Teleprompting outside at Slide Ranch for Disney's Pass the Plate

Teleprompting outside can be fun and challenging.

You’re at the mercy of the weather and geography, and often time hours from any support. Today we shot at Slide Ranch just North of the Golden Gate Bridge for two days, to support a cool Disney endeavor, “Pass the Plate.” Two awesome, professional child actors read from our outdoor teleprompter to share tips on organic, locally grown veggies, honey, and gluten free pizza crust while farmhands tended the bees and local kids milked the goats. To do this properly, we needed to be mobile and have an outdoor teleprompter that was 6 times as bright as standard units. These are expensive and rare in the teleprompter industry but we’ve found it useful to own several. If you’re teleprompting outside without a special highbright (aka daybright) monitor, it’s impossible to read.

Be prepared when using an outdoor teleprompter

Today was an example of why it’s always worth it to have a spare and a backup plan. We had one awesome day of using my 20″ outdoor teleprompter for the kids to read in direct sun. On day two, the backlight bulb on the monitor failed. You can tell, because the LCD text is still faintly visible but without the bulb, it’s unusable. This is rare: in my 20 years of teleprompting, it’s only happened once before. Thanks to the first experience, we were prepared.

I alerted the Assistant Director to the situation, and headed to my car for our smaller backup teleprompter. After 15 minutes, including my running up and down a gravel trail, we rigged the replacement to the lens, balanced the camera, and were back in business.

Outdoor teleprompter for Disney
So that’s the spare part of our system. The back-up plan was to have an assistant bring in another of our large daybright monitors while I continued to prompt. We swapped out the rigs while the camera shot some handheld B-roll, so no time was wasted.

I hope this never happens to you, but again, this is why we invest in spares and have backup plans on top of that. And it wasn’t just one situation where a backup was needed. We were assured power on site, but when we needed to do a company move to the base of the cliffs and film on the beach, I’m glad I brought our battery pack!

I think you get the overall lesson from this post 🙂

After the technical details were addressed, it was a fun shoot, with hugs all around as we departed the beautiful farm on the sea cliffs.

Many thanks to the Producer, AD, camera operator, AC, PA, and to Slide Ranch for hosting us on that shoot.

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.


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.