Thursday, August 16, 2012

iPad 3 As Teleprompter

Datavideo TP-200
The Datavideo TP-200 Teleprompter system with prompter software turns an iPad, iPad 2 or iPad 3 into an through-the-lens teleprompter and can also be used as a below-the-lens prompter. What about the eye line when the text is not in front of the lens? I was on a shoot with the talent a little over seven feet away from the lens. Even though the iPod they used was held below the camera lens, the eye line was acceptable. 

Pro: Economical, Lightweight (4.2 lbs) through the lens prompting on an iPad 3

Con: Only fits cameras with 8.5 inches between the nut and lens. Software is very basic or slightly buggy.

The Datavideo TP-200 kit arrived well-packed from B&H and was relatively easy to assemble. The kit consists of a basic frame, the glass, some spacer bars, a cloth snood (a cloth tube connecting the lens to the prompter frame.) and a bag of nuts and other mounting hardware. There were a few awkward “where does this go” moments due to the sparse instructions, but there aren’t that many parts and enough pictures. I will mention that there are two small holes in the top of the glass frame into which the two ends of a wire are placed that suspends the cloth snood so it doesn’t fall between the lens and the glass. The instructions showed and mentioned the wire, but not where it attached. I eventually figured it out.

Attach camera plate to frame
My first concern was whether or not my Canon XL2 would fit the frame properly. I removed the mounting plate from the camera, attached it to one of the many holes on the bottom of the Datavideo frame and locked the frame onto my tripod.
Attach frame to tripod
Attach camera to frame.

After that, one bolt comes up through a slot in the TP-200 frame and screws into the base of the camera. If you have really big fingers, reaching through the frame to tighten the bolt will require patience or someone with smaller fingers. 

When I tried to mount the Canon XL2 with stock lens, I found I had to remove the lens hood because it was bumping the prompter glass. If the distance from the mounting nut on the bottom of your camera to the front of your lens is greater than 8.5”, the camera won’t fit. There is a bit of wiggle room. The kit comes with two spacers, each 1/2” thick. Raising the camera up on the spacers will move it away from the bottom part of the glass allowing space for a longer camera body. 

The Canon XL2 and prompter balanced nicely on my Sachtler DV6 SB head and tripod, with absolutely no tipping problems. To get to below-the-lens, you just turn the camera around on the main frame and remount the bracket that holds the iPad onto the opposite end of the frame. You can also mount the frame on a separate tripod in front of the camera tripod. 

I couldn't put the iPad on the rig because I was using it to take these pictures.
Using “dv Prompter” software also by Datavideo, you can get copy into the iPad by sending it via email, providing you have Internet access or have an already received email. From there, it’s a simple copy/paste procedure. If you don’t have a connection, you can connect your iPad via USB to a nearby computer that’s equipped with iTunes and import using iTunes. It’s a bit weird, but it works. 

First, make a text-only version of the document on your computer. You can do that by doing a “save as” of a document from your word processor. Connect the iPad to your computer via USB. Open iTunes on the computer. On the left margin of the iTunes window, you’ll see the iPad. Click on that. A new window will open. At the top of that window, click on the App button. Then scroll down and select the DVPrompter icon in the left panel. Use the “+” click-on to add a document to the list. Clicking the “+” icon opens a window that shows your computer directories and you can choose the text-only file you want. Then click on the SYNC button at the bottom of the window. Pull the USB cable and start dv Prompter on your iPad. The new file will be in the dv Prompter window.

This kit comes with a hardwired remote control with 9.5 foot cable that plugs into the audio jack on the iPad 3. The remote has four buttons; speed up, slow down, stop and start. The remote is small enough to hide in your hand, but the buttons do click slightly when pushed. Depending on how much noise there is on set or how much music you intend to add in post, you may or may not hear the clicking. 

I couldn’t get the prompter to run slow enough until I tweeked the Scrolling Speed and Slow time settings on the software control panel. On that panel, you can also change fonts, font size and color, background color, landscape or portrait view, mirrored display, VGA or composite external display, border, justification, auto-start, delay-start, remote start (including wired and two wireless) and break marker.

I hadn’t seen any reference to wireless in the manual, but did see it in the Settings Menu. If you already own a TP-100 or TP-200, Datavideo sells a wireless kit for $140, but I didn’t have it here to try. Instead, I used the Bluetooth wireless keyboard that came with my iPad case. I powered up the keyboard and went to the iPad 3 Settings menu to connect the keyboard and iPad. Then I went back to the prompter software and chose Remote Type>Wireless. After punching around on the keyboard I found the dedicated volume up/down keys were mapped to change the speed of the scroll. Your distance may vary, but I was twenty-four feet from the iPad 3 and still had control. That worked just fine, but where will the prompter operator sit to see the display?

Teleprompt+ Prompter App
What I was hoping for was a setup where I could use a Mac Notebook computer and two iPads, each iPad displaying the same script and each iPad independently adjustable for mirrored and non-mirrored text. I was able to do that once after startup, using Bombing Brain Interactive’s Teleprompt+ for iPad v. 2.4.3 ($14.99) from the iTunes App Store and the Mac application, Teleprompt + for Mac v. 1.4.0, ($24.99), downloadable from their web site. You can control the scroll from your Mac but only one iPad will respond with mirrored text. 

Using my Mac notebook for control and my iPad3 mirrored on the Datavideo frame, worked on the first try, but each time I changed the script, the Teleprompt+ application running on my Mac Notebook crashed. If they can fix that and iron out a few other wrinkles, they’ll have a smoking software; especially if you can hit two iPads from one notebook.

I got two iPads working together with one being a slave and one being a master. You can even flip the master to and from mirrored by touching a small icon on upper left of the master screen. Unfortunately, using either WiFi or Bluetooth, the text on the master jumps a little during scrolling. This is a minor annoyance for an operator, but a real pain for talent when you want to use both screens as prompters for talent and operate them from a wireless Bluetooth keyboard. 

In all cases, you need to log all gear onto a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth network. Notebook or Tower Macs, operating at OS X 10.6 and higher, can create a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi network. That worked. Since I was using Bluetooth for remote scroll speed, I used Wi-Fi to connect the two iPads. This also worked between my Notebook and one iPad 3, but with the same limitations as above.

I was told that the scripts had to be on both devices to work properly. I found out by trial and error that the host iPad could bring over scripts from the slave with no messy file transfers. Who knew? 

At $575, the Datavideo TP-200 is a great little lightweight gimmick for iPads that will save you time and money. If they run the software around the track a few more times, it’ll be even more fun. And remember, your camera mounting nut on the bottom of your camera can't be more than about 8.5 inches away from the front of your lens our your camera won't fit on the prompter frame. 

Datavideo also makes a TP-100 rig for SmartPhones and the TP-300 kit for Andriod tablets. Datavideo’s  dv Prompter software is a free download from the App Store.

Technique, Inc. © Copyright 2012 All Rights Reserved

Reach Ty Ford at www.tyford com


  1. Hi there, thanks for your review of this. I ended up purchasing the TP200 but without the remote. I can use my Bluetooth keyboard to start and stop and the volume buttons seem to do something but not really what I want. I'm just wondering how you slave/mastered 2 ipads together? the app has 0 documentation for this.
    Thanks again!

  2. Hello Rob, Lots of playing around. I can't exactly remember what we ended up with at the moment and we haven't tried that since. I had a good response from the mfgr as I recall. Reach out to them.