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Courtroom Audio and Video, Part 1

Aug 12, 2010 2:12 PM, With Bennett Liles

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Yeah and maximum gain before feedback I guess for the tight pattern.
You’ve got that, and if the justices decide that they want to push the microphone out of the way it does eliminate that. Now I would have to say that the panels that we had custom built for this also have an integrated mute switch on there so we’re hoping that the training that we provided for the justices using this system will have them using that mute switch more than shoving the microphone to the side, but some people, they seem to be prone that if they didn’t want them to hear it they just shove it to the side. Well that pattern will have at least have less audio commune off access. [Timestamp: 9:15]

Well, at least they can’t get to the cameras and shove those out of the way. And you created a voice activated system with camera control.
That is correct and that was one of the things you asked, why we went with Vaddio, and that is certainly one of the main reasons that we went with Vaddio. We’re very, very familiar and comfortable with some of the products that Vaddio had, and at the time that we did this installation, we chose to use their ProductionView FX, which is a camera controller, and the way that the cameras were laid out in the room, there was a camera that was mounted in a panel directly above and behind the justices and behind the little piece of the Plexiglas so it blends into the environment and is unnoticeable, but that back camera is trained on a presenter presenting their oral arguments to the justices. Then at the rear of the room in the back two corners also hidden behind Plexiglas mounted very high in the ceiling are two additional Vaddio WallView Pro300 PTZ cameras and all three of those cameras then connect into this ProductionView and the ProductionView can be controlled manually by an operator down, actually, in the basement of the building. There’s a small screen on there for preview so they can line up whoever is speaking and they can control that shot. But each of the cameras has built-in presets as well, and the way that we ended up using that was basically taking certain presets and having whenever someone chooses to speak, one of the justices speak, the camera that is assigned to that particular justice and their microphone will pick up that justice or maybe that justice and the justice on either side so as it’s not distracting and automatically focus on the person speaking. So it works very smoothly; there’s also some transitioning that happens in the ProductionView so when the camera switches from one camera to another that that transition happens smoothly and it’s not a real jarring effect to somebody who might be watching the stream or watching the video feed. [Timestamp: 11:27]

Yeah, I saw some of the pictures of those cameras. You can barely see them back there in the Plexiglas, and I guess that’s a good thing because they’re moving around all the time in response to who’s talking and I guess that in itself might tend to draw attention to the cameras.
They might be, although the WallView 300s are a fairly quiet camera. You wouldn’t hear a lot of noise, so I would imagine unless you were really paying attention, you probably wouldn’t notice. But even so, in a room that’s elegant like the Minnesota Supreme Court, it’s best to just keep that behind glass and then you’re really not paying attention to them. [Timestamp: 12:05]

And you’ve got automatic mic mixing there and that triggers the cameras. How does that interface take place with the cameras responding to the mics?
We ended up using the Biamp Nexia system and we use Biamp products. We use ClearOne products. We’re comfortable in either format, but in this particular case, we ended up going with the Biamp Nexia product partially for value and partly because we really needed to have the ability to write a custom program so that the audio would trigger RS-232 commands that would trigger presets in those cameras. So we used essentially Nexia TC and VC boxes for the microphone inputs, but then we also used the Biamp Logic Box and we take Logic outputs from the microphone. The Logic inputs will then trigger in the Biamp essentially presets when, let’s say the chief justice is speaking. It will trigger a preset that will go to the camera to preset 1, which focuses on the chief justice and that can happen automatically whenever that justice is speaking. One of the things the court told us is that while they want to have the ability to have someone sit there and run the room in, say, a high-profile case so that they can get exactly the video that they want to see at any given point, most of the time the room is going to be in an auto mode where it’s going to be running itself. And between the Vaddio ProductionView and the Biamp talking with one another, they were able to do just that and we’re doing that without any third-party control system and the products are just talking between the Biamp and the Vaddio without a Crestron or an AMX, which is a unique thing but it also comes back to a point of value for the room. [Timestamp: 13:50]

Yeah, that’s a thing of wonder when you finally get it all hooked up and you see it work for the first time and it does what it is supposed to do—part of which in this case is not to be noticed at all by the users. So you had to pull a good bit of cable on this thing. I read somewhere that you used a vacuum bag or something to get the cable through.
Yeah, we had some brilliant and inventive technicians on this. Our lead technician is a gentleman named Brian Green, and we also had another technician, Steve Walberg, who is our Biamp Nexia audio programmer, but he’s also a phenomenal field installer, and between the two of them, they ended up having to come up with some rather unique and clever ways of getting cable pulled through the system. What happened is “as the crow flies” the equipment rack and the room were maybe 50 yards away from one another or closer, as the conduit in the building is laid out. Well we really don’t know because there were no documents in the building of the architectural structure, but the two buildings were separated by some bridge and walkways, and there were probably six or more right angle bends that happened in this path that probably ends up getting around the 200 yard mark by the time it went from one point to the other. And the pipes were old and there was some corrosion in there and the cable was not pulling through. At one point the guys, yes, literally ended up putting a vacuum bag or a vacuum on one end and a plastic bag over the end of the cables and literally ended up sucking them through the conduit. Certainly by the time we pulled the whole bunch of cables through that conduit it was jam packed. Certainly, people take cable pulling for granted sometimes, but that was certainly one of the greatest challenges of the whole project was just figuring out how we were getting the cables from point A to point B. And it should be said that the old cables were there. We did use some of those old cables as upholstering, but at some point, the jackets on them were so old that the cables were breaking in the pipe when we tried to pull the old cables out. So it was one of those cases where hats off to some great field technicians. [Timestamp: 16:24]

Well, that was a pretty inventive way of handling the not-so-glamorous aspect of the installation.And you had the mics connecting through Logic boxes. Who made those?
The microphones were the Audio-Technica microphones, and they were, again, connected to the Logic box. Now, we did have some custom plates that we had installed in front of each of the justices as well the lectern where somebody’s presenting their whole arguments and the clerk and those were made for us by the D’San Corporation. And that was the interface point, but it was the Audio-Technica microphones interfacing with the Biamp product and then the Biamp Logic box. [Timestamp: 17:03]

I think you mentioned earlier something about the control interface. What did you have set up to that?
One of the nice things about Biamp is that Biamp, while they have some hardware products that are Volume 8 and some of their other switching, now they have a new controller called a Red-1, but at the time of this install we had not yet integrated to Red-1 and we did not use that product in this. But Biamp also has daVinci, which is a software control, and in a number of our videoconferencing and audioconferencing installations throughout the state of Minnesota, we find that it’s usually the clerk or the court recorder who may be the person that’s ultimately controlling these rooms and daVinci is a very easy way for them to control room volume—volume of individual microphones for court recording so that the record is recorded cleanly and it’s easy to use. And again, Steve Walberg, our volume programmer, programs a nice clean daVinci panel for the clerk, and in fact, when we initially started this, the clerk, of course, for that room was not really interested in the software program, and we ended up showing that to them and they did a 180 on it and became very interested. [Timestamp: 18:18]

Yeah, I was wondering if you had to make any modifications after the users had had a chance to come in and test it. Were there any changes you had to make or make it easier to use?
We didn’t really have to make any changes to the daVinci program that I’ve heard. The one modification that we’ve made is originally there was a small speaker on each justices’ custom plate that they had in their original design and it had been determined that they really didn’t need that or want that or use that, so then we installed the new system and as it turned out, the justices were like, “Well, we’d like to be able to hear a little better.” And so we ended up having a speaker manufacturer—it’s a company called Innovox and I don’t remember where their headquarters is, but they have a branch that’s based right here in St. Paul and a friend of MSpace who is at Innovox helped to create some custom speakers that actually sit below the height of the justice rail and sit directly next to the plate and blend in nicely with the architecture that’s already in place, and it provides a little extra volume back to the justices. There’s just a small single volume control knob on those speakers that gives them a little ability to raise the volume if they’re having a little trouble hearing. [Timestamp: 19:42]

And a single volume knob is probably all you want to give them anyway.
Simple. Yep, absolutely. Keep it simple. [Timestamp: 19:49]

Absolutely. Well, Tom Larson and MSpace, it’s been great having you on for part one and for part two we’ll talk about the D’San Limitimer and some other nifty little gizmos they have there. But I sure have enjoyed having you on for part one.
Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thank you.

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