Today there are more choices than ever for anyone looking to buy a teleprompter.
There are iPAD teleprompters, mid-size portable teleprompters and large studio prompters with trapezoidal glass, tally lights and talent monitors. There are even teleprompters now for robotic PTZ (pan tilt zoom) cameras. We sell all of the above at Prompter People and talk to a lot of people every week ranging from students to engineers and technicians at the networks. We even have prompters that are used by President Obama.
The “trick” is to buy the right prompter for you, your studio and your camera/lens.
(Ed note: For a visual guide on Choosing a Teleprompter, click here)
The first two things to determine are: what is the maximum range from talent to the teleprompter? And what camera and lens am I using with the teleprompter?
“Range” is the distance from the talent to the beamsplitter glass where the text appears. If a person has “normal” 20/20 vision you can use a small screen teleprompter, 7-10 inches, up to 12 feet away. This size would cover the iPAD prompters (9.7 inches) and our 8” and 10” monitors. For very close work, like 3-8 feet the 8” UltraLight 8 is ideal, and any of our iPAD teleprompters also work well. In prompting the text is usually anywhere form 48 points to 72 points so you get about 4-5 words on a line. Ideally the text is scrolling at a speed where the line being read is right in front of the lens and it looks like the talent is just talking to the viewer making perfect eye contact. If the viewer sees the talents eyes somewhere else, or going back and forth then the prompter isn’t being used properly. A large prompter, 15 inches or more, will only work up close if the margins on the script are brought in so the talents reading doesn’t travel far to the left or the right.
So, 12 feet or under, stay with the smaller prompters. Our teleprompters with 8” and 10” monitors are attached to either a Mac or PC. Our teleprompters come with a license that will activate on one Mac and one PC. We also have software on USB that allows Flip-Q to be run on additional computers. The small prompters also are lighter in weight than the bigger prompters. Our UltraLight 8 weighs about 6 lbs and our FLEX 11 weighs about 8, so you can use these with many different tripods. The UltraLight and FLEX iPAD teleprompters are also lightweight and have the additional advantage of not needing to be attached to a laptop and can be walked around and used handheld.
If you need more range the 15” teleprompters will give a range up to about 15-17 feet, the 17” teleprompters give a range up to 20-22 feet and the 19” will allow reading up to 25 feet. We are now introducing a larger 24” teleprompter that will allow reading up to 30 feet away.
As the prompters get larger the weight goes up as the glass and monitor gets bigger. Our 15” prompters start at 12 lbs, the 17” about 15 lbs and the 19 about 17 lbs. Prompter People sells heavy duty tripods at a reasonable price ($399) that will support up to 32 lbs. We also offer FreeStand models at 10, 15, 17 and 19 inch sizes. FreeStand teleprompters have their own stands so they put no load on your tripod. But, because the camera is not mounted on our hardware a FreeStand model only allows for limited panning and tilting. We do offer an option to upgrade from FreeStand to camera mount at a later date.
Once you have settled on what range you need you can then start comparing teleprompter features and seeing how the prompters being offered fit into your budget. Prompter People offers educational kits if you need more than one prompter and the kits include educational discounting.
Our UltraLight line covers our least expensive and smallest prompters and is designed for use with cameras up to about a foot long, like Vixias, HMC-150’s and other common cameras. The UltraLight line starts at $499 with the UL-OC OverCamera prompter. This is essentially our 8” monitor with an articulated (fancy-shmancy) mounting arm. The monitor rests right above your camera lens. This is a convenient and in-expensive solution; but not a true prompter because the talent is not looking directly into the lens. But, it will look pretty good in a pinch. Our UltraLight 8 inch prompter ($899) uses the same monitor but adds in the glass beamsplitter and hood that make this a “true” teleprompter so the camera is behind the glass and the talent is looking directly into the lens.
Just a little larger is the UltraLight iPAD telerpompter. Our secure bracket holds your iPAD 1 or 2 so it reflects into the beamsplitter. No attachment to a computer is required and the iPAD will run for up to 8 hours, this is great for field use. You can even control the scrolling speed with an iPHONE or iPOD Touch via Bluetooth. There are a variety of teleprompter apps on the Apple iTunes app store; the price range is $5 to $15 dollars, we recommend Teleprompt+.
For most school and other small studio systems most users will go with 2-4 of the Flex or Proline series being fed from a distribution amp. The computer running our Flip-Q software (or Easy News for full newsroom capability) feeds the DA a signal and the DA splits the signal out to the teleprompters so they are all in sync displaying the same text at the same position.
Our FLEX and Proline teleprompters will work with small cameras and larger cameras up to ENG shoulder mount cameras. Both FLEX and Proline teleprompters from Prompter People ship fully assembled and feature tool-less set up with no counter weights required. Tally-lights and talent monitors are available for full studio configuration. Some lenses with focus cables may require our Q-Gear teleprompters so we always appreciate it if you contact us and tell us what your cameras and lenses are before you buy your gear.
If the range you need is around 12 feet you can choose from the FLEX or Proline 11 teleprompters. Both of these share our 10.4” reversing monitor that features HDMI, VGI and composite input. The FLEX 11 comes with our Flip-Q Lite software which is easy to use, we have a demo online. The Proline 11 also comes with our Flip-Q Pro software which adds built-in text editing and color. Proline prompters ship with our Mac and PC software on a USB drive for portability and we can also provide a download installable version at no extra cost. If you buy several Flexes in a system we automatically upgrade you the Pro software. For users buying a single FLEX the upgrade is $100.
All Proline prompters feature a variable angle and height beamsplitter glass to read off of. This allows for quick minute adjustments for location work and with unusual lens and accessory combinations. The larger Prolines and FLEXs from 15-19” come with non-reversing monitors. We offer reversing monitors in these sizes and also high-bright monitors for outside use. FLEX teleprompters have VGA inputs, Proline teleprompters come with DVI-D, VGA, SVHS and composite video inputs. Some documentary shooters use the video inputs to put an interviewers face on the prompter. When questions are asked the person interviewed feels more comfortable responding to a face while they are actually looking right into the camera lens. This style of prompting is called “interretron” by film-maker Errol Morris who takes credit for coming up with this idea. This style can even be done remotely with video being fed from a network in LA or NYC.
If you are not using a camera with a teleprompter but need teleprompters for giving a speech you would be looking for Presidential style telepromtpers. Ours are called the Stage Pro’s and are available with standard or high-bright monitors for outside use. These are usually sold in pairs and we offer kits with 2 prompters, software, cables and distribution amp.
We are always available via phone at 408-866-9100, email or online chat to answer any other questions about prompters.