The importance of a good, well-positioned, and set up Conference Table is easily overlooked. My years as a film student at a well-established college exposed me to working filmmaking professionals who also worked as Professors to teach young minds like my own at that time and they continue to do so to this day. The school didn’t have time for sports because it’s focus is creating content and art, which is why I adored it. As a young filmmaker, I was required to learn every aspect of filmmaking even thought I just wanted to play with cameras and lights. After college, I tripped into legal video and began to hang out with another great interest of mine, the Law. Each location is different, and there are times I get to see a location more than just once and know just how to set it up for the best video and sound. It is then I realize how many interior designers do not know how to plan for every use of the room they are designing. Although, there are times I can tell when they do keep in mind the many uses of a room, and most likely have some film set experience too. I wish every room designed by a well-rounded artistic interior designer had a plaque with their contact name so I could see if I could work for them during my slow seasons.
The Conference table may seem like an ordinary item in a conference room, but it is not! It is the anchor of which everything revolves around for every and any possible use of the room with which it is in. It should not be so long that the people at the heads of the table feel claustrophobic and about to be severed in two. The videographer usually prefers to set up at the head of the table and will always take the side with more room. The Conference table shouldn’t be too short for the size of the room it is in either because then we run short of places for attorneys to sit. Sometimes the room calls for a round table and I always wish for a small side table to place my gear on for the production. Setting up on a round table takes room away from the piles of paperwork the attorneys have to sort through during questioning. I usually wind up employing the use of a chair in such cases just to stay out of the way. Or there are the rooms that should have a round table but instead have an oddly shaped long table. This is not a bad thing as long as I can move it cattycorner in order to keep the claustrophobic feelings from rising. A movable conference table is always a plus for a legal videographer and sometimes a court reporter who also prefers a less claustrophobic space to work in. There are many depositions where the court reporter is shoved into a tight corner and somehow it is still in the way of traffic, which leaves them to worry about their expensive machines and computers being knocked over during breaks. The preferred spot for them to sit at a conference table is at one side of the witness and the questioning attorney on their other side. However, the more narrow the table the more likely their laptop and/or their hands will be in the shot.
Next are the plugs. I remember when manufacturers of conference tables started adding power and ethernet plugs. It causes a great hum over the audio wires which would be broken up with another unusual scratchy rattling sound when silent cell phones would receive a call or text. Sometimes there are the Dueling Electronic Sound issues traveling up the XLR audio cables. Between the power in the table and the cell phones being placed on the XLR’s. It is hard to take the most preferred clean audio and we must settle for what the location is offering.
Then we have the windows in relation to the conference table. Interior Designers, Please, for the love of good video be sure to place the heads of the table with one end not by a window, and upon pain of death stop using old metal blinds that create a horizontal prison bar effect when the sun comes in just right. Rainy days are begged for those days, less sun, =’s no awful shadows cast over the deponent’s face. For that matter, lighting must also be thought of. Many times I walk into a room with recessed lighting around the perimeter of a room and either nothing in the middle of the ceiling to help bring light to the work area or 1) a faded can’t light brighter than a match or 2) over illuminates with no chance of control and it hums. Even worse when the lighting adds to the heat of a room in the summer and we are forced to turn the air off between takes due to the noise that it makes. Then when on breaks turn the air on and the lights off. Although there are times when turning the summer air conditioning off is not an option. My head, and the heads of any good legal videographer, is usually throbbing by the end of those depositions. So, please do not toss your microphones to the table surface. Especially if it is a glass conference table. The chances of scratching or chipping increase, and it also causes damage to unready ears. By wearing a headset videographers are wearing you and any noise you and the room can make. Any noise…
Eventually, video conferencing began which added a whole new dimension of how to set up around a conference table. The Legal Videographer must be at the same side as the video conference camera eye and screen, but we can not be dead center as usual because many locations decided to place the camera table high and dead center on the witnesses seat. If it were higher, that would throw off a non-legal video meeting. Which has always made me wonder; Why don’t they make that camera eye adjustable so when the legal video is needed the video conference camera can adjust so both can capture a good clean image? Or have the video conference camera eye pop out of the middle of the table, but still low enough so as not to be in my shot? Two ideas I would like to see interior designers and the IT departments around the world to consider. If we can have power and internet in the center of a conference table, why not the camera eye for video conference?
So, to conclude, never overlook how important choosing the right conference table is. It controls the room and the people who interact with it. Many a depo I have attended when opposing counsel will try to acquire the seats with the wall at their back vs the door or windows. That seat is considered the power play seat. If the table is tapered at the heads of the table, the attorneys wind up in the shot which they say they prefer not to do. If the edges around the table are beveled, drinks are often spilled, computers or paperwork will unexpectedly crash to the floor, thus upsetting the flow of questioning. Yes, the conference table holds a quiet unrealized power that must be taken into consideration when designing a room. For it is not just any room, it is a stage, a set, being designed for many uses, characters, and stories that must all be preplanned for by a great designer. Otherwise, that person will be cursed and ridiculed by videographers and others who must work in that space with The Conference Table.