An autocue or teleprompter is a device that allows text to scroll in front of a camera lens for a presenter to read. Autocue’s are commonly used by news presenters, in educational & training video content, and in other situations where a prepared script needs to be delivered to camera.
Autocues can give great results but they require a little practice and are not always the best option. The trick is to know when to use one, and when to leave it in the box.
The advantages of using an Autocue…
- A sizable amount of script can be delivered in a single take to camera, and with good eye contact.
- Allows for precise wording from the presenter.
The disadvantages of using an Autocue…
- Requires practice to make it appear that the presenter is talking to the audience rather than just reading off the script.
- Can be less engaging than listening to a genuine conversation.
- Time consuming to set up.
Things to consider that will help determine if you’re better off using an Autocue…
Shoot set up time and available crew.
This may not be the main deciding factor in your decision to use an autocue or not, but it’s important to know that it takes more time to set up an autocue and will require someone to operate and adjust the speed of the scrolling text.
B role coverage.
You may have a lengthy script… but will the presenter be on screen for the whole time? Or will their voice be heard but supported by other images for much of the time? If the latter is the case and you are prepared to make the decision before shooting as to which parts will have the presenter on screen, then the presenter need only read directly off the page for the other parts.
Presenter’s experience and Clip length.
Professional presenters, provided they are given the opportunity can commit to memory a reasonable amount of script, whereas people who have never presented to camera before will often struggle to remember two sentences once the camera starts rolling. Professional presenters should be able to deliver up to 5 or 6 sentences comfortably for each delivery to camera. People without much experience will likely need each delivery limited to 1 or 2 sentences.
Tone of the production Formal vs Informal.
Autocues tend to suit more formal productions where the exact wording is important to get right. An informal conversational style can be more engaging for the audience but runs the risk of taking longer to get the information across, and may or may not be appropriate for the production.
Presenters familiarly with the subject.
The more familiar with the subject your presenter is the better. If your presenter is very familiar with the subject then they may come across as more engaging if given the chance to speak freely. If your presenter is less familiar with the subject, and it’s a long formal script then you’ll likely be better off with an autocue.