We may not have flying cars or a Mars colony, but dammit, we live in the future and we have iPads. And all of us in media production have used iPads in our workflow at this point, whether it’s previewing something or used as a slate, or just a game device during renders. How about a teleprompter? It’s actually pretty nifty.
Last year, the company I work for researched and purchased a teleprompter setup built for an iPad from Prompter People. Basically, it’s the reflective bit and iPad holder that fits on a camera and tripod. It can accommodate our smaller JVC ProHD camera, or a larger ENG camera. You can also purchase it from the company with an iPad, but we already had one so we didn’t. It arrived in a couple of boxes pretty quickly, and was simple to assemble. It’s very similar to a regular teleprompter, though I found it lighter and simpler, which is good because it was marketed as such. It’s not so light that it’s not properly balanced on the tripod though. Basically, it’s pretty much what you would expect from any other teleprompter.
The iPad slides in snugly and is reflected onto the screen. We did find two minor downsides to this: the screen got dusty a lot from the black material that fits over the lens, and the iPad really needs to be plugged in if you’re using it at any length. But these were very minor and easily fixable with the right amount of lens cleaner and duct tape.
So the actual teleprompter device with an iPad is great, but the thing that really makes or breaks it at this point is the teleprompter app you choose. The Teleprompter People device didn’t come with one at the time, so we had to go in the app store and figure out what we wanted. Apparently it now comes with their app iCue which doesn’t have very good reviews at the moment, but if it comes with it I’d definitely try it out anyway.
The app we chose is Teleprompt+. Overall, I think it’s a great app, and over the several shoots we have used it on, we’ve had no issues with talent adjusting to it. In fact, our last talent told us there was absolutely no difference to her between this iPad setup and a full-on teleprompter.
It has basically everything you’d want to be able to adjust – font changes, size, color, speed. It has a mirror on or off function, so you could simply use the iPad itself without a a teleprompter setup if you’re running your own thing – prop it up by a camera and let it run. It also has a voice recording feature so you can practice your speeches, which is kind of cool.
In theory, you can control the teleprompter speed and position with another device paired to the iPad, like an iPhone. We found that this never really worked as expected, so the camera operator or an assistant needed to stand next to it and adjust as needed. We found that using a stylus really helps a lot. I’d say a stylus is necessary, comparing the ease of use between shoots.
For editing scripts on the fly, you can do that on the iPad itself. It’s pretty cumbersome to do so when it’s all hooked into the teleprompter system, and you can’t really be taking it out of the area repeatedly without getting annoyed. However, if you have a wifi connection and an extra person with a laptop, you can have scripts upload from Google Docs. I’d upload all the scripts to Google Docs (letting Google conform it to their format.) Then go on the iPad and upload them. Whenever a change needs to be made, hop onto the Google Docs account and edit the script. When you go back to Google Docs within the app, it’ll mark the scripts that have been updated and need to be re-uploaded. The only minor setback with this is the initial upload of scripts – there’s no way to batch upload in the app, so if you have a lot of really short scripts, you have to upload them one by one. After that, it’s pretty flawless. You can also upload from Dropbox, but I didn’t have as smooth an experience and I’m not sure that you can make edits within Dropbox.
Overall, using an iPad + app + Prompter People system works really well for our setup. We typically have small shoots, often with just one talent speaking. We didn’t have to drop thousands on a teleprompter system that we don’t use more than 6-7 times a year usually, or pay a teleprompter operator day rate which is probably the same or more as the cost of this system minus the iPad. We already used the iPad for other stuff, so that wasn’t really a part of the expense in my opinion.
If we were producing something with higher production value? Yea, we’d hire a specialized prompter operator. But for our small company and simple shoots, this works great.
Yeah for the future!
(Nobody gave me any money to write this. But I’d take some…)