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Everyone agrees that the secret of a good piece to camera is to have a well prepared script in front of you. That is fine if you are working with a crew and have the capability of carrying a full teleprompt kit. But what if you are a single video journalist or, as a presenter, suddenly realise you could do with a bit of help?

picoPrompt is a revolutionary approach which uses the remarkable clarity and resolution of the iPhone display, allied to professional prompting software and control which has been designed for broadcast and other critical applications. It comes from a new company, Teleprompting Techniques Limited (TTL), formed by some of the most experienced people in the prompting sector.

There are several prompting applications on the iTunes store, but only picoPrompt has been designed by people steeped in the broadcast industry, who understand the pressures of live television, and know that you must have equipment that is simple to use but that you can completely trust to perform perfectly every time, and if it’s good enough for live television it is more than adequate for the myriad of other prompting applications.

For instance, for a news intro, if a presenter is working up to 4 meters from the camera, a typical set-up for a piece to camera, then the iPhone/iPod display is very clear and easy to read (you can adjust the font size and colour within the app if you need to). At that distance, because it is such a small display, it can be mounted above the lens without eyeline problems, eliminating the need for glass screens and hoods.

The mount offered by TTL, as an optional extra, is a flexible system based on Joby elements, which holds the iPhone securely anchored by the camera accessory shoe. The mounting kit weighs just 75 grams and the whole unit can be rigged on camera in a few seconds. The system can also be used to mount the prompter off camera or for conferencing. It will fit in a pocket of the camera bag so, with the phone you will have with you anyway, you can always have the prompting kit to hand.

Professionals will know that the script scrolling has to be responsive: you have to know the words will move at a comfortable reading speed, or you look like an idiot. It is possible to control picoPrompt using picoScroll running on a second iDevice. picoScroll is a free app, available from the App Store on iTunes, specifically designed by TTL to control picoPrompt using a Bluetooth or Wifi connection. However, you could never be absolutely certain that the connection would hold up through a broadcast, or that the system would connect instantly.

So TTL has developed iScroll, a unique, wired hand control system. The control itself has all the functionality you would expect from a professional prompter, including the ability to jump stories in a running order or to markers, as well as smooth scrolling speed control in forward and reverse. It connects through a special adaptor developed by TTL called iGlue, which plugs directly into the iDevice prompter. Importantly there are no lengthy or doubtful connection procedures, just plug in iScroll and start prompting. The i-Glue adaptor is a multi purpose device and is fully Apple MFi certified. It can be programmed by TTL to enable other developers to use it’s connectivity for their own applications, once each application has been approved by Apple’s MFi Licencing procedures.

There are a number of ways of obtaining prompting text. picoPrompt includes the capability to edit text so you can create the script on the prompter itself, however it’s more likely that you will write the script on another device, so the picoPrompt package includes picoServe, obtained direct from TTL, which is free server software for peer to peer wireless text transfer from a laptop. Or, if obtaining the text from another source, you can email the script to the prompting device, use iCloud or DropBox, or log in to a newsroom computer system or web page, and then cut and paste text into the prompter. The design philosophy carried throughout the suite of software is intuitive operation, simplicity and a minimum of button presses to present script on the prompter screen.

picoPrompt works on any generation iPhone or iPod Touch and is available, with its associated free controller app picoScroll, from the App Store on iTunes. The iScroll/iGlue hand control system can be purchased directly from TTL. It is also compatible with the iPad which provides an excellent screen for larger prompting applications, using a camera mount and hood. The cost of picoPrompt software and iScroll hardware, including the free issue picoServe server, and picoScroll remote scrolling software, works out at around £120. Add another £40 for an iPhone/iPod camera mount and you have a professional teleprompter for well under £200, not including the iDevice of course! If you were to use the iPad you would need to purchase a mounting bracket and hood from a third party vendor. The prompting system thus assembled creates an affordable professional prompting system available anywhere, anytime, even at short notice as a “just in case I need it” back up. Indeed, it would more than pay for itself by eliminating a single rental.

See picoPrompt on Booth 710 and BVE/The Production – Show Earl’s Court Feb 14 – 16 2012.