I’ve seen a lot of changes in the teleprompter industry.

Dot matrix LED dispay of the word When I first started, a teleprompter was mostly limited to the studio. I used my client’s crazy proprietary “remote” teleprompter system that would give a composite video out, but only display to the operator 3 tiny lines of text. So, I learned to be veeeeery focused. As a bonus, if you went backwards, it would crash and require a reboot.

CRT teleprompter monitors.When I got fed up using other people’s gear, I bought my own system. It was an Apple Powerbook 180, running Quickprompt by Marietta Designs. Prompting with a laptop computer? That was high tech! I fed it into a MirrorImage TP-140, a tank of a CRT (cathode ray tube… the non- flat panel monitors) teleprompter that was very reliable and very heavy. It required a Magliner dolly to transport the massive Thermodyne cases and counterweights, but wow, no downtime, ever… definitely the early stages of portable teleprompters.

I upgraded to a Powerbook 5300cs, followed by a Powerbook G3 Series, a Lombard, a Pismo (my favorite Apple ever), a couple black Macbooks, G4 12″ (I still have some as backups.) We currently use 11″ Macbook Air units for my team while my personal machine is a 13″ Macbook Retina display.

Teleprompter software went through changes as well.

I ran Quickprompt until OSX came around, and then moved to Magicscroll.  Marietta Designs was working on ScrollTrain, which was their OSX teleprompter software, that would be capable of showing JPEG graphics as well. Sadly, they moved on to other projects, and ScrollTrain never made it to beta… I used Magicscroll until it stopped updating. I finally found a worthy successor: Presentation Prompter. I like it because it’s updated regularly and yes, it uses JPEG graphics. More on why I love that option for teleprompting, in another post.

For prompter hardware, I’ve liked MirrorImage over the years. I currently own two 15″ units, and two 12″ units. One is a highbright unit with monitors by Boland Communications. I modified all of these to balance quicker, extended the mirror angle options, and increased the mirror size for the 12″ units to 15″ hoods. You can see all my current teleprompter gear on my Camera Mount Teleprompter page and look through the various systems.

Building a custom prompter

When I was asked to teleprompt in conjunction with a film camera with massive matte box, I built a custom trapezoid prompter with a soft hood on the back, similar to the old wet plate cameras of the 1800s. I also inherited three QTV prompter hoods from the CRT days and retrofitted them to LCD monitors. Because of the metal hoods and large sheets of glass, these are still heavy units, but I modified the mounting hardware for quick setup and freestanding options.

Our 7 inch prompter in handheld modeI also bought a very well machined QTV master series PSP8 that I fell in love with at NAB. I swapped out the monitor, then added a pair of handgrips and a shoulder mount for handheld shooting. I’ve since been supplied with a several PRomptBox units, both VGA and tablet based. These are great since they fit to the shoe or 1/4″ of a camera.

I built my own presidential or speech prompters system years ago, with clamps and mirrors from MirrorImage. I later purchased a great outdoor presidential system from them, that I’ve modified for quicker and lighter setup, and also some windproof options.

When I saw the need for a robotic rise and fall presidential teleprompter system, I asked my brother, Thom, who is a robotics and mechanical engineer for help. Together we designed and he manufactured our TeleStepper. It’s gone through three versions and been used by Michelle Obama, various Senators, Lucasfilm, Chevron Corp., UC Berkeley, UC Davis, Dr Oz among others. I’m proud to announce it’s now for sale.

When I first did an Interrotron rig for Birkenstock, I immediately recognized the need for an HD option. So, I purchased a 20″ Boland highbright monitor to interface with the QTV hoods and pair with my 12″ HD unit and made my first Interrotron.

I also have a great IDX wireless video system for teleprompting with Steadicam or handheld. Plus I have all sorts of gizmos and other odd size prompters that I’ve custom built or modified for special situations.

The EyeDirect Mark III also own a couple EyeDirect units which make for riveting interviews.

All this equipment is available for rental, and in some cases, like our TeleStepper, for purchase.

Learn how our friendly team of skilled teleprompter operators can save you time and money.

 

 

 

When the CEO walks and talks on Steadicam, you need a wireless teleprompter!

Teleprompting wirelessly with a Steadicam This was a fun shoot. The director and agency were from England and kept using the British term for the teleprompter, which is “Autocue.” This was a challenge, not because of the accents 🙂  but because the shoot called for the CEO of Bebo to read the script while walking around their offices and the streets of San Francisco.

However, most teleprompters attach to tripods and aren’t meant for a camera stabilizer like the Steadicam or GlideCam. I was up to the challenge, since I had used Steadicam rigs from operator Ben Casias, before. I brought in our specialized seven inch teleprompter, the PRomptBox, to make rigging easy and the changing of lenses simplified. PRomptBox makes two models: one with a VGA monitor and another that’s for tablets. While we own both, I used the VGA model here. That’s because I feel editing and controlling the tablet’s speed via Bluetooth just isn’t robust enough for high stress, mobile shooting.

Going wireless

Getting the signal to the camera was another issue since Steadicam operators rightfully hate being tethered with cables. The solution was a recent addition to our fleet, a very powerful yet tiny CanaTrans wireless video transmitter and receiver. Most transmitters sit on the camera and feed to the receiver on the monitors that the director or clients see. In this case, I transmitted from my laptop, going through a scan converter in to the CanaTrans. The small wireless receiver was velcroed to the Steadicam Teleprompter.

The final key to working with mobile cameras like the Steadicam, is power management. Both the receiver and teleprompter needed power. Rather than stringing an electrical cable off Ben’s back, I used adapters to take 12V power from the Steadicam chassis. Here I was grateful for CanaTrans’ multiple power options and Ben’s Anton Bauer multiport.

The system was complex but worked perfectly the first time we switched it on, making for a fun and quick shoot. Ultimately, however, the Steadicam spot was too polished for the image Bebo wanted and they chose to go with a more handmade re-shoot the next day with almost no crew. Still, making the original was fun and I loved meeting and working with their entire team.

Update: While we loved the CanaTrans, we recently upgraded our transmitter/ receiver to an HDMI version by IDX that’s powered by USB.

Learn how our friendly team of skilled teleprompter operators can save you time and money.