The Infallible Guide to Working a Teleprompter

Teleprompter_in_use“How many guys does it take to work a teleprompter?” We were all thinking that yesterday as Nathan wrangled a few miscellaneous screws from the workroom while Michael and Jeff tossed several “what the hell are these” pieces into an ever-growing pile. At one point, as a gag, one of the guys flipped on Flight of the Bumblebee as we ran around like headless chickens, searching for a solution. But after about an hour of finding pieces to substitute missing ones and consulting several online how-to groups, we put back together a fully working teleprompter. Despite high tensions, no cameras, cameramen, or feelings were injured in the process.

Usually putting up a teleprompter should not be quite this difficult but it’s been awhile since ours had been needed. Although almost new, it’s rarely used. But if you’re working in a newsroom, film, or television, chances are you’re going to have to set one up eventually, and it never hurts to have a jumpstart on how to do it. So here are a few helpful pointers to expedite your teleprompter knowledge.

The glue that brings this entire piece of equipment together is an unbalanced metal H consisting of two metal bars held together by a few smaller metal connectors. One metal bar in the pair is protruding further to the right, the other metal bar protruding to the left, thus the unbalanced H. When attaching your H to the tripod or jib arm, make sure that the lower metal lever extends out towards what you’re shooting while the upper metal lever extends back.

Next you will want to take your reflector screen and hood to the front end of the upper metal bar by sliding it on, and connecting it to the bar with fitting screws. The camera goes on the backend of the upper metal bar where it is screwed in for stability. Secure the camera by locking it on the upper bar, and then cover the camera’s lens with the hood so the camera is looking through the reflector glass. This will create a shadowbox to view the teleprompter message.

Finally, attach a computer monitor to the base of the front lower metal bar. Hook up the monitor to a power source and a working computer to feed it an image. The image on the monitor will reflect against the glass box screen. And voila! You Now, unfortunately this image will be in mirror image, and unless you’re proficient in reading backwards, you’re going to need to download teleprompter software that allows you to write out your script backwards; the reflection will read the mirror image backwards, making it legible. Think of it as a mirror within a mirror (aka “Mirrorception”).

If any of this seems a bit elaborate and difficult, there may actually be a solid solution. The iPad has developed a teleprompter app that costs a meager fifteen dollars and fits well with most equipment. And while you may still need a reflective mirror and a lock, compared to the five hundred dollars you would spend on a full teleprompter set, iPad new creation may be just what you’re looking for.

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