Outside Broadcast

Outside Broadcast is the description given to a major multi camera production which would use scanners, which are in effect mobile control rooms, and cameras and pedestals that could be used in studio as well. This means that the cameras would normally have the facility to carry power and video to the prompter using the on board power supply and tielines. The full studio prompting base station could be sited either somewhere near the main presenter position, in the scanner or in another vehicle. The most important aspect of the base station rig is that there is a secure and reliable talk back system for the operator. The worst and most memorable problems on OB transmissions have, historically, always been due to a failure of the sound system for the prompt operator – remember – no hear, no scroll….. Another precaution when rigging for an OB is to lay out a spare video cable between the prompting base station and the video distribution point just in case somebody rips out the main one two minutes to air! However nothing is simple because often, in addition to the studio type camera/pedestals, there are frequently hand held or steadicam cameras operating as well. If prompting is required for these there are a whole new set of problems. The maximum size of prompter that could be mounted on these rigs is a 8” unit with hood and glass which can be read as far as 4/5 meters, depending on the eyesight of the presenter. You could also consider a small straight reading monitor set just above the lens of the ENG style camera. So long as it is being read from a minimum of 2 meters or so, the eyeline into the lens is very good. However while small ENG cameras have 12 VDC available not all of them can provide enough amperage to power a prompter. If this is the case batteries must be added to the rig for the prompter. Similarly not all ENG cameras have the facility to carry the prompter video to the prompter. If this is the case there’s nothing for it but to have a loose video cable which can be a real nuisance because the whole idea of going handheld is to get the unusual shots! It may be, though, that the prompting is only needed for certain bits, like links, and a camera assistant could plug, unplug the video cable as required leaving the camera to be mobile most of the time. An alternative is to have a video transmitter/receiver system for the prompter but while small video RF transmitter systems have become really reliable, interference at a critical moment is still a possibility.

ENG, Documentary and Corporate

While ENG stands for Electronic News Gathering it describes the style of lightweight camera used for everything from documentaries and corporate shoots to news. This style of camera is usually used in conjunction with a lightweight tripod and fluid damped spring pan and tilt head. In this case the prompter would normally be mounted on a plate of some kind that is sandwiched between the camera and the pan and tilt head. The more sophisticated mounting plates enable the camera/prompter to be slid back to obtain perfect balance. The size of monitor used would normally be between 8” and 12” because generally the presenter is never very far from the camera in ENG operations.

While larger monitors can be rigged which the head can accept as a dead weight, you could well lose the fluid wind up spring and damping effect in that the unit will not stay at an angle of tilt without being locked off. It just goes on tilting until it reaches the bottom stop. Simple mounting plates rely on the ability of the wedge adaptor, which is part of the pan and tilt head, being able to slide back to obtain balance. However this is often limited so counterbalance weights have to be used to obtain balance which is not ideal in this application. In this style of mobile operation the prompter would normally be powered by a 12V battery.

The operator’s control station would be based on a laptop, also with an option of being powered by battery and equipment kept to a minimum for mobility. In addition, to cope with the minimal crewing that exists these days there is a new range of self operated prompters based on iPhone or Android operating systems.

News Coverage

For long coverage a setup as for ENG would be installed. Additional requirements would be a network or internet configuration for the prompter base station in order that the news prompting software can log into the electronic newsroom and import the news scripts. This could be the whole news broadcast or just selected stories. Of course the text can be input locally by the operator or presenter if there is a problem with the connection.

There are also an emerging number of prompters that are suitable for presenter self operation. These are based on iPhone or Android operating systems and can, quite literally, be produced from a pocket! The presenter can dial into his newsroom and cut and paste the script into the iPhone prompter programme. The iPhone is fixed with an arm just above the lens of the camera and read from 2 to 3 meters the eyeline into the lens is excellent.