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2022 California Rules of Court

Rule 2.954. Specifications for electronic recording equipment

(a) Specifications mandated

Electronic recording equipment used in making the official verbatim record of oral courtroom proceedings must conform to the specifications in this rule.

(Subd (a) amended effective January 1, 2007.)

(b) Sound recording only

The following specifications for electronic recording devices and appurtenant equipment apply when only sound is to be recorded:

(1)  Mandatory specifications

(A)  The device must be capable of simultaneously recording at least four separate channels or "tracks," each of which has a separate playback control so that any one channel separately or any combination of channels may be played back.

(B)  The device must not have an operative erase head.

(C)  The device must have a digital counter or comparable means of logging and locating the place on a reel where specific proceedings were recorded.

(D)  Earphones must be provided for monitoring the recorded signal.

(E)  The signal going to the earphones must come from a separate playback head, so that the monitor will hear what has actually been recorded on the tape.

(F)  The device must be capable of recording at least two hours without interruption. This requirement may be satisfied by a device that automatically switches from one recording deck to another at the completion of a reel of tape of less than two hours in duration.

(G)  A separate visual indicator of signal level must be provided for each recording channel.

(H)  The appurtenant equipment must include at least four microphones, which should include one at the witness stand, one at the bench, and one at each counsel table. In the absence of unusual circumstances, all microphones must be directional (cardioid).

(I)  A loudspeaker must be provided for courtroom playback.

(2)  Recommended features

The following features are recommended, but not required:

(A)  The recording level control should be automatic rather than manual.

(B)  The device should be equipped to prevent recording over a previously recorded segment of tape.

(C)  The device should give a warning signal at the end of a reel of tape.

(Subd (b) amended effective January 1, 2007.)

(c) Audio-and-video recording

The following specifications for electronic audio-video recording devices and appurtenant equipment apply when audio and video are to be recorded simultaneously.

(1)  Mandatory specifications

The system must include:

(A)  At least five charge-coupled-device color video cameras in fixed mounts, equipped with lenses appropriate to the courtroom. Cameras must conform to EIA standard, accept C-mount lenses, have 2000 lux sensitivity at f4.0 at 3200 degrees Kelvin so as to produce an adequate picture with 30 lux minimum illumination and an f1.4 lens, and be approximately 2.6" x? 2.4" x 8.0."

(B)  At least eight phase-coherent cardioid (directional) microphones, Crown PCC-160 or equivalent, appropriately placed.

(C)  At least two VHS videotape recorders with hi-fi sound on video, specially modified to record 4 channels of audio (2 linear channels with Dolby noise reduction and 2 hi-fi sound on video channels), capable of recording up to 6 hours on T-120 cassettes, modified to prevent automatic rewind at end of tape, and wired for remote control. The two recorders must simultaneously record the same audio and video signals, as selected by the audio-video mixer.

(D)  A computer-controlled audio-video mixer and switching system that:

(i)  Automatically selects for the VCRs the signal from the video camera that is associated with the active microphone; and

(ii)  Compares microphone active signal to ambient noise signal so that microphones are recorded only when a person is speaking, and so that only the microphone nearest a speaker is active, thus minimizing recording of ambient noise.

(E)  A sound system that serves both as a sound reinforcement system while recording is in progress, and as a playback amplification system, integrated with other components to minimize feedback.

(F)  A time-date generator that is active and records at all times the system is recording.

(G)  A color monitor.

(H)  Appropriate cables, distribution amplifiers, switches, and the like.

(I)  The system must produce:

(i)  A signal visible to the judge, the in-court clerk, and counsel indicating that the system is recording;

(ii)  An audible signal at end-of-tape or if the tape jams while the controls are set to record; and

(iii)  Blanking of the judge's bench monitor when the system is not actually recording.

(2)  Recommended features

The system should normally include:

(A)  A chambers camera and microphone or microphones that, when in use, will override any signals originating in the courtroom, and that will be inactivated when not in use.

(B)  Two additional videocassette recorders that will produce tapes with the same video and audio as the main two, but may have fewer channels of sound, for the use of parties in cases recorded.

(Subd (c) amended effective January 1, 2007.)

(d) Substantial compliance

A sound or video and sound system that substantially conforms to these specifications is approved if the deviation does not significantly impair a major function of the system. Subdivision (c)(1)(D)(ii) of this rule describes a specification from which deviation is permissible, if the system produces adequate sound quality.

(Subd (d) amended effective January 1, 2007.)

(e) Previous equipment

The Administrative Director is authorized to approve any electronic recording devices and equipment acquired before the adoption or amendment of this rule that has been found by the court to produce satisfactory recordings of proceedings.

(Subd (e) amended effective January 1, 2016. previously amended effective January 1, 2007.)

Rule 2.954 amended effective January 1, 2016; adopted as rule 980.6 effective January 1, 1990; previously amended and renumbered as rule 2.954 effective January 1, 2007.

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