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Friday, 10 December 2010 18:36

Autocue/ QTV Teleprompter

Written by  David Hurd
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Autocue and QTV, the first brands to manufacture teleprompter equipment, have been prompting for the broadcast industry since 1955. There are actually thousands of QTV teleprompter systems installed worldwide for broadcast customers like CNN, BBC, MTV, TF1, MBC, Bloomberg and Doordarshan. They’re also used in government, corporate and academic institutions, including the White House, Bank of America, the Oman Ministry of Information and Arkansas State University.

TestDrive_SS17AThe QTV Prompter systems come in three levels: Starter, Professional and Master. I chose to test the Starter SSP17 prompter with the Conference Conversion Kit because the setup allows for a wide variety of prompting situations. It’s actually four teleprompting solutions in one starter-level prompter package.
The first configuration is the usual on-camera unit for when you want your talent looking directly into the lens. I used this on a studio product shoot and found that it worked very well. The talent was about 12 feet from the camera and could easily read the script. Being able to get past 9 feet is important because distance removes the eye movement that can distract the viewers of your final product. Let’s face it, no one wants to see someone’s eyes moving back and forth while they’re reading a script –– and that didn’t happen with this prompter. The SSP17 worked so well that the shoot took one quarter of the time that it would have taken without the prompter, and everyone was happy to come in under budget.
Part of why this worked so well is the quality of the glass used in the SSP17 prompter. QTV only uses broadcast-quality prompter glass, which is designed to produce both the clearest reflected image and optimal light to the camera.

The second configuration is the straight-read, above-camera teleprompter. This setup works well when you’re using a light ring on your camera for virtual shots and can’t use the glass. Just simply remove the glass and then mount the monitor in a position above your camera’s lens with the supplied bracket. Since the SSP17 is designed for all cameras, from DV to full-size models, you won’t have to change your prompter if you change your camera.

The interview look (with the talent looking beside the camera) is the third position. For this look, mount the monitor on a floor stand or a tripod standing beside the camera. This gives you movable straight-read prompting beside the camera. Another handy setup is to mount the monitor on the floor, so that the talent can see their bullet points when giving a speech in front of a live audience. You can also use the prompter as a cue card for actors who can’t remember their lines.

With a reading range of 20 feet and a 1000:1 contrast ratio, the font is easy to read from a distance, making this a very usable prompter for all kinds of productions. The cool thing with the SSP17 is that everything you need is in one box. The prompter pops up for easy mounting, and the mounting system fits all tripods and is easy to balance without the need for counterweights. (Prompting without counterweights makes everything so much lighter and easier to move as your shots change.) Overall, this QTV prompter is amazingly well built and functional, and when you add in the free QStart software along with free software upgrades and monitor warranties, it’s a great value for the money.

So far, I’ve told you about the basic starter prompter system, which is very versatile and can handle all of your client’s needs, including when they do public speaking. The Conference Conversion Kit has everything you need to convert the Starter series teleprompter into a manual conference prompter. The Manual Conference System is designed for corporate conferences or other events where a speaker is addressing an audience. When erected, the prompting system resembles a mic stand with a piece of glass attached to the top of it. From the audience’s perspective, the high-quality prompter glass is transparent, giving the impression that the presenter is speaking fluently and professionally without any assistance. From the presenter’s perspective, the glass displays a mirror image of the pre-prepared speech from the LCD monitor at the base of the stand. The height of the stand and the angle of the prompting glass are fully adjustable to match the eyeline of the presenter. The addition of the Conference Conversion Kit creates a prompter for all occasions.

The free QStart prompting software works well with dual-screen functionality that reverses the script for reflection in the prompt monitor, while it allows you to view it normally on your prompting laptop. It works with multi-language text and in Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 and Mac OSX in all Windows languages. It also offers multiple control options, like formatting, search functionality and the ability to set markers in the script and assign keys to them for quick recall.

The QStart software will import QStart, .doc, .rtf and .txt files, so you won’t have to translate script files before use, which is a real time saver. And, in case of computer failure, the USB security dongle allows you to move your prompting software to any PC. Simply insert your dongle to validate the QStart software. You can also control the flow of script in several ways via the keyboard’s number and arrow keys, a mouse, foot controller or the Contour ShuttleXpress USB controller with its five programmable buttons and jog and scroll wheels. I opted for the Shuttle, as I like to use a scroll wheel to make small adjustments in prompting speed to match the speaker’s natural rhythm.

Also included in the prompter package are quick installation guides, detailed user manuals and full warranties: one year for the monitor and three years for the hardware. Additionally, three support teams are located in New York, Charlotte and London, so you can have support in the States and Europe.
My review system consists of the Starter SSP17 prompter with the Conference Conversion Kit, which have the quality and versatility to handle all of your prompting needs. As we all know, time is money, and this prompter will more than pay for itself by allowing you to get your shot in one take instead of ten.

More of David Hurd’s reviews can be seen at

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