The Unique AV Requirements of Courts – Leading The Way In Convergence

I love meeting with customers in the court market.  Let me offer a caveat to that and say that I don’t have a favorite type of client, but I’m always impressed by the willingness of courts to adopt the newest in AV technology for their courtrooms and courthouses.

Nearly everyone these days is being tasked with doing more with less.  This is also true in the court system, yet they have been on the leading edge of accepting IT and AV convergence, because most truly see the cost savings that convergence can offer them.

Courthouse AV is very unique.  Courtrooms require more outputs than usual, and they require separate mixers for in-room audio and multi-channel recording.  One of the mixers needs to be automatic for live sound, however you can’t use an auto-mixer for the recording needs in the room because it’s possible for an auto-mixer to lose a partial first consonant when someone speaks and the mic opens up.  For example, on the recording, ‘not guilty’ is very different than ‘ot guilty.’

In the analog world you would need to have a separate mixer for each feed, and then separate outputs for each of the different feeds.  With a digital signal processor (DSP), we can do all of that in one box.  So the cost savings is immediately evident, and courts get that.

On top of that, DSP makes it very easy to transport signals, both audio and control.  The 9th Circuit Court in Orlando uses nearly 70 courtrooms in five different locations, yet has a very limited staff to manage all of those locations.  DSP makes it possible to remotely access their systems from any point, so that feature is not only a huge cost saver but also a big time saver.

Courts also record a lot, both audio and video.  With a digital network, it makes it very easy for them to establish a central server room, and use an existing network to transport AV signals.  It enables them to work with an existing infrastructure, one that they are well equipped to manage and maintain.

Perhaps DSPs play their most important role in the remote functions that courts perform.  Often times transporting prisoners to and from the jails for testimony can be expensive, as can having interpreters drive in to attend hearings in-person.  More and more courts rely on distance conferencing capabilities to perform these functions.

Even with all of these current benefits, I think over the next five years things will only get better, assuming courts remain open to new innovations.  Right now every courtroom has its own AV system, but because of the way the technology is changing, they’ll be able to save even more money by creating shared systems between three to four courtrooms on separate floors, or across disparate buildings.  Also, courtrooms and courthouses are realizing they need paging solutions within their building, and as paging systems become digitized too they become another part of the AV system that can be included on the network.

The Court Technology Conference in Long Beach just wrapped today, and it was interesting to see convergence on display once again.  Of course there were plenty of other technologies on display, but nearly all of them were simply a network endpoint, from scheduling software to telepresence systems. It will be interesting to see what new trends further drive the convergence of AV and IT in courtrooms next year.

Did you attend the show? What was most exciting to see? If you didn’t go, what insight on court technology – specifically digital audio – can you share?

About Read Wineland

Read Wineland is the Regional Director Eastern North America for Biamp Systems and has been with the company since 1995. Previously he was an independent representative for Biamp and several other professional audio product lines, based in Ohio. Read started his audio career in 1973 with White House Communications while in the US Air Force, serving Presidents Nixon and Ford. Following his military career he worked for Hollywood Sound Systems in Los Angeles working on projects such as House PA for NBC’s Saturday Night Live, The Academy Awards and The Emmy Awards. Read installed the original wireless microphone systems for the NFL, which the referees continue to use today. Read holds a CTS (Certified Technology Specialist) certification awarded by InfoComm, the AV Industry’s governing body, and is a member of the Audio Engineering Society.

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