When a person is required to speak directly to the camera, cue cards or other memory aids cannot be used since the smallest shift in eye-line can be quite noticeable, but scripts are often too long to be memorized even by a highly trained actor. That’s where a teleprompter comes in.
A teleprompter is a simple device that is installed in front of a camera lens to reflect computer-generated text back at the speaker. Because of the type of glass used and the angle at which it is installed, the text reflects and is visible to the talent but does not refract and therefore remains invisible to the camera. This enables the talent to read the script while maintaining a fixed eye-line directly into the lens of the camera.
Reading from a teleprompter can of course still take a bit of practice, but by following a few simple tips you will look as natural as your local news anchor.
How to Read from a Teleprompter
1. Rehearse the Script Beforehand
You don’t need to completely memorize the script (that would defeat the purpose), but if you are reading the words for the first time while filming it will be obvious.
Remember to rehearse out-loud as well, as your speech will vary in pace from text that is read silently. This is also a good time to check any difficult pronunciations.
2. Practice with the Teleprompter
On the day of the video shoot, rehearse with the teleprompter operator while the crew finishes with the lighting and audio adjustments to get a better feel for how it works.
3. Change the Script if You Need To
If you find you are struggling with some wording in the script it may be changed in the computer on the fly so that it reads more naturally. This can happen when a script has not been read aloud beforehand (see tip #1).
However, in some cases a script should not be changed as it may have been diligently reviewed by a legal or marketing team in advance. A good compromise may be to film a take both ways for safety.
4. It’s You That Sets the Pace
The prompter operator will make adjustments to match your speed of speech, so don’t feel the need to speed up or to slow down in response to the scrolling text.
5. Be Yourself
…And remember to use regular pauses, inflections and body language.
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