The Court Technology and Trial Presentation Blawg features articles, reviews and news of interest to lawyers and other legal professionals. This blog is published by Ted Brooks, a Trial Presentation and Legal Technology Consultant, Author and Speaker. Ted's trial experience includes the Los Angeles Dodgers divorce trial, People v. Robert Blake murder trial, and a hundreds of high profile, high value and complex civil matters.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

HDMI v. VGA: Time to Upgrade?

Although the HDMI video format has been available for several years now, the majority of courtroom trial presentations are still done with VGA cables and equipment in a 4:3 format. For comparison, the diagram below shows common settings with monitor #2 in 16:9 (1920x1080), and monitor #1 in 4:3 (1024x768).

If you’re planning on providing your own projector and associated equipment, you can decide whether to go with something that nearly anyone can connect to (VGA), or with a format that offers a higher resolution (HDMI) with more pixels and a sharper picture. If you’re connecting to an existing courtroom system, you will be using whatever they have available. The majority of “wired” courtrooms have VGA systems, and while newer installations are running HDMI, they are also generally including the VGA option for compatibility reasons. When contacted by courts going through upgrades and new installations, I have encouraged them to include the VGA option to help ensure that everyone can connect.

At the Brobeck firm, we used two “massive” 37” monitors in custom hydraulic scissor-lift cases. In the image below, one of the 37” monitors can be seen in the background. An equally-dated computer system can be seen in the foreground.

Today’s setups look a little nicer, are much easier to move around, and are certainly easier for jurors to view – especially when projected on a 10’ screen.

Many courtroom setups have large flat monitors rather than a projector and screen. This offers excellent image color and contrast, but can be lacking a bit in image size. Plus, it can be helpful to have one “main” point of focus for all, allowing counsel or a witness to use a laser pointer as everyone views the same image.

 Some laptops have a VGA port, some have HDMI, and others have both.


And, some have only USB or DVI ports, which offers a special challenge, often requiring an adapter. Regardless of which you’d prefer to use, make sure that it all works together before showing up in court. The last thing you want in trial is a surprise, realizing you won’t be showing your exhibits or slides.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       


  1. I love HDMI in the fact that it carries audio and video signal. The LED projectors that are out seem to do a great job of displaying properly, in the proper resolution.

  2. As a trial tech with I've had the opportunity to work in a lot of different courtrooms including pre-wired or those we've had to wire from scratch. It's been my experience a tech needs to be familiar and prepared for both HDMI and VGA at all times. Both have their benefits. HDMI is certainly cleaner but you need to keep in mind your source material as well. A dull 480 video clip or poorly scanned document is going to look just as bad (possibly worse) broadcast on a 48" widescreen or 10' wall that really wants 1080. There are also still more options for switchers and scalers in VGA than HDMI which is something to consider when you have to accommodate opposing counsel as well as your own set up. HDMI can be wonderful if you have the luxury of picking all your equipment be it multiple monitors and inputs or an ultra simple setup of a single projector and laptop. You can even pick up large Screen TVs inexpensively that work great as last minute "screens" for court or remote locations and HDMI will always work there. Still, as the article points out VGA is in the majority of locations and you'll need to be ready to work with that as well. A tech's job is to go in make it look easy so long as you're prepared to determine what you need based on your material and resources and test all your equipment thoroughly either will work and when courts make the transition up you'll be ready to handle that as well.

  3. It should be pointed out that VGA can display high-definition resolutions at 16:9. As long as the cables are reasonably short and high quality, the display will be just as sharp as if it were HDMI or at least so close that no one's really going to know the difference.