UK Supreme Court installs PTZ cameras for transparency in the courtroom

Published: 5 March 2020 - 12:12 p.m.
By: Digital Studio Middle East Staff

The UK Supreme Court has installed Panasonic PTZ cameras for accurate legal recordings and transparency at the highest court in land.

The system passed its first high profile test with flying colours when it broadcast the judicial review of the prorogation of Parliament last summer; images that were seen by 4.5m people at its peak and an audience of 10m people across the day.

Three court rooms at the Westminster building have each been equipped with four Panasonic HN130s, a RP150 camera controller and a NewTek Tricaster to efficiently record the high-profile cases. The policy of the court is to record and broadcast hearings, in keeping with its commitment to transparency. Since its creation, all cases have been archived on their website ensuring fair and open access to all.

"We need PTZs because it's not practical in a court room to have an operator manually controlling the cameras," explains Dan Money, a technical architect and IT Manager at the Supreme Court. "You need a constant shot of the Justices’ bench, a back and front shot, and both a wide and close up shot to gain an understanding of what is going on in the court."

"PTZs are the least intrusive option that guarantees transparency in the courtroom but they also give the camera operator the right level of control and ensure shots of high production value," explained Dan.

The Supreme Court installed PTZ cameras as part of an initial set-up in 2009 but they were in need of an upgrade to achieve better quality recordings. "Our first requirement was updating the camera output from SD to HD," explains Dan. "The IT team wanted to implement a system that could do everything the original system could, but make the overall image quality look better with an intuitive system that we could understand."

For the upgrade, the IT team at the court required NDI-based PTZ camera technology. They wanted to use their own technical networking expertise to maintain the system themselves. The team was able to take the NDI IP connection from the Panasonic PTZ camera and convert it to fibre using existing runs in the building. From there, the stream was converted back to IP and into a NewTek Tricaster.

The first big test of the system was the high-profile Brexit prorogation-related judicial review. The high profile case was scheduled to be heard two weeks before the planned installation, so the project was brought forward to ensure coverage could be streamed. To deliver the streaming services, the team used Microsoft's Azure Media Services platform.

With the widespread media interest in the case, two access points were installed for redundancy, at both the front and rear of the Supreme Court, to take the camera streams from the control room back to the broadcasters via an OB truck. This proved beneficial as a stream was momentarily overloaded during proceedings.

Panasonic PTZ cameras provided the correct combination of cost-efficiency, quality and service for the court's needs. "We needed a system that was cost-effective in terms of initial outlay but also cost-effective to maintain and to receive support when needed. We wanted a long-term relationship, and with Panasonic we knew that we'd get that.”

“Being IP-based has made the camera technology far more straightforward for individuals like ourselves to get to grips with providing a professional video output. We were very pleased with the feedback we have received on the picture quality, not only from those around the courts but also from feedback on the stream and the broadcasters too!" concluded Dan.

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