Making A 'Prompt' Decision

From indoor to outdoor, large or small, video prompters come in all shapes and sizes. Recently, there has been an surge of new prompters into the marketplace, including LCD and portable models. But with so many choices available, how do you know which one best suits your needs?
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From indoor to outdoor, large or small, video prompters come in all shapes and sizes. Recently, there has been an surge of new prompters into the marketplace, including LCD and portable models. But with so many choices available, how do you know which one best suits your needs?

For on-camera prompting, Joanne Camarda, president of Listec Video, said it's a good idea to formulate your budget at the same time you select the camera and support equipment. "Often times the customer will purchase the camera and support equipment and subsequently, the prompter," she explained. "Even if you have some definite ideas concerning the prompter, your existing equipment is going to affect your final selection.

"For example, the customer might ask for a 15-inch prompter, but the tripod being used might only support 22 pounds, including the pan head and camera. This would limit the choice to a lighter weight on-camera prompter," she said.

The SOLO ST-2015SA stand-alone prompter was introduced in 2003 by Listec, and was specifically designed to address the weight issues that often come into play when choosing a prompter. SOLO is useful for applications when existing mounting equipment isn't strong enough to support a camera and prompter, or where there's no time to interface a prompter to the pan head.

For low-profile DV-based camcorders, Listec developed the Mini Z-Prompter Series for studio and field operation. The Z-Prompter's compact all-in-one design mounts the prompter with camera over the pan head's balance point eliminating the necessity for a large balance plate and counterbalance weight, while still providing a range of adjustment.

With the wide availability of flat panel monitors, chosing the right size prompter is easier than ever.

"Today you can buy flat panel prompters in every size and for every possible production need--from the compact 7-inch to the giant 20-inch," said Bruce Levine, QTV's national sales manager. "The lighter flat displays make things easier when a large prompt output is required for the talent; when using CRT-based monitors, large pan-and-tilt heads and pedestals would also have to be used making the whole operation very heavy and cumbersome. Using the flat panel LCD models mean that the support is much lighter which in turn means that there is less wear and tear on the head."

Camarda agreed. "Today, flat panels are the number one choice of those purchasing or replacing a prompter," she added. "Aside from the LCD's lighter weight, they also provide about 1.5 times the viewing area of a typical CRT, allowing a smaller, lighter weight unit to be supplied without sacrificing readability. And the clarity, brightness, and contrast of flat panels is equal to or better than typical composite monitors."

For some buyers, portability is the key. Bodelin Technologies offers the ProPrompter, which uses a Pocket PC to deliver text for talent in the field or in the studio.

The original ProPrompter, introduced at NAB2003, includes a 5.6-inch LCD screen and weighs less than 3 pounds. Last year, the company introduced a 7-inch LCD screen version of the ProPrompter. "The screen is wider and brighter, and yet the unit still weighs less than 3 pounds," said Peter White, Bodelin's director of sales and marketing. This new model comes with a custom case and sets up in about two minutes.

Beyond a prompter's weight and functionality, shoppers need to consider other key factors, such as power consumption. "Choose a unit with switch mode power supplies and low running specs. You don't want the camera tripping out when you turn on the script light and then the viewfinder," said Larter. He also suggested studying a prompter's menu before making your purchase. "It sounds very easy to adjust the picture brightness, or even the contrast and color. But a lot of units offered have very complicated menus."

When it comes down to purchasing a prompter, Larter offered one last tip: "Don't buy cheap--reliability is key. As soon as the prompter dies on air, your talent will not be thanking anyone for saving a few hundred dollars."

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Bodelin Technologies

Listec Video


BDL-Autoscript Changes Name and Management

Autoscript, formerly known as BDL-Autoscript, has announced its new management team that consists of teleprompting specialists Brian Larter and US-based Michael Accardi.

"Autoscript is respected by our industry throughout the world and has proved its viability for more than 25 years. Its innovative and exciting software, control, and interface products make it the clear leader in prompting technology," said new managing director, Larter who began his career with rival Autocue in 1986, where he worked in both sales and rental until joining Autoscript in September of last year.

Accardi, president of the US division, has worked in the industry for nearly 20 years, most recently as vice president of sales and operations for prompter system supplier QTV.

Building on the management team's extensive industry experience, the group will expand Autoscript's presence worldwide, with a prime focus on the US market.

Chris Lambert, who remains with the company at a senior consulting level, said: "This re-structure provides just the infusion of experience and enthusiasm required to solidify and expand Autoscript's place as the world leader in the sector."