Pro Prompter Wing – Carry Your Teleprompter With You
by Alan Naumann
One of the issues we as videographers often struggle with is how to effectively have our clients give a “talking head” presentation – especially if we don’t have B-Roll or graphics to cover their mistakes. Sometimes we are fortunate to have a client who is articulate and comfortable in front of a camera, and can give their presentation in a concise and clear way. But, unfortunately, they are the exception. It is not uncommon for a person to “freeze” and get the “deer in the headlight look” when put in front of a camera. There are many ways to help our clients get through this momentary brain freeze – but most of them are inadequate and don’t do the job. The only real solution is the use of a teleprompter.
Several years ago I invested in an Amiga based teleprompter – an investment that helped me make my clients look and sound good on many video shoots. It paid for itself many times over as I would add this to the cost of my video services. Unfortunately, as the Amiga computer sailed into the sunset, so did the usefulness of my cumbersome teleprompter, and I found myself in the market to get a new, lightweight replacement model. In pricing the models on the market I discovered that I could spend anywhere from $600 to $6000 to get a good teleprompter. I finally settled on a new model, and I couldn’t be happier with its functionality and price. I was also surprised to discover that I actually owned the hardware and only had to purchase the software to make it functional. I ended up paying $9.95 for the software and $129.00 for a bracket to mount it on my tripod, and am thrilled with the results. I share this because many of you already own a teleprompter and don’t know it. It’s called the iPhone.
I purchased my first iPhone in December 2007 as a result of Marc Smiler’s review in EventDV magazine. Showing my wife a copy of the review even made it a lot easier to convince her that I needed this new technology. I am now on my second iPhone (3Gs), and my wife is pleased that this is one purchase that I actually use; however, I do think she is getting tired of me telling her of the many things my iPhone can do. But even she was impressed when I showed her how it functions as a teleprompter.
The company that makes this possible is Bodelin Technologies, an innovative company in Lake Oswego, Oregon. If you contact them you may even be lucky enough to talk to a Michelle Ryther, a delightful young lady from Iowa. After she patiently answered all of my questions, I took the plunge and purchased what I needed, and couldn’t be happier.
To make your iPhone into a teleprompter requires two ingredients: the software and the hardware. The ProPrompter software can be downloaded at the App Store for $9.99. It is very intuitive and easy to use. You can type your script directly into the software program, or do as I recently did with a large project, and email the script to the iPhone and do a copy and paste. There are many settings to choose from – from font size and color to the speed of the scroll. The hardware needed is the ProPrompter Wing – a simple device that allows you to mount your iPhone next to the camera lens. You can either use it with a tripod or use it hand-held.
The principle to make the ProPrompter effective is that the iPhone needs to be on the same level as the lens of the camera. Many of us in the past have tried poster board with the script written on it. But it was always obvious that the on-air talent was reading – usually looking down or off to the side. After experimenting with our new teleprompter, we found that by being about 10′ away from the iPhone was an ideal distance. We could still read the script clearly (using a font size of 60), and it appeared that we were looking right at the camera. We also made sure that we only looked at the iPhone, even when there was no script being scrolled, because we didn’t want the shifting of our eyes to give away our secret.
The ProPrompter Wing is small enough so that it now has become a permanent part of my camera bag. Recently I did a project for the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota. My job was to interview the finalists for the Annual Integrity Awards competition. Most of the finalists did fine – but there also those who really struggled on camera. One company actually had their answers written out on poster boards because they were so nervous and afraid they would forget what they wanted to communicate. The iPhone with the ProPrompter software and ProPrompter Wing would have been the perfect solution.
By the way, I just heard that Zacuto has now made a special grip for the iPhone so you can use it’s videotaping capabilities more effectively. Who knows – maybe I will eventually leave my video camera at home and only use my iPhone. But, if I also needed to use a teleprompter, that would mean I would need two iPhones. I think it is time to give my wife flowers and tell her about this new opportunity.
(The ProPrompter hardware and software is also now available for the iPad – Kim)
Alan Naumann, owner of Memory Vision, has been producing videos since 1988. He is best known for his work with funeral videography and video biographies (has courses on both topics for videographers), and writes a column for EventDV magazine, “Cradle to the Grave.”
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