How Teleprompters Work

How Teleprompters Work

The Hardware and Software behind TV Production

There are two main parts to a teleprompter setup, the hardware and the software. These two work together to create the magic, allowing the presenter to read lines of scrolling electronic text without memorization, cue cards, or taking his or her eyes from the camera.

It all begins with the software. Your speech can be written and edited in the word processing program of your choice or directly in the teleprompter program. If you're using a word processor, once you are satisfied with the end result the file should be saved in a plain or rich text format so that it can be read by the teleprompter software. The software will take any text you input, either directly or through opening a plain or rich text file, and display it across the entire screen, scrolling it slowly downward at the speed of your choice. There is a built-in spell checker to make sure any last minute mistakes are caught, and both the font and the background can be colored as desired in order to make the text stand out and be easily readable.

The text can be displayed vertically or horizontally with the margin and font size of your choice. There is an optional remote control setup that is compatible with the software in case you need to make adjustments from a distance.

The hardware essentially takes the text displayed on the computer screen by the software and places it in front of the camera lens in a way that is only visible to the presenter and not to the camera. It does this through the use of a piece of glass placed at an angle to the screen. The glass is shrouded by a dark strip of either cloth or plastic in order to darken its surface and create a sort of one-way mirror effect. Much like when the lights in your house are turned on at night, turning the windows into mirrors when viewed from inside but still allowing people outside to see in, the text can only be viewed from the correct side - that of the presenter.

Because the text is bounced off a mirror it must be flipped ahead of time either by the software or the hardware setup so that it does not show up backwards to the presenter. The camera is mounted directly behind the angled glass and, as if by magic, the brightly lit, scrolling text appears, visible only to the presenter.