Tips & Tricks

Cameras in the courtroom: 5 applications for courtroom video equipment

October 23rd, 2019 Michael Monette

Cameras in the courtroom: 5 applications for courtroom video equipment image

Legal practice is steeped in tradition. But that hasn’t stopped courts all over the world from equipping their courtrooms with technology, including audiovisual systems. Learn how your court can tap into the power of video with our run-through of five popular applications for video in courtrooms.

Rules around the use of cameras in courtrooms vary across jurisdictions. Some places prohibit courtroom videotaping or broadcasting under certain circumstances. Others ban them outright. Before investing in any AV gear, be sure to confirm there aren’t any restrictions in your area that would affect your plans.

Setting aside possible legal barriers, here are five ways courts can leverage video:

    Evidence presentation

    Presenting evidence in court can be cumbersome without digital technology. Lawyers might have to print multiple copies of a document – one for every juror (if the trial or court system includes a jury). If counsel cite part of the document in their argument, jurors have to flip through their copy to find the pertinent passage. For photographic evidence, counsel may have to produce enlarged exhibits so everyone can make out important details wherever they’re sitting. And if lawyers expect to annotate the exhibit based on multiple witness testimony, they’ll need to produce more than one copy.

    With the right courtroom video equipment, courts can simplify evidence presentation and ensure everyone – figuratively and sometimes literally – is on the same page. There are several ways to set up a courtroom for more convenient and efficient evidence presentation. For instance, you could have one large monitor facing the audience and smaller ones set up throughout the courtroom. Monitors can be built into the witness stand, jury box, counsel tables, the clerk’s station, and the judge’s bench. Some courts even provide tablets to jurors and other court participants.

    Any of these setups require a way to encode video signals (e.g., from a document camera or a laptop) for display on monitors or tablets. A hardware encoder is ideal for this job. Many hardware encoders include multiple video inputs, such as HDMI, SDI, and USB, as well as professional audio. You could also use an HDMI splitter to output the video to multiple monitors, or a live streaming protocol like HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) to stream it to multiple iPads.

    Evidence presentation

    Video recordkeeping

    Producing a comprehensive record of trial proceedings is another popular application for video in law. Having a video record on hand can save a lot of time. Say jury deliberations stall out because jurors can’t agree on some aspect of how the evidence was presented. There’s no need to call everyone back so counsel can walk through their argument all over again: simply play back the video.

    A video recording is also a much more complete record than a stenographer’s transcripts. To support recordkeeping, courts can even create custom layouts that display the date, time, and other information (e.g., the names of plaintiffs and defendants) over the video.

    A hardware encoder is among the courtroom video equipment you’ll need for this application. Encoder hardware with multiple video and professional audio inputs will let you connect high-end cameras and microphones, ensuring your court’s video records are crystal clear. Epiphan Pearl-2 and Pearl Mini encoder hardware can transfer recordings to an internal SSD (Pearl-2), removable SD card (Pearl Mini), USB storage, or over a network.

    Video recordkeeping

    Overflow and press rooms

    Trials can draw a lot of public and media attention. For especially high-profile cases, more people might want to attend than your courtroom can hold. Overflow rooms are one solution. These spaces include a monitor that can display the proceedings in nearly real-time. Then anyone who shows up after the courtroom reaches max capacity can still tune in.

    Courts can also set up dedicated spaces for media. Press rooms are useful for resolving capacity issues and in cases where media are barred from the courtroom.

    To set up an overflow or press room, you’ll need streaming hardware that supports the Session Announcement Protocol (SAP) or the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) networking protocol along with a compatible smart TV or monitor/receiver box combo. (Pearl-2 and Pearl Mini support both protocols.)

    Overflow and press rooms

    External live streaming

    Another way around courtroom capacity issues is to live stream court proceedings. This lets members of the public watch from home and court reporters from their offices. The United States Courts for the Ninth Circuit, the U.K. Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court of Canada are just a few examples of courts that webcast their courtrooms.

    A streaming hardware encoder is the best solution for this application. If you’re using video in other ways, such as for evidence presentation or overflow rooms, you’ll likely want an appliance that supports multiple encoded programs.

    External live streaming

    Video conferencing

    When a witness, counsel, or judge is out of town on trial day, sometimes the only option is to postpone the hearing. With courts’ busy schedules, this can push out proceedings by weeks, even months. Happily, courts can avoid these kinds of disruptions with remote video conferencing technology.

    Parties can connect to the courtroom wherever they are through video conferencing software to testify, make their case, or pass a ruling. Video conferencing technology can also make courtrooms more accessible to jurors living with disabilities, and make it easier to find and hire a foreign language interpreter should a case require one.

    You’ll need a video conferencing platform and a computer to run it on, along with room cameras, microphones, and a display monitor so those in the courtroom can see and hear remote parties and vice versa. Include a video switcher and mixer (or another appliance with those capabilities) and operators can switch between video sources so remote participants can follow along.

    Video conferencing

    Get more out of your courtroom video equipment

    Versatile Pearl-2 and Pearl Mini hardware encoders support numerous applications for video in legal practice. Pearl systems feature multiple inputs for video (HDMI, SDI, USB) and audio (XLR, TRS), letting you record and stream with high-end cameras, document cameras, tablets, professional microphones, and more. Pearl hardware also supports UPnP, SAP, and HLS protocols for streaming to smart TVs, monitors, tablets, and other devices.

    Learn more about how hardware encoders and other Epiphan products can help you maximize the value of your courtroom video equipment. Get in touch if you have any questions. Our product specialists are always happy to help.

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