Teleprompters are essential for US-presidents, longer speeches and persons who are too lazy to learn a text by heart. Unfortunately they are also relatively expensive to buy (eg. Prompterpeople) and also to rent (€150 per day in Vienna). For a no-budget-shoot both alternatives are out of question. So: DIY!
The basic setup of a teleprompter is quite simple: a reflecting surface (eg. a semi-transparent mirror) is placed on top of a horizontal display (ideally at an angle of 45°). The text (that is displayed on the screen) is reflected by the surface and can be read by the person in front of it. The camera is on the other side and is filming “through” the reflecting surface, so that the person is always looking into the camera while reading and (nearly) no eye-movement is visible. There are also teleprompters where the display is placed directly under or besides the camera, but if the person is quite near to the camera you will notice that he or she is not looking into the camera.
I had an old 23″ Samsung monitor (an iPad would also work, there are a lot of teleprompter-apps (link in German)) and mounted it onto a snare stand (a drummer always has one of those stands lying around somewhere). A plate (made of acrylic glass) is put on top of the monitor and fixed with some wooden bars and an L-section at an angle of 45° (circa). The camera is placed behind the plate.
The space between the camera and the acrylic glass plate should be as dark as possible (otherwise the projection will not work). Therefore the whole construction is covered with plain black light-tight fabric. To keep the fabric from getting in front of the camera, I added two braces.
The fabric should be attached in a way that no light can enter from the the back (also from the sides).
Costs (ca. €30 in total):
- Monitor, stand, camera: already existing
- Plain black light-tight fabric, ca. 1m x 1,20m (purchased at Komolka in Vienna): €12,20
- Acrylic glass plate, 42cm x 30cm (purchased at Bauhaus, Vienna): €3,23
- Wooden braces, ca. 1m (Bauhaus): €0,65
- Wooden L-section, ca. 1m (Bauhaus): €4,70
- Gaffa-tape (purchased at a paper store, would have been much cheaper elsewhere): €10,90
There are various teleprompter apps to display the text. It is important that it can be displayed mirror-inverted (otherwise it will not be readable on the acrylic glass plate). The best app is FlipQ (though a bit expensive). My chosen alternativ was AquaPrompt (also not free, but comes with a 10-day-trial).
This is how the projected text looks like (it’s German and means “dChris.net is a really cool blog”):
Potential for optimization:
- Use “good” gaffa-tape. The cheap one (by Tesa) leaves marks (eg. the white stains on the monitor).
- Use a semi-transparent mirror (also called one-way glass) instead of acrylic glass. If there is much light in the room where the prompter is used, the legibility of the text decreases. Ideal would be a mirror where the front surface is the reflecting one – this would eliminate double images (= when the front and the back surface of a plate reflect light). Although the 2mm thick acrylic glass plate hardly has this effect.
- The fabric is light-tight, but a bit glossy. A more matte fabric would “absorb” more light and increase the legibility of the projected text.