PromptSmart: The Low-Budget Teleprompter Solution

In the age of YouTube and “do-it-yourself” content creators, the ability to deliver a fluent presentation can make or break a video’s performance.

Recording a video presentation is challenging enough, especially with a limited crew, or even a one-man operation. While many professionals can read a script and naturally recall it, for the rest of us a teleprompter is a lifeline.

Unfortunately, purchasing one or even hiring a professional operator with equipment can add some weight to a fragile production budget. However, necessity finds a way and refers to the mantra of our current technological revolution, “There’s an app for that”.

Enter PromptSmart, an affordable teleprompter solution for mobile phones and tablets.

A Full Teleprompter Solution

There are many apps and websites available that can act as cheap (or even free) teleprompter solutions, but they tend to offer little more than on-screen text generators. They may help in a bind but they lack many of the key features that address production challenges. This is where PromptSmart shines.

PromptSmart packs a lot of punch in a small presentation. The app appears to be quite basic until you open the settings menu and take a look under the hood. There you will find a variety of tools for text customization, scrolling, readability, and device control.

You can choose from a variety of fonts, type sizes, and colors for both text and backgrounds. You can even apply different formatting to individual words for emphasis and notes during playback. Text can also be inverted and mirrored for use in a reflecting teleprompter hood.

The software provides four methods of text scrolling, all of which allow the user to control the application without the need for an independent operator. The first and most basic is the manual scroll. Text will sit stationary on the screen until the operator manually swipes it into the next desired position. This feature is best used when the speaker desires bullet points or keywords to remain on screen.

The second option is to auto scroll text at a preset speed. This allows the speaker to determine their comfort by being able to adjust scroll rates from 70 to 400 words per minute.

Additionally, PromptSmart can be operated by another smartphone via Bluetooth and the companion PromptSmart Remote application.

The fourth—and most impressive function—is the VoiceTrack feature. VoiceTrack automatically scrolls text based on the reader’s voice and will adjust cadence and scroll speed in real-time. It’s just like having an independent operator keeping pace with the talent. If the reader stops talking, the text stops scrolling until they pick up again. It is surprisingly accurate and works incredibly well at close and medium ranges (as is the case with most YouTube and “talking head” videos). For further distances, an external microphone can be connected to the mobile device hosting PromptSmart and placed closer to the talent.

PromptSmart also offers a suite of other tools such as eye guidelines and focus settings to increase text readability during playback. The cloud-based online dashboard also offers duplicate displays, live script editing, and a browser-based control room.

Mounting Solutions

Despite how many features an application may have, one of the biggest obstacles remains; directing the speaker’s eye line into the camera lens while reading the playback. Eyes darting off-screen to read the next block of text from an adjacent laptop is awkward for the talent and breaks the personal connection with the viewer. Placing the screen or mobile device directly under the lens or next to the camera can help, but the deviated attention is still noticeable, especially when the speaker is close to the camera.

Fortunately, there are affordable options for mounting a PromptSmart device onto even the smallest of cameras. One such device is the Padcaster Parrot Teleprompter for smartphones. This small and lightweight rig comes with a set of 13 mounting rings allowing it to attach to most DSLR cameras. Slide the hood—which houses the 45-degree angled reflection plane—directly onto the mounting rings and secure your phone into the spring-loaded clamp to hold your device firmly in place. Optional ring adapters can be purchased for small cameras so that the Padcaster can be mounted in front of a smaller camera (such as the Sony ZV1). If you are opting to use a tablet instead of a smartphone, there are other similar rigs you can purchase that will accommodate larger devices.

For those budding content creators who are currently recording on their smartphones and don’t want to invest in a mounting rig, PromptSmart can display scrolling text over the phone’s screen when using the front-facing camera. The software is also compatible with many selfie sticks, allowing the user to start and stop recording using the volume controls.The Padcaster Parrot Teleprompter also comes with its own prompter software with remote control as a complete setup, however, it does not feature the VoiceTrack feature that PromptSmart offers.

Easy Setup and Compatibility

Getting started with PromptSmart is a quick and easy process. The app is available for purchase on both Android and Apple app stores for as low as $9.99 a month. The companion PromptSmart Remote app is free to install on other devices.

The application allows you to input text-based document files stored locally on your device, or upload them through cloud access apps such as iCloud, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Dropbox. Alternatively, text can be typed or copied and pasted directly into a new document within PromptSmart.

For just a tiny fraction of what larger, traditional setups cost you now have a professional teleprompter solution literally within the palm of your hand.

Broadcast Beat - Production Industry Resource