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Re: teleprompter

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Mark SuszkoRe: teleprompter
by on Jan 28, 2010 at 3:57:26 pm

Prompters hook up 2 ways, depending on the screen of the prompter head. The old stlye used a CRT (tv picture tube) and thus could take a plain old composite video input, and if your laptop did not have a composite video out, a $100 scan converter hooked to the VGA port would output a video signal the CRT could read.

CRT's also had an advantage in that the coils of the tube could be reversed by a technician so that you didn't need software to flip the video to the proper orientation. Why was this good? Composite video also meant you could run additional free taps to satellite repeater monitors around the set with plain coax and splitters, very handy for the operator to see the screen he's controlling, as well as for other people in the studio like the director to follow along.

CRT's perform better outdoors, IMO, as they can be brighter than LCD's. I'm biased as I still have and rent a CRT-based prompter; I have thought about converting it to LCD but haven't yet made a business case for it. If it never leaves a studio, it matters much less that it isn't as svelte as an LCD model.

LCD's took over because they are lighter and flatter and easier to power, but only the more expensive ones can also take in a composite video source, so generally they are confined by a short VGA cable, and there ARE no deflection coils to reverse, so, you can't do cute tricks like put incoming video on the prompter from another camera feed to the camera itself ( a handy trick for people doing satellite interviews so they can see the other guy eye to eye or, if there is no back-haul image, they can see themselves as in a mirror and control their expressions better on camera). And feeding the VGA to remote extra monitors is much more expense and hassle than a handful of barrel connectors, splitters, and coax.


If you're looking to buy one, get the largest one you can afford. Something only a foot across may look cute mounted to a small camcorder, but the problem with small screens is you can't read them from much more than arm's length. If you increase font size so you can see it farther, you can't fit as many letters per line of text, and this in turn means you have to scroll that text way faster to keep up at normal speaking speed. The eyes of the speaker will dance rapidly up and down trying to read and looking like they are lying or having a seizure.

Also, your eye and brain unconsciously begin to decode the lines just ahead of the one you're on, as soon as they can percieve it. That's one of the keys to speed-reading, btw. A too-small, fast-scrolling display robs the brain of that extra processing time, and this leads to slower ability to decode and perform the line by the conscious brain. Bottom line there is the reader doesn't sound as good, because reading has been made harder.

Use a sans-serif font for the text, and mixed-case; ALL-CAPS prompting is a throwback to the 1950's and system limitations of that time, and hurts readability by average people, because all-caps destroys the natural unique shape of words you've learned since childhood.

More than you wanted to know, probably. It's a gift, AND a curse of mine.


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