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Hardware Hacking

Build Your Own Teleprompter 218

bigt_littleodd writes "Ever been in the situation where a certain expensive piece of equipment would be ideal to do the job at hand, but you would probably never ever need it to use it again, thus making the purchase/rental of equipment prohibitive? Here's a guy that had such a need and built a teleprompter with easy-to-find materials, a camcorder and a laptop."
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Build Your Own Teleprompter

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  • by 31415926535897 ( 702314 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @08:28PM (#11122021) Journal
    "Ever been in the situation where a certain expensive piece of equipment would be ideal to do the job at hand, but you would probably never ever need it to use it again, thus making the purchase/rental of equipment prohibitive?"

    If it's expensive (i.e. specialized), and you only have to use it once, then wouldn't rental be ideal? I would rather rent an expensive piece of equipment once, than roll my own and hope that it works (half as well as the real thing).

    I guess it comes down to what your time is worth, but personally, I would want to rent in a situation like this.
    • RTFA (Score:4, Insightful)

      by OverlordQ ( 264228 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @08:36PM (#11122064) Journal
      teleprompter was the solution, but there are no teleprompters in our area, and renting one from Los Angeles or San Francisco - both hundreds of miles away - was impractical and beyond my budget.

      Renting is no good when you have to drive 200 miles round trip to rent+haul it.
    • by nbert ( 785663 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @08:40PM (#11122080) Homepage Journal
      Yes, I agree that it wasn't a good choice to mention renting as a choice in the article.

      But I completely agree that it often makes more sense to build some device out of old parts instead of buying expensive gear. Most of the time such things are expensive because:

      *There is just a small market and/or
      *it's too hard for Joe Sixpack to build it

      It's nowadays possible to build just about anything with cheap components or even stuff which is considered trash. So if you have time and imagination at hand it's a good idea to think of building stuff on your own.
      Especially if the money you saved is lower than the income you would have had if you spend the same time at work :)
      • for a video professional, time is money. If he has the time to build a telepromter instead of just buying one that uses a PDA and comes with appropriate PDA software, he can't be that good at producing video.

        They are so cheap, his time SHOULD be worth more than the hours to build one.

        That said, he was industrious. Though he built one that is prohibitive to shooting on location. That thing is huge.
        • for a video professional, time is money. If he has the time to build a telepromter instead of just buying one that uses a PDA and comes with appropriate PDA software, he can't be that good at producing video. They are so cheap, his time SHOULD be worth more than the hours to build one.

          May be the guy isn't a professional. He certainly doesn't claim to be one.

    • Seems to me it could be much faster to drill the info into one's head by rote, than it would be to build such a device for just one use.
    • The guy was out in the boondocks and made such a rental impractical. There's ideal, and there's real. Oh, but you'd have to RTFA once to know.
    • Sometimes it is a matter of opportunity costs. There may be limited funds, and if those funds are spent on project A, say a TelePrompter, then funds will not be available for project B, say buying dinner for clients after the presentation. Since dinner must be bought, the TelePrompter must be homemade. And while your time is worth something, the time spent in building the TelePrompter will be billed as an investment in acquiring clients and building the business.

      This is really why windows was used so m

    • Why rent when you can build? It's more fun, and chances are you'll learn af ew things in the process. Do it the geek way - build it from scratch! :)
    • 1)He was too far away to make it practical
      2)It wasn't in his budget

      I can relate to #2 - I work for one of the TV networks -a "real" prompter is NOT cheap to rent, but they DO a LOT more than what his laptop does, and he admits that. A "real" prompter has default scroll rates for different readers, the rate can be adjusted on the fly, and the up coming text can be change up to the last second (it's usually set to lock out text changes once they are displayed. Remember, your average show is made up of many
      • I can second that. As someone who has spent quite a lot of time in front of a camera and prompter, I can say that the two most important factors are scroll quality and speed.

        Despite the FP's comment, you do not want to use PowerPoint for prompting. Talent is most comfortable with words that scroll continuously and smoothly, like the paper rolls that were cranked before the computerized prompter was developed. For that reason, I also have a feeling that paging through a PDF document is not the best way

    • Seriously I need your guys' money. I don't have a laptop or a camcorder lying around. I have never been able to afford either. $%#@$(^!
    • Wouldn't it be good to rent certain software such as partition magic? I mean if I forked out the money for a full version of partition magic and then only used it once or twice I would feel ripped. $5 for a weeks usage would sit just right for me though. However untill something like that becomes available its suprnova for me.
    • If this is a one-off event - why not just memorize the damn script!
  • Not that I'd ever have need for one, but I think it's a very cool idea.
  • teleporter? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Leers ( 159585 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @08:29PM (#11122027)
    Was I the only one who read that as "build your own teleporter?"

    Too much Si Fi....
    • Hey kids, build your own teleporter this holiday! You'll need:
      • A couple laser pointers
      • Mirrors and beam splitters
      • Tin foil
      • Liquid helium
      • A ruler
      • One large table compensated for zero micron vibrations
      We rummaged through the dumpster behind CERN to find our phase splitters, but you can also make your own using cellophane and spraypaint.
    • Actually that's exactly what I read too. It sounded interesting. Then I realized it was only a teleprompter. That's old news. Been there, built that. ;) I built a teleprompter from an old pentium laptop, a floppy disk, a parellel cable, 3 Roland DP-12 foot pedals, and some assembly code. Works great. My friend Johnny used it when he toured with Axel Rudi Pell in europe early this year. It runs right from the bootloader off a floppy; no OS or hard drive needed. I wrote my own variable-width bitmap fon
    • Yeah. I thought the next part was leading to some kind of l33t equipment-sharing scheme.

      "Ever been in the situation where a certain expensive piece of equipment would be ideal to do the job at hand, but you would probably never ever need it to use it again, thus making the purchase/rental of equipment prohibitive? Here's a guy that had such a need and built a teleporter with easy-to-find materials, a camcorder and a laptop. When he's done with the equipment he releases it into the para-dimensional ether

    • "Was I the only one who read that as "build your own teleporter?"

      No, No you weren't. I actually got disappointed when I re-read it.
    • No. You're not. I was thinking. "OK, This Star Trek crap has gone far enough!"

    • do what THIS [yahoo.com] guy did
    • Nope. Clearly a lot of us hopeful geeks read it that way.

      Man, I'm sooooo ready for my own personal teleporter. I want to wake up at 7:00AM (instead of the usual 5:30AM), get ready and eat breakfast, then start my morning commute at around 8:00AM (instead of the usual 6:30AM), arriving at my desk at something like 8:00AM (as opposed to the usual 8:15AM).

      I want to come home for lunch too but still get my whole hour.

      I want to buy a car that's price doesn't reflect the cost of shipping it to the deale
  • What? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Guillermito ( 187510 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @08:30PM (#11122029) Homepage
    would be ideal to do the job at hand, but you would probably never ever need it to use it again, thus making the purchase/
    RENTAL of equipment prohibitive?
    I would rather say this is exactly the kind of situation in which renting the equipment makes sense.
    • Its really a bad blurb; more like the lack of units available for rental in the local vicinity (the closest one he could find was a couple hundred miles out).
  • I know the guy who developed the ProPrompter, and GoPrompter. Much more mobile than the setup in TFA. http://www.proprompter.com/ [proprompter.com]
  • Coral Cache (Score:4, Interesting)

    by OverlordQ ( 264228 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @08:34PM (#11122055) Journal
    Coral Cache [nyud.net], Site going down quick.
  • I keep squinting and saying "Huh, is that a photo? Or a rendered graphic? No ... it's a photo! But hmmm ... it looks like a cool rendering."

    I'd be curious about how the photos were taken.

    • My guess is that, being big into video, he happened to have a large white backdrop to shoot in front of. A lot of shots where you really shouldn't notice the background at all are shot in front of a white (or black, depending) wall / sheet / drape sort of thing.

      If you slowly curve it, and are good with the lighting, there are no evident lines (ie, where the wall meets the floor).

      He IS a videographer, so this type of stuff probably is part of what he does routinely.

    • I'd be curious about how the photos were taken.

      He's in a white room with diffuse lights. The result is very even lighting that looks very unnatural. It's the same look 3d artists get with skybox lighting and radiosity. Which is why it looks 3D.
  • by Spackler ( 223562 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @08:37PM (#11122068) Journal
    Bit by Bit: Forget Cue Cards, Make a Teleprompter!
    Creative problem solving is a trait many creative professionals share, but perhaps no one possesses that skill more than Brian P. Lawler. See how he made a teleprompter with a laptop, Adobe InDesign, and some scrap wood. Ingenious.

    By Brian P. Lawler, creativepro.com contributing editor
    Thursday, December 16, 2004

    It was Thursday evening and I needed a teleprompter.
    I was making a video about panoramic photography, and for the scenes where I speak directly into the camera I looked like a cross-eyed newscaster. While trying to read cue cards on a stand in front of the camera, my eyes were cast downward, and that looked odd.

    To overcome this problem, I decided to read from the screen of my PowerBook instead. I figured that I could put the PowerBook display closer to the lens, and thus not appear to be looking down when looking at the camera.

    But even with the text on the PowerBook screen, I still looked slightly downward when I wanted to look directly into the lens of the camera. A teleprompter was the solution, but there are no teleprompters in our area, and renting one from Los Angeles or San Francisco - both hundreds of miles away - was impractical and beyond my budget. I decided to build one.

    Discipline Makes Successful Video
    I am careful when making video productions to enforce a moviemaker's discipline upon myself and my hired crew and helpers. This is a skill learned from experience. When one is making a video, attention to detail, continuity, and story are critical. I find that I can't go back -- ever -- to shoot a fill-in scene; something will have changed, someone won't be available, the light will be different -- something will prevent success. Instead, I work to get it right the first time!

    In the back of my sketchbook I keep a cardboard template with four windows cut to the proportion of a television screen. I use this to draw frames for my storyboards, and then I sketch ideas and stories into the frames. My sketchbook thus becomes the foundation of many of my projects. I had been working on the storyboard for this video for several months, and the story and scene ideas covered many pages of the book (see Figure 1).

    From Sketchbook to Database
    After deciding to use a teleprompter, I wanted to convert the sketches in my book to visual elements of a script database. I scanned the pages of the sketchbook, and then cropped the individual frame drawings into small photos that I stored in a folder. I then built a FileMaker template, and imported all the images into that database. FileMaker is very accommodating in this respect -- it imported my entire folder of numbered images into the database automatically.

    Once the sketches were imported, I added descriptions, scene and shot numbers (used to sort the story into chapters), and the narration text. This method allowed me to develop the text that I would read into the camera using the teleprompter. Using FileMaker's sorting functions, I then generated a story that was in logical order with a narration that flows smoothly and which I could read easily. After sorting the script, I exported the script records into text, and then placed the resulting file in Adobe InDesign for my teleprompter needs.

    Construction of the teleprompter
    Having seen a number of commercial teleprompters over the years in television studios and at trade shows, I understood the concept. A teleprompter is a made of a sheet of glass suspended in front of the camera lens at a 45-degree angle. The glass reflects the image of a TV screen without affecting the light entering the lens. In the most sophisticated units, there is a controller -- and an operator -- to set the pace of the text scrolling on the screen. Mine is more primitive.

    My prompter is nothing more than a sheet of window glass supported in a plywood frame in front of the camera at the correct angle (see Figure 3). I probably spent three hours cutting and building. Once
  • Ruper Pupkin [imdb.com] probably has one of these in his basement.

  • by QTeela ( 835606 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @08:44PM (#11122100)
    Maybe the little rectangular object that protruded from President Bush's backside during the debates was really a wireless teleprompter that transmitted wirelessly to an implant in the visual cortex of his brain. Better to rent than buy, though, unless it is upgradable.
  • by po8 ( 187055 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @08:45PM (#11122105)

    The image on my home-built teleprompter was -- of course -- backward. I tried to find a way to reverse the entire screen, but that was fruitless.

    Note that with a modern version of the X server supporting Keith Packard's "Resize and Rotate" extension and utility, this could be easy. Just say "xrandr -x" to mirror the display left-to-right. (Unfortunately, this doesn't appear to work for all servers supporting the extension yet.)

  • Prompter People (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    There's a company called Prompter People http://www.prompterpeople.com/ [prompterpeople.com]that offers a solid professional teleprompting solution. They offer systems that can easily be moved from camera to camera, and it's a much better value than anything else out there (800 bucks for a professional quality setup). They have a website with a really informative video in both quicktime and windows media that basically says the same thing as the article without any of the reading. It's worth a watch if you want to learn more
  • Gee, technology has progressed really far. ...hmmm wait a minute...
  • Teleporter (Score:2, Funny)

    by peeledback ( 649168 )
    I read this as "build your own teleporter".. been looking at the screen for too long !!
  • It sounds like this was a one time thing, so why not just memorize it or at least the main points? I taught public speaking for a year and saw dozens of students give 5-10 minute speeches with minimal notes. Seems like an easier solution to me.
  • there another cheap DIY method, its called: MEMORISING your fucking speech
  • If I'm not mistaken, if he could have used a fresnel lens and a backlight, he might have been able to get the magnification and the "reverse" image that he was seeking.

  • I could use one the does those things.

  • Oops (Score:1, Redundant)

    I thought you said Teleporter!
    • I thought so too. What concerned me most was no mention of the Heisenberg compensators. I know it's a Do-It-Yourself project, but if you're going to do something, do it right.
  • Commodore 64 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @09:32PM (#11122278) Homepage Journal
    Most of the small studios I have worked in used the venerable Commodore 64 as a teleprompter (to this day, many are still in use).

    Using teleprompter software that was developed for the system, the C=64 had the advantage to being able to output to any NTSC screen, making it a cheap and reliable method of putting text on the screen.

    You simply typed in your script, and ran the software, which would display the text one line at a time and you could go fowards, backwards, etc. The monitor was then bounced into the glass in front of the camera, so the person speaking could look directly into the camera and see the text reflected.

    Pretty simple and very very reliable.

  • I had the same problem once, but I came up with another solution.

    It's called "memorize the cue cards".

    I bet I did that in a lot less time than he took to build a teleprompter.

    • After some number of presentations, the total amount of time needed to memorize for all presentations will be greater than the amount of time it took to build the teleprompter. Assuming, of course, that the teleprompter is used repeatedly and repairing any breaks do not require a large amount of time. Regardless, if you only need the teleprompter a few times, it's probably not worth your time. If you need it more often than that, it's probably cheaper time-wise to build one yourself. If you need it much
  • What? No paperclip?

    All DIY projects require at least one paperclip. It is some kind of understood rule.
  • I know this is off-topic, but you'll thank me...

    This guy is one of my professors. This teleprompter is for a presentation on panoramic photos, of which he is an amazing photographer. He's actually creating a coffee-table book from these panoramics [thelawlers.com], and some are for sale through PayPal.

    Worth at least a look, especially the ones of the Brooklyn Bridge. He'll also sell you huge prints if you email him.

  • by IronChefMorimoto ( 691038 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @10:49PM (#11122663)
    Before anyone makes fun of this guy for not just using PowerPoint or something else, just think about what a teleprompter is being used for. Someone is reading a script that they've either not had in their possession long enough to read it or contains content that's new enough to NOT allow for memorization (i.e. breaking news).

    A friend of mine shot a documentary last December whose narrator was none other than Ben Jones, former US congressman and, more famously, Cooter, the mechanic from The Dukes of Hazzard. Mr. Jones had only had the script for a few days, and he wanted to make minor changes as he went along to facilitate his own personal style.

    I was asked to be a production assistant. I ended up, for the most part, being responsible for a low-end teleprompter we were using for the documentary script. In order to keep up or slow down depending on Mr. Jones' reading speed, a thumbwheel type control was used off camera to move the script up and down at variable speeds. Mr. Jones finally asked me to do it since, after trying it once, he found that I kept up with his rate of speech much better than the other production assistant.

    Sure enough, documentary narration that was requiring retakes and retakes suddenly wrapped up a helluva lot more quickly. We would end up taking so much time in earlier takes because the precision required for the thumbwheel control was just not there. And we couldn't give the control to Mr. Jones, since he had to walk in and out of shots for the various narration scenes. The cord to the teleprompter was NOT long enough for him to be on the other side of a room and walk in.

    I think the worst part about the whole experience was trying to do takes in the middle of a small town courthouse square in the middle of 15F temperatures, freezing rain, and wind. The teleprompter was pretty damned useless then because the glass kept fogging up due to the temperature changes.

    My 2 cents.

    • ok how about making fun of him for reinventing that which indie film makers and small studios have been doing for 20 years???

      we built our own teleprompter in 1986 for t he school production class. it was a VIC 20 modified by me to reverse the video and then use a ATARI pong paddle to control the speed and direction of the propter scrolling.

      pretty much the same way except we used plexi that was very slightly mirrored on one side that we found in the junkpile at school. contrast was great and with some b
    • Before anyone makes fun of this guy for not just using PowerPoint or something else

      If I were going to make fun of this guy, it sure wouldn't be for not using PowerPoint. It'd be for being so damn full of himself. Basically, this guy builds a little platform to hold a sheet of glass and a PowerBook and calls it a teleprompter. Big deal. Give me a tripod, two square feet of MDF, a sheet of glass, and a couple hinges, and big piece of black felt and I'll build you a version of this guy's teleprompter that fi
  • by d474 ( 695126 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @10:51PM (#11122671)
    I can just see Osama bin Laden in his next terror tape...
    "...oh and I want to give a shout out to Slashdot which showed me how to make this bitchin' DIY teleprompter so I can look more professional while I scare the shit out of western civilization on camera...jihad thanks you as well..."
  • <marquee>In today's news... Here's my home made teleprompter...</marquee>
  • On the off chance that the guy's actually going to read this I'd suggest using a bluetooth mouse for setting the pace. Maybe even with a scroll wheel if the PB can handle that.

  • Cue cards. And being familiar with your copy.
  • Grab some black construction paper, cut up from the bottom, then cut a hole the size of the videocamera's lense. Then place the black construction paper on the camera. It should be possible to get it to stay on it's own, if not some tape should hold it in place.

    This will make the teleprompter much easier to read even against bright backgrounds; there would be a more or less single colour background over the entire viewable area of the teleprompter instead of the vastly different background colours in the c
  • Just get your video footage of your actor moving his/her mouth and emoting, then dub over the voice later in editing. Everyone loves dubs!
  • It's all in the headline. With a little flash programm you could easyly render actuall text-data mirrored. You could even build a mirrord mini GUI for the prompter. ...
    Coming to think of it, that's actually a cool little OSS project there.
  • As it turns out, teleprompter aren't special super expensive machines only holywood has. I know I set some up pretty often and they basically are cheaper more practical versions than the one he made. Kudos for the imagination but here is the cheaper way to do it, which as it turns out is the real thing:

    1-Use a microphone stand, it is telescopic, cost less than the amount of wood seen in the article, is faster and easier to set up and can be transported more easily, no need for the big mic stand with boom a
  • "And I'm Ron Burgundy. Go f**k yourself, San Diego."

    Oh, the fun you can have with a teleprompter.

  • (sorry about the subject, couldn't resist)

    This guy (and most teleprompter designs I've seen) both require that the image displayed on the screen is mirrored so that the reflected image is not mirrored.

    Simple fix: have the point outward toward the subject and put a REAL mirror to reflect the image upwards in front of the display. Then put your beamsplitter glass in front of the lense. Think like it's a periscope.

You scratch my tape, and I'll scratch yours.