October 11, 2009

Off-the-shoulder prompting

For reporters, doing a piece to camera is always interesting (translation: cause of abject terror…). There's a high likelihood that you'll forget something and have to do it again, and again, and again… or just feel red-faced and ridiculous if you're live on air and can't activate the Omega 13 device to jump back 13 seconds and do it properly.

A piece of paper, with a few bullet points scribbled on it, taped just below the lens is handy (unless there's a slight breeze that will inevitably blow it over the lens), but the ideal is to have a prompter, just like they do in the studio. Until recently this wasn't especially practical. Prompters tended to be big, heavy, power hungry, and expensive.

Now, there are several cheap, simple, lightweight units you can use – including your iPhone.

Autoscript's new Miniscript on-camera TFT monitor, has all the standard connectors of its larger prompter displays, but the 5.6-inch panel weighs only 455g, so that it isn't a burden on location or in the studio (it was actually developed in response to a camera supervisor who wanted something small for the increasing number of hand-held cameras for live and studio-based entertainment productions – where presenters can't be expected to work without a script [that's why they're paid the big bucks…]).

It uses the smallest of Autoscript's new range of LED back-lit displays, which have "eight times the life span of CCFLs [Cold Cathode Fluorescent Tubes]. The output of CCFLs diminishes over time and they need replacing. LEDs produce very little heat and that's a big factor in component failure. There are still fans to regulate heat, but they only come on if it is in a hot studio or outside in the sun," explained Autoscript's MD, Brian Larter (pictured). LEDs are more expensive, but Autoscript has taken a hit on its margins to offer them at the same price as CCFLs.

There's an app for that

Autocue's new Starter Series is an entry-level product aimed at users that previously couldn't afford it. It is taking on the likes of Prompter People head on, with prices below £1,000.

For portable prompting it has introduced an iPhone Prompter, designed for freelance cameramen. It costs £599, and is similar to the 7-inch Starter pack, but with an adapter plate for an iPhone.

It uses software available from the iPhone App Store, although not written by Autocue, but Frank Hyman, Autocue's CEO (pictured) promises that it will have its own Autocue App in the near future. Autocue has also launched Mac software for its other Autocue systems, "because this market is 30 to 40% Mac based."

David Fox

No comments:

Post a Comment