A teleprompter , often known as an autocue or a prompter Autocue is a tool that allows a speaker to read a script and maintain an eye contact with his audience. Since the presenter does not have to turn his or her back to read notes on paper the speaker appears as if they have taken notes of the message, or to be speaking naturally.
Teleprompters were traditionally employed in two different situations: by presenters on television who need to direct their eyes directly at the camera while reading the script or by politicians, presidents and public speakers who wish to keep a the natural gaze contact with audiences, rather than glancing down on their notebooks. In recent years the use of teleprompters has grown to include any scripted production including powerpoint presentations, video bloggers and even performers on stage to make sure they retain their lines.
The fundamental mechanics of a teleprompter hasn’t changed since they were first developed by a patent and later licensed by two businessmen in the early 1950s: Autocue and QTV in the UK and QTV in the US which is often called the first Prompter People. The principle behind it is the fact that text displayed on a display that is positioned under a piece of reflective glass, or beamsplitter. The glass is translucent to one aspect, which allows the camera to be able to shoot straight through the back of it or appear to be invisible to the audience. It is reflective on the opposite side, to let the person reading the script observe the reflection of text. The image has to be reversed in the display to ensure that, when it’s reflected back by the glass that it’s to be the correct way for viewers to see.
Before the advent of computers, scripts were handwritten or typed on sheets of paper. This paper would then be moved by a teleprompter user under an extremely small CCTV type camera, which sent the screen to the teleprompter’s monitor. The teleprompter monitors as TV monitors of the days before, were massive and heavy.
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Nowadays, the script is electronically entered the computer that runs specific teleprompter software like Autocue’s QMaster/QBox QPro or QStart software. The computer generates the video output of the script and transmits it over the composite format, SDI and VGA to the monitor for the teleprompter. For more advanced devices, the PC transmits the script via IP to a different scrolling device known as the QBox that generates the video output for the display. This means that you are able to transmit and control the script from a computer located in New York, over the internet or to a teleprompter found in Tokyo!
In the direction and speed, the script are or is operated by an operator or the presenter. The operator listens carefully to the presenter so that they speak exactly the same pace as the presenter speaks and not force on the person speaking to follow a specific speed. Or, the presenter could scroll on their own using the use of a hand-held remote or foot pedal.
The majority of teleprompters in TV studios will display the same script. All presenters will see the same script on every camera. However, there’s now the ability for each presenter to manage their own teleprompter and scroll forward to a different section of the script, while another presenter is on air.
In recent times, due to the advent of the iPad and other tablets, iPad teleprompters have become highly popular as low-cost portable prompters. The script is downloaded or typed in to a teleprompting program on the iPad such as iAutocue and the iPad is then placed on top of the teleprompter glass lieu of the display. Since the script already appears displayed on the teleprompter screen it is not necessary to purchase a separate computer or laptop with the teleprompting program, which is inside the iPad itself. If you are shooting on location or with a simple piece of camera, this drastically minimizes the size and complexity of the equipment. This makes it very accessible and affordable for students and video bloggers.