Technology Serving Justice

Colorado upgrades court facilities
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The judge's bench in the Supreme Court is flanked byt two Samsung displays that can lower out of sight into cabinets.

When our technology integration team began planning for the new $258 million, 12-story Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center in Denver, Colo., we took into account ongoing upgrades and standardization of our analog and digital capabilities in courtrooms across the entire state. By standardizing our infrastructure and deploying leading-edge technology, we looked to improve remote conferencing, in-state remote training sessions, judge and attorney communications, real-time interpretation, and long-distance testimony.

Consequentially, with a $9 million AV budget, we were able to outfit our new 695,767-square-foot Judicial Center with innovative audio and video distribution throughout its Supreme Court and Court of Appeals courtrooms, 10 classrooms/training rooms and multiple floors, delivering remote conferencing and training sessions. At the same time, we integrated more than 100 courtrooms throughout the 64 counties of the state onto one network that can be remotely monitored and serviced from any location on the Judicial network.

Best of all, our new statewide judicial AV communications environment is expandable to meet our future technology needs and has already saved time and money.

INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDS

First, we considered our basic structured-cable infrastructure needs. In the past, we had purchased one-off, stand-alone analog systems for the various county courtrooms, and as these systems became obsolete we were left with useless wiring configurations and a hodge-podge of incompatible connections and systems.

We decided to approach an AV solution with a fresh perspective at the new Judicial Center building and completely prewired it with CAT-6e cabling and map the building in order to pre-wire for the deployment of antenna nodes for our new Cisco Identity Services Engine wireless system. As most new technology products are IP-enabled, we feel confident any new system we choose to add will easily integrate into our building’s digital network.

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This Crestron control panel is used by bailiffs to select cameras that capture video of courtroom proceedings.

The Cisco wireless system had the capacity for us to set up a separate public access network so attorneys and others working or visiting could connect to check email and be productive throughout the day while in the building. For system-wide automation, we deployed a Crestron DigitalMedia control system that is used in the courtrooms, training rooms, and conference suites.

Next, we turned our attention to audio distribution and sound reinforcement. Given the common use of resonant materials such as marble and granite, courtroom architecture has traditionally presented significant challenges for delivering and managing effective audio.

To power the facility-wide audio system across the new Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center, we used two Biamp Systems AudiaFlex CM digital signal processors. The Audia digital audio platform features customizable hardware and audio tools that allow us to fine-tune any acoustic environment and gives us input/output flexibility in both the training centers and conferencing suites.

To satisfy Colorado’s statewide mix of courtroom acoustic environments, we used Biamp Nexia TC and Nexia SP audio systems. These include features such as mix-minus, echo cancellation, and other audio tools that allow us to compensate for structural complications such as convex ceilings or thick, reverberant construction materials.

Throughout the facility we used both wired and wireless Shure microphones. In the four courtrooms, we opted for a multichannel digital audio recording system by For The Record. We also deployed the Biamp Distance Court Interpretation system, which allows interpreters to work remotely, simultaneously interpreting over a natural sounding, echo-free connection. It can be used with any common or POTS telephone system, keeping costs down.

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Conference rooms have Crestron controllers and a pop-up AV connection point.

Our new systems give us the ability to digitally adjust audio and enhance sound quality on the digital recorders for better public records; deliver clear audio with dependable distribution capabilities; and improve comprehension during remote conferencing and interpretation of testimonies. This reduces the chance of miscomprehension during high-level proceedings.

Since the DSP audio system resides on the court’s digital network, AV staff can also monitor the health of the entire Colorado-wide installation from a central location — allowing support staff to troubleshoot audio issues quickly before the comprehension of proceedings becomes compromised.

RELIABILITY IMPROVEMENT

Since the new installation and statewide upgrade, the improvement in reliability and ease-of-use between the previous systems and the new networked systems is night and day. The Colorado court system, through the use of innovations such as remote testimonies and real-time interpretations, has reduced the state’s travel costs, decreased onsite maintenance and future-proofed the courtroom systems against imminent technologies changes such as courtroom attendance via video.

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Tom Franklin, director of Colorado Court and Facilities Planning

Our next design goal was to maximize our video opportunities, using our structured Crestron DigitalMedia control and wiring infrastructure to deliver HD video, voice, and content-sharing capabilities to our courtrooms, training rooms, and conference suites. For the Carr Judicial Center, we integrated large 80-inch Samsung monitors into the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals courtrooms.

Each courtroom has two panels on motorized lifts mounted in custom cabinetry situated on either side of the benches. For the district courts and for remote video testimony, we use 60-inch Samsung monitors on portable video carts. Our video connectivity platform allows attorneys to connect into the video system quickly and easily with their laptops or tablets using an array of inputs. To manage that content in the courtrooms, judges use Crestron controllers or PC interfaces to orchestrate what is being displayed on the monitors at any given time, and they have the ability to preview video evidence before it is shown to the courtroom.

For courtroom video evidence display purposes, our video carts have been outfitted with Polycom videoconferencing cameras that deliver DVD-resolution video. One of the unique video and audio conferencing applications we designed for statewide use is our Video Remote Sign Language Interpretation Service.

We established a sign language interpretation center in Denver, and using a combination of video cameras, monitors and audio distribution, the court system is able to accommodate hearing-impaired citizens in any courtroom throughout Colorado that is part of our new digital media network. This new service is the first of its kind and not only saves time and money, but truly serves the people of the state by making it possible for anyone to participate in the judicial system.

MORE INFO Biamp Systems: www.biamp.com

Cisco: www.cisco.com

Crestron: www.crestron.com

Da-Lite: www.da-lite.com

For The Record: www.fortherecord.com

Polycom: www.polycom.com

Samsung: www.samsung.com

Sanyo: www.sanyotv.com

Shure: www.shure.com

Vaddio: www.vaddio.com

Of special note is our webcasting feature in our Colorado Supreme Court courtroom. We installed three Vaddio broadcast-quality cameras on the ceiling that capture arguments in the courtroom and broadcasts them live over the web, in addition to permanently archiving them on a government website for future use.

The cameras are controlled at a station where the bailiff can pan from a view of an individual judge, to a view of the bench in its entirety, or to the attorney who is presenting an argument to the court.

For our training rooms and conference suites, we used several displays to serve an array of possible setups and configurations. For small- to medium-sized classes or conferences, we use Samsung monitors that range from 60 to 90 inches. For large-venue applications, we use Sanyo projectors and motorized Da-Lite projection screens.

VIDEO OPTIONS

Again, we supplied multiple video input options so our presenters and speakers can easily connect to the system with their mobile devices. Although the prevailing preference today is via HDMI, we also equipped the video input panels with standard composite and component inputs, as well as VGA.

Finally, there are two additional AV-related designs that have been integrated into the Carr Judicial Center that have been well received by the community. The first is our External Media Post, which allows users in any courtroom or the Attorney General’s offices to connect via fiber optics directly to television media vans parked outside the building.

This enables TV crews to simultaneously transmit court proceedings or press conferences via satellite to their respective stations. In addition, dedicated digital kiosks made up of Samsung 20- to 60-inch displays stationed throughout the building share the courts’ daily docket with visitors.

With a combination of leading-edge technology and a solid digital media infrastructure, we feel the state of Colorado has provided the best AV platform for the judicial court system. Visitors to our courtrooms now can clearly hear the proceedings, judges and attorneys enjoy better communication options, remote interpretation is easy to use and accommodates more people with less travel time and expense, and our highest court’s activities are now accessible online. Looking ahead, we feel confident we’ve future-proofed for the “the next big thing” in AV technology.

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