Equipment for news and general studio production

For a typical news studio teleprompter set up there would be three or more on-camera prompters depending on the size of the set and the number of presenters. Typically for a two presenter setup there would be a main camera for the usual two shot and two others which would give each presenter their own eyeline in mid close up. The shots offered by each camera can be matched and mixed. The size of the set would determine the size of the monitors to be rigged. Normally a 15” monitor would cover most requirements but, of course other sizes can be considered depending on how far the presenter will normally be from the camera. Another consideration would be the type of robotic pan and tilt head that is being used. These can range from heavy duty heads that can support as much as 40 Kg to light weight heads with a maximum loading of 10 Kg or even less. But bear in mind that it is not the sheer weight that is the critical factor or the fact that a prompter has been rigged, apparently, successfully. It must be possible to leave the prompter in balance. Unless the prompter is in perfect balance there is always a danger that the robotic drive motors could trip or even burn out. Any prompter that is mounted on a robotic head must be very firmly fixed, usually with stays, to avoid a bounce, biscuit bounce, when a fast pan or tilt is made. The inertia of the monitor and hood causes the whole camera to twitch horizontally or vertically when the stop point is hit – not a nice effect if the move is live.

Obviously in small news summary studio a 9” or 12” monitor would be adequate. It can be quite useful to rig prompt monitors on free standing bases a weather presenter for instance, where the prompter can be rigged on a stand off set but in a suitable eyeline to be read while the forecaster is looking at a weather chart or for one of the main presenters to take part in a remote interview using a big screen. The prompter feed will, of course, also be patched into the control room so the directorial staff can see the prompter text.

There are a variety of ways that the prompter can be controlled, with or without an operator. There are sophisticated multiple hand and foot controls, even wireless, to enable presenters to control the scroll speed of the prompted text themselves, or, more conventionally, the prompter is controlled by a prompt operator.

The operator was traditionally set up in the studio to enable instant communication with the presenters to make changes to the text and running orders. However now with the high level of automation available, using the MOS interface and other protocols, electronic newsrooms such as ENPS, Avid, Dalet, and Octopus take care of late script and rundown changes. The operator is left to concentrate on scrolling the prompt display, and, of course, being available to cope with any problem that might arise, and, thus, is more likely to be set up in the production gallery.

General Studio Production

In studio production the bond between a presenter and the operator is of great importance and the operator would most likely be set on the studio floor. In general production script changes take place throughout the stagger and rehearsal and the presenter will often go through the script to personalise it in terms of underlines for emphasis for instance, and check the layout of the script. The operator has responsibility not only of making sure the equipment functions correctly, but that the script is word perfect and is always in the right place at the right time. It is a completely different role to that of the news operator.

The selection of prompting equipment depends on the type of production it is to be used on. Occasionally compromises will have to be factored in. As with news a good general size of prompter screen would be 15” which covers a reading range between 4 and 6 metres, closer it will be difficult to avoid the movement of the eyes, further, too far away to read. So if most of the shots are closer choose a 12”, if further an 18”or 20”. But bear in mind if the required shots are to be from a crane of some kind, such as a Techno crane, the size of monitor that can be rigged may be limited due to pan and tilt head loading specs. If ENG type cameras are to be used make sure that they have sufficient power out for the prompt monitor and a spare tieline for the prompt video feed. Also bear in mind that it may be impossible to rig a large monitor. ENG usually means lightweight pedestal and pan and tilt head and where the ENG style camera is being used with a box lens or even a big conventional zoom lens there can be problems of balancing the camera/prompter. The prompter and camera can be moved back on the head but will protrude so far at the back that it is almost impossible for the cameraman to control it. If the ENG camera is working with a box lens or a zoom lens mounted on a studio pedestal with a tracking ring, the prompt monitor, or its mountings, might foul the tracking ring, though with flat screen monitors this would be unlikely unless an over the shoulder shot was being attempted.