Courtroom Audio and Video, Part 1
Aug 12, 2010 2:12 PM, With Bennett Liles
Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.
Keeping order in the court at the Minnesota Supreme Court has become, in part, the job of a new sound system and voice activated video system upgrade. They called in MSpace for the job and sales engineer Tom Larson is going to give us all the behind-the-scenes tech details.
Tom thanks for being with me here on the SVC podcast from all the way up there in Minnesota, the Minneapolis area I believe.
Yep, Minneapolis, Minn. Actually we’re in a suburb of Minneapolis called Minnetonka. [Timestamp: :58]
All right, I have heard of that. And MSpace is the company. What does MSpace do? Obviously you’re into some pretty heavy-duty AV integration, but what kind of jobs does the company take on?
Well, MSpace is involved a number of various of AV integration. A core of our business is in both corporate America and also government and education. We do a lot of training rooms, a lot of boardrooms, conference rooms; we also do courtrooms and then we get into some classrooms, some distance education, but again, corporate America and our core confidency is really in videoconferencing and audioconferencing. That’s always been an expertise of ours. And then recently we acquired Fox River Graphics out of Carpentersville, Ill., and with them, we also now have a GSA contract, which we’re enjoying the leverage and hospilities with that. [Timestamp: 1:55]
OK and it’s not hard to see then why you were chosen to do the sound and video system upgrade at the Minnesota Supreme Court. And you have some people in there considering some very weighty matters and you don’t want the AV system slowing things down or bringing attention to itself. So what was the situation in the courtrooms there and what did they want to change when they brought MSpace in?
First of all, there were three rooms that we did for the Minnesota Supreme Court. One was the largest Supreme Court courtroom. There were also two additional rooms for the Court of Appeals and all three of those rooms had the similar problem in that they had very old microphone technology in there. The microphones were old, the system mixers that were in there were old, and everything needed to be upgraded. The audio quality that they were getting on the record was poor, and there was just a point where system was not proving useful for both the record and for the other purposes they had in the room. And in the Courtroom 300 specifically—that’s the room that belongs to the Minnesota Supreme Court—in that room, the audio is used for some speech reinforcement, but it’s also used for the record; it is also used for feeds to the press and for streaming out as the Minnesota government decides they want to stream out those hearings, and so the audio service has a multitude of functions in that room, and it was very much time for an upgrade. [Timestamp: 3:26]
Now do they use the video there for archiving—I guess there’s an aspect of that—or broadcast?
The video in that room goes down to a main room where they have a number of splits that the press can tie into, and one of the feeds from that press area goes out to a streaming server that the government owns and runs so then if they want to archive that, that’s something that they have the ability to do. And frankly, we provided the feed to that, but we didn’t provide the streaming technology—that’s something they already had in place. [Timestamp: 4:05]
Now are you pretty much the go-to guy on the design of what they wanted to upgrade here?
I worked with sales person John Kast, and he’s our government sales person in education, and John brought me in with him to look at the room and look at the opportunity. Between him and I, we came up with what was going to be a good solution for what they needed to do. [Timestamp: 4:31]
And why did you decide to go with the Vaddio switcher and camera system?
Well, MSpace has a great history with Vaddio. Some of us use to work for a company called Acoustic Communications before that and also another company called ClearOne Communications, and Rob Sheeley who was with Vaddio was strong part of that. So we’ve always enjoyed some synergy with Vaddio. Their products are very good and they also have a price point that is very competitive, especially when you’re putting something into an installation that tax payers are going to be paying into. It’s a nice thing to provide some value there and Vaddio provides a great quality to value ratio.
And one thing I would mention at this time is that we have a lot of the technology that we did in this installation and that we’re talking about today is going to be represented at our Education Series and Technology Showcase that we have coming up. It’s going to be called MSpace University, here on August 25th, and I would plug that. You could go to our website, which is www.yourmspace.com for more information on that event or you can RSVP to come to it. And we’ve got some great classes there and a number of the vendors, including Vaddio, that we used in this installation are going to be there and they’re going to be showing off the latest and the greatest of what they’ve got. [Timestamp: 5:59]
Sounds like the kind of thing you’ll want to make time to do for sure. I wanted to jump back into the audio thing for a minute. This is a courtroom, so where are the mics located in here and how are they controlled?
The Supreme Court is very much like a council chamber in that the Supreme Court sits in a semi-circle at the front of the room. There’s a little wraparound, so they’ve got the ability to look at one another as well as looking at someone that may pleading an argument out at the front of the room. Each of the justices sitting around the semi-circle has their own microphone. In addition, there’s a microphone that’s on a lectern at the front of the room facing the justices where attorneys and people are able to present their arguments to the court. But I believe we also we have a microphone that is at the clerks plate as well so that the clerk, if there’s something that they need to instruct that they’re able to make those comments as well. [Timestamp: 7:01]
OK and you went with Audio-Technica mics.
Yeah, we ended up using a MicroLine series microphone from Audio-Technica. Out at the lectern we used a longer microphone which is an 18 in. microphone, and if you’re familiar with the MicroLine, the MicroLine element itself is about 5in. long so that actually becomes quite a long microphoneabout 24in., but that actually can facilitate either a short stature or very tall stature presenter out at that location. Then at each of the justice locations we used the Audio-Technica, it was an ES935, which is a smaller 6in. microphone and that’s actually attached to a custom plate that we had designed, and the reason that we went with the MicroLine microphones as opposed to another is because of the polar pattern of the MicroLine is hypercardioid mini-shotgun, if you will, microphone. So it’s able to reach back toward that justice who, as arguments may go on, they may choose to sit back in their chair and relax a little bit and you want to have that microphone have some reach to get towards the conversation. If a justice makes a comment to the plaintiff or the other justices in the room they want to be heard both for the record and to the room and that microphone has proven to do that job very well for us. [Timestamp: 8:35]
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