For many years I have observed professional public speakers using things in front of them when they speak. They look a bit like a transparent piece of cardboard on a stand. Sometimes they have two – one on each side of the podium. What they are, it seems, is mirrors – working to show the speaker their notes. They are called a “teleprompter.” The idea is they have a screen down below the podium where you can’t see it with their script on it and a semi transparent mirror on a stand the speaker can look at and see the screen while apparently still looking you in the eye if you happen to be sitting behind the mirror.
Television studios have used these things for years. In that case they mount the semi transparent mirror in front of the lens and have the screen mounted just below the camera lens. That way the camera looks right through the mirror and the person speaking can look you straight in the eye (lens) and still read their notes. You might notice sometimes when the speakers eyes move from side to side as they read the script but good ones scroll the words past the camera lens so they don’t have to move their eyes. The screen is set to scroll the text vertically or horizontally at the same rate they are reading the script.
Since I have made some videos for our retiredblokes YouTube channel, I know about the difficulty of remembering the script – especially if it is reasonably long and you are old! So in the past, I put my camera as far back as it would go yet still allow me to read my iPad. Then I mounted the iPad just below the camera lens. My idea was that because I was 10 – 15m from the camera, the distance between the camera lens and the iPad would appear small enough so I could read the script but appear to be looking at the lens. It sort of worked but it was actually still obvious to me at least, that I wasn’t looking at the lens.
So recently I found a teleprompter on Amazon. They range from under $100 to over $400 or more. So I purchased the cheapest one I could find. It arrived much quicker than they promised. It was smaller than I imagined it would be but after unpacking it, I realised it was the right size for my iPad.
It is made of plastic and consists of two matching side frames, one “mirror”, two mounting sheets of plastic (one for the iPad and one for the camera), and a black cover to keep the light out of the camera side of the mirror. The mirror is just a piece of transparent plastic with no mirror film on either side. I works because the camera side is darkened by the black cover but it would offer better reflection if one surface was mirrored. So I’m looking at buying a piece of mirror tint film from my local window tinting place as soon as I’m allowed outside again! Just a word of caution, window tint is usually made to reduce the light transmission as well as reflect the light on one side. You need a piece with minimum reduction in the light transmission. As far as I can tell that’s 50% which in photography terms is one F stop. My video camera can handle that but will probably require more light on the subject than otherwise.
Whilst the whole thing is a bit flimsy, the black camera mounting sheet of plastic feels particularly flimsy because it holds the camera and the weight of the rest of the teleprompter and iPad and usually will be mounted on the tripod. So it could do with some strengthening. My plan is to replace it with a metal one in due course. That shouldn’t be too difficult as it is simply a flat sheet with a series of mounting holes down the centre for various tripod mounts and another mounting hole off to one side for the iPhone holder (supplied). My first experiment with the iPhone mount made it look as if I was looking over the shoulder of anybody watching because I put the iPhone mount on the wrong side and the camera lens was therefore down the bottom of the mirror rather than in the centre.
I also needed to purchase an app for the iPad. Teleprompter apps are easy enough to find and you can get them for free. However, if you want to have the ability to reverse the image so you can read it in a mirror, then you will most likely have to pay for the Pro version of the app. One app I purchased also listens to the spoken words and adjusts the scrolling speed to match the words you are speaking. For it to work reliably it has limitations on the distance between the speaker and the iPad (of about 3m) and it seems to skip a bit occasionally but you can go off script and it seems to hand that well. It is a nice idea but I think it needs a bit more work!
So, can you look forward to seeing more professional videos on our YouTube cannel? Well maybe if I can think of some good ideas to share with you. I don’t want to waste the time of people watching our videos so I need some really good ideas. If you have any ideas for this website or any videos then click on the contact button above and let us know.