasters: massive scanning going on and putting pictures into Ziplocs. Endeavor to get all those pictures scanned. (Perhaps the court reporting firm you work with would work out a financial arrangement to have their production department perform the scanning for you.) Make sure you have your most important documents that you keep in a safe like birth certificates, estate planning documents, and insurance policies scanned to a folder stored on Dropbox also.  Be sure to download the app to your phone so that you can easily access the documents as well.

As we begin hurricane season, take advance precautions while there are no threats to protect your loved ones and the irreplaceable photos and documents.

Christine Phipps, RPR, is CEO of Phipps Reporting in North Palm Beach, Fla., and Vice President of the NCRA Board of Directors.

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

TechLinks: The 2018 guide to Windows 10

Microsoft unveiled Windows 10 to the public almost four years ago, in September 2014. For people who are not early adopters and take a wait-and-see approach, now is the time to safely upgrade, especially if you’re purchasing a new computer. Here are a few good things to know.

Getting set up

Windows 10 Home users can’t defer updates like Pro users, but no one can put them off forever, and nor should they. Many of the updates contain important security patches and bug fixes.

Committee member Myrina Kleinschmidt, RMR, CRR, CRC, shares an article from SearchMaster titled, “Windows 10 and the Court Reporting Profession.” The article advises not upgrading to Windows 10 but instead suggests using what you are on until you need another computer and then setting up 10 on a new computer.

“My recommendation on upgrading to Windows 10 is to not do it,” says author Scott Friend. “Stick with whatever operating system you have right now because that is what your computer was designed to work with.”  Later in the article, he adds: “Purchasing a new computer with Windows 10 already installed on it is perfectly safe, and I would encourage you to do this.”

Kleinschmidt also recommended PC Magazine’s “10 reasons to Upgrade to Windows 10.”

“The five reasons I felt pertained most to reporting:  Startup speed and speed overall; ability to access and download from the App Store; touch screen; browser, Edge, started to drain your battery less than Chrome; and 10 is generally a more secure system,” says Kleinschmidt.

“As court reporters, we certainly don’t need our operating system to be updating right before we start our jobs,” says NCRA Technology and Realtime Resources Committee Chair, Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR. “Be sure to schedule the updates on your schedule. I love the metered connection option!”

Mueller recommended an article from TechAdvisor, a British website, that explains how to schedule Windows 10 to update when it works for you.

“The No. 1 complaint about Windows 10 is, of course, the continual updates,” says committee member Cheri Sullivan, RPR. She recommended a March 2, 2017, Register article that provides some background on the debate around the update procedures that are imposed by Windows.

The latest bug to come up with Microsoft is connected to the USB and onboard device. A March 6 ZDNet article includes a link that identifies the problem. The Feb. 21 HighDesertDiva offers an alternative fix.

“Let’s face it: Sometimes the Windows updates are not always great for court reporters. Just when you know you have all your settings streamlined and perfected, an update can ruin it all,” says Mueller. The instructions on the Microsoft website offer some information on how the “restore” function can restore your system to when a point when everything was working as expected. This option takes your PC back to an earlier point in time, called a system restore point. Restore points are generated when you install a new app, driver, or Windows update and when you create a restore point manually. Restoring won’t affect your personal files, but it will remove apps, drivers, and updates installed after the restore point was made.

Mueller says: “I know this link is a little bit older, but it is still relevant.” She also suggested an article on how to reset Windows 10 with Refresh Tool.

Don’t forget to activate an antivirus program. TechAdvisor notes that Windows Defender, which Mueller says is her chosen antivirus program and is built into the Windows suite, “now uses the power of the cloud to more quickly detect threats, and you can also perform offline scans. It’s on by default (if no other antivirus software was pre-loaded on your computer) and it does a great job, scoring highly in our roundup of the best free antivirus software.

Optimize your setup

TechAdvisor also offers information on how to keep your computer running at top-notch speed by controlling your startup programs.

DriverEasy.com gave advice on troubleshooting your microphone setup, which can be useful for audio sync users, especially those who have new computers.

Kleinschmidt suggested a TechAdvisor article that explains Virtual Desktops, which is now very easy through Windows 10, and which reporters may find useful.

If you want a magnifier tool, this New York Times article has you covered. And if you want to tweak your start menu, try this one, also from the New York Times.

TechRepublic offers some suggestions on new features that are available for 2018.

ITPro Newsletter identifies “17 Windows 10 problems – and how to fix them.” Sullivan pointed to several that are pertinent to court reporters:

  • 2, Can’t upgrade to latest Windows 10
  • 4, Windows update isn’t working
  • 5, Turn off forced updates in Windows Pro
  • 8, Enable system restore
  • 11, Fix slow boot times
  • 14, Stop Windows 10 using 4G data

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: 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.”

TechLinks: The 21st century reporter, part 2

TechLinks_logoOn behalf of the NCRA Technology Committee, Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, recently shared a series of links with information to help the 21st-century reporter or captioner. This second installment covers cloud backup, password management, and efficient internet searches.

In a July 21 article on How-To Geek, Cameron Summerson talks about how to use Google’s Backup and Sync tool to automatically backup information — including documents, photos, and videos — onto Google Drive. Summerson talks a bit about what this tool is and how it works, and then goes step by step through the process of setting it up. The Backup and Sync tool works on both PCs and Macs, and it allows the user to sync either an entire computer drive or only specific folders.

In a July 21 article for PC Mag, Michael Ansaldo presents the best password managers of 2017. Ansaldo talks about what a password manager does, why it’s important, and how PC Mag chose the best overall and the runner up. The article includes links to reviews for all of the password managers that PC Mag considered.

In a July 18 reprint on SlawTips (the original ran on the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library’s Legal Sourcery Blog), Alan Kilpatrick offers some tips on using Google Search for efficiently. Kilpatrick focuses on using specific search terms and then using the different search operators and filters — including combining them — to “craft powerful queries and locate good results.” The article ends with a few reminders about evaluating search results for authenticity, etc.

Read “TechLinks: The 21st century reporter, part 1.”

TechLinks: The 21st century reporter, part 1

TechLinks_logoOn behalf of the NCRA Technology Committee, Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, recently shared a series of links with information to help the 21st-century reporter or captioner. This first installment covers ethics and cybersecurity, a tech gadget, and a data-storage solution.

In the July 2017 GPSolo eReport for the American Bar Association (ABA), lawyers Al Harrison and Joseph Jacobson talk about what ransomware is, how it can affect your computer, and how to deal with it ethically. “Often portrayed as attacking an operating system such as Windows or Mac OS, ransomware is, unfortunately, more sophisticated and more destructive than you may perceive from a cursory review of reported invasive malware events,” Harrison and Jacobson say. This is the first in a series on cloud computing and ethics. GPSolo is the solo, small firm, and general practice division of the ABA.

In a July 20 post for PCMag, William Harrel reviews the Xerox Duplex Travel Scanner. “There are some other much more sophisticated portable document scanners out there, such as the $300 Epson WorkForce ES-300W Portable Wireless Duplex Document Scanner, but if all you need is to scan relatively short documents to your laptop on the road, the Duplex Travel Scanner is a terrific alternative to the RoadWarrior X3—especially if those documents are two-sided,” says Harrel.

A July 17 post on How-To Geek by Jason Fitzpatrick discusses how to set up a Synology Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. “A NAS, simply put, is a computer optimized for data storage, often with additional functionality layered on top,” explains Fitzpatrick. In the post, Fitzpatrick goes through the physical setup – including hard-drive selection, how to add the drives, and where to put a NAS – how to configure the NAS, and how to use the DiskStation Manager (with screenshots!).

Read “TechLinks: The 21st century reporter, part 2.”