Full-screen Scrolling Teleprompter

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Introduction: Full-screen Scrolling Teleprompter

About: I am a Canadian woodblock printmaker, living in Japan for many years. I enjoy chances to use modern technology in support of my work of reproducing old Japanese prints.

I needed a teleprompter to help me make better looking videos for my website on woodblock printmaking, so I built this one, using nothing but a few pieces of scrap wood and glass, and only free software.

When recording videos, I discovered that I'm not much of an actor ... namely, I can't remember my lines! I tried to get around this by printing out a large-type 'script' and hanging it up next to the camera, but when I looked at the resulting video, it was obvious that I was reading something, and not looking directly into the camera. There was only one solution ... build a teleprompter!

Here's how I did it, in just a few minutes, using a couple of scraps of wood, a scavenged piece of glass, and an old shirt ...

Step 1: The Wooden Frame

The whole thing is made from five pieces of scrap wood: a square piece cut in half to make two equal triangles for the sides, and three cross braces.

The second photo shows them quickly tacked together. The width of this thing is just a little bit less than the width of the piece of glass that I'm about to 'steal' from one of the pictures on the wall. (It's evening, and the hardware store is closed!)

(This picture shows the parts sitting on top of my home-made table saw ... that's another story one day!)

Step 2: Support for the Glass

This step shows the only little 'quirk' in the assembly. The lower strut is tacked in place such that it sticks up - this will provide the base support for the glass pane that will lay on top of the 45 degree sides.

Step 3: Preparing the Script File

Before putting it all together, I have to lay out the script that will be viewed on the prompter. I used a word processing program to prepare it with white text on a black background, 36 point Verdana, for easy reading from a distance. I then saved it as a .pdf file ... (I have my monitor desktop set to a flat black tone, so in all the subsequent photos, the desktop kind of just disappears ...)

I opened the pdf file in Preview (the built-in pdf reader on a Mac), and selected 'Flip Vertical' from the View menu (second photo).

Step 4: Prepare the Script for Scrolling

One quirk with the Preview 'Flip Vertical' command is that each page is inverted independently - page one still remains page one. This means that when using the teleprompter, full pages can be changed easily (with a Page Down command), but smooth scrolling doesn't give the proper sequence of script.

So after doing a 'Save' in Preview, I open the same file in Adobe Reader (I'm using 7.0 on a Mac). Adobe Reader doesn't seem to have any way to flip vertically, but it does allow the file to be 'printed' (to another .pdf) with the 'pages in reverse order' option selected. After doing this, I then open the resulting file again using Adobe Reader, select 'Single Page' viewing mode, and I'm ready to (literally) roll.

Step 5: Assembly - Monitor Position

OK, let's put it all together. Here's where the action will take place ... my normal desk.

First step is to move the keyboard out of the way, and lay the monitor down flat on its back (second photo)

Step 6: Assembly - Camera Position

My trusty Sony Handycam goes in place, standing on a thick book to bring it up to about the right height.

Step 7: Assembly - Frame and Glass

Then the teleprompter goes into place, sitting on the flat bezel of the monitor - so it won't scratch the screen. The glass sheet sits on top. That thing up at the top right of the photo is a strip of tape protecting me from bashing into the bare edge of the cut glass extending upwards.

Step 8: Assembly - Hood

Head for the laundry basket and see what we can find for a hood ... A denim shirt should do the trick just fine!

Step 9: Ready for Use ...

This shot is taken from where I will sit while recording the video. I've got the camera flash on, so the teleprompter lettering is wiped out, and you see through the glass to the video camera back there instead. (That thing in the foreground is the bottom of the monitor stand.)

The second photo - taken with my flash turned off - lets us see the teleprompter in action ... Clear and easy to read! When I'm ready to start recording, I'll use the camera's remote to start the recording, then select the 'Automatically Scroll' command from the Adobe Reader 'View' menu (or actually, just use the keyboard command).

The text will start scrolling perfectly smoothly, with the speed controllable by the up/down arrow keys on the keyboard. (If at first, the scroll is in the wrong direction, just slow it down with the appropriate arrow key to the point where it reverses direction ...)

Step 10: Finished!

So here we are ... a couple of lights set up, and the keyboard placed so that I can control the scroll speed. I sit down, use the video camera's remote to start recording, hit Shift-Command-H on the keyboard to start Adobe Reader's scrolling ... 'Roll Em' ... Instant teleprompter!

Total cost: zero! All the software is free, and I'll put the piece of glass back into the picture frame when I'm done ...

Over on my Xmas Present for your Mother page, you can see the first video I made using this system ... it worked great!

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    38 Discussions

    Great tutorial but the software side is a little too complicated (takes longer to set up the script than to assemble the whole teleprompter hardware).

    Why not use something like Power Prompter? http://suborbital.io/powerprompter/

    Would save a lot of time really!

    I recommend you to look this site about How to Use Teleprompter
    and extremely helpful with well explanation. - See more at:
    http://www.gowallaby.com/how-to-use-a-teleprompter

    I just put up a new, free and open source teleprompter software "Proverb Teleprompter" at  http://proverbteleprompter.codeplex.com.  It has many features of the commercial software, but it is free.  Please add any feature requests to the CodePlex page and I will add them ASAP. 

    Some Features:
    * Dual monitor support
    * Time estimate to end of document
    * Reads and writes RTF format (images & text formatting)
    * adjustable font size and scroll speed
    * Support for a variety of remote controls (media or powerpoint style)

    I've been thinking of a HUD type for a sleek computer desk mod, but Im concerned with the viewing angle. I did some quick tests with mirrors and determined that it would ultimately be uncomfortable, because when you move the image position doubles acconding to the angle between you and the direct center of the screen. I really like this instructable. Flurry of ideas rushing around the place. Touch/Multitouch and motion tracking+commanding is the future inteface in computing and everything else guys. Lets make it first!

    I don't need a teleprompter, but looks like a great way to make a multi-touch display with only a few parts. Thanks for posting this.

    13 replies

    Well, mainly I like the idea of the reflected image. Its transparent. The camera can obviously 'see' the person in front of it. With the right software, you could track where the person is pointing or maybe even where they're looking. When you look up 'cheap multitouch' and stuff like that, they are very similar to your teleprompter, only they use a webcam and some software to detect movement. The only thing is they usually take apart the monitor and set up some IR filters and stuff. This is a much simpler way to get a similar effect. I REALLY like the reflected image trick. I think one could make a Heads Up Display (HUD) this way. I bookmarked your post so I can explore this idea when I have some time. I'll let you know how it goes.

    I know alot about multi-touch, never have built an actual table (cardboard box sensors though...) mainly because I didnt have a projector. I like your idea but I dont see how you can accuratly track blobs or give a surface to do the actual touching (since its angled) you could put another sheet perp. to the camera, but then you could see the sides of the box. [c../..| And the reflection wont reflect on a sheet of paper like a projector, which is needed to get blobs for tracking (DI style...) I guess you could use FTIR but thats not really the best option as you would need constrant background removal.

    I agree about the blobs. It would be hard the way it is. I think if you could reflect the display onto the glass but flat, it would work. In other words rather than placing the reflective surface at an angle, put the monitor at an angle and the camera above it. Take this teleprompter and turn it around then tip it forward until the glass is vertical. Then put the camera above the top edge of the monitor pointed at the glass. Illuminate the glass with IR then put a visible light filter over the camera so it only sees the IR. When I was a kid, I had miniature Donkey Kong arcade game that worked almost exactly as I'm describing. It had a little color LCD display in the bottom, then a mirror reflected the image onto the glass so it looked like it was right in front of you. When you tilted it sideways, you could see the mirrors and stuff inside, but not if you looked right at it. Then again, I saw this guy on YouTube who does it in the open air. No blobs. You put your hand in a certain place in the air it has a line around it on the display, once it acquires your hand, you can move it anywhere. The system tracks the movement of your hand after that. Kind of like Minority Report but without the glove things. A few years ago, IBM or some place like that had a system that could see your eyes and where you were looking. So the operator looked at the stereo and said "Turn down the volume." The system determined what he was looking at and lowered the volume on the stereo. Right now, I'm thinking of how to use this teleprompter for a HUD, my video card drivers can do all the flipping and inverting of the image. I'm hooked on the reflected image idea right now.

    So I guess DI is out of the picture then. And you do need a cover for FTIR, otherwise stray IR light might hit the CCD and cause false-blobs. But this cover, tracing paper, blocks the light from the reflection, rendering it useless.

    Diffused Illumination it uses an invert filter to track blobs. You can do it well in a well lit room. Its the same function on how those 'cheap multitouch' things work, with the cardboard box and the webcam, and the paper.

    We use CF bulbs in our house, they are so dang efficient they won't activate a solar powered calculator. I guess that explains why my own cardboard box didn't work very well. I'll try it out in the garage where I have big giant fluorescent bulbs. In this case, I was thinking about something like DI but with IR only. So you put a few IR LED's that are focused onto the display/touch surface from the outside. Cover the camera lens with a visible light filter, that only sees IR. It would probably pickup ambient changes in IR, like TV remote or something unless the IR LED's are enough to saturate the camera's view area of the touch surface enough, that it any physical contact would block IR light. The software need to pickup IR shadow blobs instead of reflected IR brightness blobs. I think it would work if the software can SEE the differences in the IR light. I haven't really thought that through though. We wouldn't need a teleprompter to test that. Just the same cardboard box rig, but with no paper and 4 IR LED's pointed toward the touch surface saturating it with IR light. You should see a shadow when you touch the surface. It's a thought.

    Well if its saturating the ccd then anything you do beyond blocking all the light from the ccd will have no effect. What It needs to do is reflect off of the panel, like paper or something. Thats way the light could pass through and be blocked by a finger or something.