A teleprompter is the BEST accessory you can buy after audio and lighting equipment.
First and foremost you need great audio and then ideally great lighting. Believe it or not, the quality of the camera itself is not necessarily the most important factor in the quality of your videos. What matters more than anything is the quality of your content.
Not only can using a teleprompter increase your on-screen confidence, but it’s also the best way to properly plan your video. Planning out your script will allow you properly pace your video, see about how long your video will be when complete, and maybe most importantly ensure that you don’t begin to ramble and remember to talk about the important parts you meant to talk about. If you frequently say “umm” or “uhhh” this will also dramatically improve the sound of your speech.
In case you do not already know, a teleprompter is a device used in filmmaking that allows the actor to read from a screen while filming and simultaneously looking directly in the camera. A true teleprompter is a piece of special reflective glass tilted at a 45-degree angle right in front of the lens, with a monitor laid horizontally below it with scrolling text on it. The scrolling text on the screen shines up and reflects off the 45-degree glass and when the actor looks into the camera, they can clearly read the text. The text does not hinder the quality of the video as the text is right up against the lens, and the focus point (your actor) is so far away, the text is rendered completely invisible.
But how can you possibly get your hands on a piece of Hollywood hardware magic? Well, it turns out you have several options, and I’m going to show you some, some I have even tested and used myself.
First of all, you will need either an Android or Apple phone or tablet. Then you will need to download a free teleprompter app. Here are two apps you could use, but there are plenty out there. Download the app for your device, and check out the options below for teleprompters. I have ordered these from cheapest to most advanced.
1. Hot Shoe Phone Holder
This is what I used when I was first looking for a teleprompter solution, and this is a cheap one for under $10. This holder expands to hold most size phones, maybe even small tablets, and then attaches to the hot-shoe on top of the camera. I downloaded a free teleprompter app, uploaded my script and hit “play”. Then you can read the text as it scrolls above the camera. In the image above they have it facing the wrong way clearly (for this purpose at least).
As I said, this is something that I have used in the past, so I can speak personally to how useful it is. While it may be better than nothing at all, I think it may serve best for notes rather than a full script. The small size of your cell phone will make it very difficult to read. You can, of course, make the font as large as you like, but at a certain point, you can only fit so much on the screen at one time. If you used this to serve up general notes, stats, key points, etc, then I think this would be a fantastic idea when you can’t go the extra mile.
– This is an extremely cheap solution, and you likely already have a phone, or even a spare phone to use.
– It’s somewhat easy to tell that you are reading, as your eyes are looking slightly “above” the camera. This effect diminishes with distance from the camera.
– It is sometimes hard to read the screen, even with a larger phone.
2. Tablet hot shoe mount
This is the next step up if you aren’t looking to spend too much money but need something with a little bit bigger of a screen. Like I said above, it’s really obvious you are reading off a screen, especially when the screen is so small, it’s easy to see your eyes scanning across the screen. To attempt to reduce that, you can go with a bigger screen and get it closer to the lens with this tablet cage. If you have a tablet, this is a far better option and nearly the same price at only $15
However, all of that isn’t to rule out additional benefits of having a cage. The nice side handles make it possible to make easier and smoother pans and tilts. Actually, even using a cage like this can help reduce camera shake in handheld shots. On top of that, cages give you extra options for attaching other accessories such as lights, recorders, mounts, etc.
– Flexible arm for positioning
– Larger screen
– Less noticeable eye movement.
– Shares most of the cons of the phone holder.
– Must own a tablet already.
3. Tablet Teleprompter
This is the exact product I am currently using for all of my videos and it’s fantastic. There are slightly cheaper options, but this is just a little more expensive with some pretty important benefits. This unit comes in around $200. This teleprompter sits in front of your camera with a piece of glass that is similar to the “beam splitter” glass that is used in high-end Hollywood teleprompters. What this glass goes is make great reflections that don’t blur or have this weird doubling effect that regular glass has that you will see used in DIY tutorials. So, your camera sits under a hood to block out the light, and a tablet sits under the glass and again you can use any free teleprompter app on the app market. This allows for a much larger font to be displayed so it is easier to read. Also because the glass is in front of the camera, it is very hard for the audience to tell that you are reading anything at all.
With my own personal experience, this is fairly high quality for what you pay for, compared to the alternatives. The true beam splitter glass that most units use can drive the price up by quite a bit, and this alternative glass does an excellent job.
– A very professional setup for the cost
– Utilizes reflection to allow you to look directly into the camera
– “Beam Splitter” glass alternative
– Carrying Case
– It’s a little expensive for someone new to YouTube, it’s a real investment.
– If you use a slide out screen on your camera to see yourself, this will likely block that.
4. You Could DIY
If you really don’t want to spend any money, or the least amount of money possible, you can DIY your own solution. However, I just want to say. I have seen a lot of tutorials for making your own teleprompter-like device, and I just can’t advocate making your own. In parts alone, you are absolutely going to spend more than the $10 or so a phone holder costs and that gives you a lot more versatility in my opinion. And in any case, a DIY teleprompter is going to give you some pains that I personally just do not believe are worth it, such as being blurry. If you are going to spend any money at all, it may be worth looking into one of the solutions above.
That said. I did find this tutorial, and if I was to make my own DIY teleprompter, this is exactly how I would do it. However, notice how difficult of a time YouTube creator David Malki has using his DIY creation with a teleprompter. Not something I’d trust my nice camera on and that damage would cost me much more than my $200 teleprompter.