How to Make Your Own Teleprompter

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Whether it’s for making speeches, delivering the news, reading cue lines, or singing songs, a teleprompter can be a valuable—even an invaluable—part of your career success. Until relatively recently, the expensive price tag on professional quality teleprompters made access difficult for low-budget or no-budget film and video projects.

But gone are the days of awkward poster-sized cue cards and anxiety-inducing memorization for those who cannot afford to buy or rent a teleprompter! Thanks to a whole host of cheap (many are free!) desktop, tablet, and smartphone apps, you can easily and inexpensively set up a teleprompter for your projects.

Here are a few tips and suggestions for outfitting any set or studio space with a teleprompter.

1. Find your teleprompter. A simple search of the iTunes Store or Google Play will reveal dozens of great teleprompter apps you can download. Look for apps that allow the greatest flexibility—that is, apps where you can alter scrolling speed, font size and color, flip the text (for mirroring, if you want to project the teleprompter over the camera) and other intuitive features.

2. Type carefully. Don’t be Ron Burgundy! It can be easy to get carried away when you’re reading from a teleprompter and make mistakes in pronunciation and delivery. When you enter the script into your teleprompter, make sure there are no typos, and add in any marks or phonetic spellings you think will ensure that you or your subject gets it right.

3. Set up your shot. There are many simple ways to do this, depending on the needs of your project and the teleprompter you are using.

With a tablet or smartphone app like Teleprompt+, you can use your device as both teleprompter and camera. All you have to do is prop your tablet on a table and hit record. This is a great option for DIY, but be careful that the camera doesn’t give away the subjects eye movements too much. It is generally recommended that subjects be at least a few feet from the camera when reading from a teleprompter, as eye movements are more discernible when the subject is closer.

If you are using a separate camera and don’t need talent to be looking directly at the camera, you can prop your tablet, desktop or laptop computer close to the camera. There are also several mounting clamps and tripods on the market for tablets and smartphones that allow you to mount your device on your camera, tripod, a table, or shelf. (See an example of one of these mounts here.) 

For shots that require your talent’s direct eye contact with the camera, you may have to invest in a camera-mounted mirror. While these set-ups can be pricey (more than $500 in many cases), they get the job done, and are far cheaper than the professional grade teleprompter devices you see in TV and film studios.

4. (Sc)roll tape. It may take a while for you to figure out how to get a good rhythm for scrolling, but you can control your teleprompter a number of ways, again depending on how you’ve set it up. Bluetooth remotes for tablets and smartphones are a great option, as is enlisting a friend or crew member to man the scrolling from your computer. Manual self-scrolling is also possible, but tougher to pull off seamlessly.

Jessica Bloustein Marshall is a writer, actor, and digital producer in New York. Follow her on Twitter @jess_on_ice.

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