When first becoming a digital reporter, it is essential to make sure you have the right equipment for the job. Buying high-quality, professional-grade, equipment is critical to creating a clear record and making sure the equipment lasts. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant portion of proceedings have gone remote (also called virtual), using videoconferencing technology to connect the parties. Court reporters need an adapted list of equipment to make sure they are prepared. Please note that the configuration of your software will impact this setup, and I am assuming that the software you use allows for you to directly record the audio from the videoconferencing connection.
Headset with Microphones
Confidence in monitoring your audio is key to success as a digital court reporter. It is best to monitor with a good pair of headphones rather than earbuds because of their ability to better reproduce the sound being captured. For a remote proceeding, you want to make sure those headphones also have a good microphone to transmit your voice to the participants of the proceeding. Often these headphones with microphones built in are called headsets. We have found USB-connected gaming-style headphones to be the best for monitoring clarity and for picking up your voice. Here are two examples:
Just like with in-person proceedings, many digital court reporting software systems have minimum specifications, like 4GB of RAM and a dual-core processor, but these are only the minimum specifications and often are based on a machine that is running nothing else. So as we recommended previously, buying a computer that can handle the load and have spare capacity for other programs is ideal. We recommend looking for 16GB of RAM and at least a quad-core processor. Beyond those key factors, hard drive size, screen size, and ports are up to you as long as they serve your needs and meet or exceed the software specifications. This laptop is a good example of a computer that should exceed software developers’ minimum specifications.
Like with the in-person setup, there is no such thing as being too careful. Even if you have the best equipment that is professional-grade, up-to-date, and well-maintained, Murphy’s Law will eventually catch up with you. Like with the in-person setup, having these devices sit outside the normal audio chain and capture a completely independent recording is ideal. We recommend not relying on the same audio signal or internet connection to connect your backup audio recorder as you use for the primary recording. Having a cell phone that is receiving its signal from a cell tower, not the internet in your location, will make the system more redundant and less likely to be impacted by things like a power outage or loss of internet connection. Make sure you are using the proper connector/adaptor coming from your phone into the backup recorder. Here is an example of that connector from phone manufacturers:
If you do not like to wear headphones, or your backup configuration does not allow you to directly connect your audio source to the backup recorder, then you may need to swap out the headset and add in a microphone and speaker system.
If you have to connect a microphone to your system, we recommend a USB microphone that is designed to be spoken directly into like those used for podcasting. The USB connection will ensure that there is no audio driver glitch or port-related issue due to newer computers having TRRS plugs used for earbuds with microphones installed in them. The computer then needs to detect and properly switch between TRS (headphone), TS (microphone), and TRRS (headphone and microphone). Here are some examples of USB mics that would work for remote proceedings.
Similar to the microphone, if a headset or headphones do not work for you for remote proceedings, the next best alternative is to get a set of speakers. This way the sound is projected into the room and you can listen to it. Then you can use the less-recommended “airgap” method to record your backup audio. This is less desirable because it relies on a single source for your audio, which increases the possibility of failure. Due to the ability to introduce interference, we also do not recommend the use of Bluetooth speakers for digital reporters. Here are a few options you can look into:
This article will give you a general idea of the pieces that can be used to set up a kit for remote proceedings, but it is not meant to be an all-inclusive list of everything a digital court reporter needs for their job. If you want to learn more about digital court reporting through a BlueLedge course, go to https://crtclassroom.blueledge.com.
Benjamin Jaffe is the Manager of Digital Training and Development for BlueLedge
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