EASY does it and SNAPPY snaps
Several years ago when I first started to use computers in the courtroom their primary advantage was the access to and management of electronic files. It was a big innovation to get the court reporters to provide us with ASCII disks of depositions and daily transcripts. Using a full-text word search like ISYS we could perform WESTLAW-like searches on the document data base that we had created. That was wonderful and in fact it still is!
The next wave of technology in the courtroom came with the development of modern imaging technology. Watermark hit the street at COMDEX in 1993 as a business document imaging package with powerful annotation tools. But when lawyers saw what Watermark could do to documents that had been imaged and thus could be projected on a big screen or monitors in the courtroom, the second revolution was underway. Until now, however, the full color display of documents and other images has been difficult to do. In the last few months, however, some powerful new hardware has made that problem a part of history.
Watermark and other document imaging systems very often reproduce documents only in black and white and are moreover incapable of rendering photographs with any kind of acceptable quality. The scanning of photographs in color was even more problematic and required expensive equipment and specialized skill. But here comes the next revolution! It comes by way of a two hundred and fifty dollar mini scanner called "EasyPhoto Reader" and a less than two hundred dollar video grabber called "Snappy" that allows you to clip individual images from video tape. EasyPhoto Reader and Snappy are both designed primarily for the computer hobbyist. EasyPhoto Reader's primary purpose is to allow you to scan copies of important color photographs into your computer where they can be kept forever without fading or other damage. That is certainly a worthy purpose and it performs that task admirably. But EasyPhoto Reader is also a wonderful lawyer's tool. It allows you to incorporate photographs up to 5" x 7" in size into your courtroom presentation. Imagine photographing an accident scene with your 35mm camera, dropping the film off at Walgreens with the $3.99 processing coupon out of the Sunday paper and then picking up the prints the next day so that the relevant photographs can be put into your computer and ultimately used and displayed electronically in the courtroom. Converting the pictures into electronic files is as they say EZ. You bring up the software on the screen, you click your mouse on add photo and you get a little menu of choices for places you could go to find a photo. One of those choices is a picture of the EasyPhoto Scanner and you click on that picture to activate the process. It takes forty-five seconds for the scanner to warm up . When it is ready you put the photograph into it and push a button and a few seconds later the photograph appears on your computer screen. I showed this process to a professional litigation support specialist the other day and he was stunned at the quality of the photograph.
Once you have the photograph in your computer you can use it just like any other piece of graphic artwork. You can incorporate it into a document or you can incorporate it into a presentation program like PowerPoint. You can display it in the courtroom on monitors or by using the projector. And, you can incorporate it into such things as your Windows wallpaper or screen saver. When my computer comes up in the morning, for example, I am greeted by my favorite picture of my five children. It took less than a minute to scan and install from a 3" x 5" color print.
This little scanner has so many uses for lawyers who have to work with photographs that I can't imagine being without it. I am looking forward to discovering new uses for the Easy Photo Scanner. You can buy Easy Photo directly from Storm Software at 800-275-5734 or from one of the big mail order houses such as Micro Warehouse.
Snappy is a little box that you plug into your printer port. It has a remarkably simple software that runs it and a place to plug in a video source. You run the video directly in your camera or you can port it out to a TV set. Whenever you want to "clip" a frame from the video you click your mouse on the box marked "snap" and you have a still photograph in bitmap form that can be incorporated into a document or presentation program. I was again amazed at the quality of the image. Included with the Snappy unit is a editing program called "Fauve Matisse SE" which allows you to do all kinds of nifty things to the video. Also included is a copy of "Gryphon Morph 2.5" which allows you to create "morphing" effects on the video you have grabbed. The combination will allow you to create an effective but simple animation from a video by plugging the snaps into a presentation program slide. Snappy is widely advertised in the computer magazines and can be ordered from Play, Incorporated at 800-306-7529. You can check out their World Wide Web site at www.play.com or you can order from MicroWarehouse. You should be able to buy Snappy for under $200.
We will be working with both of these products in the coming months at the Courtroom of the Future Project. Look for more information as we develop uses for these two terrific products and watch for some seminar announcements about the Courtroom where will demonstrate these and other products we have found.