I’ve been following The King of Random on YouTube for a few years now. Most of the stuff they do on there is, as the name would suggest, kinda random and often a little bit weird. Every now and again, though, they post something quite useful for photographers and filmmakers – even if it’s just how to do something that would make a cool practical effect.
This video, though, is definitely useful for anybody who has to sit and speak in front of a camera. Here we see how to make a DIY teleprompter using just a sheet of acrylic and a few pieces of black foamcore. The total cost is probably less than $10 – not including your phone.
Teleprompters, at their most basic, are quite simple things, as illustrated in the video. You have a piece of glass (or, in this case, acrylic) in front of the lens at 45 degrees. Below it, some kind of screen which the glass reflects back toward the subject. The camera looks straight through the glass at the subject and doesn’t see the reflection of the screen.
In the video, a phone is used as the display, running the app for the Parrot teleprompter. But there are plenty of other apps out there. Some of them will interact with Bluetooth handsets to let you scroll forwards and backwards, or speed up and slow down the playback of the text while you’re in front of the camera. The main frame of the teleprompter is made from foamcore, which makes for an extremely light setup. Other than that, all you need is a sharp knife and a hot glue gun.
Commercially available teleprompters have prices that go into the thousands. But those are overkill for those who just want to remember their script for a quick vlog or YouTube tutorial. This DIY option is quick & easy to assemble and comes at a very low cost.
You do face one issue with this setup that you don’t typically get with higher end systems, though, and that’s double reflections on the acrylic. This also happens with most types of glass. It’s caused by the screen reflecting off both the front and rear surfaces of the glass. This happens a lot when you try to use glass or clear acrylic on a black cloth for product photography, too. You can work around it in this case by adjusting the size of the text and the typeface you use to make things more legible.
Higher end systems solve the issue by using beam splitter glass. Beam splitter glass helps prevent the image on the screen from reflecting off the rear internal face of the glass, so you only see the reflection. Beam splitter glass can be quite pricey, but if you end up using the teleprompter a lot, it may be worth picking up a piece – especially if the double reflections are making things difficult to follow.
But, try this way first. You might find that it suits you just fine.