If you’ve ever struggled to deliver a piece to camera without fluffing your words, and if you’ve ever been inside a professional TV studio, then you’ll know that the solution is a teleprompting device.
Often referred to generically (but incorrectly, as it is a brand name) as “an Autocue”, these relatively simple gadgets are designed to scroll a script up in front of the camera so that a presenter can read it yet, due to the ingenious use of semi-reflective glass, do so without the words being visible to the camera itself. It’s sort of magic which only pixies and elves can understand but it works and that’s good enough for us.
Professional prompting gear can run into thousands of pounds which explains why there are hundreds of tutorials on YouTube with varying degrees of competence describing how to make your own for only £5 and a cardboard box.
Should your DIY skills not be up to the job however, there are “relatively” low cost versions that will do the job very nicely thank you, and the Datavideo TP-300 is one such product.
First of all, you should know that it works in tandem with a tablet PC which is not supplied as part of the package; you need to have your own iPad or Android device. This will be the bit that takes your script and scrolls it at the required speed.
What the TP-300 comprises then, is the mirrored glass held in a bracket at 45 degrees over another bracket on which you mount the tablet computer; both of these are mounted to a third bracket on which you attach your camcorder.
Assembly is straightforward though the apparently photocopied A5 manual feels a bit cheap. The box we bought came with the optional wireless Bluetooth remote control (a wired version is also on offer) but strangely no manual for that; we had to download one instead.
At first we thought the two supplied Allen keys were the wrong size until we actually read the instructions and discovered they’re for the bolts on the third bracket. Since that bracket was firmly screwed together out of the box, we’re not sure why we needed these.
The whole assembly process took perhaps 20 minutes and even that was just because we were documenting it as we went. Here’s our video unbox and review (this written review continues below)
There was a minor bit of faffing about with the hood since, after we’d velcro’d it on, the instructions only then tell you to pull it off again and insert the option bit of wire that stops the cloth falling in front of the camera lens. This caused a minor panic at Tubeshooter HQ since we hadn’t realised that such a bit of wire had been in the box. One hasty examination later revealed it tucked into the packaging, like an army soldier on camouflage manoeuvres.
That wire worked well when we loaded our Sony Z5 onto the prompter but switching to a much smaller Canon XA20 looked like it might need two wires as the cloth was a bit too baggy for such a tiny machine. We suspect it may be OK if we put the camcorder’s lens hood back on though. It’s certainly something to keep an eye on as you’re filming as a black cloth gently falling into shot does not make for the most professional video.
Loading scripts onto the tablet is best done by emailing them to yourself and picking up that email on the tablet, then copying and pasting into the DV Prompter app, a free download from Google Play or the App Store. It’s not complex software but does the job, scrolling the text at a variety of speeds in a variety of font sizes and what more could you ask for? You can also add a special character sequence into the text as chapter markers so you can jump from section to section if you have the remote controller.
Speaking of which, when ours arrived it refused to take a charge at all – it’s got an internal battery which is fired up over USB then disconnected for actual use. The kindly folk at the UK distributor, Holdan, and our supplier, Planet DV, quickly sorted this out with no fuss at all and a new, charged one, was despatched under warranty which has worked exactly as it should so far. (update: it failed again. Rubbish)
The four buttons on the controller can start and stop the script and speed it up or down; it’s connected to the tablet by Bluetooth which takes an initial bit of messing about with settings but should be “set once and forget” unless you reset your tablet for any reason.
Given the size of the screen and tablet, you’re not going to be using this prompter from many yards away but it’s quoted as being food for 3 metres or so, which we’d concur with depending on your eyesight. For the Tubeshooter, often recording videos in small home-brew studios, this is about right.
At £380 including tax, it’s still not in the realm of “bargain” but it’s a lot easier to bolt together than making your own. For that reason, we applaud the Datavideo TP-300 and whilst we wish it was cheaper still, it’s easy to recommend it as a bit of a “Ronseal” product; ie it does exactly what it says on the tin.
Should you fancy buying one, complete with wireless bluetooth remote control, you can get it from Amazon UK here: http://amzn.to/1piMjse (and this is an affiliate link so we get a bit of commission). If you just want the version without the remote, it’s substantially cheaper and at http://amzn.to/1piMoMH