When you go to set up audio/visual equipment in a courtroom, imagine yourself in a movie theatre. All movie theatres have one large screen for moviegoers to look at. You want jurors to have a similar experience. There should be one screen, and it should be large enough for all jurors to see. Unfortunately, not all courtrooms are made alike. Your audio/visual setup may depart slightly or greatly from the ideal depending on the realities of the courtroom. At Litigation Insights, this is one of the many considerations our trial technology team troubleshoots for clients.
How Courtroom Size and Shape Impact Visuals
When you find yourself with a large courtroom, the traditional “big screen” is a 7’x10’ or 8’x10’ screen. And while it would be great to have an 8’x10’ screen in every courtroom, there are countless small or oddly shaped courtrooms across the country that call for a different solution. In any scenario, the distance between the jury box and the screen jurors will view can impact your visuals’ effectiveness. Furthermore, challenges for small courtrooms aren’t just limited to this distance issue; other challenges include an inconveniently placed column or door, both of which impact placement of your visuals.
Why Multiple Monitors Are a Bad Idea in Courtroom Settings
In the last 20 years, new courtrooms and some older, retrofitted courtrooms have been equipped with small monitors placed in between each juror in the box. While this setup might be great for jurors who are nearsighted, it hampers attorneys’ ability to keep everyone focused on the image they are presenting. In short, they lose control of the jurors’ attention, which for storytellers is critical. The best line of sight from the jury box is one that has the witness, the attorney and the display all in a horizontal line. If the jury’s line of sight is vertical, where they constantly have to look down to a monitor, their attention span will be divided. If possible, always avoid a multiple-monitor setup.
See Things from the Jury’s Perspective
Above all factors relating to your audio/visual setup, consider what the jury can see or not see onscreen. No matter which configuration you ultimately choose, be sure to sit in every seat in the jury box. Confirm that every juror will be able to see the image you project. Make sure those columns or oddly placed doors don’t obstruct jurors’ views.
Choosing the Right Projector for Your Courtroom
Assuming you have the space, one option is using a rear projection setup that allows you to place the projector, cabling and other needed accessories behind the screen, which maximizes the space available for the attorney to engage with the visual. Once you have decided on the proper viewing distance, special attention needs to be placed on testing the document callouts, video clips and any trial graphics you plan to present. The quality of the projector might be different in your office versus in the courtroom. Most new projectors have an HDMI input. If your laptop has an HDMI output, be sure to use it since a digital signal will display the best quality possible.
Talk to Court Staff
The advice and recommendations of the court clerk or bailiff can be invaluable. These individuals work with judges on a daily basis and have helpful insights about what the judge prefers. Moreover, they have seen many trial presentations and have seen the most effective and ineffective setups. Avail yourself of their experience.
By: Adam Bloomberg, Managing Director -Visual Communications