There was a time, not so very long ago, when high-resolution video cameras, non-linear editing suites and the ability to reach millions of potential viewers were exclusively the domain of TV stations. All that has changed in the past decade or so. What many New Media on-camera personalities still lack, however, is the smooth, polished delivery of professional TV hosts. Is that because the Big Boys and Girls have journalism degrees and years of experience? Perhaps partly, but it’s also because they have a teleprompter feeding them their lines. Now, you can have yours fed to you too, by getting a Prompt-it - a gizmo that turns your iPhone into a teleprompter-on-a-budget. Take that, Oprah Winfrey!
The professional teleprompter (or “TelePrompTer”, to use the actual trademarked name) is quite a clever yet simple invention. The host’s script is electronically scrolled up a video screen, with the text displayed backwards. That screen lies on its back, pointing up at the ceiling, but a slanted piece of one-way glass mounted above it catches its reflection, and displays the text the right way around to the host. The camera sits on the other side of that glass, actually shooting through the reflection of the script. The result is a host who can unerringly read their script off a video screen, while simultaneously looking directly into the lens of the camera. The speed at which the text scrolls can be continuously controlled, so the host doesn’t get ahead or fall behind.
The Prompt-it works exactly the same way. The user’s iPhone displays the text, while lying on a horizontal base. A piece of beamsplitter glass reflects its display, and the user’s video camera shoots through the back of that glass. The whole thing is mounted on a tripod, so its height and angle can be adjusted as needed. Like a big league teleprompter, it comes with a black fabric cover, to keep ambient light from getting in around the top or sides and causing unwanted reflections. As an added bonus, that cover doubles as a protective carrying case for the system.
While the package includes almost everything you need, it does not include the software necessary for displaying scripts. The company recommends the ProPrompter app for that task. ProPrompter is made by Bodelin, a company that makes budget teleprompters of its own. While users are able to control scrolling speed using this system, they will require an iPod Touch or another iPhone in order to do so.
The Prompt-it is available for US$127 through the company’s website. ProPrompter will set you back an additional $10.