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Digital Recording

As ubiquitous to the courtroom as judges and their gavels, the court reporters and their steno machines busily recording every word spoken to create a trial’s official transcript.

At least they used to.

Even as revered as court reporter transcripts are, thousands of courts in the United States and tens-of-thousands of courts throughout the world are now producing their official record through digital recording.

Courts began experimenting with analog audio recordings in the 1970s. Analog transitioned to digital, and in 2009 the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) lent its voice in support of courtroom digital recordings. In a Policy Paper: “Digital Recording: Changing Times for Making the Record,” the COSCA stated, digital recording:

  1. Enhances accuracy and completeness of the record by preserving language translations

  2. Is a cost-effective means to obtain the record

  3. Creates an opportunity to establish, whether by statute or court rule, that all records of judicial proceedings belong to the courts

  4. Allows a court to integrate the recording system with other digital applications, including case management and calendaring systems

From a business perspective, digital recording offers courts significant cost savings, greater control of the court record, easy backup and abundant storage, and a highly efficient use of court staff.

From a capabilities perspective, today’s audio recordings can include annotations, image attachments, side-by-side language translation, tagging and easy access for transcription. That easy access also extends to both internal and external clients who can use their smartphone, tablet or computer to securely access recordings.

And although we’re focusing on digital audio recording here…digital video recording is also available.

However, all of this is somewhat meaningless if there isn’t an effective way to quickly search through it all. Appeals, retrials or second appearances require quick access to specific records among hundreds, or more likely, thousands of recordings. The more sophisticated the search and retrieval capabilities the better. Ideally, whether the recordings are on a local computer or distributed across a network of servers, those accessing the system need to be able to search by virtually any piece of case information, such as case number, defendant name, presiding judge, dates, annotations, etc.

For high-quality digital recording, it’s as much about the system implementation as it is about the technology itself. Take microphone placement for instance. Microphones need to pick up every word of every trial participant, regardless of where they stand (or sit), which way they face or how loudly or softly they speak. There also needs to be the ability to isolate sound, so when multiple people talk at the same time, all the words and who is speaking them are easily understood.

Ease of use is also key, whether it’s during the trial, transcribing the record or accessing the recording months or even years later. This puts a premium on ensuring the management and operation of the technology is seamless to a courtroom’s workflow and the interfaces enable the judge and all officers of the court to be more effective and efficient in managing their respective responsibilities.

ExhibitOne has been implementing audiovisual technologies in courtrooms throughout the country for 20 years now. The rate at which we’ve seen technology advance is extraordinary. We expect the same over the next 20 years. Only more. And at a faster rate.

Just as analog recording gave way to digital recording, early digital recording technologies are now giving way to much more advanced capabilities. Some quite significant. We are already working with one of the largest court systems in the country that has found compelling reasons to re-evaluate what was state-of-the-art just a few years ago. If we can help you in your assessment, please let us know.


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