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Technology Untangled: Overcome odd twists to solve tech issues

Stephen Bour
October 13, 2010
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Let’s review some technical problems and solutions that have come across my desk in the past few months. It seems like even the apparently straightforward issues often take an odd twist.

I was in federal court recently to facilitate the courtroom presentation for an attorney involved in a semitrailer accident case. The federal court in Indianapolis is well equipped to allow for full-featured multimedia presentations.

My usual plan for any court proceeding is to arrive the day before to size things up and to test run all the connections and equipment. Day One of this particular trial was intended mainly for jury selection, with presentations to begin on Day Two. That schedule would allow plenty of time at the end of first day to do equipment testing; that was until I got a mid-morning call requesting me to begin the presentation after lunch.

Pulling off a quick setup in court is not the preferred method, but it is something I am well-prepared to do. But the difficulty increased when I learned that the judge and his staff had just moved in to this particular courtroom and this was their first trial working with the technology in it.

With little time to prepare, we could not get the whole-room audio to work with my computer. A quick-thinking Plan B resulted in a hookup to an external amplified speaker system. I later learned that the problem was a loose connection in the courtroom’s audio/video interface box.

The next snag was minor, but it is a pet peeve of mine. The beautiful Sony big-screen LCD monitors were set up to a default aspect ratio that made the faces of all the videotaped deponents too fat. Most TVs have an adjustment for changing the aspect ratio from “wide” to “normal” on the remote control, but no one could locate the remote control. I later found a step stool and located buttons high atop each TV that allowed this adjustment.

Here is something else I noticed about the big-screen TVs that you may want to consider. Much of this presentation involved PDF images of documents. Even on a 46-inch screen, I felt that the documents were not large enough. I had to zoom in to show only a portion of each document before it appeared at a size that I felt was adequate. The solution? Full-page document display is best accomplished with a multimedia projector and a reflective screen that is at least 6-feet high.

Another audiovisual issue I worked with recently involved enhancing the audio track on a bad video recording. The recordings had an excessive amount of room echo and the solution was not straightforward.

I researched and learned there are many audio enhancement programs that will easily add echo or ambience to an audio track – even the most basic audio mixing programs have a feature called “stadium” mode or the like – but it is much more difficult to subtract it from an actual recording. Real echo turns out to be a very complex analytical issue. I was able to apply a number of processing techniques that did, in fact, improve the recording, though the echo could not be completely eliminated.

Proper recording techniques are a better solution than post-production “fixes.” The lesson here is to avoid the use of the on-camera microphone for important recordings. Instead, use a lavaliere or handheld microphone to minimize echo effects.

One last issue involves the purchase of a used computer. When price is the primary issue, sometimes it makes sense to look at a good used computer instead of a bottom-of-the-line new computer. The minimum buy-in for a new laptop computer is about $400, but I liken that to buying a Hummer with a 4-cylinder engine. Sure, it will get you where you’re going, but you will be constantly annoyed by the poor performance. I recently bought a computer from the website of a company located here in Indiana (not India …) that offers good deals on used laptops. IndyLaptops.com offers a variety of serviceable laptops in the $200 to $400 price range. Most of these computers are corporate lease turn-ins that are several years old, but when new, these units represented top-of-the-line business computers. The computers are carefully inspected and come with a 90-day warranty. The hard drives are cleaned and reloaded with Windows XP Professional, OpenOffice (a free Microsoft Office-compatible office suite), anti-virus software, PDF software, and more. A computer like this might be just the right fit as a second “beater” computer or as a computer for a child or grandparent.•

__________

Stephen Bour (bourtech@iquest.net) is an engineer and legal technology consultant in Indianapolis. His company, the Alliance for Litigation Support Inc., includes Bour Technical Services and Alliance Court Reporting. Areas of service include legal videography, tape analysis, document scanning to CD, and courtroom presentation support. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.


 

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  1. Welcome to Hendricks County where local and state statutes (especially Indiana Class C misdemeanors) are given a higher consideration than Federal statues and active duty military call-ups.

  2. If real money was spent on this study, what a shame. And if some air-head professor tries to use this to advance a career, pity the poor student. I am approaching a time that i (and others around me) should be vigilant. I don't think I'm anywhere near there yet, but seeing the subject I was looking forward to something I might use to look for some benchmarks. When finally finding my way to the hidden questionnaire all I could say to myself was...what a joke. Those are open and obvious signs of any impaired lawyer (or non-lawyer, for that matter), And if one needs a checklist to discern those tell-tale signs of impairment at any age, one shouldn't be practicing law. Another reason I don't regret dropping my ABA membership some number of years ago.

  3. The case should have been spiked. Give the kid a break. He can serve and maybe die for Uncle Sam and can't have a drink? Wow. And they won't even let him defend himself. What a gross lack of prosecutorial oversight and judgment. WOW

  4. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  5. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

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