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David Bull - Woodblock Printmaker

The 10-minute Teleprompter ...

I've been trying to record some small video clips to put on the website to introduce various aspects of my work, but have discovered that I'm not much of an actor ... namely, I can't remember my lines!

I tried to get around this by printing out a large-type 'script' and hanging it up next to the camera, but when I looked at the resulting video, it was obvious that I was reading something, and not looking directly into the camera. There was only one solution ... build a teleprompter! Here's how I did it, in just a few minutes, using a couple of scraps of wood, a scavenged piece of glass, and an old shirt ...

Photo one: five wooden pieces cut to size. A square piece cut in half to make two equal triangles for the sides, and three cross braces.

Here they are, quickly tacked together. The width of this thing is just a little bit less than the width of the piece of glass that I'm about to 'steal' from one of the pictures on the wall. (It's evening, and the hardware store is closed!)

This next photo shows the only little 'quirk' in the assembly. The lower strut is tacked in place such that it sticks up - this will provide the base support for the glass pane that will lay on top of the 45 degree sides.

Before we put it all together, I have to lay out the script for viewing on the prompter. I used a word processing program to prepare it with white text on a black background, 36 point Verdana, for easy reading from a distance. I then saved it as a .pdf file ... (I have my monitor desktop set to a flat black tone, so in all the subsequent photos, the desktop kind of just disappears ...)

I opened the file in Preview (the built-in pdf reader on a Mac), and selected 'Flip Vertical' from the View menu ...

That gave me this.

One quirk with the Preview 'Flip Vertical' command is that each page is inverted independently - page one still remains page one. This means that when using the teleprompter, full pages can be changed easily (with a Page Down command), but smooth scrolling doesn't give the proper sequence of script. So after doing a 'Save' in Preview, I open the same file in Adobe Reader (I'm using 7.0 on a Mac). Adobe Reader doesn't seem to have any way to flip vertically, but it does allow the file to be 'printed' (to another .pdf) with the 'pages in reverse order' option selected. After doing this, I then open the resulting file again using Adobe Reader, select 'Single Page' viewing mode, and I'm ready to (literally) roll.

OK, let's put it all together. Here's where the action will take place ... my normal desk.

First step is to move the keyboard out of the way, and lay the monitor down flat on its back:

My trusty Sony Handycam goes in place, standing on a thick book to bring it up to about the right height:

Then the teleprompter goes into place, sitting on the flat bezel of the monitor - so it won't scratch the screen. The glass sheet sits on top. That thing up at the top right is a strip of tape protecting me from bashing into the bare edge of the cut glass extending upwards.

Head for the laundry basket and see what we can find for a hood ... A denim shirt should do the trick just fine!

This next shot is taken from where I will sit while recording the video. I've got the camera flash on, so the teleprompter lettering is wiped out, and you see through the glass to the video camera back there instead. (That thing in the foreground is the bottom of the monitor stand.)

Turning off the flash lets us see the teleprompter in action ... Clear and easy to read! When I'm ready to start recording, I'll use the 'Automatically Scroll' command from the Adobe Reader 'View' menu. The text will start scrolling perfectly smoothly, with the speed controllable by the up/down arrow keys on the keyboard. (If at first, the scroll is in the wrong direction, just slow it down with the appropriate arrow key to the point where it reverses direction ...)

So here we are ... a couple of lights set up, and the keyboard placed so that I can control the scroll speed. I sit down, use the video camera's remote to start recording, hit Shift-Command-H on the keyboard to start Adobe Reader's scrolling ... 'Roll Em' ... Instant teleprompter!

Total cost: zero! All the software is free, and I'll put the piece of glass back into the picture frame when I'm done ...

Over on our YouTube channel, you can see many videos that we have made using this system over the years ... it works great!