If you've ever been involved in the technical aspects of legal videography, you've likely learned a trick or two from Bruce Balmer. He is a regular and frequent contributor on the Yahoo Legal Videography group, offering equipment and software recommendations, and tips on how to correctly record a deposition. Even if you're not concerned with how it gets done, Bruce is a very interesting guy.
|Bruce Balmer, CIRM, CLVS, CCVS|
1. Where do you currently work, and what is your primary role?
CompuScripts, Inc. and CompuScripts Captioning, Inc., two closely held companies specializing in court reporting, legal videography, and closed captioning services. I provide technical and IT support for both companies and lead the legal videography efforts.
2. Share a little about your background, education and work experience prior to your current position.
I have a double major in Mechanical Engineering and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University and an MBA from the University of South Carolina, along with several professional certifications related to manufacturing operations and legal videography.
My professional career began as a manufacturing specialist with Corning Glass Works (now Corning, Inc.), Whirlpool Corporation, and a European startup in South Carolina. I ultimately moved out of manufacturing and into distribution in the mid 1990’s. I was a part of a team developing a brick and mortar company’s entry into internet ordering in the early 2000’s, along with the installation of a number of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. I left that company to join my wife’s court reporting and captioning firms – she needed help, and I had a lot of exposure on how to streamline operations so we could expand our offerings without working ourselves to death.
3. Share a little about what you do when not working.
I’ve been a runner since 1978. I play golf (poorly), walk my rescue dogs, bike, and contemplate the universe, one day at a time. I spend a lot of time helping out other videographers on several of the legal video blogs on the web. I serve on the Media Team at a local church and on the NCRA CLVS Council.
4. Tell us about one or two significant cases or experiences in your career.
I had just started in the legal video business and was brought into a multi-deposition case requiring fast turnarounds. We were running MiniDV tape at the time, and I was having to encode the tape every night to meet delivery deadlines. Woke up every 85 minutes to flip tapes. Insanity, and sleeplessness, reigned. I went to a convention in LA and saw a software application that would digitize and QC video on the fly (Serious Magic’s DV Rack). My world perspective changed overnight. I was a computer junkie who was able to leverage that exposure and experience and apply it in (what was then) a unique way in my new profession.
5. Share about one or two disasters during your career, and how you managed to recover.
My first camera purchase did not have the capability to do timestamping on digital ports, and I ultimately had to scrap that camera in order to achieve the streamlined workflow I envisioned for legal video. It ultimately forced me to become a prolific reader (and collector) of operator manuals used in the legal video industry. Nobody in the industry was doing what I was trying to do, and I had to depend on my own research to figure things out. I’ve since developed, maintained, and circulated numerous lists of equipment that are appropriate for the legal video industry to help the new folks from tripping up on an inappropriate purchase.
On a completely different note, our captioning company received some money in advance to do a large amount of work over an extended period of time. We didn’t allocate the money properly and ended using it up before the bulk of the work was completed. We cut spending to the bone to meet payroll and complete the work, impacting our cash flow for a period of time. We ultimately set up a management system that released money to the company’s spending account based on completed work delivered to the client. Call it the growing pains of a (then) young, private, company.
6. What is the best piece of advice you could offer to someone considering stepping into your shoes?
Become certified. It opens your eyes to what should be done. Learn how to read manuals and understand your equipment and connection paths. Become a great troubleshooter and problem solver. Always bring multiple solutions to a potential problem to every event. Listen intently. Be willing to throw out equipment and processes when they keep you from moving forward. Delight the client, even if you have to jump through hoops to do it.
7. If you had to do it all over, what would you do differently?
I was afraid of dropping out of corporate America and into small business. A majority of my family was employed by larger companies for most of my youth. As a result, I didn’t get exposed to the benefits (and struggles) of small, closely held businesses. I’ve now been in the small business sector for over a decade, enjoy it immensely, and wish I had made the change sooner. It takes two minutes to make major decisions – decisions that take months in the corporate environment.
8. Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
I’ve been giving back to the industry for the last 8 years. I plan on expanding the sharing of what I’ve learned over the next 10 years – the industry needs someone who can read manuals.
|Balmer: "Learn how to read manuals"|
9. What would you consider the biggest change that has transpired during your career?
I started my professional career in May, 1981. The IBM PC was introduced to the business world in August, 1981. You had a choice – stick with the proven past, or take a risk with the newest of unproven tools. I took the path less traveled, and it dramatically impacted the rest of my career (thank you, Robert Frost, for The Road Not Taken).
10. What do you predict for the future for those in your profession?
There will be constant change in offerings in the legal video sector, and capital acquisitions are going to have a shorter life span than what we experienced in the past. Embrace the trend and seek a path that embraces continuous improvement in your breadth and quality of offerings.
Contact Bruce Balmer