Improve iOS - Create An iPad Teleprompter (Part 1)

7/1/2013 3:25:47 PM

Make your video presentations more professional with this DIY autocue

·         Skill level: Anyone can do it

·         It will take: An hour or more

·         You’ll need: Load of stuff! See the tutorial for a full list

Have you ever wondered how TV newsreaders, presenter, and politicians are so word-perfect and confident when speaking directly to the camera? Just how do they manage to remember what to say without looking away from the lens?

The secret, as you may already know, lies in a device called a teleprompter. Also referred to as an autocue, a teleprompter sits directly in front of a video camera and displays a presenter’s script in front of the camera lens so that they appear to always be looking directly at eth camera.

A teleprompter consists of a monitor, beam-splitting glass and a camera.

A teleprompter consists of a monitor, beam-splitting glass and a camera.

A fully featured, remote-controlled, professional teleprompter similar to the ones used in television studios can cost upwards of a thousand pounds. Having said that, you can buy a premade teleprompter rig for use with a smartphone or iPad from around $375. But why spend $375 or more when you can make one yourself using some basic tools, a little time and under fifty quid’s worth of everyday parts?

Why spend $375 or more on an autocue rig when you can make one yourself using basic tools?

In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to make a foldable teleprompter that’s small enough to take with you wherever you go, and will work with an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. It even includes a tripod mount, so that you can use it with the existing tripod and camera equipment you have.

The basics

A teleprompter consists of three basic components: a monitor displaying text, a piece of half-mirrored or beam-splitting glass, and a camera.

Mounted directly below and just in front of the camera, the monitor projects a mirror image of the scripted text upwards onto the beam-splitting glass, which is held at a 45-degree angle to the monitor.

An iPad Teleprompter

An iPad Teleprompter

Because of the basic laws of reflection, any light hitting the glass form the monitor bounces off the glass and is reflected out towards the front of the teleprompter.

Meanwhile, light from in front of teleprompter passes through the beam-splitting glass and into the lens of the camera, which is located in a darkened chamber behind it.

This makes it possible for the presenter to read the script and look directly into the camera at the same time, without the viewer even knowing the next is there.

What you’ll need

Our design works in just the same way as a professional teleprompter, but is built using some simple everyday items, a few tools, and some DIY supplies.

With a little planning and thrifty shopping, you should be able to source the parts for as little as $30, although you may find yourself paying a little more if you opt for the beams-splitting glass. Here are the parts you’ll need to build your teleprompter:

·         Two wooden picture frames (large enough to sit your iOS screen inside)

·         A piece of strong metal or wood at least 25cm longer than the shortest side o0f your frames

·         A pair of butt hinges

·         A cabin hook

·         A black towel or thick piece of fabric large enough to drape over the top of the teleprompter

·         A ¼-20 UNC bolt at least 4 inches long, and at least three corresponding washers and nuts

·         Some Velcro strips

·         A tripod with a standard quick-release camera mount strong enough to hold the weight of the teleprompter, camera, and iOS device

·         A piece of beam-splitting glass or mirrored Perspex (optional)

·         You’ll also need the following tools to make the teleprompter:

·         Masking tape

·         A drill and set of bits suitable for drilling metal

·         A set of screwdrivers for the various hinges and catches

·         A suitable hacksaw or Dremel to cut the metal

Finally, you’ll also need a camera to record the presenter, and of course, an iPad, iPad mini, iPhone or iPod touch running the necessary teleprompting software, which we’ll discuss later.

Quick look: How a teleprompter works

1.    Screen

The screen displays a mirror image of the scrolling text to the read by the presenter. In a professional studio, the text scrolling speed can be controlled remotely/

2.    Beam-splitting glass

Sometimes called half-mirrored glass, this material reflects the monitor’s text and bounces the image, right way round, towards the front of the teleprompter.

3.    Camera

Hidden behind the beam-splitting glass in a darkened chamber sits the camera, which can clearly see the presenter, but not the monitor displaying the text.

4.    Presenter

Stood in front of the teleprompter, the presenter can read the text as it scrolls upwards, while being seen clearly by the camera behind the glass.

Quick look: How a teleprompter works

Quick look: How a teleprompter works

Regular or beam-splitting?

While beam-splitting optical glass can set you back $150+, it is possible to find a Perspex alternative

As we mentioned earlier, it’s quite possible to build a do-it-yourself teleprompter using a basic piece of glass, provided that the area behind it is completely dark.

While most of the light hitting the glass will be passed straight through it, a certain amount of light hitting a regular piece of glass straight through it, a certain amount of light hitting a regular price of glass at a 45-degree angle will be reflected back out.

In a basic setup, and provided the area behind the glass is completely dark, the reflection should be bright enough to let you read the text without a problem. However, in areas where there isn’t great lighting (outside, for example) the reflection may be too dim.

Beam-splitting glass (sometimes known as a two-way mirror or half-mirrored glass) reflects more light than it allows passing through, meaning you’ll see a brighter and clearer image of the text than you would with a regular piece of glass.

While official beam-splitting optical glass can set you back anything upwards of $150, it is possible to find a Perspex alternative for much less. We were able to get a small off-cut of ‘two-way mirrored Perspex’, but you may be able to find them from eBay or a local Perspex retailer in your area.

It’s important to note however, that while two-way mirror Perspex is far cheaper than professional optical beam-splitting glass, its silvered coating can easily be scratched. If you do decide to use some in your teleprompter, you’ll need to be extra careful not to scratch the Perspex while you’re putting it all together.


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