Musicians using a concert teleprompter is more common than you would think.

Taeyang performing with a concert teleprompter in San Francisco.
Musicians have a lot of lyrics and songs to memorize. Naturally, when they’re on stage they can’t mess up. However, they merely use the concert teleprompter to jog their memory—they’re not staring at it the entire performance:) The prompter also can act as a set list. We’ve supplied concert teleprompters for Sting, Liza Minnelli, Metallica, Snoop Dogg, Rufus Wainwright, and T-Bone Burnett. A concert teleprompter is also known as a “word wedge”, or sometimes called a “stage teleprompter”.

Kpop superstar Taeyang (from Big Bang) came to San Francisco for an MTV concert right before Thanksgiving. We were hired to provide a concert teleprompter and operator for his event.

This was a particular challenge since the lyrics were mostly in Korean. We’ve prompted in many other languages, but Korean is new to our team. I searched Craigslist and found local Korean translator, Yano Rhee. Luckily, he had a degree in film and had worked in AV companies before transitioning to the medical field. Yano recently worked with the survivors of the Asiana SFO crash. When I interviewed him, I learned he had a musical background—the electric bass—and was excited by the challenge. We met the day before the concert to go over the teleprompter software, and then rehearse with the band.

Moving the Concert Teleprompter

Right before we left for the night, I was requested to move the teleprompter equipment from it’s initial location. Normally, the prompter sits low on the stage between the musicians and the fans. However, since this was being recorded and broadcast by MTV, cameras positioned behind Taeyang would see the concert teleprompter too. Since I have a background in grip and rigging, a quick trip to the local expendables store, JCX, was all that was needed.

The next morning I hung the monitor from the stage speakers near the ceiling. Taeyang agreed with the exact placement, since it was a balance of seeing his lyrics, and appeasing the MTV cameras. Running cables through the curtain was done well before the other stage crew got in, so there was no work interference.Taeyang from the K-pop supergroup Big Bang perfomed in San Francisco for MTV using our concert teleprompter.

There’s a reason behind the particular joy I have in using a concert teleprompter: I used to perform in bands on saxophone, so I miss the synergy that comes from working together on something live that causes my feet to tap along to the music. The first concert that I ever did teleprompting for was Liza Minnelli. What a rush to be part of that ensemble! Even though I was not playing an instrument, I was keeping time and being in sync with the musicians, so the familiar thrill came back.

It was no different with Taeyang, even though I was not personally teleprompting his lyrics for the concert. Yano had that honor. I loved the crowd and performance and learned quite a bit about the K-pop fanbase and industry.

It was an honor to work with Taeyang, his fans, his team from YG, the great crew from Oceanwatch, Yano, MTV, the staff at Bimbo’s 365, and the local stage technicians.

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

Teleprompting drama with millionaire donors.

Film director James Cameron is on stage in front of hundreds of wealthy X PRIZE Foundation donors. He’s reading a speech from a teleprompter in order to raise funds and awareness. People are listening attentively and writing checks.

What you don’t know is that just hours before the live event, the in-house teleprompter system failed. The producers had selected an employee with only marginal prompter experience and operating flawed teleprompter software. When it became apparent this vital part of the evening’s fundraising event was not going to perform, the producers reached out to their contacts and found us. Luckily, we were close by with gear and were able to be there in minutes. We interfaced with their existing equipment, met with the other presenters, and were able to format a master script in time for Cameron’s performance. The event was a success, and sizable funds were raised for a worthy project.

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

 

The CEO of Kaiser Permanente is sitting in a TV studio, reading from our camera mount teleprompter. Three takes later, he’s off to catch an important flight.

What you don’t know is that he was kept waiting for hours while another company’s teleprompter repeatedly failed. And, once they developed a work-around, their teleprompting software failed. The production company then called us. Since we store over 20 teleprompters at our office, we were able to drive directly there. We met with the camera operator and producer to assess the situation. We then quickly set up our teleprompter, loaded their script file, and re-formatted it for teleprompting. We did one rehearsal to make sure the CEO was satisfied. Just three takes later, “It’s a wrap.”

The CEO was able to make his flight, the production company got their shot, and they didn’t waste a whole day’s budget.

What is that level of reliability and peace of mind worth to you?

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

 

Barack Obama outdoor Teleprompter

Our special teleprompter system makes it easy for last minute script entry.

Barack Obama walks up to the lectern at an election rally in 2008.

He delivers his speech with grace, power, and emotion. He reads off our outdoor presidential teleprompter while giving numerous ad libs to the crowd.

What the audience doesn’t know is that we were handed his script only a few minutes before. We normally prefer 30 to 60 minutes before an event to edit scripts into the most readable teleprompter format. However, that day we flew through his script to triage the editing for best use of the available minutes.

It was his staff’s trust in us and our decades of experience that let them deliver the speech moments before he took the stage. He connected perfectly with the audience, and later that year, Barack Obama became our country’s 44th President.

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

Can you solve this teleprompting puzzle, Neil?

I was asked to bring in a teleprompter for a major brokerage firm in San Francisco. It was the 40th anniversary of their founding so they were making a big deal of the production, using RED cameras paired with gigantic, impressive lenses. On top of that, they requested the ability to prompt at 90º since their camera would be tilted on its side to enable vertical 9:16 when projected at their big meeting, months away.

The solution was to mount our large 19″ prompter freestanding on our C-stand, so that their camera could be angled however it needed to be on its OWN tripod. This way our teleprompter text is the correct orientation for the speaker.

If it wasn’t a locked off shot—perhaps a dolly or slider—there is a bracket that tilts the whole camera and teleprompter package on their side, together.

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

Linguist

I speak enough French and Spanish to edit and prompt comfortably in those languages, and can teleprompt others like Portuguese, German, and Italian at a professional level by simply listening in. I also do teleprompting for Mandarin, in Pinyin, which means the words are phonetically spelled with Roman characters.

However, today the client didn’t prepare for this. So, I loaded the Chinese characters into the teleprompter, and that part worked fine. (Thanks Apple!) But as you can imagine, I was faced with pages of these characters, not recognizing a single word.

It turns out, the trick to do teleprompting with Chinese characters was to focus intently and listen for punctuation, pauses and the beginning of sentences. (And I mean listen reeeeeal intently.) Surprisingly, it worked great!

With any non-English script, I always recommend a native speaker be there, in addition to the talent. This lets someone listen for the smoothness and any errors that the talent might not notice while presenting.

Update: months later, I ended up doing the same trick to do teleprompting in Arabic for a car commercial. Very fun!

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

Today was a reshoot with the football great, Steve Young.

We’ve worked together many times over the years, and he’s always professional, humorous, and a great read. He just wants to power through the script. Today was interesting in that I had to supply three teleprompters… one for the main camera, another for an off-camera walk, and a third portable teleprompter for the news crew covering the behind-the-scenes. This is where I get to really test myself, running cables for multiple signals, working with a variety of cameras and crews, and pushing it to the limit, while still doing a professional job. I love working at that level, and with such a great team of clients and crew. What made it challenging, and let this be a cautionary tale, was that the script was delivered as a pdf of the storyboards. Cutting and pasting took me almost an hour, with time spent with the script supervisor to make sure everything was correct.

Today was also a great example of why color is so important in choosing teleprompter software. We used words in magenta so that Steve knew to either wave his hand or tap the tablet in his hands. In other situations, I use colors when putting screen direction, or titles of the actors or scenes, so that the speaker knows not to read them aloud.

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