Choosing the appropriate equipment for your production such as a teleprompter is essential for a successful event. A second factor that requires consideration, is how well the speaker and teleprompter operator work together. These two elements could ultimately make or break your presentation.

Why use a teleprompter at all?

Teleprompters help speakers present their material through direct eye contact, rather than being seen reading their message off notes or cue cards. Whether live or recorded, eye contact is essential in communication. Our eyes reflect our comfort, sincerity, and trust when speaking. When a speaker is freed from memorization, they can relax and concentrate, making a direct connection with your audience.

Teleprompters speed up your day and ensure your messages are delivered as intended. When using a prompter for the first time with a professional operator, people often say, “This is great! I feel much more confident with the prompter.”

Do I still need a teleprompter operator?

A teleprompter operator can be said to be an actor, politician, or CEO’s best friend when it comes to delivering a script. The operator’s job is to precisely match the cadence and speech of the presenter, word for word. Even when the presenter paraphrases or departs from the script with an anecdote or improvisation, an experienced operator will follow the presenter and pick up when they get back on-script.

A rehearsal with the teleprompter operator can be the difference between a broadcast disaster or a successful presentation.  A good operator will become familiar with the speaker’s style and patterns. This will allow the operator to suggest simple edits that will enhance the smoothness of the speaker’s delivery.

The operator typically sits at the back of the house tech table or backstage, preferably with headphones, in order to monitor the speaker and track changes.

So why hire professional operators in the San Francisco Bay Area?

  • No Learning Curve

All of our operators are well experienced in the production of political, non-profit, sporting, corporate videos, commercials, plus live events too. They have been tempered in the fire of high-pressure situations and performed with grace. You never know when things suddenly change and we’ll have to yank out a car battery to provide power to the prompter in a rain storm or cling to the exterior of a piece of huge earth moving equipment on a testing field. Yes, teleprompting can be far more exciting than you might suspect!

Teleprompting is something of an art. As such, it isn’t a job you would entrust to someone without experience. Our clients have remarked after using our services, “We debated about budgeting for a prompter and operator, but we got through so much more material and were able to wrap early. It was worth every penny. You’ll be our secret weapon from now on!”

  • No Equipment Compatibility Concerns

When we first connect with you, we ask questions to choose the right gear for your event. As seasoned professionals, our operators have extensive knowledge of the equipment and software we use. We are also well aware that everything has limits and strong points. If, for some rare reason, something isn’t working properly, or the event parameters change on-site, we are quick to identify a solution.

  • Adaptable Operators

We have experienced plenty of curve balls over our collective 50 years in this business: whether it’s a big star’s unusual demand, a novel technical configuration, or working in a foreign language.

Recently, we had a client who informed us that the five hours of teleprompting we were going to do the next day would be in both Cantonese and Mandarin characters. We were prepared with our software options so it came off without a hitch. We’ve also handled presentations in Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, and a rare form of Gaelic spoken only in the Hebrides Islands of Scotland!

Even if you’re only speaking in English, when you hire Neil Tanner Teleprompters, you get operators that are efficient, professional, and make you look great.

  • Pro-Client Attention  

We go the extra mile by offering teleprompter training. Using a prompter is a learned skill, but one that is easily learned. The big trick is making the prompter “disappear”.

And we pay attention to our client’s needs. We take that laser focus to the next level to help you achieve your production goals. Lots of last minute changes? No problem! We can get that fixed right away.

  • Less Stress

At the basic level, teleprompter operators convert your existing script into readable prompter format in big letters that flow smoothly on a screen.

However as seasoned operators, we take great pains to create immediate visual comprehension when we format your script. We add breaks for breath and stage cues in a different color if desired. We even know to use special fonts and formatting for people with dyslexia. We work with your presenter to emphasize key words and help them really own what they’re saying.

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

I get asked this question a lot. I imagine it helps with the pedigree and trust. 

I’m proud of my clients over the 20 years of teleprompting. It’s always an honor to hear who I’ll be working with next.

Even though I’m closely contributing to their speech and performance on-stage, I may not have direct contact with the speaker. Some presenters, like senior politicians, just run in, deliver their speech and then disappear into a waiting limo. However, their advance team has worked with me closely to ensure everything is right. Both the President and the First Lady have very detailed instructions on how the Presidential teleprompter mirrors are placed. And while I’ve shaken President Obama’s hand and got a photo, I often only get a peek at these political speakers from down a hallway as their agents whisk them backstage on to the stage. Still… knowing that people at this level rely on my skills is a great rush.

On the other hand, I can work much closer with executives—like Sun and Union Bank’s CEOs—to help craft their speeches and work with them on their presentation and delivery. My skills help them better deliver their message to their clients— and that makes me proud to contribute.

One of my favorite experiences was in 2009. I flew to Mexico to work for a week coaching the “Pan American Games 2015” team from Lima, Peru. An amazing speech coach, Dia Bondi, and I worked with a team of 9 presenters including the Mayor of Lima, several government Ministers and Olympic athletes to fine-tune their presentations. Lima was one of three finalists for the right to hold the Games.  Toronto, Canada and Bogota, Columbia also presented. Each finalist team was given a short session on-stage to win over the judging panel of princes and other country representatives. After the tense sessions that followed with representatives and royals promising to support one city or another, Toronto ultimately won.

Trusting us with your scripts is very important to me and our team. I work on all sorts of political campaigns, like those of John McCain, Mitt Romney, both Barack and Michelle Obama, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, other elected officials and countless propositions.  Again, your trust is something I take very seriously. Because of that trust, I’ll often sit in high-level “war rooms” where speechwriters hammer out what their candidate will say against somebody I may very well teleprompt for the next day!!! I’ve worked for both sides of California Governor races with candidates Jerry Brown against Meg Whitman, and earlier candidates Gray Davis against Dan Lungren. I have to be neutral and just give everyone my best.

I’ve also assisted many faith based organizations: ArchBishops, Bishops, Priests, Rabbis, Jews for Jesus, Muslim Advocates, Mormons and  Scientologists—plus some potentially controversial organizations like GLAAD, NARAL, and AIPAC.

Sir Edmund Hillary is still likely my favorite… He’s like royalty in my book:) My next biggest fan boy moment was the honor of going backstage at ILM’s Skywalker Ranch and the Barn with George Lucas and his creative team.  My mom’s favorite celebrity that I’ve assisted is Charlie Rose. And I figured I had finally made it, when I was faced with the very tough choice of referring Al Gore to another team member so that I could work with Robin Williams and Robert Redford on the same day instead:) The most surreal and unique celebrity experience was easily David Hasselhoff, who never broke character as “The Hoff,” even when rehearsing for his US musical tour. He was a great guy regardless of what I expected.

Live shows are a blast: they really put me to the test… Dmitri Martin did several episodes of “Important Things” with me in San Francisco over a two year period. I really enjoyed working with his talented, hilarious scriptwriters. Making edits just seconds before they went live was a real challenge that kept me on alert. That same kind of calm and confidence is what allowed Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s assistant to change his script on one laptop while I was simultaneously teleprompting on another laptop, for the executive immediately preceding Steve . (I don’t ever advocate this move… Always finalize the script 30 minutes before the show so I can format and massage the words.)

Working with musicians is a special feeling since I get to be part of the ensemble… I recently worked with T Bone Burnett and just loved it. Previously , I’ve assisted Rufus Wainwright, Michael Bublé, Liza Minelli, and Taeyang. My team has worked with Sting, Snoop Dogg and Metallica.

Because some people are not comfortable with the potential stigma of being seen as relying on teleprompters, some request not to be listed on my Clients Page but most of the big names I’ve assisted are there, even companies that are no longer in business or have been acquired. This was really common in the Dot.com era. RIP Alza, Sun, SBC, Veritas, Macromedia and most recently URS…

Ultimately, it’s an honor to be trusted with clients’ VIP speakers regardless of celebrity or executive status. Give us a call today. No matter who you are or represent, we’ll make sure you get the same exceptional treatment that our safety and confidence creates.

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

 

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.

 

 

 

The awkward Michael Bay teleprompter moment has been shared worldwide, yet it could have been easily prevented.

Director Michael Bay spoke briefly at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), to talk about the new large screen curved displays from Samsung. The talk was streamed live. Michael was supposed to read from a downstage monitor (DSM.) Apparently, when Bay jumped ahead in his script, the teleprompter operator tried to find a place for Michael to regain sync. After a few moments of uncomfortable ad libs, Michael apologized and left the stage. Many people have since commented that they recognized the signs of a panic attack. Watch this video, then I’ll talk about how to prevent something like this unfortunate experience.

I’ve been teleprompting live events like these for over 20 years. Since I don’t know the teleprompter operator at the venue, I can’t speak to what actually happened. However, in my experience, many things can prevent this. The first, is to do at least two full length rehearsals. When you’re dealing with high level celebrities, their assistants and schedules often leave little or no time for these rehearsals. People assume that speaking on stage using a teleprompter is easy and may decide to just “wing it.” A full rehearsal covers everything a speaker does on stage: their walk-on music, roll-in videos, moving lights, their script start to finish, their slides, plus interacting other speakers or any objects on stage like the monitors here. Full rehearsals are critical for situations like this where Michael Bay was reading what someone else wrote.

Have someone who knows the teleprompter script at your side

Downstage Monitor, or DSM teleprompter, is great for performers walking around on stageBecause the DSM teleprompter equipment only displays a portion of the entire script, the speaker is reliant on the teleprompter operator to show the current lines. When we do these shows like this, usually after rehearsal, we’ll be very familiar with the script and can recognize when the presenter jumps off script to ad lib. We’ll wait and then when they begin reading again, we start scrolling the script again in sync with them. However, there are some shows where the script is complicated, the content confusing, or where there are many speakers. In these cases we get either an assistant or someone from the client’s team who will sit next to us. Having someone who really knows the script and product (or even the speaker) can help in deciding when to move forward.

Listen for clues after Michael Bay exits

Bay left Samsung Executive Vice President Joe Stinziano alone on the cavernous stage. While Stinziano was not comfortable, he clearly has experience with a teleprompter and speaking publicly. Most importantly, he stays focused on his intention. Around 1:39 on the video, you’ll hear him say “Look, how about right there.” He’s likely talking to the teleprompter operator, who was moving the script forward to find an acceptable spot to get back in sync. This event will actually be the catalyst for my future talks with speakers “If we get out of sync, here’s how we handle it…”

Have a backup plan and stay in control

Yes, most speakers rely on the teleprompter operator and equipment to function perfectly. However, this is a great example of why I always suggest my speakers have a printed copy of their script in 18 point font at the lectern. In this case, since the presenters wandered freely about the stage, notecards with bullet points would be great to have in a pocket.

Ultimately, the presenters need to be clear on what the intention of the speech is. In this case, the intention could have been to introduce why a curved TV makes the most sense for displaying Hollywood blockbusters. If somehow the speaker and teleprompter operator get out of sync, the speaker should just step back, make a joke, ad lib a little and give the operator a chance to find out where to come back to. Michael Bay and his aborted speech is a perfect counterpoint to Bill Clinton. The President said that he uses his teleprompter as just that—something to prompt him on what he already knew to say. It wasn’t a word-for-word life support.

A similar show with similar high stakes with a better ending.

I did a show once in Mexico where the Mayor of Lima, Peru was addressing the Pan American Games Committee in hopes of hosting the 2015 games in his city. This was a very important speech with pride, jobs, and millions of dollars at stake. We had rehearsed plenty, in fact an entire week ahead of time. However, during the event, the Mayor went off his teleprompter script, suddenly jumping approximately five paragraphs ahead. By the time I found where he was, he had panicked and was talking about something else. Luckily he was comfortable with the script and material, and could ad lib without the audience suspecting much.

What I did was to gently scroll his teleprompter script back and forth until he found something he could latch on to. Once he found that phrase, he stayed locked with me the entire rest of the speech. When the applause was over, he came backstage and clasped me in a long bear hug that spoke volumes about our invisible dance.

Watch how Joe Biden handles a similar situation with humor.

Seriously, he comes off grandfatherly, but he masterfully catches his teleprompter being out of sync, makes light of it, and carries on.

So what are the lessons from this uncomfortable CES stage show?

Avoid awkward disasters like the Michael Bay CES speech by running full rehearsals, being clear on the intention of the speech, and having a back-up plan if sync is lost between the speaker and teleprompter operator.

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

 

 

A teleprompter is the modern incarnation of “smoke and mirrors.”

An illustration of Pepper's Ghost: Smoke and Mirrors There was this method called “Pepper’s Ghost” in the 1860’s that used a stretched piece of thin fabric placed between the audience and the stage. It was unnoticeable unless light was reflected off it. The actors on the stage would do their thing until the phantom was needed to appear. Until that time, the actor playing the phantom would be in a darkened orchestra pit, below the main stage.

When light was projected on the phantom actor, their image would be reflected in the fabric above, causing it to be “on stage” with the actors. The two worlds would interact, and at some point, the phantom would be “extinguished” and the day was saved. The same idea is still used in modern stage presentations with Musion and also Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion.

So, how does a teleprompter work?

I profiled the presidential teleprompter in an earlier post. A traditional camera mounted teleprompter allows the speaker to look at the camera like normal. An evil clown reading from our teleprompterHowever in this case, their script is superimposed over the lens. This way it appears to the audience that the actor is making direct eye contact with them while still speaking from the heart. Teleprompter software takes a normal script file (in a format like .doc, .odt, or .rtf) and converts it into large letters on a contrasting background, typically, white letters on black.

This signal is sent from a laptop, tablet, or even phones, through a cable to the teleprompter monitor. Transmission can be via Bluetooth as well, but for mission critical shoots, I suggest staying with hardwired systems. These monitors normally range from 7″ to 20″ although there are some great exceptions when the distance is exaggerated. The monitors need to reverse the image because when it is reflected through the mirror, it appears as the correct orientation to the speaker. This can be accomplished via either the teleprompter software, or by special monitors that scan reverse the image. Alternatively, Hall Research makes a great box called a SC-VGA-2B that takes VGA signals and flips them.

These words then appear to float in space so that the speaker can look into the camera and read them. A teleprompter operator feathers the speed of the script to match the pace of the speaker. If the speaker slows or stops, then the operator will follow. Some modern, lower grade systems can operate without an operator by using a preset speed on loop, but it can be unnerving to the speaker to follow a machine. For example, the number “$23,577.46” takes up a small amount of space on the screen, and would go by quickly on a preset speed, but to speak out loud “twenty-three thousand five hundred and seventy seven dollars and forty-six cents” takes a LOT longer. Any sync would be destroyed and your speaker would be frustrated.

The prompter operator also interacts with the camera crew and sets up the teleprompter equipment so everything is connected to the tripod and balanced correctly. Plus, an operator edits the script and often wordsmiths the lines. Phrases that look good on paper don’t always sound great when spoken aloud.

Typically, the speaker will rehearse several times on paper, then advance to the teleprompter, make any edits, and only then will they hit the record button.

For more of a teleprompter definition and some other great images, here’s the Wikipedia article.

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

 

 

I’ve wanted to try putting teleprompted script over a person’s face for years.

It made sense: put the words for the talent to read as usual, but also superimpose the friendly face of the director to nod, smile or just be the focus. It’s the combination of an Interrotron, or EyeDirect with a traditional teleprompter. Up until recently, I never felt great about the right mixer between VGA signal and the video feed, so it was a back shelf idea. A demonstration of the ability to superimpose text over the interviewer's face.However, I finally got asked to make it happen. It was for an interview where a number of employees were reading from a script and the Director needed to be in another room.

My client Photon wanted to be able to have eye contact with the talent, rather than only the stark black and white text. We supplied our standard Interrotron system comprising two teleprompters and a camera. We also added a Roland VR-3 AV mixer so that we could combine the video image of the director with the teleprompted script. I like the VR-3 because it was small and powerful. It took the VGA signal and keyed it over the video signal before feeding it to the talent to see. It also had a small built-in monitor to show the source and effect preview.

Before showing up, I did a proof of concept with the Roland VR-3.

Roland VR-3 AV MixerOnce we got to set we determined that some employees liked it, and others felt it was distracting. With the VR-3, we easily tuned the levels from one position to the other depending on each employee’s taste.
The director was able to get better results with individuals, depending on the positions, whether full face, full text or the combo.

The director sat in another room, away from the employees in their recording booth. To the employees, who hadn’t been on camera before, it was normal to look into a teleprompter and see the image morph from director to their script. We did the shift depending on whether it was a word-for-word portion, bullet points or when the director needed to add some direction. The key to all this was being able to rapidly make the shift.

Thanks to Photon for providing the challenge, and much praise to the Roland VR-3 for being an affordable solution. In the interest of having less stuff to lug around, I am kind of curious if there’s some superimpose software or a superimpose app that could do the same in real time… I really liked the option for the director’s face to pop back and forth on the screen. It allowed for reassurance and communication, but it also reduced the “cold machine” feeling that some people have for teleprompters and cameras.

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

 

 

I have a long history with graduation ceremonies.

Our remote controlled robotic Presidential teleprompter system for UC Davis This is because I used to play saxophone in the marching bands for both my high school and university. At least once a year, we’d perform ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ over and over while the seniors walked to receive their diplomas in the graduation ceremony. So I got a great feeling when UC Davis asked me if we would be interested in teleprompting their speakers at commencement. One thing to understand is that they have a lot of schools within their University… so the Schools of Business, Law, Agriculture and so on, each had their individual commencement exercises.

The people involved with the ceremony are all great—very focused and dedicated to making the event memorable for the students, their families, and the faculty. We talked over the phone initially, outlining their needs and discussing dates.

Months later I drove up to work on the first rehearsal, just a day before the commencement. We set up in their massive gymnasium. I ran cables from my workstation up to the lectern. It’s about a hundred foot run of three cables: power, signal and also a control cable for the robotic TeleStepper.

With such a variety of heights for the speakers, our TeleStepper was mandatory. It was very important to the client that the event be smooth for all parties, so it meant no stopping to adjust the height of the glass each between commencement speeches, as this would interfere with the overall flow. Our TeleStepper travels a 24″ range with presets, so that I can learn, and then match the speakers’ heights quietly and discreetly.

For the rehearsal, I met with the Chancellor, Provost, the speaking Deans, students and the Special Events staff. The culmination of working together over the past years with this group was apparent. We worked one on one for a good part of the afternoon, training each person and editing their speeches.

What happened during graduation was unexpected.

Expectant crowd at commencement waiting for Provost of UC Davis to read our teleprompters It started off as you might imagine… parents, guardians and families had been filling the cavernous gym over the past hour, murmuring loudly over the band who was performing the graduation classics. But when the students finally entered the building, it was like a wave of energy swept through the place. Parents were calling out to their kids, shouting, even dialing their cell phones, in order to get their attention for a wave, a smile and a photo. It was a little like those documentary films of penguin families finding each other across amid thousands of similar looking penguins. 😀

People were justifiably emotional since this was such a big deal for them. I saw families of all backgrounds and ethnicities. Many clearly came from out of the country, adding to the pride and excitement. Families with younger siblings had a taste of what could be in their future as well. To be very honest, I got misty eyed too.

And that was before the commencement speeches! There’s such a difference in rehearsing a speech in an empty room, and then the power of giving that same speech to a packed hall, with people giving back reactions, laughs, thoughtful silence and thunderous applause. Mercifully, no one read the 500 names off the teleprompter so I had some down-time to soak in the overall emotions.

Again, I can’t explain just how powerful the pride and link was between the families and their graduating seniors. Three hours of this left me very hopeful and very drained. It was a quiet drive back home to San Francisco. Happily, they have repeatedly asked us back, and I’ve since teleprompted other Universities’ ceremonies. This is now one of my favorite clients. Please give us a call to assist your next live event.

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

 

 

Tonight was a blast—teleprompting for a local community hospital, in Chinese!

Teleprompting in Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese

It was an example of working together as a team to help the client with something that was quite unique. The client had requested Mandarin, Cantonese, and the ability to handle traditional Chinese characters. I realized that while three of my team had worked in Pinyin and Mandarin in the past, this was beyond us: following along was one thing,  but editing was another. I found a friend of mine, Tiffine, who spoke Mandarin passably while her mother spoke Cantonese and Mandarin languages fluently. Neither had ever teleprompted before, but Tiffine was computer savvy and willing to learn something new with her mom:)

Because of a time overlap, my teammate Ralph Kelliher set up the gear, then I showed up shortly after and relieved him. I trained Tiffine, introduced the native spokeswoman to teleprompting, and then let them take over. The key was to make sure someone was listening for the best take. Once we empowered the client to be the judge, the process was smooth and everyone left happy.

Thanks again to Ralph, Tiffine, and her mom for the assistance in the Chinese language, and my client for being so flexible and giving us a creative challenge.

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.

 

Why would you put multiple cameras into one teleprompter?

Often times as video crews, we get just one or two takes with a politician or executive because their time is very limited. We’re familiar with the line “Okay that was a great take, now we need to roll back the teleprompter script to the top and do another take in a tight shot. I promise, this is the last one.” If your CEO has a plane to catch, or another business meeting to attend, you can get a pretty bad stare, or a flat out refusal.

Use a big teleprompter to house multiple cameras for both medium and tight shots.

Two cameras side by side in a large teleprompter hood.

Neil Tanner Inc provides large hoods for multiple cameras to record simultaneous medium and tight shots.

Dual camera teleprompting. Simultaneous wide and tight shots for easy editing with less takes

Editors are happy since the two views match action perfectly. To the performer, there is still just the one place to look and they appreciate the effort you’ve made to save their time. You can still do as many takes you like to get the best performance on teleprompter, but with the multiple cameras, it makes editing so much easier. And you typically don’t need any extra gear, just some prep for the configuration.

Here’s the process

First, start with a large teleprompter hood. At Neil Tanner Inc, we carry two different 19 inch systems. One is a QTV hood that is rigid but has a flexible neck fabric that needs to be cinched around the lenses. The other hood is one Neil made custom for using giant matte boxes. The glass is larger than the QTV hood, but the hood here is simply a piece of black fabric, sort of like the old school photographers with their wet plate camera underneath a big black blanket.

You can place the cameras side by side, with the tripod legs interlaced, or get a special plate that holds two cameras on a single tripod. One crew took their DSLRs and stacked them on top of each other. Jim Thylin, one of our ace operators, somehow managed to get three cameras in a single teleprompter hood. Nicely done!

One caveat is that the teleprompter  fabric and lenses must be relatively light tight. If you a have a strong light behind the camera, make sure to close any gap. This will prevent light from hitting the inner glass and bouncing back into the lens, possibly fogging your shot.

Try this alternative shooting style for your next shoot.

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