The times, they are a-changin’.
Smaller, lighter and on the go. It’s a revolution that’s been occurring all over the professional video industry, but nowhere more significantly than in the realm of camera support.
As cameras become more agile and less bulky, the teleprompting industry has been compelled to keep pace. The market has responded with solutions that acknowledge the shift, from demands for new functionality to the new requirements of properly load-balancing a prompter on today’s lighter cameras.
Add to that the newest customers in the market for teleprompting gear: documentary filmmakers, independent content creators and a host of first-time videographers who have a very specific set of requirements when it comes to teleprompting. It has to be mobile. It has to be light. And it has to be easy to use.
The industry has responded with solutions that address these issues and others, including forward-looking I/O connections, integrated units that combine prompter monitor and talent monitor in one, and technology that will literally work right out of the box—important whether you’re an independent filmmaker or working in a studio.
It’s not often that the terms “lightweight” and “tough” are conferred on the same device, but these two monikers accurately describe the newest ikan teleprompters, including the PT3500 and PT3700—two through-the-glass teleprompters built on a rod-based system that supports small- to mid-sized cameras. The 15-inch PT3500 and 17-inch PT3700 both feature 70/30 teleprompter glass (70 percent light transmission and 30 percent reflection) and an adjustable metal frame. Up next, ikan plans to release a larger rod-based version for heavier cameras before the end of the year.
Ikan also has systems that address the travel problem: how to streamline a bulky prompter so it can be slipped easily into a bag. The company recently released the PT-TAB, a frame system that holds a tablet between 7 and 10 inches in size, which can be outfitted with the company’s PrompterPro 3.0 software.
“Our goal was to make a lightweight and portable prompter that breaks down to a very small size,” says Dariel Resendez, product manager for ikan Corp., adding that the prompter has been popular with independent filmmakers and documentary shooters, who can transition the folded down prompter into custom-cut foam inserts that fit in standard hard-sided shipping cases.
Others are recognizing the need for tablet-run prompters, including Bodelin Technologies, whose ProPrompter HDi Pro2 Mobile accommodates iPad tablets. Features include a 16:9 ABS hood and mirror box, studio-quality beam-splitter glass and a standard 15mm rail mounting system.
“The quality of cameras has improved so much and the size of the cameras has decreased so much so that things can be much more portable,” says Clay Baker, general manager for Bodelin Technologies. “Even the biggest news agencies are gravitating to having several mobile teleprompting solutions out in the field.”
The company is addressing the entry-level market by creating low-cost—or sometimes outright free—solutions for the growing independent content creator market. Bodelin recently released the downloadable ProPrompter Studio App that includes the ability to wirelessly control up to three other prompting tablets. Keeping the entry-level market in mind, the company added a universal mount system for legacy tablets, including older iPad models that are no longer actively being sold.
“It’s such a spread out market,” Baker says. “There are a lot of people doing video content these days and doing it remotely. It’s all about access.”
Bodelin recently introduced ProPrompter Desktop, a prompting solution that uses a laptop, desktop computer or iPad as a prompting screen with a companion mirror.
Bodelin ProPrompter Desktop with iPad
Targeting the unmet needs of those lonely robotic cameras, Prompter People introduced the RoboPrompter. The system has a wide-format 24-inch beam-splitter that allows for maximum left-to-right movement, the company says. Noting the importance of looking straight into the audience’s eyes, the company also introduced a companion wide-format reversing monitor that allows for necessary eye contact.
“[It’s] ideal for PTZ cameras being used in studios, board rooms and conference rooms [because] the matching wide-format reversing monitor allows for perfect eye-to-eye contact … for the most convincing communication,” says Mel Lindstrom, director of visual assets for Prompter People.
Calling it the first prompter specifically designed for robotic cameras, Lindstrom says the RoboPrompter’s design completely encloses the robotic camera. The 22-inch 16:9 LED LCD has VGA, DVI and HDMI inputs, with optional SDI.
A new wireless prompting control system from Datavideo—the DVP-100—is designed to centrally control multiple prompter screens. The controller can create and load new scripts, control scrolling and perform live edits on a screen in real time. The DVP-100 uniquely acts as a server, according to the company, that creates a Wi-Fi hotspot to connect devices and begin prompting.
“Once connected, you can select if a device is to be a controller or a prompter screen, and you can have an unlimited number of controllers or prompter screens,” says Craig Moffat, managing director of Datavideo U.S.
The controller can also create and load new scripts, control scrolling and perform edits on multiple screens in real time, he says.
Prompter People RoboPrompter
Autoscript (Vitec Group)
Three primary problems were solved when Autoscript introduced its E.P.I.C. 19, a 19-inch teleprompter designed for large studios. The system combines a prompter monitor and talent monitor in a single integrated unit, which eliminates the need for additional components and a mounting assembly, according to Aaron Brady, business development manager of prompting for the Vitec Group, Autoscript’s parent company.
“It has all the information necessary for creating a seamless on-air broadcast for display on camera,” Brady says, pointing to the integrated monitor, talent feedback, picture-in-picture feature and integrated tally.
“It solves three problems,” he says. “From the talent’s perspective, it takes all of the info they need and puts it in one spot. From an engineer’s perspective, it takes all the different [items] you need to integrate and puts them into one chassis.”
It also solves a physical problem, he continues. As today’s cameras get smaller, the load that they can carry gets smaller as well. E.P.I.C. 19 is able to lower the teleprompter load by about 40 percent, Brady notes.
Autocue (Vitec Group)
Targeting a largely untapped market, Autocue offers an entry-level solution. The Autocue Starter Series is designed for independent content creators. “In the past, the full range of options [found on most teleprompters] was appropriate for the cameras of its day,” says the Vitec Group’s Brady. (Vitec produces the Autocue brand in addition to Autoscript.) “Over the last five years, cameras are smaller and the requirements are lower, including the load requirements, functionality and software.” The Starter Series solutions are designed for first-time prompter owners who are looking for out-of-the-box technology.
“For the lowest end of the market, you get an all-in-one option, which was the best decision that Autocue made,” he says. “It means we can provide customers technology that isn’t over-engineered.”
The Starter Series includes the on-camera unit, risers for any camera type, and a baseplate with mounting points that enables users to balance any load, regardless of camera size or weight.
Autocue Starter Series Lite 17-inch
Tapping into Ethernet power was Listec’s goal with its newest 15-inch Ethernet teleprompter. Users can power the system over Ethernet, as well as send all scripts in one Cat-5 or Cat-6 cable. Multiple teleprompters can run through one Ethernet switch.
“The real beauty of the Listec Ethernet Teleprompter lies in its simplification—no more multiple power and video cables. With just one Cat-5/Cat-6 cable, you can power up and send scripts,” says Rick Booth, vice president of marketing for Tiffen, the parent company of Listec.
Mirror Image Teleprompters
Recognizing the need for flexibility—whether it’s in the monitor itself or the technology running the show—Mirror Image Teleprompters recently introduced the LC-1500 prompters line, a series of 15- and 19-inch widescreen HDMI monitors.
“The majority of new laptops and computers have moved away from outputs such as VGA and composite video, and are focusing more on HDMI,” says Mike Burdick, sales manager for Mirror Image, which is why the company’s newest prompters include forward-looking I/Os.
Company engineers have also taken the size of the monitor into account. The LC-1500 models have adjustable camera mounts to fit smaller cameras, as well as mounts that are adjustable both vertically and horizontally, Burdick says.
For lower budgets, when the plan is to shoot one person in a controlled location or small studio, Mirror Image offers the IP-10 tablet prompter, a lightweight system that includes an adjustable camera mount and wide-angle mirror.
“The system can use your current tripod system for good, steady shooting,” Burdick says, and can be read from up to 15 feet away.
For studio and on-location use, CueScript offers the CSM15, a 15-inch prompter with a high-brightness LED screen. All prompters in the CSM series have an integrated mounting system and built-in LED cue lights with adjustable brightness levels and 180-degree viewing.