I thought I'd show you how I made my teleprompter in case somebody was thinking about buying or making their own—maybe you'll get some ideas from mine. First let me say that the stills and movie here were shot with a very cheap, old Canon camcorder I keep out in the glovebox just in case I'm out driving somewhere and just happen to see bigfoot or the mother-ship. It shoots terrible, grainy video, but it will get the point across.
Professional teleprompters are very expensive, but you can make one very easily from an old, cheap laptop, some glass, and something to place them on. And then you'll also need some software to make the scrolling text. I've seen teleprompter text software for under a hundred dollars, but if you already have Flash, you can make the text there. And you can also buy used versions of Flash for under a hundred bucks too. An older version of Flash works fine for this. I still use the ancient Flash 5. An old laptop with at least a Pentium 2 processor is good enough to run your little mpg or wmv movie for the text with.
A teleprompter is nothing but a playback projector which projects text on a piece of glass set at a 45% angle in front of the camcorder. The person sitting in front of the glass reading the text will see it projected onto the glass; however, since the glass is at a 45% angle the camcorder will look right through it without seeing the text at all.
I've got mine set up in my cramped office space to demonstrate it. Here's what it looks like from the front side--left:
As you'll notice I'm just using some very cheap plastic shelving you can get at any hardware store for $25. I don't use a teleprompter outside of my home, so having it in a stationary position where I can sit across from it is fine for me. If you're going to have people viewing the texts standing up, then you'll need to construct some kind of platform that will raise up and down to meet the standing height of the person reading the text. Some guys use a telescopic light stand for this.
In this next picture you can see what it looks like from the perspective of the person doing the reading. (I know the text looks small here, but when you're sitting in front of it, it's actually very large). Having a black backdrop helps to see the text much better. Even with the overhead light on you can see the text pretty well, but some people place a black drop cloth around the glass to keep out glare.
The next picture is taken from slightly above to show the glass angle.
You can get as fancy as you want with the project, but I kept it simple and cheap. I just wrap duck tape around the edges of the glass to make it easy to handle without getting cut. The glass cost me $8. Some people advocate using smoked glass. I tried it and found it harder to see the text on myself. I cut slots into the plastic tubing to set the glass in at the back end, and cut the tubing at an angle on the front side for the top of the glass to rest on. I just have an old pair of doubled up socks on top of the tubing to give the glass something soft to lay against. You probably won't need it, but I was just experimenting.
That's about it for the teleprompter. There isn't much to it.
If you buy teleprompter software it can make the scrolling text very easily for you and will of course do the reverse image automatically. If you use Flash you'll have to work at it quite a bit more. The following is the basic way I do it in Flash. It would help if you knew at least a few basics about using the program.
Open Flash, and set the movie stage size to whatever size your laptop screen is. The default frame rate in Flash is 12ips (it might be faster on newer versions), and that's actually just fine for scrolling text movies. At this frame rate you'll probably use about 1,800 frames for each minute of text with the following settings. Keep in mind that Flash has a frame limit of 16,000 frames, so the faster you set your frame rate, the faster you'll eat up those frames. If your laptop is not one of the newer widescreen models, you'll want to set the stage at something like 720x540 (remembering that Flash generates square pixels). Then just click on the text tool to place some text on the stage. Copy the text from whatever word processor you're using. After you have the text make sure it's wide enough to fill most of the stage from side to side with maybe a 1/4" left. Then click on the character panel to adjust the font. I generally use Arial bold at 38 size. Also, make the stage black and the text white. It'll be easier to read from the teleprompter. Align the text so that it's in a starting position to scroll from the bottom (maybe just have the first line of text visible). You should also click on the alignment tool, and align the text to the stage horizontally. Now with the text box highlighted, go to the "Insert" menu and click on "Convert to Symbol".
Flash has already generated the first keyframe for you at this point. If you practice reading your entire script with a stopwatch before you import it to see how long it takes you to read, then taking our average of 1,800 frames per minute try to rough estimate how many frames you'll need. If it's, for instance, 2-minutes long then go to the 3,600 frame and place a new keyframe there. Drag the text upward to where only the bottom (last) line of text is visible, and then again use the text alignment tool to align it horizontally to the stage there. So now Flash knows the position of the text when it starts and when it ends. Now click on any of the timeline frames between the two keyframes, right-click and choose "Create Motion Tween." This will make the text scroll. The last thing you need to do is to flip the text symbol horizontally. Click on the first keyframe to highlight it. Go to the "Modify" menu and click on "Transform" followed by "Flip Horizontally." Go to the last Keyframe and do the same.
You're now ready to test your movie. Click on the "Control" menu and choose "Test Movie". Watch to see if the text scrolls at an acceptable rate for easy reading. If it's a little fast or slow then go back to the timeline and move your ending Keyframe to use more or less frames until you have it right.
Once you've got everything the way you want it, export the movie as an AVI. You'll want to compress it of course for easy playback on your laptop's system. Believe it or not, the old Cinepak codec works really well for Flash text and makes for a small file size. It will take several minutes to generate your movie because of the scrolling text.