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Old January 29th, 2004, 01:08 PM   #1
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Prompter Set-up for Panel

I need some advice:

I am shooting 6 programs, each 30 minutes long, with 4 teenage actors.

The shot list calls for 2-shots, 3-shots, and wide shots of all 4 actors in a discussion format. The talent will sometimes be addressing each other, sometimes addressing the camera.

The locations will vary from: (interior) a normal size bedroom to (exterior) a school playground or park.

The script is massive; no way to memorize it for these kids.

Anyone done something like this with prompters that gets a good eyeline? Should I use stand-alone prompter monitors just off-camera? Is it possible to use large monitors behind the camera that all can see? Has anyone used wireless ear buds for this? What's the learning curve for them?

By the way, I'm shooting with a Canon XL-1. Any suggestions for prompter systems for it (and which tripod head) for simple talking head?

Help! Thanks.
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Old January 29th, 2004, 10:40 PM   #2
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John,

What you are trying to do, unfortunately, requires your talent to memorize lines. At least for a short period of time.

Unless the talent knows how to read prompters without moving their eyes, it will be apparent to the viewer. Placing prompter cards just off-camera is also bad as the talents eyes will roam the card and not stay focused on the other actors. The viewers will pick that up too.

What you can do is cheat with scripts by taping them to the walls, other actors, etc. As long as you cannot see their eyes move or look anywhere but where they should be.

Since you will be moving locations and probably camera setups, the amount of script that has to be remembered at any given time is doable. Because it is done by actors all the time. Even children.

Sorry but there is no easy method here. That's why we teach actors that their profession is hard, requires work and requires fairly bright people. If your chosen talent won't work, it will be all too apparent on screen.

If you are locking down the camera Hollywood style, then almost any solid tripod will do. If you need to move the camera (pan or tilt) you will need a real rigid tripod and fluid head if you are at all picky about how the motion appears on the screen.

Prompters are expensive. I paid around $2,000 for an inexpensive one using a NTSC monitor. Heavy too. LCD prompters are around $3,000 and up. And that normally does not include the prompter software.
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Old January 30th, 2004, 05:58 PM   #3
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We've shot a lot of kids' programs, usually between 20 and 30 minutes. You'd be surprised at how good the kids are at memorizing lines. You simply shoot in short takes. If there's a really long paragraph or something that a kid keeps screwing up on, break it up and go into a closeup for some of it. Or use a cutaway of the other kids.

You can use cue cards for when they're talking to each other, but you have to compose in unnatural profile shots, otherwise the eye contact will be way off. Should you end up doing that way (I wouldn't), you can rent multiple monitors for a teleprompter and run different heads, on stands, positioned as you would cue cards. Again, you can't do any nice over-the-shoulder shots because of eye contact, so most 2-shots would have to be profiles. Which sucks.

Generally it takes us 2 days to do a 30 minute show like that, for the studio set portion. Location stuff takes whatever it takes.

Anyway, they can learn the lines. Not the entire script at once, but in separate paragraphs. They can get familiar with it, rehearse, etc., and then when you shoot, they can do the lines a paragraph at a time. If there are big long segments where a kid has to speak into the camera, you could use a teleprompter for that part. You do not want to use one prompter off camera for everybody. The eye contact would be really, really bad. We never use a teleprompter for these kinds of shows, except if there is a on camera narrator. The kids always learn their lines. I've shot kids from as young as 10 years old through late teens, and almost 100 percent of them are as good or better at learning lines than adult actors. Assuming, of course, you're using kid actors (we usually recruit at the high school drama classes).
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Old January 31st, 2004, 05:36 AM   #4
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thanks

Thanks all for your replies. My experience is with adult actors; I underestimated what the kids could do I guess. I'll go with your suggestions of short bites and cutaways as needed. I just don't want to break it up too much.

If I can do each program in 2-3 days, I'm ahead of the game. Worst case, I'm thinking 4 days per program.

I think buying a teleprompter for the one-on-one close-ups will be cheaper than renting. Any suggestions that would work on a Bogen tripod with a 503 head? Maybe even one that I can operarate while the camera is locked down?
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Old January 31st, 2004, 10:13 AM   #5
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I use a teleprompter on an O'Connor 50 head, and the rental houses around here usually rent theirs out with an O'Connor 100 or equivalent. I'm not familar with that model Bogen, but you need a head capable of 40-50 pounds, I'd say. There are some teleprompter packages now that use flat screen monitors, which would take quite a bit of weight off. You can expect to spent probably $2000 or so, plus a computer, and it's best to use a laptop, or have lots of cable for a desktop so you can put it in another room because of fan noise.
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Old January 31st, 2004, 11:29 AM   #6
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AFter I made my price statement, I found a less expensive offer.

www.prompterpeople.com offers a 10" prompter for $799 including software.

I have no idea if their products are good or bad.

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Old January 31st, 2004, 12:39 PM   #7
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Wow--those are definitely attractive prices. It might be nice if they have demo software you can download and check out. We paid almost that much recently for just new software alone.
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Old January 31st, 2004, 01:02 PM   #8
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www.prompterpeople.com

The products at this site look perfect for my needs. Thanks for saving me some money...
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