The Meaning of Teleprompter

Teleprompters have been game-changers in the video production industry since Hubert Schafly conceived the idea in 1948. Although its initial purpose was to replace cue cards in acting, the teleprompter became an important tool when speaking before a large audience, whether live or recorded on camera. And in this age of vlogging, reels, and TikToks, it has become even more indispensable.

What is a Teleprompter?

A teleprompter provides the presenter with visual access to the text that contains what they need to say when speaking. In other words, the speaker or presenter does not need to memorize what he’s going to say; instead, he reads it on a teleprompter device. (Sometimes, a teleprompter may also be called an Autocue.)

The teleprompter allows you to maintain visual contact with your audience while appearing to speak impromptu. With the teleprompter, the text scrolls over the screen as the cameras roll, helping the speaker deliver a fluent and spontaneous-looking presentation. Using a teleprompter serves an important function, especially when making informative videos for YouTube or any other video platform. 

How a Teleprompter Works

The way teleprompters operate is determined by the type of prompter and the software and hardware used to control it. To know how it works, let’s learn more about the three different types of teleprompters.

  • Camera-Mounted Teleprompters. These are the most popular type of teleprompters because of their setup and the variety of options available. These prompters are equipped with a cover that conceals a camera behind the beamsplitter glass. The monitor shows a mirrored image of the text the reader will be reading, which then reflects onto the glass screen in front of the camera lens. As a result, you appear to look directly into the camera as you speak. Camera-mounted teleprompters are great for live newscasts, advertising, and pre-recorded programming on television. 
  • Standing Teleprompters. A floor or stand teleprompter is not attached to the camera like a camera-mounted teleprompter. Floor teleprompters are positioned at an angle on the floor, typically along either side of a speaker’s podium or in front of a stage. These teleprompters could also be installed hanging in the back of a room, behind an audience. Standing prompters are great if you speak in front of a large live audience, but it could be a little awkward if not placed correctly.
  • Presidential Teleprompters. While the first two prompters may be used for on-camera speaking, a presidential teleprompter isn’t. It’s intended for live events when the speaker stands on a platform and faces the audience. The setup involves a transparent glass screen on a stand, with an upward-facing monitor at the bottom that displays the script on one side of the glass screen. The script is visible to the speaker but not on the reverse side of the glass.

Knowing the types of teleprompters, which one should you use? A camera-mounted teleprompter is the no-brainer choice if you want to engage your audience while speaking into a camera. If it’s anything related to video production, especially in the form of vlogs and informative videos, there is no use with standing or presidential teleprompters. Unless, of course, you are a big-time convention speaker or the President himself. In that case, you’d be better off using a floor or presidential prompter.

Now, since you won’t be using a standing or presidential prompter, let’s take a deeper dive at the mechanism of camera-mounted teleprompters. The “beam splitter glass” is the secret to camera-mounted teleprompters. It is effectively a one-way mirror that works by dividing the light beam so that the person reading the teleprompter can see the reflected words on the camera lens. However, the mirrored text won’t be recorded by the camera; instead, it only captures the speaker.

Importance of Teleprompter Apps

Monitors have traditionally been linked to a secondary screen that transmits the script. However, thanks to technological advances, teleprompter apps allow you to convert your smartphones into monitors or even standalone teleprompters. Regardless of price, most modern camera-mounted prompters have brackets to hold tablets and smartphones. From there, you can just open the teleprompter app, adjust to your desired settings, and record professional-looking videos using a teleprompter.

Best Teleprompter Apps for Smartphones

Teleprompter apps are generally easy to use. Most of them have paid and free versions, but depending on your needs and budget, you can get away with using only the latter. Here are some prompter apps that warrants your attention:

Available only in iOS (and Mac),  Teleprompter゜by MK App Solutions is one of the best you can find in the Apple App Store. It is easy to use and has intuitive controls that you don’t need any learning curve. The paid version offers more features, such as recording your speech in the app, importing scripts, and allowing another Apple device to use as a remote control. It also supports mirroring with its “flip script” feature.

  • Parrot Teleprompter App

Just to avoid confusion, Parrot manufactures teleprompter hardware, but in this section, we’re strictly referring to the app. 

The Parrot Teleprompter App is a free mobile app available only on iOS and Android. Still, its features make it popular with vloggers on the go. You may change the text scroll speed, text size, background and foreground colors, and even flip the script if you’re using it as a monitor on an actual teleprompter system. 

  • PromptSmart Pro

At around 3 bucks a month, PromptSmart Pro offers a feature no one else has: voice tracking. The app automatically tracks your voice and increases/decreases the scroll speed accordingly. That way, you can concentrate on your delivery rather than keeping up with your script’s pace, which could be daunting!

  • Teleprompter Pro Lite

The Teleprompter Pro Lite is another free app with an option to upgrade. The Lite version has the basic features, while the paid version has more attributes such as unlimited scripts, Bluetooth control, and mirror mode.

  • Simple Teleprompter

The Simple Teleprompter is a free and basic prompter app available only for Android. On the main screen, you simply type or import the text and then hit the start button to scroll. When necessary, you can establish a countdown for the teleprompter and configure other settings like scroll speed, background color, text color, and so on.

Things You Should Know Before Buying a Teleprompter

While you can find free versions of teleprompters apps, a teleprompter hardware kit costs a considerable sum of money. That is why you need to consider these things before investing in one:

  1. Quality

A decent teleprompter, like any technology, should give the user a high level of quality. It also does not have to be pricey. Many teleprompters are expensive but provide no additional benefits to justify their expense. Find one made to last for a few years to truly get your money’s worth.

2.) Figure out what you need

Different people have different uses for teleprompters. If you’re just beginning to record vlogs and videos, you need something inexpensive and handy. In the same line of thinking, you certainly don’t need something like CNN, or similar organizations use. Invest in a teleprompter that meets your requirements, not something to stroke your ego.

3.) Warranty

A teleprompter is essential for video communication, and if it experiences technical trouble, it better has a warranty. If not, it’s not worth the trouble. Make sure you buy from a trustworthy company that provides a reliable warranty. Research if the said company indeed follows up on its promises or if it puts the customers’ needs first.

4.) Look for freebies

Electronics manufacturers love to entice buyers, so they may choose to provide great incentives to those who buy their equipment. Look for such discounts when looking for a teleprompter. You can find one with extra software, mirrors, and cables– accessories you’ll probably need down the line.

5.) Budget

Of course, if you’re just trying to get your feet wet into video production and the use of teleprompters, find a prompter that fits your budget. Years ago, the cheapest teleprompter kit may cost around $200, but now, you can find a decent one at half the price. Think of it as a guinea pig that you can experiment on and get familiar with. If you’re ready to take the next level in your video production journey, you can always upgrade your gear.

Final Thoughts

Teleprompters may seem like an expensive solution to a video production problem. However, if you think about what it can do to the quality of your videos, it’s probably time to pull the trigger and get one yourself. 

What does a teleprompter do? Well, it allows you to maintain eye contact and engage the audience so you’ll appear ready and professional. You won’t have to worry about what to say while presenting your speech. Instead, you can focus on your delivery and fluency, resulting in a more coherent presentation. If the audience couldn’t understand you, you probably shouldn’t be doing videos in the first place.

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