To Use or Not to Use: The Teleprompter
Speaking in front of a camera can be a daunting task for some. Have you ever seen someone immediately go blank and forget their lines? It happens quite a bit. So, let’s say that, for safety’s sake, you decide to use a teleprompter on the set of your next shoot. But just because you went with a teleprompter, however, doesn’t mean that things will now run nice and smooth without question. In fact, it can have the complete opposite effect if used incorrectly.
Not to worry, though. There are a few easy tips to help you discover whether a teleprompter is right for your shoot.
1. KNOW WHAT TYPE OF VIDEO YOU WANT
This may go without saying, but if you’re shooting action, B-roll, or really anything that is not merely someone talking directly to the camera, you do not need a teleprompter. A teleprompter is for someone to read off of so that they don’t have to keep looking down at notes or struggle to memorize any number of lines. Remember, a teleprompter is placed right in front of the lens, so whomever is using it will be looking directly into the camera and breaking the fourth wall (when the person knows they are speaking directly to an audience and vice versa). Therefore, if you don’t want anyone looking directly into the camera, a teleprompter isn’t for you. Granted, though, you could possibly keep the teleprompter detached and at an angle to the side, acting like electronic cue cards, but that isn’t recommended. It’ll most likely end up looking strange or may just be too difficult to set up and not be worth all the effort. At that point, the actors should just memorize the script.
Good idea for a teleprompter: Medical Training Videos
Bad idea for a teleprompter: a video starring puppies
2. MAKE SURE THAT THERE’S A PERSON ON SET THAT KNOWS HOW TO WORK IT
There needs to be at least one crew member there that has used and is comfortable with a teleprompter. It’s not just a light that can be put on a stand and plugged in. There’s time that must be taken to carefully attach it to the camera and tripod, to make sure that it’s working properly, and then even more time to download and edit all the scripts. Beware of technical errors! If you go with a teleprompter, it’s best to have someone at the shoot that knows how to handle it. Otherwise, it can suck up and waste a lot of precious time.
3. HIRE SOMEONE THAT KNOWS HOW TO PROPERLY READ OFF OF IT
Just as well, whomever you decide to hire for your video needs to be aware ahead of time that he or she will be using a teleprompter and that they’ll be able to do so. Reading off of a teleprompter is an actual skill. Inexperienced people will constantly shift their eyes and focus so heavily on what they are reading that they forget to move and make facial expressions while doing so. If you aren’t careful, you may end up hiring someone who has never used one, and they may end up sounding robotic, harming the video’s overall quality.
A teleprompter can be a powerful tool – but only if used properly and thoughtfully. Make sure to keep that and the tips mentioned above in mind when deciding whether to rent one for your next video production.
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