When (And When Not) To Use Synchronized Transcript Subtitles in Trial Presentations

Ever since the concept of synchronized transcripts was introduced to the litigation industry, creation of smaller clips from larger media files has never been easier.  While this concept can greatly reduce the amount of time litigation support professionals spend on editing media files, the additional benefit of displaying subtitles can often be used ineffectively.

For those not familiar with the topic, text to media synchronization (or timestamping), is the process of associating each line of a (deposition) transcript to its corresponding point in time in a media file. With a synched transcript, one can quickly create media clips using specialized litigation software, such as LexisNexis’ Sanction. This is accomplished by either highlighting the transcript text, or by providing the software with page/line start and end points.  Based on those user inputs, tools like Sanction automatically create a media clip based on the timestamp information in the transcript.

The obvious benefit here, is that clips can easily be made from a larger media file in a matter of a few mouse clicks.  The other added benefit, is the ability to display the corresponding text along with the media file during playback, very similar to the way close captioning works on your TV. Now while this secondary benefit is often touted as a major selling point to litigators, there is a time and a place for using subtitles while presenting video deposition testimony in a jury trial.

One of the main reasons attorneys decide to video tape a deposition, is because it captures the witness’s demeanor much more effectively than presenting written testimony. However, turning on the subtitles for a video will draw the attention of the jury away from the witness, and to the text that is scrolling underneath the video, hence, defeating the purpose of having the deposition videotaped.  There are, nevertheless, certain situations that would benefit from the use of subtitles, such as:

  • Depositions where the deponent has a heavy accent
  • Audio stream is very poor
  • When technical or medical terms are being used frequently
  • During the playback of audio files, such as 911 calls, wiretaps or voicemails
  • Police interrogations or dash-cam video

So while subtitles still have their place, consider turning them off next time you intend on presenting media files during a jury trial presentation.