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McGyver Prompter?

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Ty FordMcGyver Prompter?
by on Jun 21, 2010 at 11:00:19 pm

I have an old Mac G4 with AGP graphics and flat panel monitor.

Any thoughts on how to rig a through lens prompter mirror and glass for not much money?


Ty Ford

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Mark SuszkoRe: McGyver Prompter?
by on Jun 22, 2010 at 3:14:56 pm

You rang? :-)

Easiest way to do this would be to put the prompter on a separate stand or tripod, in front of the lens, and not try to adapt it to the same tripod plate as the camera is using. We did this for years with an old Atari game computer and a head that was just sat on an adjustable slide projector stand. Black cloth tube and velcro between the prompter head and the lens.

The simplest prompter is a cube-shaped cardboard box, with two open sides, and a lens hole opposite one of the open sides, with a pane of glass set in the diagonal corners to make it a true 45 degress. You can lay the box and mirror right on top of the display panel. Everything would be sitting on a folding card table or similar.

Google mac prompting software; you can try something like prompt puppy for free or ten dollars or so. I didn't think it ran very smooth, I wound up using another brand of software.

The glass can be clear glass if the inside of the box is flat black, but your brightness will be less unless you buy real 60/40 beam-splitting coated prompter mirrors. I have a source for those if you need it, however, other means you can apply locally include applying silvery mylar window film to the glass on one side (drops your exposuer 2 stops or so) or if you are adventureous, try a rattle can of silver Krylon and try to just barely fog the glass by sprayng a cloud of the paint far above the glass in your garage and letting some of the mist fall to the glass. Kind of how women spray a cloud of perfume and then walk into it, rather then point the sprayer at themselves. If you over-do it, you can scrape it off and try again.
The paint, I mean, not the perfume:-)

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Mark SuszkoRe: McGyver Prompter?
by on Jun 22, 2010 at 3:53:10 pm

Here's one we made at work: this was a surplus, slightly screen-burned 40-inch plasma TV. We built it with free labor and donated materials, so it costs us nothing. "Gentlemen: BEHOLD!!!"

Yes, that's not an illusion, the chair is right next to the prompter... It is BIG.

Some brilliant shop guys built the cabinet for us, based on a Google Sketch-Up file I made. They found some surplus legs from an old CAD designer's table that have electric jackscrews, so the entire unit can elevate electrically from sitting height to standing height at the flip of a switch. We call it "The Big Kahuna", and I designed it to be able to hold two cameras side-by-side behind the glass, so our trainers could look right at the audience while seeing their Powerpoint slides in a huge, easy-ro-read size. With non-actor presenters, a tool like this makes a WORLD of difference in the quality of their delivery. No squinting or looking away to an off-camera-axis monitor. We use it for powerpoints but it can also do regular scrolling text. At 40 inches diagonal, I can teleprompt Stevie Wonder with this bad boy.

The two cameras are on separate tripods, locked-down into a wide and a tight shot, so one director can live-switch the two cameras and powerpoint by himself, thus freeing up 1 or 2 camera ops for other work and more importantly, eliminating hours of editing time later. When budgets allow, I can add a support bar to the back of this cabinet, and mount a pair of smaller cameras right to it so it becomes one free-rolling stand-alone unit. But right now, I use it the way I suggested in the earlier post: a separate piece wheeled up to the cameras.

We can also use it for satellite links or Skypecasts, if the other end has backhaul image video of the interviewer to send us. The guy we uplink can thus make direct eye contact with the people on the other end of the link, and be able to read expressions or see what they are feeding, which is a relatively rare way of working.

That picture shows the Big Kahuna using plain uncoated window glass, about $20 worth. A real beamsplitting mirror for this size in thin glass is around $400. I plan to get around to trying the fogging silver paint trick some time, as the car mylar window films found locally here are too dark. A pro glass shop might be able to fix you up as well. I went with glass for this large design, because while plastic can work, at these sizes the weight of it tends to make it sag and bulge, distorting the image, unless you buy it thicker, and then you take a hit on weight and clarity.

We were very lucky on this project with the donated labor. The only thing out of pocket was the scan-converter at around $250, the plain glass I bought myself. I would hazard a guess that a retail version of such a beast, if you could find it, would cost upwards of maybe... four grand?

One of the things I love most about my work is making do with creativity and imagination, and making cheap things that work as well as expensive ones.

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Todd TerryRe: McGyver Prompter?
by on Jun 23, 2010 at 4:43:16 pm

Mark.... that's the funniest thing I've seen in days now. Much thanks.

Hats off to innovation.

Isn't there some wicked eye-shifting going on with a thing that big though?


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Mark SuszkoRe: McGyver Prompter?
by on Jun 23, 2010 at 5:49:13 pm

Surprisingly, no: because it's so big, you can sit it farther back in the studio, and so the eyelines converge quite well. Even better, when I eventually make it a pair of smaller DV camcorders with the lenses just 2 inches apart.

It's not "funny"; it's functional!

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