COURT ON CAMERA
November 2004 saw cameras allowed into anEnglish courtroom for the first time. A six-week experiment, funded jointly by the BBC,
ITN and Sky News, saw Bow Tie Television install fourrobotic cameras in two rooms in Central London’sCourt of Appeal.
The footage recorded was never intended for the air,but was instead used to show how the content couldbe packaged in various ways to provide details of casesheard by the judges.
That experiment subsequently led to cameras beingallowed into the Supreme Court, located opposite theHouses of Parliament in Westminster.
Towards the end of 2017 Bow Tie, now part of NEPMedia Solutions, was awarded the five-year contractfor broadcast and audio-visual maintenance, plusmanaged services for the Supreme Court.
“The nature of its operations and remit fortransparency makes the provision of audio visualservices a high profile and important feature of thecourt,” explains Duncan Davidson-Smith, managingdirector, NEP Bow Tie. “Its broadcast and audio-visualsystems are intended to enable the Supreme Court torecord and distribute high-quality footage from eachof the courtrooms in several ways.”
HIGH PROFILE CONTRACTS
The company is well placed to deliver the hours ofnon-scripted output. As well as the Supreme Court,NEP Bow Tie is the current holder of the managedservices contracts for the National Assembly forWales, the vision, sound and AV operation andmaintenance contract of UK Parliament, and thebroadcasting and AV managed services contractorfor the Greater London Authority in addition to
a number of prestigious corporate bodies andgovernment departments.
“We pride ourselves on delivering broadcastquality coverage of proceedings by the best directors,operators, technicians and engineers in the industryand feel this is why the Supreme Court has chosento work with the team at NEP Bow Tie,” explainsDavidson-Smith. “Of course, we are all security clearedand are well used to working in secure environments.”
He continues: “We are contracted to provide a wholerange of services. Alongside the coverage of the liveproceedings in all three courts, we handle contentcapture, transcoding of files, post production for the web versions of the output and are responsible forsending footage to the National Archive.”
The live coverage is made available to the majorbroadcasters for their use as part of programmingrequirements. In addition, there is a live streamavailable through the Supreme Court’s own website.Complementing that service is an on-demand archiveof past hearings that enables lawyers and anyoneinterested in the workings of the highest court in
the land to review hearings of cases over the preceding12 months.
Generally speaking, only two courts are in session atany one time. Control of the live coverage is from onelong gallery equipped with three similar operationalareas. Two of the positions have Panasonic AV-HS400AE vision mixers, while the third is equipped with aBlackmagic Design ATEM Studio 4K switcher.
“The Blackmagic mixer was selected because of itsSkype for Business capability,” says Davidson-Smith.“In the first few days of our contract, we used thatfacility to allow an advocate based in the Caribbeanto be part of the proceedings in the Supreme Court.
“This was the first time that such a link up hasbeen created. “It is an exciting addition to theoperation and saves the expense of flying legalprofessionals to London. The remote advocate can beseen on a monitor in the courtroom and can be cut upas a source to the output.”
“Audio is handled by Yamaha LS9 consoles, butbehind them – and this is quite clever – is a PolycomSoundStructure C16,” Davidson-Smith continues.“What that does is provide auto-gating. Themicrophone levels are set up using the faders on thedesk and left open, as it were, and then there is thesoftware managed by MX. The sound is automaticallyswitched according to audio levels. Obviously, ifsomeone coughs, the fader has to be operated.So, the broadcast feed is auto-gated, with manualintervention, if necessary.”
This set up means that sound for the public speakersin the courtrooms can be handled at the same time asthe broadcast audio output.
Each of the three courtrooms is served by four SonyBRC700 cameras, which are linked to the associatedSony controllers. “Having similar equipment across theproduction workflow means that switching from onecourt to another presents no problems to our multi-skilled operators,” states Davidson-Smith.
“As you would expect, there are rules of coveragewhich determine just what can and can’t be shown,and all our operational staff are well aware ofthe procedures.”
Those same operators handle the post productionelement of the contract. Using an Adobe Creative Suiteand an Adobe graphics system, content is packagedready for sending to the National Archive in Surrey.
Since starting the contract, NEP Bow Tie hasutilised its experience to upgrade the workflow ofthe existing Cantemo MAM system with its ToolsOnAironCore system for ingest. “Associated with that is aCyberStore archive which looks after file conversionand transitions of content to the National Archive,”says Davidson-Smith.
“And we have just passed the IS27001 – the specificationfor information security management system (ISMS) –that provides added confidence for our clients.”
“We anticipate the post production side of our workmay increase,” reveals Davidson-Smith. “Recently,the first female president of the Supreme Court wassworn in as the UK’s most senior judge. Baroness Haleof Richmond is keen to promote the activities of theCourt through the televised coverage and has alreadycompleted several pieces to camera that have beenuploaded to a YouTube channel. We can provide thenecessary PSC units to help Baroness Hale achieve
her objectives.”Although the operators can carry out regular
maintenance tasks, NEP Bow Tie has a pool of Londonengineers who are available as required. “Our focusis very much on proper preventative maintenancebecause, as with all our contracts, there is no room forthings to go wrong.”
“And that’s important to stress. We want to alwaysmake sure we are providing the very best service. Sincewe took over the contract, we have been auditing theworkflow procedures and adding to the support thatwe can provide for the Supreme Court.
He concludes: “We’re very much looking forwardto working closely with the Supreme Court officialsand their teams, and our aim is to enhance andsupport the valuable work that happens in thatprestigious environment.”