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The are some fundamental problems with using a laptop as a teleprompter. robgauert is correct that it is every noticable when the host looks either below or above the lens. But looking just to the right or left of the lens isn’t nearly so obvious. The next most common problem is the viewing angle limitations many laptop LCD’s. Assuming you’re able to clearly read the screen from eight to ten feet away, you still have to have a solution for the speed of the script. You undoubtably already know you can’t just the the text roll past at a steady rate. There has to be a control to slow down & speed up the text so you can adjust for natural speech rhythms. Although some people can read the text aloud, they will sound very odd as they speak at an unchanging pace.
The most effective teleprompters I’ve seen use a B&W TV monitor under the lens to reflect into a two-way mirror set at a fourty-five degree angle directly in front of the lens, then the whole unit is covered with opaque fabric. The text speed is controlled by a small, usually corded, remote which is idealy controlled by the speaker, but can also be operated by another individual. While I’ve not actually seen the DIY teleprompters, I don’t understand what would make them look “amateurish.” I assume you’re familiar with professional models. They look like a TV under the lens with a box around the lens.
Now I have seen a couple of stand-alone teleprompters built from 2×4’s that looked homebuilt. But they worked fine and if they’d been built with angle iron, you wouldn’t know they were homebuilt. The biggest difference between the homebuilt I saw and the professional units I’ve seen and/or used is the camera mounting. Whether they are used in the field on a tripod or on a pedestal in a studio, the camera is mounted to the teleprompter, then both are balanced atop the camera stand. This lets the camera be moved without having to also move the teleprompter unit.
I’ve never understood the high cost of teleprompter units, even on B&H they run very near $2000. But I’m sure they could be built in a metal shop for something like a couple of hundred dollars, plus the cost of the TV, semi-silvered glass & software. Then you have a teleprompter operator to control the speed of the passing text or you’ll have to come up with something like a WiFi or USB remote. And remember, an amateurish appearance is under your control. Finishing using paint and flashing goes a long way towards a professional appearance.
But to answer you question concerning the scrolling on your laptop, at wwww.Download.com, I found sponsored links that would do what you want (and much, much more.) Since I’m not familiar with the companies, I encourage you to check them out. (By the way, PrompterSoftware.com actually recommends using their software on a laptop beside, below or above the camcorder as a way to test it out.) So you may want to give their free trial your own trial.
Good luck with your productions.