Introduction: Teleprompter With True BeamSplitter Glass - Foldable (Video Guide)
A teleprompter is a great way to help you make presentations and films.
This teleprompter design is robust and compact for storage and transport and uses proper coated beam splitter glass.
You can use the same design with plain glass but as the video explains the reflection of the text will not be as clear.
- 4 sheets of BLACK A4 plastic (approx 1mm thick)
- Sheet of 5mm plywood, MDF or hardboard (preferably plywood)
- 2" wide black cloth tape
- 1m of 15mm square wood dowel
- Black paint (MATT)
- 6" x 8" Beam splitter glass.
- 2 metal mending plates
- 1-1.5mm wire (coat hanger will do)
- A smartphone or tablet with teleprompter software (often free)
- Jigsaw and blades
- Router and bits
- Drill and bits
- Hole saw (optional)
- Pliers and/or side cutters
- Sharp Knife
Step 1: Cut and Paint Materials - Wood Panels
You will find it easiest to do most if not all of the cutting of the materials in one go. The most challenging of the cutting work will be the ply-wood panels which form the main structure of the teleprompter.
First cut three identical rectangles each approximately 190mm x 236mm (7.5 inches x 9.3 inches) using whatever wood saw you have to hand.
Note 1: Dimensions are based around your mirror glass size. I used 6" x8" glass, if you used different then you may need to adapt the size (especially if your glass is bigger!!!)
Note 2: If you are using hardboard then you may be able to use a sharp knife instead of a saw but be very careful if you do.
Next you need to cut a rectangular hole in one of the wood panels. This should be central and SMALLER than the glass sheet by about 5mm (eighth inch) all around (so 10mm shorter on each side.)
Now you can cut a round hole in another of the panels. This hole should be slightly larger than the diameter of the largest lens you intend to use with the teleprompter. The vertical centre of the hole should be approximately at the centre of the glass when it is at forty five degrees (see diagram). For my 85mm diameter lens hole this was about 60mm from the lower (long) edge of the panel.
Note : The position of the panel is also affected by how you are going to mount your camera in relation to the teleprompter but it is generally easier to adjust the mounting arrangement to either lower or raise the teleprompter. Whereas the position of the hole/lens relative to the glass is an optical requirement so more important to get right at this stage.
To cut the round hole you can either use a hole saw (the quickest and neatest method) or use a jigsaw or fretsaw to hand cut the circular hole. A perfect cut is not essential but you should try and eliminate as much space around the lens to reduce light entering.
Finally paint the wood panels with MATT black paint. Do NOT paint one side of the panel with the large rectangular hole.
(The use of matt paint avoids unwanted reflections and light.)
Step 2: Cut and Paint Materials - Plastic Panels and Bars
You now need to cut out four right angled triangles from the black plastic card.
These are all identical with the shorter sides being approximately the same length as the shorter sides of the wooden panels you cut in the previous step, 190mm (7.5 inches).
You also need to cut a frame that will hold your glass in place. This will be identical to the wooden panel with the rectangular hole (including the hole) but will be just 3 or 4mm shorter in the longer side (1.5 to 2mm off each side).This shorter length will leave a slight rebate for the side baffles to sit in later.
The plastic card can be cut with a knife and ruler or a sturdy pair of scissors.
You can also cut four lengths of the square wooden dowel the same length as the shorter side of the wooden panels, 190mm (7.5 inches). Paint the rails also matt black (though the colour is not essential).
Step 3: Rebate the Glass Panel
Video at 01:18 Rebating glass
The glass will be held in the middle wooden panel (the one with the large rectangular hole if you hadn't guessed already).
There are two ways to do this with the preferred option being to use a router to rebate a 2 to 3mm deep groove around the edge of the hole (on the unpainted side). If you are not used to using a router then you may want to get some help but there are two main things you should take care of when routing the groove.-
1 - Make sure you set the router's depth stop so that you cannot go too deep.
2 - Clamp or screw the piece down and also fix a piece of scrap wood as a "fence" to ensure you cut a straight line.(You will not be able to do this by eye)
3 - Be careful as router bits are very sharp.
I used the scrap piece of wood left over from cutting out the hole to both help secure the panel and give a level surface for the router.
NOTE : Wear eye and ear protection when using routers.
If you do not have access to a router then the second / alternative is to use spare plastic card to build up the panel around the glass to give a rebate for the glass to site in.
Once you have routed out your rebate groove then test fit the glass and if you are happy with the fit then glue the plastic frame onto the wood so that the glass is trapped between them.
Step 4: Fit the Rails to the Bottom Panel.
Video at 01:46 Fixing bottom rails
The four lengths of square wooden dowel that you cut and painted earlier should now be fixed to one side of the solid wooden panel (the one with no large holes in it) using some short (approx 12mm) screws.
All of them should be parallel with the short edges of the panel.
Two of them should be fixed at the edges of the panel and the other two should be evenly spaced from the centre line sufficiently far apart so that your camera rig mounting rails slide between them.
The ends of at least two of the dowels should extend out beyond the long edge of the panel by approximately 6mm. The exact distance will depend on exactly how you attach the tape hinges so prepare for a few adjustments later.
NOTE : If you are not using a rail based mounting system then this is the point where you should attach whatever mounting plate you intend to use.
Step 5: Joining the Main Panels
Video at 02:10 Joining main panels
All of the panels (main and baffle) are joined using the cloth tape as hinges.
- Start with the base panel (the one with the wooden dowels attached) with the rails side facing down on the table top.
- Align the long edge with the next panel (glass panel), prop the glass panel up with some scrap wood or a thin book so that they are level with each other.
- Carefully affix a length of tape along the join being sure to leave about 25mm (1 inch) of excess tape on each end.
- Cut the excess tape length ways level with the join so that you can wrap half under one panel and half under the other.
- Now fold the two panels together (like closing a book).
- Next repeat the same steps with the third panel (the one with the round lens hole)
You should now have something like a three leaf book made of the panels which can be folded and unfolded just like a book.
Note: You can optionally add an additional piece of tape along the outside edge around all three panels (along the "spine" of the book).
Step 6: Add Side Baffles
Video at 04:51 Fixing side baffles
For the teleprompter to work effectively you need to minimise the amount of light that can reach the beam splitter glass, the device you are projecting (smartphone etc) and especially the rear of the glass. We achieve this by adding side and top baffles to make the unit a box.
The side baffles are the triangular pieces that you cut earlier and are fixed using the same cloth tape method as before. They are fixed to the OUTER two panels (the one with the rails and the one with the lens hole. NOT the glass panel.)
When attaching the side baffles I found it to be particularly important to use tape on BOTH sides of the hinge. The easiest way to do this is to.-
- Place the triangular baffle on the inside face of one of the panels with the outside (short) edges aligned.
- The slope of the triangle should be pointing away from the end of the seam line of the two wooden panels (see diagram).
- Affix a length of cloth tape to the joint of the edge of the plastic triangle so that it wraps around the edge of the wooden panel.
- Carefully unfold the panel 180 degrees so that it is flat with the wooden panel but sticking out like a sail.
- Affix another length of cloth tape along the other side of the join.
- Fold the baffle back in so that it is flat with the wooden panel.
Repeat this for each of the four triangular panels. Once complete you should be able to UN-fold all of the panels 90 degrees to form a slightly-wobbly box with the mirror glass supported at 45 degrees. And then FOLD all of the panels to have a rectangular slightly-chunky book.
The top baffle is rectangular (the same size as the wood panels) and fixed using a cloth hinge to the rear panel (with the lens hole). It should fold back on itself for storage and just rest on the top of the side baffles when the teleprompter is in use.
Step 7: Add Steadies and Stays
The teleprompter is almost complete but as you will have noticed it will also be quite wobbly at this stage so we need to add some supports.
The first support to add is to stop the back panel (the one with the lens hole) being raised more than ninety degrees. To do this take one of the metal brackets and screw it to the back end of two wooden dowels that you positioned to jut out slightly from the edge (you did remember to leave it sticking out didn't you?)
Depending on how you made your tape hinges and the exact thickness of the wood and plastic card you used you will find the exact amount that the dowel has to stick out will change slightly since the two raised panels (one at 45 degrees and one at ninety degrees) with jut out past the hinge line as they are unfolded.
You can either adjust the position of the wooden dowels or add spacer washers (make some from scrap plastic card if you don't have any to hand). When tightening the screw you should leave it just loose enough to allow you to rotate the metal strips ninety degrees for storage when not in use.
Next you need to create two side supports out of stiff wire (about 1mm gauge) an old wire coat hanger is ideal. These supports will need to be about 160mm (6.5 inches) long but cut them longer than you need at first as you will trim them in situ.
- Carefully drill a hole all the way thru the outside square dowels about 130mm (5 inches) away from the hinge.
- Use even more care when drilling a second hole about 5mm (eighth inch) thru the edge of the panel with the glass about 170mm (6.5 inches) from the hinge.
- Next use some pliers to bend a right angle in the end of the wire about 5mm (eighth inch) along. Don't make it too long as the wire will need to turn freely without the bent part hitting the panel.
- Now thread the wire from the inside side of the dowel thru the hole all the way thru.
- Then as neatly as you can make a right angle bend so that the wire is pointing (when turned) towards the centre panel.
The next bit is a bit fiddly as you will need to support the glass panel open at its correct angle of 45 degrees whilst completing it so you may need some help or at least some objects to help prop it up. It's best to also unfold the side baffles to set the correct angle.
With the glass panel in position rotate the wire support around until it goes directly past the hole you previously drilled in the edge of the glass panel.
Carefully mark the position of the hole along the length of the wire with a marker pen.
Next use some pliers to make a ninety degree bend in the wire. The bend MUST be in the direction of the hole so that the end of the wire can now be inserted into the hole. Trim of the excess wire that is too long for the hole.
NOTE: If you can't turn the wire steady to align with the hole then the bend at the other end may be too long and be fowling on the base panel. Just trim it down with some side-cutters.
Repeat the above steps for the steady on the other side.
Step 8: Mounting on the Camera / Rail
Video at 07:00 Mounting on rails
If you are, like me, mounting the teleprompter onto camera rails then you will need to add some additional security to the mounting dowels. If you are going to mount the teleprompter in a different way then you may be done already.
For my design the last step for added security is to screw a simple rectangle of plastic card onto the central two wooden dowels under the base panel. This will help to ensure that the teleprompter cannot lift or tilt off of the rails. My rails were fairly long so I did not add any fixings such as clamps or screws to fix the teleprompter more securely to the rails and decided instead just to be careful. If you want a more secure option then you could either.-
- Add some bolts/screws with wing nuts to the sides of the guide dowels to clamp onto the rails.
- Add something to provide additional friction to the base panel and dowels where the rails meet it.
- Or simply add a security lanyard to stop the unit sliding forward accidentally.
Step 9: Using the Teleprompter
Video at 07:15 Using the teleprompter
Once the teleprompter is on the rails with your lens inserted thru the lens hole you are ready to go apart from having something to read. For this there are a host of options that are mostly free.
Option 1 : If you only have something fairly short to read then you can print it on paper and simply lay it flat in front of the glass. You will of course need to mirror the text which you can do in MS-Word by putting the text into a "text shape" then choosing "Shape effects" then "3D Rotation" then specifying 180 degrees in the "X Rotation" field. (see attached screenshot).
Option 2 : Is to use a tablet or mobile phone running a teleprompter app. There are several to choose from ranging from basic and free to advanced but paid for (I use ParrotTeleprompter on an Android tablet). The essential requirement is that you MUST be able to mirror the text. Some apps are designed to purely read from them without a teleprompter and these will NOT work (unless you can read mirrored text).
Other features to look for are the ability to adjust the scroll speed all the way thru to automated voice recognition that starts and stops scrolling as you speak or pause.
One simple tip if you are using a basic teleprompter app is to leave some blank lines especially in long presentations to allow yourself a chance to catch-up if needed.
I hope you found this helpful and I'm sure that if you make this then you will find making and filming presentations so much less stressful.