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Focus on Video Production Autocue and Teleprompters The Pros and Cons of using a Operator

Should you be using a Teleprompter Operator on Your Video Production

Teleprompters have been around for many years and the basic principle hasn't changed, Yes technology has moved on with brighter, lighter and even wireless battery powered teleprompters and autocue's but the concept of a teleprompter is very simple and hasn't changed since the first over the lens prompter was used in 1953 to cut the filming time of a script heavy soap for CBS called The First Hundred Years the producers commented that the use of a prompter had reduced the filming times down by over 60%

So from the very outset of the introduction of Teleprompters it was clear to see that using a skilled teleprompter operator technician would reduce filming time and production costs in many cases making the difference between seeing a profit or loosing money on a video production.

Helping to remind talent of their scripts and ensuring scripts are followed is simplified and allowing for on the fly script changes keeps everything on schedule along with providing a copy of the edited scripts that have been recorded which will also save time in other production costs down the road.

Whilst the time saving and cost reducing benefits of using a Teleprompter or Autocue are clear the area that many video productions fall short on is in the use of unskilled operators or inadequate unsuitable teleprompting equipment such s an iPad which we cover below in great detail but I'd like to add from personal experience using the wrong type of prompting system or unskilled operators won't only frustrate the presenter or talent the production crew and the client it can end up consuming more production and filming hours to get things done.

With an over the lens solution your script is displayed on a monitor hung under a sheet of reflective glass that's then mounted in front of the lens at a 45 degree angle which reverses and displays the reflected script allowing the person being filmed to read the script on the teleprompter and look directly down the lens barrel.

Types of Teleprompters available

Over the Lens Video Camera Prompters

With an over the lens solution your script is displayed on a monitor hung under a sheet of reflective glass that's then mounted in front of the lens at a 45 degree angle which reverses and displays the reflected script allowing the person being filmed to read the script on the teleprompter and look directly down the lens barrel.

There are two main ways to set up over the lens Teleprompters and Autocues

Option 1 is to mount the video camera and lens onto the prompters sled and then mount the teleprompter to your tripod. This option is the most complicated set up as it means that the Video Camera setup and Teleprompter setup become one and the configuration can take time and switching the set up from filming with a teleprompter and without a teleprompter will take your teleprompter operator time to configure however this is the only real solution if the shots are to include panning and tilting scenes, consider if you will only be filming locked of scenes that require prompting if so then option 2 below is favoured

Option 2 is to leave the video camera set up as is and then mount the teleprompter onto its own tripod in-front of the video camera and mount the hood over the video camera lens.

Once the camera is set you simply move the teleprompter on its own tripod into position in front of the camera and again when prompting is not required you simply move it one side simply and quickly as above the only real negative to the standalone solution is that you cannot perform panning and tilting shots with the prompter in place.

They key areas that you should be aware of when using over the lens teleprompters to record down the barrel scripts

Flare this can be caused by light reflecting across the teleprompter glass or by light entering the back of the teleprompter.

Its very important that once you have the teleprompter in place you check and double check your image for any flares if you notice any flares then you will need to investigate two areas

Firstly ensure that the hood is correctly attached and that no light can enter the prompters screen area from behind checking that you have a nice tight fit around the lens you are using if for any reason you can't close the hood fully around the lens if access is needed to focus rings etc then you can always use some black out cloth to drape across the lens and prompter hood.

Secondly if this hasn't cured the problem then check that light from above or surrounding areas is not bouncing of the monitor up to the reflective glass on the teleprompter by moving your hand around the area you will quickly see the culprit and can rectify the issues by blocking the guilty light source with a flag or teleprompter hood drape (or even turn it off if possible), a skilled operator will know exactly what to look out for so there will be no nasty surprises once you come to post production

Size is critical when it comes to this type of teleprompter and there are two considerations that will need to be weighed up those being the size of the teleprompter being used by the operator needs to be able to fit the video camera rig you are using and the screen size needs to be optimal to ensure that the talent can actually see what's on the prompter comfortably (do they need glasses to read but don't want to wear glasses on camera) and that the text is not so big that the talent look like they are reading across and up and down

My view is that the most important factor of the two is that the subject or subjects being filmed can read the script whilst keeping their eyeline in one place down the lens and the second consideration is the size of the prompter.

If your using a small DSLR or something like a small BlackMagic video camera and the subject will only be up 7 foot from the lens then you can work with any screen size from a 7" teleprompter up to the largest size available on a larger screen prompter all you would need to do is increase the margins so the text area only covers the centre the lens to keep the talent eyes looking directly at the camera and not reading left to right.

If your using a bigger set up like an Arri and large lens then you would be best to consider a 17 or 19 inch prompter to give you the flexibility of fitting the lens and any accessories into the prompter hood and this will give you the flexibility of filming a tight angle or going wider shots up to a greater distance from the subject.

A skilled operator would choose from the options they carry the correct size teleprompter or autocue to get the optimal results considering both the camera size and distance to the subject being filmed.

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