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Whether it’s for evidence demonstrations, client pitches or archival documentation, the time will come for every lawyer to make a powerful presentation. Lawyers in big firms may be able to hire an outside audio/visual consultant or have the in-house staff do the job, but for solos or small firms practitioners, it’s up to them. Fortunately, with today’s technology, you don’t need an engineering degree or an artist’s mindset to come up with a professional product. The first place to begin is with a digital camera. Maybe you already have one for personal use, and that is fine for snapshots of the kids at soccer practice. But to take pictures of an accident scene or to document fire damage or injuries, lawyers should step up to a more advanced camera. Lawyers should first look for a product from a trusted photographic source, such as Nikon or Canon, both of which make quality lenses that will bring out the most details. In addition, both a zoom lens and a close-up lens are needed; these are often available on the same model. Look for at least a 4x optical zoom, as a digital zoom, which go to higher numbers, can distort a picture. Also make sure the camera can operate in both automatic and manual mode so that whoever is taking the shot can adjust for lighting conditions. And finally, megapixels are important if you need to blow the shot up to a large size. A 5.1 megapixel camera should get the job done. Make sure you also film at the highest quality of picture. It will take up more room on the camera’s flashcard, but for blowups and quality it is essential. The cost for a camera in this range is about $600. While a still picture is worth a thousand words, a moving picture might be worth a million dollars or more in a settlement. A digital camcorder can capture the impact of an accident scene or a witness interview and bring it to its intended audience. The current crop features camcorders in the Mini DV format than can capture the video on digital tape, which can then be transferred to your computer. Running around $400, these devices should feature night mode photography, a 10x optical zoom (again, the digital zoom can distort the picture) and a firewire link to your computer for fast image transfer. The next step up in digital camcorders feature models that transfer the image directly to a DVD. This can be a decided advantage over tape, since tape can still get jammed in the camera or damaged over time. While slightly more expensive, starting at about $700, if it is absolutely essential that you do not lose the image you just recorded, the DVD option is the way to go. And one more thing: If at all possible, try to use a tripod when filming. Despite all the video stabilization techniques that the new camcorders have, an “old school” tripod still works best. Now that you have taken the pictures or video, it’s time to transfer these graphics to your PC and make your presentation. Windows XP Professional and Mac OS X already have built-in programs for transferring the files to your machine. But to make really great presentations, you might want to purchase software specifically for the job. A nice, low-cost piece of software is the Pinnacle Studio, now in version 9. For about $75, Pinnacle Studio features image stabilization, color correction and easy-to-use editing functions that can take the important pieces of your video and make them stand out, while discarding the unnecessary portions. It also provides an easy way to burn your files to a DVD. A more complex solution is TechSmith’s Camtasia Studio 2, which runs around $300. Studio 2 can provide a comprehensive recording, editing and publishing system for video presentations, including narration, screen highlights and components for publishing in a variety of formats. For Mac users, Apple’s Final Cut Pro provides similar features. Still photos may also require touch-ups and other editing to enhance their message. While Adobe Photoshop provides numerous enhancements, it is probably more for use by graphics professionals than do-it-yourselfers. However, Adobe makes a “light” version, Photoshop Elements, which can provide what most users would need to create telling photos. Some of these programs also come packaged together with features for video, still and audio presentations at discounted rates. And if you don’t wish to use these additional packages, Microsoft’s PowerPoint, a standard feature in the Microsoft Office suite, is perhaps the most popular presentation software in use. PowerPoint can import your video, audio and still images, and allow you to create professional presentations that can be exported to the Web, DVD or CD. A wide variety of templates exist within PowerPoint to give you that artistic touch. Of course, many presentations won’t be viewed individually, but in a group setting. So you’ll need a projector to place your message on the big screen. Projectors can take what is on your computer and display it on a fairly large screen with minimal distortion. Lightweight, portable projectors run from about $800 to $1,200. Look for a projector with a minimum of 1500 ANSI lumens, and make sure there are a variety of video-out options, including S video, to get the highest quality. Another handy feature is a reverse image, so that you can place the projector behind the screen, avoiding clutter among your audience. Quality projector manufacturers include ViewSonic, NEC and Mitsubishi. And one more feature: Make sure you get a remote control mouse with an infrared pointer so you are not tied to your PC when making your presentation. With a remote-control mouse, which cost about $50, you can wander around a radius of about 50 feet to hammer your message home. BRIAN R. HARRIS is the database administrator for the American Lawyer Media-Pennsylvania division and the former editor-in-chief ofThe Legal Intelligencer . Harris can be contacted at [email protected].

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