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    #11
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    I have a 15" system from PrompterPeople that is probably going on 17 years old now that I think cost $1200. It started with my last Betacam and now I mostly use it with my F55 and FS7. I keep it pre-built in a case so I just have to put it on tripod, mount the camera, and it's ready to roll. Absolutely the best ROI of any piece of equipment I have ever owned. Paid for itself probably 50x over in terms of charging clients extra, saving money from having to pay a prompter oeprator, plus speeding up a lot of shoots where I knew the CEO or politician was never going to get through the script without it. The talent looks better, the client is happy, and if I'm on a 10 hour day, it is great to wrap in five hours and go home early rather that watching the same flubbed lines and poor presentation over and over again. The iPad prompters are good in a pinch for a quick shot, but they just don't offer the same speed and flexibility of working from a real computer with Word, Acrobat, etc. at the ready. I use an old 17" MacBook Pro that is very out of date but still works as good as the day it was born. 15" is a good size. If you go bigger it is too easy to see the talent's eyes moving across the screen. Smaller is more portable and preforms better, especially in tight spaces. Go with Pormpter Poeple. They make good stuff.

    I should mention it is also handy for displaying PowerPoint or Keynote slides for talent that doesn't want to work from a script, but would still benefit from having some notes right in front of his/her face to keep them on track. I can't tell you how many times I have whipped out the prompter in the middle of the shoot, typed up a few slides, and saved the day. It really is the most underappreciated piece of gear a professional can own.
    Last edited by Doug Jensen; 02-24-2021 at 08:27 PM.


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    #12
    Senior Member puredrifting's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Jensen View Post
    I have a 15" system from PrompterPeople that is probably going on 17 years old now that I think cost $1200. It started with my last Betacam and now I mostly use it with my F55 and FS7. I keep it pre-built in a case so I just have to put it on tripod, mount the camera, and it's ready to roll. Absolutely the best ROI of any piece of equipment I have ever owned. Paid for itself probably 50x over in terms of charging clients extra, saving money from having to pay a prompter oeprator, plus speeding up a lot of shoots where I knew the CEO or politician was never going to get through the script without it. The talent looks better, the client is happy, and if I'm on a 10 hour day, it is great to wrap in five hours and go home early rather that watching the same flubbed lines and poor presentation over and over again. The iPad prompters are good in a pinch for a quick shot, but they just don't offer the same speed and flexibility of working from a real computer with Word, Acrobat, etc. at the ready. I use an old 17" MacBook Pro that is very out of date but still works as good as the day it was born. 15" is a good size. If you go bigger it is too easy to see the talent's eyes moving across the screen. Smaller is more portable and preforms better, especially in tight spaces. Go with Pormpter Poeple. They make good stuff.

    I should mention it is also handy for displaying PowerPoint or Keynote slides for talent that doesn't want to work from a script, but would still benefit from having some notes right in front of his/her face to keep them on track. I can't tell you how many times I have whipped out the prompter in the middle of the shoot, typed up a few slides, and saved the day. It really is the most underappreciated piece of gear a professional can own.
    Doug:

    How do you charge the client for the prompter when they have refused to pay for a prompter and you bring it out to save the day?
    Do you tell the client, "I am now going to charge you XX dollars to save the day" and they acquiesce or do they still refuse and you
    add it in for free to just get out of there or ?

    We just did a live stream and I hired a DP in Vegas to shoot the high B level talent who was hosting. When my shooter arrived at the hotel,
    talent naturally asked, "Where is my prompter?" Client was a non-profit and refused to pay for a prompter and op (which would have added
    any extra $700.00-$800.00 to the shoot for the prompter and operator).

    Talent ended up reading the script from a printed copy in front of the camera, it was awful, client simply refused to pay for it and the end result
    was terrible. I had a prompter and op standing by in Vegas. Lighting looked good, sound was good, poor talent had to read entire show from printed script with no eye contact with camera.

    Dumbest decision I have seen a client make in years. The live stream for the non-profit more than doubled the fund raising goal so client was
    ecstatic, talent was pissed and annoyed. It was a bad situation, the client, because they doubled their fund raising goal, was emboldened
    by their terrible decision, which nothing to do with the funds raised and everything to do with compromising their talent.
    It's a business first and a creative outlet second.
    G.A.S. destroys lives. Stop buying gear that doesn't make you money.


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    #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by puredrifting View Post
    Doug:
    How do you charge the client for the prompter when they have refused to pay for a prompter and you bring it out to save the day?
    Do you tell the client, "I am now going to charge you XX dollars to save the day" and they acquiesce or do they still refuse and you
    add it in for free to just get out of there or ?
    Why would I expect to charge extra? it is just part of my kit. Would I charge extra if a client wanted to use a certain lens, a certain, light, a different mic, or a monitor?
    In the situation you described, I would have been the hero when I whipped out my prompter. It would take me about 15 minutes to get up and running. The talent would have looked great. The finished video would have been better. The client would have been thrilled and all the more likely to call me next time or recommend me to others. I am looked at as a team player. Plus, and this is most important, I probably would have been able to pack up and get the hell out there hours sooner. That is priceless.

    My prompter cost me $1200 17 years ago and is still going strong. Prompter shots are almost always a lock-downed camera so I put the computer near the camera so I can operate both. No big deal and I don't need to charge extra.

    Why grab the client's balls and try to make them pay extra? It is short sighted and a poor way to build a successful business. Everyone wins when you can pull a trick out of the bag that basically costs you nothing to provide.

    I'm not saying I never charge. If a client books a prompter and expects it to be there, then there is likely to be a charge unless they are a regular client and I just want to toss them a freebie. Clients don't want to be nickle and dimed. Keeping them happy is how you build a business. Milk the cow for years, rather than eating steak one day.
    Last edited by Doug Jensen; 02-25-2021 at 08:16 AM.


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    #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Coughlin View Post
    What is a good teleprompter to buy?
    How do you want to shoot with it ?

    I have an old 17 inch Prompter People unit that I drag out for corporate clients. Many of the folks I shoot are older executives with poor eyesight, so the 17 inch screen is far better than an iPad.

    I also find that non-professionals can't follow a teleprompter script without looking like they are reading, so most of the time I have them send me their PowerPoint presentation which I pair down to large white bullet-points on a black background. When shooting I give them a Bluetooth laptop remote to advance their slides. ( they are a lot happier when they feel like they are in control of the slides ) Since most of my subjects are experts in their own field, all they need is the bullet-points to remind them about what they want to talk about, which they put into their own natural words. The end result is pretty good and they never look like they are reading.

    If I had to buy another prompter I would get either a 17 or 19 inch unit, high-brightness to be able to use it in daylight, something that could be quickly set-up and stored back into it's own case, and definitely a unit that has image-mirror and image-flip controls built into the monitor so that no teleprompter software would be required to run it. ( i.e. I could connect anything I want to it that can produce an image )


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    #15
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    Doug, this is an interesting scenario you are describing and I'm going to turn this into more of a philosophical discussion for a second.

    I agree that value-added has its, uh, value. I too provide a certain amount of extras with my gear package. These include two large cases of bits and pieces that are there for "oh s*%t" moments, the little things that you don't need until you do. I have a few things that are decked out versions of standard rental items that provide extra service and utility for the important people (directors/producers). No debating how useful all this is from saving the day to impressing a client.

    Where it gets complicated is when one provides a specialty service gratis that would not only normally trigger a rental, it is taking away someone else's livelihood. Here, you've knocked out a prompter person and you are not only fine with that, you are even suggesting that it in certain situations it would be bad business to try to upcharge them for the same service.

    Extrapolating that same philosophy in a different direction; let's say another shooter comes along and takes away one of your clients because they were able to provide them a service that you do not, or at least would charge for. Perhaps it's Steadicam, a gimbal or a drone or an extra camera. Or maybe they just charge half as much as you for a similar package. Whatever the reason, you lose the client to them. Are you able to shrug it off based on the same yardstick you are using, or do you grouse about "the kid with a truckload of gear giving it all away"? Yes, I know it's not all about gear, it's about how good we are at at our jobs--but once they keep hiring that person instead of you, that argument becomes moot.

    We all have a line we are comfortable with when it comes to value-adds, but it is uniquely ours. Your prompter has paid for itself over and over so you don't mind giving it away--same with your cameras? Do you just throw a camera in for free once its paid for? I'm sure you don't, because that would be a bad business model. Let's now think how a prompter operator feels about you not charging for the hardware.
    Last edited by CharlesPapert; 02-25-2021 at 09:09 AM.
    Charles Papert
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    Charles, I don't mind at all having a philosophical discussion because this is all very important stuff for anyone in this business to think about. I don't have very much time tonight so I'll have to be briefer than I would otherwise like to be.

    I know you work in totally different world than I do, so your experiences and the way you need to work might be totally different than mine. But in my world of non-fiction broadcast television and high-end corporate video, the more value I can add, the better.

    No matter specifically what it is that we are offering clients as "value added" gear or services, it is all part of what gives each of us a leg up on our competition. I've got some close friends in this business and I am happy to work with them and support them and promote them as much as I can. In fact, friends can't rent my gear, but they are welcome to borrow it when needed. I won't take their money and I will gladly refer client to them for work I cannot or do not want to do myself. But with that said, ultimately we are all competing for business. Fortunately, we all have different specialties, skills, and interests that kind of pigeon hole us into certain types of work so a lot of our spheres do not overlap, but ultimately we are competing. But the training I have, my interest in continuing education, my participation in professional groups, my choice of what equipment to buy (and not buy) all play a role in my success. People who make different choices will have different outcomes. Sometimes better, sometimes worse, but different. I wish I could have cloned myself 40 years ago so that I could have pursued multiple career paths. I'd love to be doing what you are doing, but I also love where I have landed. It is all good. I wish I could do more.

    I feel no obligation to hire anyone to do work that i can/want to do myself. That includes prompter operators, audio techs, and even makeup artists when all that is needed is to take some shine off a face. I will gladly hire those people when I need them but I don't feel owe them anything, nor do I feel they owe me anything. In the words of the Godfather, "It's just business." How many people put a cameraman out of work when they simply lock down a b-camera? Shouldn't someone be operating that camera?

    If another shooter can replace me and do the same job faster, cheaper, better, or whatever, they are welcome to do so. Competition makes everyone better, and don't even get me started about unions. The hard part for those folks is going to be luring my client away. Good luck with that. People who think being a success in this business is about who has a slider, a prompter, or better skills shooting is in for a rude awakening. This is a business and people need to learn to run it like a business and have some business skills that go beyond just operating some piece of equipment. Equipment are tools and just a means to an end. Nickle and diming the clients for every little thing is a recipe for failure. You have to be seen as a team player with a vested interest in the outcome, even if you don't give a rat's ass. It's called being a professional.

    In the case of prompting. It takes no special skills. Anyone who can read and has at least one hand can master it in about 10 minutes so why should I hire someone to do it for me? I teach a week-long production class in Maine in the summers about producing corporate video and dealing with clients. During the course each student has to auditio as talent at some point while other students take turns running the prompter. Believe me, every student has been able to do it to my satisfaction within a few minutes (prompter, that is, not talent).

    As far as cameras go, I think I own six 4K cameras right now. I don't care whether I shoot with my F55, Z750, or a GoPro. The rate is the same. The client has hired me to do a job and the tools I choose to use from my toolbox are just incidental to getting the job done. When I hire a mechanic, a plumber or whatever, I don't care what tools they use and I would never hire them again if they expected me to pay a bonus to use a special tool. If they couldn't do the job they were hired to do with their normal tools, then they should have discussed that before being hired. By the same token, I never rent gear, especially a camera. If the tools I own are not the right tools, please call someone else. I either work with my gear or I'll go work on something else where the tools that I have chosen, and the knowledge and skills I have to use those tools is wanted. Just get the job done! The last thing you want to be is Jerry Seinfeld's contractor. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vvWlZUYVOM

    How's that for throwing out a lot of opinions in one post!


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    Also, the more expensive the setup, the higher the rental rate, the higher the profit, within reason.
    I totally get the allure of having a more legit set-up and the one that puredrifting recommended that comes with a confidence monitor would certainly be a value-add for the talent to be able to see what they look like before they start...

    BUT

    Having used to have one of the big "professional" PrompterPeople ones for years, I knew it wasn't right for me when over time my preferred solution became laying my iPad on top of the computer monitor instead of messing with plugging it into a computer, formatting it, etc. (not to mention the computer monitor it came with back in the day wasn't very bright).

    It seems that your request is for perceived client value so this probably won't change your mind, but a few more practical things for other people to consider:

    My "teleprompter kit" is that $164 teleprompter and and iPad I already own with a $20 app. Almost every single rental I have done on it is pure profit because it paid for itself in about 2 seconds. Also, in practical purposes there's no reason to use anything larger than an iPad because even with something as small as an iPad you have to set it in vertical orientation in order to keep the talent's eyes on the lens. Even going landscape will show the talent's eyes reading beyond the lens. Outside of doing something like a super wide where the talent is literally 20 feet away from your camera, size is not an issue.

    Also, since there is a free version of the app that I use (Prompt Smart) it makes it easy for me to have the talent install it on their tablet or iphone to practice with it - which 100% of the time when they follow those directions and practice the day before the shoot goes MUCH smoother, especially if they don't have teleprompter experience.

    I've shot inside in dark studios and outside in full sun and I've yet to have on-camera talent mention that it wasn't bright enough because the background is black, then the teleprompter drop cloth get's pinned around the lens so no matter how bright it is outside, they're still looking into a black cave at a black background with bright colored text. Unless you're intentionally hitting the prompter glass with a shiny board there's no way an iPad isn't bright enough.
    Last edited by chris f; 02-25-2021 at 07:01 PM.


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    Chris, I like the way you have made your case for the iPad. Very well thought out with good reasoning behind your choices. They are not the choices I would make, but I like the debate. Tons of options out there for prompter solutions. Find one that works and get to work is what it is all about.


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    Quote Originally Posted by CharlesPapert View Post
    Doug, this is an interesting scenario you are describing and I'm going to turn this into more of a philosophical discussion for a second.

    I agree that value-added has its, uh, value. I too provide a certain amount of extras with my gear package. These include two large cases of bits and pieces that are there for "oh s*%t" moments, the little things that you don't need until you do. I have a few things that are decked out versions of standard rental items that provide extra service and utility for the important people (directors/producers). No debating how useful all this is from saving the day to impressing a client.

    Where it gets complicated is when one provides a specialty service gratis that would not only normally trigger a rental, it is taking away someone else's livelihood. Here, you've knocked out a prompter person and you are not only fine with that, you are even suggesting that it in certain situations it would be bad business to try to upcharge them for the same service.

    Extrapolating that same philosophy in a different direction; let's say another shooter comes along and takes away one of your clients because they were able to provide them a service that you do not, or at least would charge for. Perhaps it's Steadicam, a gimbal or a drone or an extra camera. Or maybe they just charge half as much as you for a similar package. Whatever the reason, you lose the client to them. Are you able to shrug it off based on the same yardstick you are using, or do you grouse about "the kid with a truckload of gear giving it all away"? Yes, I know it's not all about gear, it's about how good we are at at our jobs--but once they keep hiring that person instead of you, that argument becomes moot.

    We all have a line we are comfortable with when it comes to value-adds, but it is uniquely ours. Your prompter has paid for itself over and over so you don't mind giving it away--same with your cameras? Do you just throw a camera in for free once its paid for? I'm sure you don't, because that would be a bad business model. Let's now think how a prompter operator feels about you not charging for the hardware.
    Charles - first of all, this post should probably be in its own thread because frankly it directly addresses the elephant in the room that is very rarely discussed in this forum or certainly with much honesty or candor anywhere. And I appreciate the philosophical discussion - because like it or not, these are the kind of choices that will hit close to home - for each of us - eventually. If you've been making a living behind a camera, or as one of those other "non-special skills" side areas, for the past 10 - 15 years or so - then certainly you've seen changes in our business and have likely been affected by it already.

    I'm in, more or less, the same "world" as Doug's - of corporate & broadcast video production. And I've been doing it for nearly 30 years professionally. For some perspective to those just starting out, the "good old days" for me always included a make-up artist, a sound person, a prompter operator (for any job that used a prompter), sometimes even a script "supervisor", along with a minimum of a grip and gaffer (separate rolls) and truck (usually something like a 3 ton or 1 ton "package" for most small to medium sized jobs with certainly more crew in the lighting, G&E departments on certain jobs), a PA, the "DP", director and producer. Sometimes, there were even "camera assistants" and multiple other people on the crew.

    But those days are gone in my world. For instance, it's been years since any shoot I've been hired on had a separate person to do sound. Often talent is asked to show up with make-up on, ready to shoot. And in my opinion, we've more or less done it to ourselves - by what appears to be the "race to the bottom" - because, as Doug quotes The Godfather (without irony?) "it's just business". Haven't we all been told (with a sincere straight face)... "if you do this first one cheaper (or insert whatever discount term here), we're gonna have so much more work in the future" ??. Cajoling producers - or those who hire us and either don't fully understand the scope of work they are requesting - or essentially lie about it to get a better rate - seem to be much more common rather than the exception.

    And while I don't agree with Doug on all things in his post, I think that's where we find ourselves, now... competing...but for what often feels like smaller bread crumbs. I think in smaller markets like mine, we are now expected to compete not only with other pro's, but with pure amateurs. I've lost small jobs that went to "someone who does this on the side". Did they do a good job? Probably not. But if you put yourself in some clients shoes... paying essentially nothing versus thousands, maybe mediocre or less is "good enough" for now - and few of us can compete with that.
    Thankfully I still have loyal clients and agree with Doug that you do have to have a vested interest in the outcome. I try to provide a return on their investment. But there's always fine line - and it's certainly a gray area for me now...as I've "branched out" to include Drone operating, for instance, that began as someone I hired.

    I don't know what the answer is - but I know I'm concerned about the direction we're heading. It's an interesting topic and one that deserves it's own thread. But I've gotta go... need to edit another corporate video (for multi-national corp) that was shot with phones during this pandemic.


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    #20
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    “ it's been years since any shoot I've been hired on had a separate person to do sound.”

    You need better clients.

    I also do corporate video and it is rare for any of my corporate clients to not want to pay for a Sound-Op.

    I did two corporate jobs this week. The crew for both included a Sound-Op.
    Big sources matter.


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