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Old December 27th, 2009, 03:39 AM   #1
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Prempter recommendations?

Hi ,

I need to buy a prompter for a large job in January. Buy rather than rent as it'll be cheaper long term.

I've been looking around at various manufaturers of both the hardware and software but haven't found any independant reviews yet of any of the systems - PrompterPeople / AutoCue etc etc.

I think I'll need something like a 15" or 17" prompter - all of my work will be single presenter, head and shoulders or possibly full body length very occasionally - so maybe the smaller ones will suffice???

Any recommendations to both hardware and software?

Many thanks,

Paul.
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Old December 27th, 2009, 01:40 PM   #2
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When I have used a small 10" prompter I found that it limited you to a maximum distance from camera to talent of about 10ft, assuming the talent has good eyesight. Bigger prompters can have more text on the screen at a time which can be easier for those not used to prompters, however if you are close to the talent you can see their eyes scanning the lines of text, especially with the 17" screens. I've used the 10.4" prompterpeople unit and it's adequate for most small room shoots but you would want the 14" for bigger rooms.
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Old December 27th, 2009, 03:27 PM   #3
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Thanks Alister,

yes, a 14-16 inch would seem about right. Have you used or seen any of the recent main brand prompters?
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Old December 27th, 2009, 04:39 PM   #4
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Hi Paul, e-mail these folks: Teleprompting, Closed Captioning, & Public Speaking Tips at Dallas PS
I've rented from them several times.

They can help you fiqure out what you need.
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Old December 28th, 2009, 03:32 AM   #5
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Don't forget as well as the hardware you also need an operator. For that reason I still tend to bring in an operator with kit.
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Old December 30th, 2009, 10:38 AM   #6
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Yeah, I have used an operator a few times too - but was thinking of fixed camera jobs - can possibly do that myself?
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Old December 30th, 2009, 03:01 PM   #7
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Your best general purpose choice is an LCD based 17" unit.

Prompter People sell quality merchandise at decent prices. Yes, decent means expensive in this area, but prompters are more complicated than you think and quality counts.

You didn't mention what kind of camera you have. That's another reason I typically recommend the PP rigs, they come with enough aluminum risers to make the system work on anything from a betacam sized rig, down to a prosumer handycam and anything in-between.

I'd also recommend upgrading to the acrylic beam-splitter. Unless you're super careful, the glass ones break too easy.

Expect to pay between 2 and 3 grand and it's likely to last you 20 years and have very good resale value if you take care of it.


That's the hardware issue. The other issue is about operation. It's nuts to try and shoot and run a prompter at the same time. Sometimes I find myself having to do that and I NEVER feel good about it. If you're responsibility is the performance - watch the performance. Trying to do that while you keep a prompter at the right speed and pay attention to resetting cues and backtracking takes you COMPLETELY out of the production flow and makes you a promptor operator and nothing else.

Good luck.
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Old December 31st, 2009, 01:42 AM   #8
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As Aaron Neville said, "I don't know much", but I do do a hell of a lot of telepromptering around town. I don't own any gear (I use clients'), but from my limited experience telescript AV is the best software I've used, and I believe they also make rigs. CAn't recall the size monitors I usually use. . .maybe 17? From what I understand telescript stuff is crazy expensive.
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Old December 31st, 2009, 02:39 AM   #9
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I've used and owned prompters and they are really hard to resell. At least from my experience. If you've got money then it's not a big expense. Prompter People is good and has good pricing. Last time I needed one I used a 15" laptop with the freeware that's available here at DVinfo. To be honest, with the laptop sitting just below the lens on a C stand, provided it's a locked down shot, I could not tell the difference in terms of eye movement between the laptop and the $3,000 dollar on the lens system. In theory, you can pan with the pro style prompters, we always found it hard to deal with. Just an idea.

You can set the scroll to auto, but I think that'd make the talent's job impossible. A dedicated operator is preferred. And ANYONE can quickly learn to be prompter operator, it is not a skilled position. If you can read and operate a computer mouse, you're a prompter guy. Some people in LA, with no gear, and market themselves as "Pro operators" charge like $2,000 a day. Dream on.
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Old December 31st, 2009, 02:41 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Davis View Post
It's nuts to try and shoot and run a prompter at the same time. Sometimes I find myself having to do that and I NEVER feel good about it.
You deserve a Purple Heart for attempting that.
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Old December 31st, 2009, 03:17 AM   #11
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Not to defend my lowly position, but it takes a little more than that. As a freelance operator you have to be able to quickly make script changes, troubleshoot gear (also get familiar with any number of different software and hardware rigs), sometimes do goofy stuff like follow along with song lyrics in foreign languages (yes I have teleprompted concerts). Live gigs with a presidential rig are a whole other world of craziness. It's not like being an AC or a DP, but it's not quite that easy as people seem to think. Just like any production position, it comes with its own set of stresses. And if people are charging 2K and getting it, I need to raise my rates.
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Old December 31st, 2009, 04:23 AM   #12
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Sorry if I was offensive. Doing a big budgeted or live show is one thing. The guy operating the prompter during the State of the Union Address needs to be a pro. Just like the drivers that the studios hire, anyone can drive a car, but if you're spending a million dollars a day on a shoot, it's smart to get a professional driver who'll show up, sober, at 5AM or whatever. But if you've got a $4,000 a day budget, it wouldn't be smart to spend half of it on the prompter operator. I once filmed a commercial in Spanish and, embarrassing to admit, we hired a day laborer from the Home Depot parking lot to operate the prompter. We didn't tell him what the job was until we got there. The poor guy was terrified walking onto the set, then we found out he couldn't read so we just had him slowly turn the mouse wheel and the talent would direct him and say "Mas rapido" or whatever. He actually did pretty good -- beats the heck out of breaking up a concrete driveway with a sledgehammer.
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Old December 31st, 2009, 04:32 AM   #13
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Interesting. Are you serious about the 2K thing? Maybe it's a Houston thing, but operators here get WAY less. Like way less. Like PA wages (albeit high PA wages, and we get overtime), because, though not the easiest thing in the the world, it's not brain surgery. Seriously, nobody without gear charges anywhere near 2K to do this do they? I'd be astounded if you could get away with charging even a quarter of that. 2K is like stedicam rates. I think you're funning me. You funner.
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Old December 31st, 2009, 04:35 AM   #14
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Thanks for the advice - really good info.

I think I will still buy kit myself - as it gives so much more flexibility.

One of the biggest benefits I can see in much of the work we do is to be able to show PowerPoint presentations on the prompter and have the non-professional talent present to camera using that and controlling it themselves - we very often film corporate "professionals" who are used to presenting in their own words or who are loosely scripted just by referring to their slides.

I have used various screens above or below the lens over the years and it has worked very well.

One associated question - in your experiences, how difficult is it generally to train the talent themselves to control a prompter - obviously a PowerPoint show is easy enough but how about the actual prompter software itself - does it take much getting used to for a non-experienced presenter? Of course, I realise this will vary enormously but your experiences will be interesting.

I'm going to be using it with a new Sony PMW-350 and possibly an EX3 on occasions.

Many thanks,

Paul.
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Old December 31st, 2009, 05:25 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Bass View Post
Interesting. Are you serious about the 2K thing? .
It's been a while, I might be wrong, that was the number I recall, I believe I only called 2 or 3 operators so may not have had a good sampling. 2k does seem too high so don't quote me. I believe two were in LA and one the SF area. Another thing that bugged me is that one of them had this crazy rate and also had these other unrelated businesses, like pedicures and graphic arts or something, things that had nothing to do with production.
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