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.

All materials © Ted Brooks, unless otherwise indicated.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Trial Tech Tips - Courtroom Equipment Specs for Large Venues

If you were assembling a new trial presentation equipment set today, it wouldn’t be all that much different from what would have been done several years ago. Even with advances in video format and display technologies, it often comes to the lowest common denominator – which is still, by the way, 4:3 standard format video. Most trial presentation providers can now connect to and accommodate a wide-screen 16:9 HDMI system, and that is what you’ll likely find in a recently updated courtroom. Even in these new installations, you are likely to find “legacy” 4:3 VGA connections, to ensure that everyone truly has equal access to anything installed in the courts.

With the exception of “special” videos, such as “Day-In-the Life,” Visibility Studies, Site Inspections or other animations, the real need for the extra video width doesn’t really exist. For the most part, we’re not watching movies in court. For example, the only thing gained by watching a wide-screen video deposition would be the extra space covered on the table. This might include such items as coffee cups, water or soft drinks. During trial, it might also include exhibits which have not yet been admitted – which could be a serious issue.

This article is number 6 in a series entitled “Trial Tech Tips.” Focused on the crossroads of law and technology, and in no particular order, we will share a collection of proven and tested methods for accomplishing a wide variety of common and/or critical tasks encountered during trial preparation or presentation. We will also try to rank them from one to ten on a “geek scale,” with one being not too technical, and 10 being very technical.

On a geek scale of one to ten, this article would be rated at about a 7 or 8.

There are many excellent choices for equipment, and you are free and encouraged to share some of your favorites at the end of this article. I will offer is a few examples of equipment we are currently using regularly in our Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area courtrooms, all of which I would gladly recommend.

  • Projector – We used to follow a 3000 lumens rule – anything lower than that would not be sufficient in a “typical” courtroom with lights on and/or windows. Although that is still a reasonable low-end brightness, you should consider going with at least 6000 lumens for larger venues. This will allow you to present a clear, bright image with normal lighting. For special videos (not deposition video), you might still want to request that the lights be dimmed. This should be done sparingly, however, and only when really needed. Don’t bother the clerk or bailiff when you just want to display documents. A couple of 6000 lumens projector models we currently use are the InFocus IN5142 and the Eiki LC-XL200A.

  • Screen – The Da-Lite 100” Deluxe Insta-Theater is still my favorite screen for a quick and easy install in most courtrooms. At 7 feet wide, it’s large enough to do the job nicely. A larger courtroom will benefit by additional screen size, such as 10 or even 12 feet wide. The Da-Lite Floor Model C works nicely, and doesn’t require a tripod. A separate floor stand base is used, taking up a smaller footprint. These large screens really make it easy for your jury to view the evidence clearly. 
    Floor Model C

  • Audio – There are a good number of amplified speaker sets on the market, and we’ve had a few over the years. One we’ve been recently using is the Samson Expedition XP150. It is a portable PA set that has enough power for normal trial use (150 watts), and includes a mixer for easy connections and control. You can place these on the floor, or on stands if you prefer.
    Expedition XP150

  • Tech Table – In most cases, one thing that hasn’t really changed much over the years is the limited amount of space we have available to set up our work area. You’ll need as much room as possible to accommodate laptops, switchers, and a preview monitor. The nicest thing I’ve found recently is the Iceberg Resin Folding Table, measuring 29"H x 60"W x 18"D. This fits comfortably behind the gallery rail in Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area courtrooms, with enough room to slide in and out, using the installed gallery seating. I’ve used Project-O-Stands and have seen some nice custom-built tables, but this is lightweight and simple.
        Iceberg Resin Table

Now you don’t need to run out right away and purchase all of this, since we’re talking several thousand dollars for just the basics. We haven’t even covered things like switchers, distribution amps, video cables, monitors or power strips. Unless you’re using this equipment on a full-time basis, you may want to consider an equipment rental outfit such as Aquipt, SmartSource, Visual Word or Connect Litigation. These are a few we've had good results with. There are others – running a Google search in your desired area may be helpful. 

Feel free to share what you’re using in the Comments section below.

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  1. Thanks for the mention of AQUIPT, Ted. One thing I'd like to suggest is having a courtroom survey completed prior to bringing in any equipment. This can help eliminate any malfunctions during presentation due to power surges or dips in energy if a courtroom's electric capabilities are limited to say one circuit.

    1. Thanks Renee, and you are absolutely right. There is no tolerance for failure or excuses during trial. Showing up with the wrong equipment is as bad as showing up with no equipment. It should also be noted that a Court Order may be required to allow equipment to enter the building - especially in the Federal Courts.


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