Hey guys, welcome back to Behind the Sawdust. I’m here in the main shop dealing with some technical problems that always seem to come up just as we’re rushing to finish up a new issue of Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal. I suppose if I’m going to be completely honest, and let’s face it, I’m not, most of these problems are somebody else’s fault. While I may have been the one who tripped him, it was Randy who fell into the teleprompter for the fifth time this month. I’ve been on him to watch where he’s going for years, but that lazy eye of his always seems to be pointed in the wrong direction. Fortunately, the heaviest and most fragile parts landed on top of him, because I really can’t afford broken equipment while we’re right in the middle of filming video for the July issue.
You may recall that I introduced you to our teleprompter a few episodes ago. It’s a critically important piece of equipment because, during long monologues or complex tutorials, it helps me sound way smarter than I actually am. Believe it or not, many YouTube creators use some sort of teleprompter, whether it’s a laptop or an i-Pad placed next to the camera, or simply sheets of paper taped to the wall. Very few use full on teleprompters because they are very expensive. But they really don’t have to be. Ours was commercially made, but as I look at it I notice that it’s little more than a collection of commonly available parts that you can purchase and assemble yourself for a lot less than I paid for the completed setup. So if you have been thinking of using a teleprompter to make some videos of your own, it’s a good thing you clicked on this one. I’m going to show you how to put together a real, professional quality teleprompter for around $200- give or take.
It starts with a microphone stand. You don’t need one with a big boom on it, just a straight, adjustable stand with a little plastic mic holder on the end. I recommend one with tripod legs rather than a round base for added stability.
Next you’ll need a sheet music stand. All you’re going to use is the metal music tray and about 8” of the post. You can either buy a full stand and cut it off, or better yet, buy a table top stand that already comes with a stubby post.
You’ll also need a Yamaha CSAT-924A. What is a Yamaha CSAT-924A, you ask? It’s an adjustable clamp for a drum set. Don’t worry, I’ll place links to all of this stuff in the notes below the video.
There are a few other miscellaneous bits that I’ll show you in a couple of minutes, but so far all of these parts add up to about $60. Now comes the expensive part. The glass. You can use a regular piece of glass, though I highly recommend that it be a thick piece of tempered glass. The downside of regular glass, though, is that it won’t reflect the text back to you very clearly, and you’ll be able to see the camera equipment on the other side, which is very distracting. However, I did once build a teleprompter with regular glass and it did work reasonably well as long as I kept the glass shielded from the light. If you want to at least try that route, I suspect a piece will cost you about $20, making the entire cost of your teleprompter under a hundred bucks.
But, after a while, I got tired of squinting to see the text and decided that proper teleprompter glass is worth the added investment. If you feel the same way, I recommend checking professional glass dealers in your area. Tell them you want glass for a teleprompter, which is also called beam splitter glass, half silvered glass or two-way mirror glass. You’ll want it at least 4mm thick, definitely tempered, with a coating that makes it about 70% transparent, 30% reflective- give or take. If they have it, they’ll probably be a lot cheaper than a company that sells it specifically for teleprompter use. But if you can’t find it, you can purchase the glass from a couple of websites. The cheapest I have found is telepromptermirror.com. A 14X14 piece, which is the size I use, will cost about $136. Yes, that’s about $100 a square foot. As with any professional video production equipment, they really stick it to you. That’s why it’s worth checking glass dealers.
So, you’ve got your parts. Assembly is pretty simple. The music stand supports your monitor (or your tablet, or your laptop). We’ll talk more about that shortly. It attaches to the microphone stand using that Yamaha drum bracket. To keep it from tipping you’ll also secure it using a u-bolt, which goes around the stand and through a couple of holes you will need to drill through the tray itself.
On top of the stand you’ll use just the base portion of the plastic microphone holder. In place of the swiveling portion that actually holds the microphone you’ll instead use a couple of simple angle brackets from the hardware store and some washers for spacers. It’s a good idea to make a couple of those washers the locking type with the teeth on them.
To that you will attach a simple homemade bracket. Mine is made out of plastic, but wood will work perfectly fine too. I’ll place a link to the measurements for this bracket in the notes below the video as well. That bracket holds your teleprompter glass. This is why you want thick, tempered glass. Regular glass may break off at the bracket, and possibly cause injury. So don’t cheap out.
Next comes the fabric. You have to drape cloth over the top to keep light from reflecting off the back of glass and into your camera lens, which can show up in the shot. And it’s also helpful, though not vital, to completely cover the camera behind the glass so all you see through the teleprompter is black rather than the faint outline of the camera which will still be visible through the two-way glass. You don’t have to spend a lot on the fabric. Just go to a craft store that sells it and hold various samples up to the light. You want a tight enough weave that it blocks out most of the light. I don’t recommend denim or really heavy fabrics because the added weight may be too much for the bracket that holds your glass, causing it to slip out of position. They usually sell fabric by the yard, and one yard should be sufficient.
Angle the glass on your teleprompter away from the camera, toward the person that will be using it, about 45 degrees. I added some wooden supports that I made from pieces of plywood, these aren’t needed if you are using a small video camera or a DSLR, but they help keep the fabric from sagging at the top in front of our big camera. They’re about a foot long with slots cut in the ends at a 45 degree angle. Anyway, drape your fabric over the glass and use binder clips which are found at office supply stores to attach it to the top edge. Trim the excess fabric that hangs at the side of the glass with some scissors, and then use clips to attach it to the sides of the glass as well.
I also decided to put a plywood base with wheels beneath my teleprompter so I could roll it around rather than carrying it from place to place in the shop. I find that’s safer, especially if you have a laptop on the teleprompter, or if your monitor isn’t fastened down. Another modification I used for a while, and really liked, was I attached a tripod right to the teleprompter stand itself using another one of those drum set brackets. This was a great setup for using a DSLR or small video camera. The only reason why I went back to a separate tripod was because our big camera has to set farther back from the glass.
Now, what about that monitor? I use an older one that I found at a yard sale for $10. It’s attached to the tray and connected to my computer here in the workshop using a long cable. I like to do it this way because I can have someone controlling the teleprompter off screen at the computer while I look at this second monitor reflected in the glass. You could do the same thing with a laptop computer and a second monitor. Or, you can actually set the laptop right on the tray instead of the extra monitor, with the screen angled toward the glass. You can even lay a tablet like an i-pad on the tray and skip the computer altogether.
You will need some teleprompter software. There are some free versions out there, so do a Google search and see what you can find. I use one called Prompt-Dog, which you have to buy. The same company sells a cheaper version called Prompt-Puppy, but it will not work with this type of teleprompter because it does not have a feature that will mirror the text, or make it backwards on the screen so that the reflection in the mirror isn’t reversed while you look at it. Whatever software you use has to have a mirror feature. One thing I like about Prompt-Dog is that you can control the speed at which the text scrolls with the wheel on a computer mouse. You can even do it yourself with a small wireless mouse in your hand as you speak. I find that to be very important. I have never been able to just start the text rolling and go from beginning to end without changing the speed from time to time as I speak. I am not going to officially recommend Prompt-Dog, because it does have some frustrating bugs that pop up from time to time. But I believe they have a free trial if you want to try it out. I’ll place a link below the video.
That’s pretty much it. You have a fully adjustable teleprompter for about $200 or so. If you do an internet search you will find that similarly sized teleprompters cost many times that price, even without software and computer equipment. The company that made mine also happens to be the company that makes the glass I told you about. They sell theirs for $500, which is an absolute steal. But, like I said, they just make it from readily available parts. So if you don’t want to build your own, you can get it from them. I do not get any kickback or sponsorship dollars from them. I just found them on the internet a couple of years ago and have been mostly pleased with the teleprompters I ordered. I did have to replace the fabric they sent, and their software is not very good. So, if I was to do it again, I would just buy the glass from them, and build my own as I described. Again, I’ll put links to all of this in the notes below the video.
Now, even though this is primarily a woodworking show, I know some of you are watching this video purely for the teleprompter information. We talk a lot about the production end of Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal on episodes of Behind the Sawdsut, so even if you aren’t a woodworker, you should subscribe to our YouTube channel for that information alone. If you are a woodworker or DIYer, you will definitely want to check out Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal, which you can read and subscribe to for free at stumpynubs.com. It’s full of tips, tricks, projects, tutorials and all sort of woodworking goodness.
That’s it for this edition of Behind the Sawdust. Tune in next week for another look behind the scenes at the Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal shops. Don’t forget to support our sponsors by visiting their websites via the links in the notes below the video. Spending a few seconds on their sites goes a long way toward supporting what we do. You deserve to sit back and have a cold one, because you’ve earned it, my friend!
Telepromtper glass $136: http://www.telepromptermirror.com/glass-teleprompter-mirror/
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