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An AV Indictment

Editor Mark Mayfield was recently called on to perform a civic duty. That's right - jury duty. Nine days of it. Him impressions of the AV systems? Not great.

I WAS RECENTLY CALLED ON TO PERFORM MY CIVIC responsibility. That's right — jury duty. Nine days of it. It was a civil trial, so the attorneys were armed with so much paper and so many witnesses that it became obvious this trial would be long and tedious, and it was. The county court building is brand new; it's only been open about eight weeks. Six large NEC flat-panel displays greet you in the main lobby. However, on the nine days I wandered through, they never showed an image.

Like any AV techno-geek, I was checking out all the AV gear. On the first day, I sat with about 199 other hopeful evaders watching a video on a large Da-Lite ceiling mounted screen with a washed out, monochromatic snowy image of some lawyers attempting to explain the court system. I was able to focus my attention about as well as the AV installer did for that projector, which is to say, not at all.

Once impaneled, I had lots of time to assess the AV in the new courtroom. A Crestron touch screen control sat proudly on the clerk's desk, but he summoned the court officer every time he wanted to bring down the lights so that we could more easily read the images from the 3M overhead projector. There were Shure mics everywhere; PZMs on the judge's desk and desk mounted goosenecks everywhere else. Too bad the P.A. wasn't turned on — it might have saved a lot of time that was wasted when the judge or counsel asked witnesses to speak up and repeat themselves.

I also found myself staring up at the ceiling, trying to determine what brand of loudspeakers were behind the 24 generic grills. I'm usually pretty good at this occupational obsession, but this time, no luck. It didn't matter, they didn't seem to be working anyway.

The court building houses at least 24 courtrooms. If this one was typical, that adds up to a lot of AV gear, and a sizeable investment of taxpayer dollars. But the ROI was disappointing. Top quality brands were used, so I suspect the problem lies in that last stage of any AV project — commissioning and system hand-off. Were courthouse personnel properly trained in how to use the system? Were systems checked out and verified? Were all video displays calibrated?

Despite the best design, installation practices, and equipment, it's not a successful project if the customer can't or won't use it. Even worse is when it is used, but communication is actually diminished as a result of doing so. This was an indictment on us all.


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