Most people who have watched live TV programmes have seen the Teleprompter or Autocue devices that the presenters use.
They are used for most live TV broadcasts, and also for live presentations such as speeches. The device used for broadcasts has the feature of allowing the presenter to read the script on a mirrored screen, whilst the camera films them through the mirror. The aim is to have the presenter look directly into the lens giving viewers the equivalent of eye contact.
The correct techniques are important if the presenter is to look and sound natural as they present the script. If the Teleprompter is used incorrectly it can be painful to watch and the audience will lose interest.
Why use a Teleprompter?
If you have to deliver a large quantity of content on camera then a Teleprompter can enable you to accurately go through the script in an efficient manner. Although the equipment and set up time has a cost, the speed and accuracy can be increased dramatically. This can more than compensate for higher time/cost investment.
When not to use a Teleprompter.
If the presenter needs to look authentic or spontaneous such as when filming testimonials then it won’t help to use a script.
If the presenter is visually impaired or uncomfortable reading on camera it isn’t going to help the situation. It is worth noting that some software allows the font size and colour to be changed to best suit the presenter’s preferences.
For this process to work, the script has to be advanced so the presenter has the correct lines visible. There are four different ways this can be achieved:
The script is advanced by an operator (usually watching another screen on the controlling laptop).
The script is advanced by the presenter (often with a remote control).
The script is advanced automatically by the software through voice recognition technology.
The script is set to advance at a constant speed.
There are advantages and disadvantages with all four of these methods. We favour the version with automatic voice recognition control with human oversight. Although the constant speed method is simple, it doesn’t allow for the presenter’s natural expression of changing pace for emphasis.
Alternative to Mirrored Teleprompter device.
If a full Teleprompter system is not available an alternative can be to use a tablet on an articulated arm, held immediately above the lens. Or even on a stand positioned just under the lens. This is close enough to get away with it if necessary. The secret here is for the presenter to keep looking at the tablet and not look at the lens at the end of a sentence. Otherwise, it looks obvious that the eyes were not looking at the lens. For best results, the tablet ideally needs to have at least a 10 – 12 inch screen.
There are two main methods of using a Teleprompter:
Read a full version of the script word-for-word.
Use bullet points on the Teleprompter screen to keep you on the right track.
Method 1 is best for projects which have to cover a lot of content with a high level of accuracy. The disadvantage being that the presenter is more restricted as they are reading every word they say. Using bullet points to guide the presentation allows for a more natural flow and more opportunity for natural expression. This works well if the presenter knows the subject well and needs to cover a lot of content.
Tips for best results using a Teleprompter.
Practice reading the script out loud before filming.
Film your practice on a phone or tablet to critique your delivery.
Use a free phone app to practice the Teleprompter reading/presenting process.
Aim for a conversational style.
The screen should be approximately 4 metres away from the presenter to minimise visible eye movement.
Don’t lock your head still. Natural head movement as you talk will hide eye movement.
Confirm the compatible script file format for the system being used.
Label the script version on the top of the first page as well as by the file name. If the script gets printed you still know which version it is.
Sign-off and distribute the script in plenty of time before the filming day.
Have reading contact lenses or glasses available for the filming if needed. Contact lenses help eliminate reflection issues with glasses.
Following the tips above will help build confidence in front of the cameras and produce great results in a very efficient timescale.
If you would like to find out more about using a Teleprompter for a filming project then feel free to contact David Bird.