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Anyone here ever built their own Interrotron?

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Noam Osband
Anyone here ever built their own Interrotron?
on Feb 28, 2011 at 8:41:53 pm

Anyone here have experience trying to build an Interrotron? Is it possible to make a home-made one? I have no idea where to start on this, but I’d love to hear for someone who does. I have a Panasonic HMC-150 and wonder if I can rig it with a teleprompter and whatever else I might need.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Anyone here ever built their own Interrotron?
on Feb 28, 2011 at 9:34:48 pm

We can do that in our studio with a few patch cables. But it tends to freak out most people. It's not appropriate for every project.

Are you asking how to build one on the cheap, or how to build one using common video gear you would buy new?


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Noam Osband
Re: Anyone here ever built their own Interrotron?
on Feb 28, 2011 at 9:39:37 pm

Is the difference that big between the two? Ideally, on the cheap. I'm thinking ahead to a project I'll be starting in about 11 months where I'll be on the road for a while so portability would be something of an issue.

That said, you get what you pay for in life.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Anyone here ever built their own Interrotron?
on Feb 28, 2011 at 10:01:32 pm

If you're that lucky.:-)

In our shop, we already have two camera pedestals/tripods with CRT-type teleprompter heads on them. So for me, all it takes is to run a BNC video cable from the spare composite output on the side of one camera, to the teleprompter BNC composite input of the other camera's prompter, and vice-versa. If I had to keep both cameras in the same room, I'd point them back to back away from each other with perhaps a curtain to prevent the guest "peeking", but preferably I'd put them in two separate rooms, which in our shop is also trivial.


If you don't have teleprompter heads, there are numerous online how-tos on doing this cheaply. What you will wind up doing most likely, is to make a platform of some sort in front of each camera, and build the temporary prompter on that, then roll the tripod up to a locked-off shot looking thru the device. Frankly, you only need to build one of these: the one for the person being interviewed. The interrogator can just stare at himself in his camera's lens reflection, with a black curtain behind him. So that's half the cost I just saved you:-)

The simplest prompter would be a flat screen TV laid face-up on a card table or something, set at near lens height ( not too hard if they are sitting down). You need a cube-shaped box, this can be plywood or even cardboard, but so long as it is an actual cube, it will work. Spray paint the whole inside of it flat black. Let that dry. You need to lay the box upside-down with the lid opening on top of the TV flatscreen. Cut a small lens port on the center of the back side that's by the lens, cut a square hole out of the panel opposite the lens, facing the talent, with about a one-inch bezel all around the edge.

The reason you needed the box to be a cube is that from top front corner to rear bottom corner this makes a perfect 45 degree angle without measuring or fuss. You can lay the correct-sized piece of glass in there (the length of which is the hypotenuse of the right triangle from the cube's top and side dimensions, the width is the inner width of the box itself) and it should stay trapped and aligned by those corners without any other help.

Now, your "mirror" *can* be plain clear glass, and it will sorta work, but for it to work *better*, it needs to have a 50 to 70 percent transparent silver coating on the front side, to make it what's called a "first-surface beam-splitting mirror". This is the most expensive part of the deal, if you go buy a real one. I have had some qualified success by laying flat clear glass down in the garage and lightly fogging it from a height using silver Krylon held pretty high above the glass. While this improves the "gain" of the glass,to make a brighter ghost image, it also has a side effect of acting like a diffusion filter when the lens looks thru it. That may make females look better, but may look too gauzy or dreamy with a man in the hotseat. This is one of those trade-offs you mentioned.

You can try to coat the glass with silver mylar mirror window film designed for cars, but I have looked around all over my town and nobody has it 50 percent transparent, they usually have it much more opaque than I want, and black, not silver. Maybe you'll find a local thermal window maker that can help you with that mylar film part. Or you'll go with clear glass and just try to keep the rest of the room dim and the TV bright.

There you go, need anything else?


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Malcolm Matusky
Re: Anyone here ever built their own Interrotron?
on Mar 4, 2011 at 6:24:24 pm

Has anyone tried the inexpensive over the lens LCD monitors?

Malcolm
http://www.malcolmproductions.com


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Mark Suszko
Re: Anyone here ever built their own Interrotron?
on Mar 4, 2011 at 9:21:48 pm

You mean over or under or to the side of the lens? Won't work, IMO. Especially at close distances, you will SEE that the eye line is not perfectly on-axis. Because it IS off-axis from the lens. And this is the whole point of the prompter screen the lens shoots thru in the interrotron; perfect dead-on eye contact.

To make a screen next to the lens do the job, you have to reduce the parallax, the apparent angle difference, and the only method for that is to make the camera to subject distance really long. Now by doing that to cure the first problem, you introduce the next problem in that the image now seems to be closer to the ideal alignment, but is too far away for the subject to make good eye contact with what now looks like a five-inch or smaller face. They will be more tempted than ever to be distracted by the rig and the room at longer camera-to-subject distances.

Don't "Step over dollars, to pick up dimes". The cheapskate pays twice as much to get the results as the guy that gets the right tool the first time. If you're committed to this somewhat goofy method of interviewing, go big, or go home.


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Noam Osband
Re: Anyone here ever built their own Interrotron?
on Apr 1, 2011 at 10:21:09 pm

Mark,

can i talk to you on the phone about this if that's ok with you? I'm applying for a grant due April 15 for the additional equipment I need to an Interrotron. I can request up to 4k, so if I get it, I"d have the funds to do this right, but I feel discussing this thoroughly will go much quicker over phone.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Anyone here ever built their own Interrotron?
on Apr 1, 2011 at 11:07:00 pm

Sorry, third rule of Ron's Fight Club:-) Ask here if you need to, in the clear, but remember Google Sees All.

Frankly, I've told you everything I can think of, don't know what else there would be to tell.


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