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Historic High Tech

Much like the rest of Boston's downtown area, the John Adams Courthouse (the former Old Suffolk County Courthouse) is an historic building that has seen the world evolve into today's modern technological society. To keep pace with the times, the Adams Courthouse underwent a massive renovation and construction project that was finished in January 2005.

The courtroom uses Shure MX-418/S miniature, unidirectional microphones. An IED 3200 system and QSC CX-302V amplifiers power the entire system. The courtroom's main equipment racks are Lowell Manufacturing L275-77s while Middle-Atlantic SRS4-20 racks are for use under a counter.

Sennheiser models, including two SI-1015NT transmitters and RI-250 receivers, comprise the assisted listening system. Cavanaugh Tocci developed the court recording system performance specifications after extensive evaluations with the courts IT department. CourtSmart Digital Systems, a manufacturer in North Chelmsford, Mass., designed and installed a system that best met the courts' needs.

Order in the Court

In a move to tone down distractions while maintaining transparency for high-profile hearings, the seven-justice courtroom features a video system that can send multiple feeds to parties outside the room. According to Moore, the public affairs department requested this capability to give local TV stations and the public access to live proceedings without being in the courtroom. “It was part of the new construction, so there was flexibility in terms of equipment locations. We could build the technology into the room,” says Moore.

Bob Wey of Ear-Relevant Sounds in Weston, Mass., designed the video system, beginning his planning in 2000. “When a big trial was happening, the local TV stations would get the call and would bring in satellite trucks and cables. At times, it would be so chaotic with so many TV crews, that cables were run through the windows to get to the control room,” says Wey. “Now they can send the video feed to intrabuilding, to recording equipment, out to the Webcast, outside to wall panels, and to an overflow area so the press doesn't have to sit outside.”

In the seven-justice courtroom, four Sony DXC390 cameras are mounted in fixed locations and installed in a way as to blend with the architecture. Wey used these Sony cameras because they met his criteria of near-studio quality video at the right price.

“All cameras are inconspicuously mounted, often hidden in the millwork whenever possible,” said Wey.

Camera 1, or the “Justice camera,” works on eight presets, one for each of the seven justices plus a whole bench view.

Camera 2, or the profile camera, is mounted on the side of the bench and shoots across it for a profile view.

Camera 3, or the lectern camera, shoots via a hole in the wall behind the justices.

Camera 4, or the gallery camera, is mounted in the back and provides a room shot.

A control room connected to the seven-justice courtroom handles all the feeds; an operator chooses the camera shots to send out for the press feed. AutoPatch performs the switching, and Extron components do the routing. “I chose Extron because they are reliable, and the company has good customer service,” says Wey.

Custom-built video feed panels for the press are in several locations. Those used outside are weather-tight to protect against the harsh New England elements. Each panel uses 24 BNC video connectors and measures 16 inches wide by 12 inches high.

One feed coming from the control room goes directly into the Web casting system, which was designed Stewart Randall, CTS-D, a principal consultant of Communications Design Associates Inc., a consulting firm in Norwood, Mass. Randall joined the project based on his firm's working relationship with Cavanaugh Tocci. “The court wanted Web casting capability so they could be more transparent and accountable to the general public,” says Randall. “Now, all sessions are available on the Web for law practitioners and the public to view.”

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