AV and justice for all.
The Na Micankach Judicial area of Prague in the Czech republic is now the proud owner of the most modern court facilities in the country following an installation by Mediatronic.
With the completion of the Na Micankach project, the Czech ministry of justice has concentrated almost half of Prague’s law courts into one space and also at the same time, solved chronic under capacity problems in the city’s judicial system.
The new facility, completed in October 2006 and officially opened in November by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil makes significant use of AV technology to make it the first in the country to adhere strictly to the separation of Judges and the General public.
The brief, when the project was first envisaged almost three years ago, was to create a professional and modern working environment for state employees and a facility which would provide suitable protection and comfort for witnesses and other participants in court cases. The total budget for project was some 88,000,000 Euros and the site will employ over 1,000 staff.
With that in mind, a new facility was constructed from a combination of a completely new building and four existing ones. It contains 100 courtrooms, 38 of which are permanently fitted with AV equipment. Additionally, ten mobile AV racks were designed and built to serve those rooms without permanent AV equipment. Finally, ten special rooms for use in the country’s witness protection scheme were permanently equipped with video conferencing and audio equipment to allow evidence to be given anonymously.
Independent consultant and project manager Radko Mach was brought in to oversee the project, which was installed by Prague-based integrator Mediatronic.
Following some delays with construction work, the first installation effort began in mid July with Mediatronic staff working alongside the construction team laying cabling and other infrastructure. The delayed start to the project meant that every available hour was important. The project was completed in time in October and opened as planned.
The AV equipped courtrooms are divided into three classes. The class B rooms, of which there are 28, are the smallest. There are eight, medium sized, Class C rooms and a further two large class D rooms.
Each courtroom is equipped with a comprehensive AV system. The key functionality is for the recording of court proceedings. The judge, legal teams, witnesses and jury foremen are equipped with AKG gooseneck microphones whilst the defendant’s stand is equipped with a Crown PZM10 microphone. This is a boundary layer type microphone and was selected to be as discrete as possible, as well as being much less dependant on the position of the individual relative to the microphone.
After the audio feed passes through a Behringer feedback eliminator before recording on an Onkyo tape deck, and D-Mexx Court Rec voice recorder in the equipment rack. Depending on the size of the court room, audio switching is through either a 32 x 32 or 24 x 24 D-Matrixx matrix switcher from DISK Multimedia. Due to budgetary constraints there is no sound reinforcement equipment installed for the galleries in the courtrooms, but this is planned for a future upgrade to the site.
In the meanwhile, the only sound reinforcement comes from the speakers built into the numerous LCD displays employed. These are used to display evidence from a number of sources. These can include DVD or VHS playback or Samsung document cameras. The Class D and C courtrooms are supplied with six Phillips LCD displays, whilst the smaller B rooms have two. In total 137 LCDs are installed throughout the complex. Switching of the various sources is via a Comm-Tec MX88-RAT 8x8 video switcher in each room.
Overall media control is through an AMX system, supplied by Comm-Tec. Each room is equipped with the Netlinx 3000 controller, one wireless 6” touch panel with docking station and one wired 10” panel. The judge can select video sources for the plasma screen, switch between recording devices and has all the usual volume control functionality.
In addition to the 38 fixed courtroom installations, Mediatronic also supplied 10 mobile kits for use in the other rooms. It had been initially planned to outfit all 100 rooms with AV equipment but this was deemed too expensive. The mobile racks are equipped in the same way as the fixed ones with audio amplification, the AMX control solution, matrix switchers and recording equipment. In the portable system the audio switchers are slightly smaller, only 16x16.
Trolley mounted Philips LCD panels are also included in these mobile systems.
As part of the Czech witness protection system, Mediatronic were also called upon to provide ten remote witness suites in the building. These keep the identity of key witnesses secret by allowing them to communicate with the courtroom via a Sony video conference Codec. Each courtroom is fitted with a Codec, allowing the witness to see what is going on, and the image of the witness is shown only to the presiding judge in the court via a 17” LCD panel on his desk. To complete the disguise from the rest of the court, and the recording, a Alesis Midiverb voice distortion unit is used.
As with many such projects the overall time scale from conception to delivery has been quite long. This has undoubtedly had an impact on the scope of the project and the technology employed. The original tender was put out in 2003 and at the time the technological solution proposed was at the cutting edge. However, Radko Mach freely admits that by modern standards its no longer the case:
“At the time this was a very high-tech solution, but three years on there are some issues regarding playback of new video formats and so forth. However these can be overcome, and we hope that future upgrades will allow the system to continue to adapt.”
Andrea Fehrens, managing director of Mediatronic concluded with some praise for his team: “The "Na Micankach" project was one of the biggest in the history of Mediatronic. We had to install a huge quantity of very sophisticated technology in a really short time in very difficult conditions. Our technicians passed the test it successfully. They demonstrated their professionalism and the competence of Mediatronic in realising highly sophisticated projects.”