Using tablet as autocue - Desview TP150 teleprompter
I recently shot a promo video in which I was responsible for production, direction and presentation. Unfortunately, I forgot to memorise the lyrics beforehand, which meant I had to keep looking at text boards next to the camera while shooting the video. This was awkward and could leave a negative impression on both the client and the viewer. Due to the limited budget, I could not hire an autocue. To avoid this in the future, I am considering using the Desview Teleprompter TP150, specially designed for tablets and smartphones. But does this compact teleprompter offer enough features?
Written by Rainer Claaßen
Editor for fotoMagazin and Audio-Video-Foto-Bild
What is a teleprompter?
A teleprompter is a device that helps speakers read out text during video productions. It displays a reflection of the text directly in front of the camera lens, allowing you to keep looking straight into the camera. This makes it look like you know the text by heart.
How does a teleprompter work?
The teleprompter has a transparent screen at a 45-degree angle placed in front of the camera on which the text is projected. When you stand right in front of the screen, you can see the reflection of the text on your smartphone screen. The speaker can see the text, but this is not visible on the camera images.
For a teleprompter to work correctly, there is a black box behind the glass so that the glass does not pick up reflections from behind the camera. This system is based on physics principles. In TV studios, special screens are used at the autocue to play the text from the control room. The Desview TP150 works on the same principle, but you can use your smartphone or tablet instead.
Using a tablet as a teleprompter with the Desview TP150
The Desview TP150 teleprompter comes in a robust case. Inside, the individual components are padded with foam, so it is well protected during transport to the set - although basically only the special glass is sensitive. The foils provided should therefore be reapplied to both sides of the glass after use to avoid scratches.
"This is attached with Velcro to the four sides of the screen."
The glass itself is clamped in a metal frame so that - even if it were to fall - it could hardly break. Also in the case: a metal rail that is placed on a tripod for use, a base for the camera that screws onto the rail and the privacy screen that obscures the area between the camera and the lens. The latter is attached with Velcro to the four sides of the screen. An anti-static cloth to clean the special screen and a simple Bluetooth remote control that can be used to control the Teleprompter app are also in the case.
Compatibility with tablets and smartphones
The Desview TP150 is an autocue for tablets and smartphones with screen sizes from 7.9" to up to 15", corresponding to a screen depth of up to 29 cm. As the display panel has a width of 28 centimetres, a 14" tablet with the most optimal option. This ensures that the displayed text can be read from a long distance without any problems.
The screen rail can be adjusted and secured with two knurled screws, allowing the screen to be clamped securely and prevented from falling. This is a very convenient solution. Although using a smartphone is possible, in most cases it makes more sense to use a tablet.
Does the teleprompter fit my camera?
The autocue is equipped with an adjustable camera setup. The camera is attached to a slide that can move freely on a second rail behind the screen. This allows the autocue to be adjusted to different cameras and lenses.
In addition, the height of the camera can be adjusted between 8 and 12.5 centimetres using a separate slide and can be locked in any intermediate position. Only very large camcorders or cameras with long telephoto lenses will not fit on the teleprompter - but in most cases, such devices will not be used.
Handy detail: if you want to film in portrait mode, you can also attach the camera using an L-rail to the bracket.
Setting up the teleprompter for use
The Desview TP150 comes with all the necessary screws, so installation can be completed in less than five minutes. Here is an overview of the steps I take:
- Screw the quick-release plate of a tripod head under the base rail and attach it to the extended tripod.
- Attach the disc to the vertical bracket on the rail. This allows the height above the base to vary by a few centimetres.
- Firmly attach the shadow box to the disc frame with pre-applied Velcro.
- The camera sled is then screwed to the back of the rail. All elements are made of metal and the supports are covered with non-slip soft plastic.
- Finally, place the camera on the camera sled and attach the fabric bellows around the lens using the tension cord. The recess is large enough to easily accommodate lenses over 10 centimetres in diameter.
Which app for autocue?
Desview has free teleprompter software for Android and iOS. Texts can be entered directly into the app or imported via copy-paste. The text size, background and text colour, a countdown and scrolling speed can all be customised. The app's number of functions is just enough for normal use, though it can do everything you need. Those who need more extensive features, such as skipping or a folder structure for texts, can download alternative apps.
If the playback device is paired via Bluetooth with the included compact remote control, the person in front of the camera can scroll the text and adjust the speed themselves.
How to write lyrics for autocue?
Writing for a teleprompter requires some specific attention, as the text must come across as fluid and natural when read aloud. Here are some tips for writing for a teleprompter:
- Keep sentences short and to the point: Long sentences can be difficult to read out fluently. So write simple sentences that can be easily understood and articulated.
- Use punctuation and punctuation: Pauses and intonation are important when reading aloud. Use punctuation such as commas, full stops and question marks to help the speaker take pauses and create a natural rhythm.
- Highlight important words or phrases: If certain words or phrases need emphasis during the reading aloud, highlight them so that the speaker is aware of their importance and can emphasise them appropriately.
- Practise and adjust if necessary: Let the speaker practise the text in advance and give them the opportunity to make adjustments where necessary. Sometimes small changes can help the text sound better and come across more naturally.
As mentioned earlier, the setup is quick and easy. However, it does require an additional tripod. I use an old, sturdy tripod with a pan-tilt head. This offers sufficient height adjustment, is sturdy and makes fine adjustments easy.
For most situations, any stable tripod will do, as long as it can be extended high enough so that the screen can be placed at the speaker's eye level. This is important so that the text can be read out without restriction. Mounting on the tripod can be done using two holes with 1/4-inch and 3/8-inch threads.
No loss of quality
I have not noticed any loss of quality when filming through the screen - the image is evenly clear across the entire surface and shows no defects. However, some light is lost, so you have to adjust for about one stop of light.
With a standard iPad, the teleprompter can be used without any problems, even when filming outside in bright sunshine. Much more expensive devices for professional use may be even more stable - but also more difficult to transport. But the Desview TP150 is also made entirely of metal and, if handled with care, will certainly provide many years of service.
Once you have experienced the benefits of a teleprompter for convincing presentations, you will definitely miss it when it is not there. Especially when it is as thoughtful, robust, suitable for everyday use and as affordable as the Desview TP150. Since all parts are made of metal and bolted together, hobbyists can even customise the successful device according to their own ideas. This is not necessary, however, as practically every conceivable situation can be covered.