Magazine article American Cinematographer

The Camraprompter* and How It Works

Magazine article American Cinematographer

The Camraprompter* and How It Works

Article excerpt

The inventor of this new device, compact and lightweight enough to be hand-held, tells how it helps in filming those long dialogue passages

Most every cameraman, director and producer is familiar with the inherent problems when filming long dialogue passages of an actor talking directly to the camera (the audience). I was, therefore, most anxious to test the new Camraprompter under various film production situations. Also, being the inventor of the Camraprompter, I wanted to pass on information of its operation and use to other cameramen who might find it adaptive to their own filming requirements.

In explanation to those who have not seen nor used the Camraprompter: the script is composed onto the matte acetate scroll, the end of which is wound onto the bottom supply roller. The head of the script is fastened into a pressure slit of the pper take-up roller. This translucent script is rear illuminated by two 12-volt fluorescent lamps. The image of the script is visible to the speaker within the clear acrylic optical flat which is at a 45-degree angle within the housing that is positioned in front of the camera lens and acts as a one-way mirror. The special coating on the rear of this flat eliminates a double-image, and yet, there is practically no light loss to the camera lens which sights through this clear optical flat.

The script operator standing at the side of the camera reads the script simultaneously as the speaker is presenting his dialogue, advancing the script at the speaker's rate of delivery. If preferred, the speaker can advance his own script using the remote control unit. It can be held inconspicuously at the speaker's side or behind him; or, if he is seated behind a desk, the remote unit can be hidden behind a desk prop.

The advancement of the script is powered by an ultra-silent miniaturized 12-volt motor of variable speed, controlled by the rheostat within the hand control. A unique clutch arrangement drives the upper or lower roller forward or backward, advancing the script accordingly. Nylon gears and the flexible nylon chain-drive system provide silent operation.

In my duties as cameraman of our incompany A/V department of a large international pharmaceutical manufacturer, I am often called to film personnel talking directly to the audience, which is, of course, the camera lens. These long passages are of a technical nature and must be word-perfect, which is quite difficult, if not impossible, to achieve by memory alone. The many N.G. (no good) takes are exceedingly expensive and time-consuming. The use of cue cards restricts the filming of any closeups so as not to accentuate the shifting of eyes looking to the side, plus the other problems associated with cue cards.

Our assignment was to film a doctor who would be explaining highly technical laboratory findings on drug compounds. This film was intended to teach other personnel within the medical profession. Memorization was practically impossible, and cue cards held to the side would be impractical and quite obvious to the viewing audience.

We obtained a copy of the doctor's intended speech only an hour before he was scheduled to face the camera, and one of our crew transposed his speech onto the acetate scroll of the Camraprompter using a black grease pencil. When the doctor sat down behind the sage in front of him, and he insisted on looking through the rear side of the Camraprompter, unconvinced that the lettering was invisible to the camera lens. A short "dry run" established his rate of reading speed. The remote control unit in the hands of an assistant followed the pacing of the doctor's delivery, maintaining his "reading-line" approximately in the center of the field. The result was practically a "one-take" production. In the film the doctor comes off as being completely relaxed and natural. The saving in production time, film stock, lab costs and editing time was considerable.

I was indeed extremely satisfied with my first use of the Camraprompter for those long dialogue sequences directed to the audience. …

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