Free teleprompter software - use in your video studio
Here's how to set up a teleprompter station in your home video studio - using free software and a spare computer
If you have a person speaking on screen in your videos, the person (the 'talent') must either speak extemporaneously (usually from an outline), or memorize a script and be able to repeat it on cue.
The problem with allowing talent to speak extemporaneously is you often can't control what they say, how long it takes, or what direction they may take.
Unless the speaker is an expert on the topic, and is used to speaking on camera, the results can be bad.
When it comes to memorizing a script - most people can't do it.
The most common solution to the problem of controlling what the talent says on video, is to use a teleprompter.
A teleprompter is a device that enables the talent to read the script from a monitor placed in front of the camera lens - allowing the presenter to maintain eye contact with the viewers while delivering prepared comments.
The disadvantage of using a teleprompter is that until you get practise reading from a script while looking into the camera, you can come off as someone reading a script, or someone who is overly stiff on camera.
Setting up a teleprompter system
Putting together a teleprompter system for your studio can be fairly easy.
All you will need is a spare computer, a computer monitor, and teleprompter software.
You'll find several options for Teleprompter software - with prices ranging for free to well over $1,000.
One good software option is Visual Communicator from Serious Magic. (See my review at Serious Magic? A review of Visual Communicator video creation tool).
I've used Visual Communicator for many short video projects, and found the teleprompter easy to use, and easy to produce great results.
The complete Visual Communicator software package will run you just under $300.
A Free Solution
If you are on a tight budget and want to try out a free teleprompter package, there is Prompt! - a free full featured Teleprompter software package.
With Prompt!, you can import text scripts, set the font size of the prompter, the scroll speed, and the control method (keyboard or mouse).
It is easy to use, and a great tool to have.
To download the Prompt! teleprompter software, click the appropriate link below:
Prompt for Windows
Prompt for Mac
After you download, install the software on your computer, and give it a try. For details on how to use it, see http://www.movieclip.biz/prompt.html
Setting up the teleprompter
After you play with the software to see how it runs, the next thing you'll want to do is to set up a teleprompter screen in front of your camera. In a previous article (Outfitting the home video studio: a low cost portable studio monitor / camera cart), I showed how to place a cart in front of your camcorder to hold a viewing monitor.
Video cart with monitor placed under camera - in actual use the monitor would be placed much closer to bottom of camera lens
To use the teleprompter, replace the TV on the cart with either an external monitor connected to your computer, or a stand-alone laptop computer (I prefer this method as it is portable).
Arrange the monitor so that it is as close to the bottom of your camcorder lens as possible without blocking the lens. Do this so the presenter appears to be looking into the camera as the top line is read from the teleprompter. (The further away the camera is from the presenter, the better this will look.)
Then give the presenter a mouse so he or she can control the teleprompter, and test it to get the speed of the scroll to best match the presenter's style.
After everything has been tested, start recording.
To get best results from the teleprompter, do the following:
- Let the presenter read the script prior to it being added to the teleprompter. This will give the presenter the opportunity to 'smooth out' any problem areas, and replace words that may not go well together.
- Be sure that the video lights aren't placed to throw a glare on the screen, preventing the presenter from reading the script.
- Use as large a screen for the teleprompter as is available. This will make it easier to read.
- Write your script in short shooting segments (3-5 minutes). You can edit the segments together later on.
- If you want to get more elaborate, you can build a hood with a mirror reflector over the lens, and then reflect the screen from the laptop in front of the camera lens. This is the way professionals do it. But it involves a larger budget and some ingenuity.