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Camera and teleprompter positioning

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Oliver de MorasséCamera and teleprompter positioning
by on Mar 7, 2012 at 2:21:33 pm

We are shooting full body spokespersons against a green screen for e-learning videos. I have received contraditory advice, and would appreciate what you think:

1. Approximately how high should our tripod be? Should we set the video camera at waist, chest or face height?

2. Should the teleprompter be above or below the video camera?

Thanks for your advise / tips.

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Bill DavisRe: Camera and teleprompter positioning
by on Mar 7, 2012 at 3:04:07 pm


Chest height is typical. It provides a slightly up angle which puts the presenter in a moderately "superior" position relative to the viewer.

Neither. Teleprompting creates the illusion that the presenter is talking directly to the viewer. To maintain that illusion, typical practice is to use a beam splitter mirror so that the text is projected from directly in front of the lens and the talents eye line is natural. If you offset the prompter screen, it may appear that the talent talking past the audience -especially in close ups.

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Connor

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Oliver de MorasséRe: Camera and teleprompter positioning
by on Mar 7, 2012 at 3:33:16 pm

Thanks Bill for your quick response. Done a little research regarding beam splitter mirrors - wow, expensive! Have you a preferred make / recommendations in different price segments?

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Mark SuszkoRe: Camera and teleprompter positioning
by on Mar 7, 2012 at 5:57:29 pm

Bill has it exactly right about height and the prompter mirror.

You can often rent prompters in larger towns.

If you can't rent and can't buy one, you CAN make your own from scratch; it will be more limited, but will function to get the eyeline right into the lens.

Get a cube-proportioned cardboard box. It is important that it be a cube. Spray paint the inside flat black. Flip the box upside-down onto an LCD panel or a laptop or tablet laying flat facing up, running your software. there are freeware and shareware prompting apps on the web.

You cut a lens port in the center of the back of the box, and cut a square hole in the front of the box, the side facing the talent, but not all the way out to the edges; leave a one-inch frame around the edges.

Get a piece of clean glass that is a rectangle, long side should be the same length as your cardboard box from diagonal rear/bottom to diagonal front/top. Short side is wahtever the width of the cube is, or just a hair less. Put the glass in that box and the opposing corners will hold it at a natural 45-degree angle, if the box was a cube. That's why the box has to be a cube.

This whole mess sits on a folding card table or similar, and you set up the tripod and camera behind it, looking thru the port. Get the lens as close to the back of the glass, without touching it, as possible. Even without actual beam-splitting mirrors, the plain glass can do a good job, if you turn up the brightness of the screen source. Self-adhesive silvered mylar window film would make it much better.

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Oliver de MorasséRe: Camera and teleprompter positioning
by on Mar 8, 2012 at 10:41:15 pm

Thanks for your suggestion Mark. What would you say is the min/max size of the LCD panel? Does the camera not have problems with focusing behind the glass or silvered film - is it not too dark?

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Mark SuszkoRe: Camera and teleprompter positioning
by on Mar 9, 2012 at 12:02:06 am

Well, we made a custom one for our studio that uses a 42-inch LCD TV monitor, that's pretty rad...

I tell people to get the largest prompter head you can afford, and you can move the camera further back.. A small one, below about 20 inches diagonal, forces you to work close-in. I don't believe at all in ipad or iphone-based ones unless you're working at about arm's length. If you stand farther back, sure, you can make the type bigger, but you will be reducing the number of words per line that can be seen all at once, increasing the speed the sentences have to roll, and that degrades overall readability and flow. The whole point was to make it easy and natural-looking for the talent.

As far as the lens and the glass, try this at home: look thru a dirty window at something outside, from five feet from the window. Now, put your eyeball right up next to the glass. Do you still see the dirt? No.

Plain glass won't reduce your f-stop by much at all. A silver film that's 40-50% transmissive will make the screen way readable, but you'll lose maybe a stop to a stop and a half. Since you're going to be using this in a lit situation, or a studio, it's not really an issue to add more light. Might decrease your overall DOF but that;s what everybody likes these days, short DOF.

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Oliver de MorasséRe: Camera and teleprompter positioning
by on Mar 15, 2012 at 8:13:29 am

Thanks for your feedback Mark. I have played with creating a self-made teleprompter - works just fine. I used an old bit of glass which was lying around. My only criticism is that the displayed text has a drop shadow - it appears doubled. Would a beam splitter mirror give better results?

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Mark SuszkoRe: Camera and teleprompter positioning
by on Mar 15, 2012 at 12:16:39 pm

That's a drawback of trying to do it too cheap: one of the features of a full-price prompter is what's called a "first-surface mirror". If you did get a mylar sheet attached to the front of the glass, it would help this.

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Thomas LeongRe: Camera and teleprompter positioning
by on Mar 17, 2012 at 1:35:15 pm

Pardon me chipping in here.

Glass has 2 surfaces. The ghosting comes from the back surface. This is partly the reason for using silver-surfaced/front-surfaced mirrors, apart from improving reflectivity.

Try using a thinner piece of glass and increasing the contrast of your monitor. Careful though. Thin glass is brittle. You may want to frame it with 'C' channel aluminum for easier handling.

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Richard CrowleyRe: Camera and teleprompter positioning
by on Mar 18, 2012 at 12:54:15 am

I recently shot a similar production of a 1 hour delivery. I used a 19 inch LCD screen positioned right below the lens and we were about 12 feet away from the talent. The farther away the camera is from the talent, the less the viewer can perceive the exact angle of the talent's gaze direction. The talent (who had experience with commercial teleprompters in big studios) said that it was his best experience with a prompter and the video looks great.

I found an off-the-shelf bracket at Home Depot that allowed me to attach the VESA mount on the LCD screen to a Matthews TVMP adapter to support the screen on a C-stand.

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