teleprompter software FAQ & DOCS
Teleprompter software for the Pro

About monitors

The word monitor means different things to different people and it is important for the teleprompter operator to be very clear about these differences to all parties involved. Many laptop computers have the capability of sending a signal to a large computer monitor. The logic for this is that the screen of the laptop is small compared to the various sizes of computer monitors that are available and the larger monitor is easier to read, and has more screen real estate. Not all laptops will drive all sizes of computer monitors. Computer monitors are identified by various terms such as EGA, VGA, SVGA, or MultiSync. You must carefully check the laptop's capabilities with that of the larger computer monitor that is to be used.

 A computer monitor is not a TV set. However, you will see TV's advertised as also having monitor capabilities. What this means is that the video and audio signals coming out of a VCR (video cassette recorder) can be plugged directly into the video and audio jacks of the TV and the signals do not have to got through the tuner section of the TV.  Theoretically the output will appear a little sharper on the TV screen. Of course the VCR has a tuner which can be used to present broadcast information to the television set. The purpose of the VCR having a tuner is to permit you to select whatever channel you choose to record.

All of the above was to get you mentally prepared to realize that if you are going to use NTSC, also known as  composite video monitors, or a TV set called a monitor, you are going to have to use a converter that takes the computer signal and changes it so that the information can be viewed on the composite video monitor. The composite video monitor is the type that is most frequently used as the remote monitor that the talent is reading. NTSC, National Television Standards Committee, is the television standard for North America and some other countries.

A color monitor is not required or necessary unless the teleprompter software has features that can be  enhanced by color. A monochrome monitor will generally be sufficient and will probably be less expensive. Two inexpensive sources of composite video monochrome monitors in the used equipment market are the Apple //e  and //c computer monitors of the size of 12" and 9" respectively. These are out of production but are readily available at used computer equipment stores. They have a green phosphor, which presents black alphanumerics on a green field, and this helps prevent secondary reflections from the camera lens which is behind the reflective surface of the teleprompter. Another source of monochrome composite video monitors is  from security surveillance equipment providers. These monitors will be black and white and they may have controls that permit moving the image around the screen.

If you are using a desktop computer instead of a laptop, the converter must be capable of also putting out the correct computer signal that will drive the computer monitor that you normally use with your computer. For clarification let us follow the computer signal. The appropriate cables required are usually supplied with the converter. The signal comes out of the computer and into the converter. The signal is then sent out of the converter in two different forms. One is the computer signal for the computer monitor and one signal is the  composite video signal for the talent monitor. Unfortunately all converters will NOT drive all the varieties of    computer monitors, so careful checking of specifications for compatibility between the monitor and the converter is required before purchasing the converter. There is one additional monitor feature that must be considered and that is the ability to reverse the image.

Whenever an image is reflected, it is reversed. If the image from the teleprompter monitor were reflected twice, it would read right side up to the talent. There have been teleprompters in the past that used two reflective surfaces to present to the talent, a right side up reading image thus avoiding the problem of having the talent monitor reflecting a reversed image and avoiding the problem of providing a monitor that has a switch on it that can reverse the image. If you are working in a broadcast studio environment, the monitors used will probably have a switch that permits you to toggle the image from right side up to reverse. If you are using a desk top computer, you will need this feature on the remote talent monitor to reverse the image to accommodate the fact that the reflective glass in the teleprompter reverses the image. Technically speaking, this changes the "fly back" of the electron beam that creates the image on the phosphor surface on the inside of the tube. The source of this switchable type of monitor would be a television industry supply firm. Finally, you may find a television technician who understands the problem and who can rewire a monitor and install the switch.

As this is being written in 1997, we are now starting to see flat panel displays appear as monitors in teleprompter hardware. The more common flat panel displays use active matrix, passive matrix, liquid crystal display or electroluminescent technologies. The advantage of these displays is a great reduction in weight compared to the glass tubes used in current monitors.

About Acting
Being natural is the key to good movie acting.
Here's some tips that might help make your novice thespians into Marlon Brando's:

First and foremost create an environment that makes the actor comfortable. If the set is noisy, the director is tense, the location cold or shooting before a big exam -- actors can understandably feel stressed. Do everything to create a comfortable environment for actors to work in (shoot on weekends, quiet set, fun atmosphere, no egos or unnecessary pressure).

Film directing is not about teaching actors to act -- they need to learn that stuff themselves (either by taking acting workshops or working on lots of film and learning by seeing themselves on screen). Film directing is about casting. Understanding this is significant! Cast actors for a look and "tone" and then discuss the script and come to a clear understanding of how the story needs to be interpreted. Don't cast the class clown in a moody, film noire short film -- or the quiet students in a comedy.

Remind actors that the less they do on screen the better. They should be aware of the camera at all times so they can angle their face in a way to better record gestures and important features -- however they should not overact. All mannerisms need to be taken right down, this includes movement and facial gestures (especially on close ups). ACTING IS ALL WITH THE EYES. Don't mistake shuffling about and gesturing wildly as good acting. This just makes it harder to hit marks and for the camera operator to frame and focus. Good luck!!!
 
About Teleprompter Hardware

There are a large variety of hardware manufacturers selling equipment that range from $1000 to $6000 depending on the size and type of monitor and refinements of design and mounting hardware. The three basic teleprompter designs are camera mounted, free standing and podium.

A major consideration of teleprompter design is the size of the monitor and the distance the talent will be from the monitor. Our basic rule of thumb is that a 9 inch monitor can be comfortably read at a distance of 10 feet and a 15 inch monitor at 20 feet. The weight of the teleprompter equipment is a consideration for the carrying capacity of the camera tripod to be used. In a broadcast studio situation, where cameras are mounted on hydraulic or pneumatic pedestals, 15 to 20 inch monitors are frequently used because the weight capacity of the pedestal is such that it can handle weight far greater than that of the camera tripod used at remote location shoots.

The freestanding teleprompter will generally have a monitor in the 12 to 15 inch range. Of course this unit stands independently in front of the camera and a cloth hood fits over the camera lens. The disadvantage here is that the camera movement is restricted to a very narrow range of motion. For example, it permits zooming in from a medium shot to a close up. If the talent were seated behind a desk and wished to get up and walk around to the front of the desk, the free standing unit would not allow the camera operator to track this movement. The advantage of the free standing unit is that there is a minimum of set up time and it doesn't place any weight on the tripod.

The camera mounted unit gives complete freedom of motion. My experience is that most tripods I encounter at remote locations will not handle too much weight and thus a 9 inch teleprompter is most suitable. Remember that the weight of the monitor must be counterbalanced to provide smooth camera motion so the entire unit you are placing on the tripod will easily add 20 pounds.

The podium prompter consists of 2 panes of reflective glass mounted on a thin adjustable rod, about 6 feet in length, which is attached to a box containing a suitably sized monitor. The glass panel is almost invisible to the audience because it has no frame. The computer signal is being fed to both monitors simultaneously so the talent can turn from side to side without a break in the reading, thus giving the audience the impression that the presenter is looking directly at them. This type of prompter is also referred to as a presidential prompter or a rostrum or presenter's prompter. You will see them frequently used at political events and award shows.

The podium prompter situation demands thorough rehearsal if the operator and the presenter are going to remain in sync. This is the situation in which ad libbing or eliminating sections of the speech by the presenter can create confusion for the operator. Of course it is in this very situation that getting the presenter to thoroughly rehearse is many times impossible.

About Teleprompting
Practice reading aloud. Read part of the newspaper aloud each day.

How fast can you read the script? Keep your energy up. How much vocal variety can you read into it? Read a sentence aloud as you vary the emphasis on different words. Don't remain static. Use natural gestures. Move your hands, change your facial expressions. Remember this is a 'moving' presentation. Pauses help tell your story by placing drawing attention to important ideas. Never emphasize prepositions.

Your vocal chords are the first part of your body to dehydrate. Drink lot's of liquids to keep your vocal chords supple. Singers have a  saying: "Pee white... sing right" Break each sentence into "beats", these are natural places to break the script into segments. The listener will understand your message more easily if you "verbalize" the punctuation. End each sentence on a down note unless you
intend to signify uncertainty or a question.

ON THE SET 

The Director will be your best friend and will make your experience as comfortable as possible. When the Director says, "Action", take a deep breath to relax, wait one or two seconds, look directly into the prompter (camera) and begin. Until the Director yells, "Cut!", YOU ARE  IN CONTROL. Picture a friend or colleague behind the prompter mirror. You will be looking directly into the camera and will "connect" with your audience. Read the script as if you are telling a story to a friend. Read the text from the upper third of the screen. Don't be a "bottom feeder." The prompter operator wil scroll the words on the screen as you  read. The words will scroll by at whatever speed you read them. YOU are in control of the scroll speed. If you have any doubts about this... try speeding up and slowing down while you read. The goal is to make it look like you're NOT reading. To avoid Prompter Panic, try blinking occasionally, moving your head... smiling. Use your hands for emphasis, but remember, the Director MAY ask you to minimize movement for technical reasons.

Concentrate on the message, not the words. Pause normally! Stop at periods. Remember, it's all news to your audience. They don't know that you practiced it ad nauseum. When you finish reading your part, maintain eye contact with the camera until the Director yells "Cut!" This is to allow his editor time to properly make his edits. Your operator has experience working with people just like yourself and his/her goal is to help you make your 'read' as flawless as possible. He/she can emphasize words or phrases in the script by using italics, bold, or CAPITAL LETTERS to help you. Don't forget... this is supposed to be FUN!!!

Teleprompter Reflective Glass, Where can I find It?

Common window glass works fine for about 90% of the people who build  the teleprompter stands.
You can purchase front silvered 'beam splitter'  glass (which is what ALL teleprompters use)
at Edmund Scientific: 1-609-573-6250
Note that using beam splitter glass will require you to adjust the  f-stop on your camera.
Edmund Scientific Beam Splitter Glass
Note: We are not associated with Edmund Scientific in anyway.
Nor do we guarantee the use or fitness of their products for any particular purpose.

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