Without a home team to cheer for, we looked forward to the 1998 Winter Olympics, which added women’s hockey for the first time. Much to my nation’s surprise, the U.S. team, led by captain Cammi Granato, upset the Canadians to win the first Women’s Olympic Ice Hockey Gold Medal. Granato was chosen by Team USA athletes to be the flag bearer for the closing ceremonies and is to this day the heroine of many young female athletes.
Jump forward nine years and this hockey fan now calls Vancouver home and cheers for the Vancouver Canucks. The day after they were eliminated from the playoffs this year, a PR firm sent me a confirmation email for a project I quoted the prior week. They hired me to film a short speech that was to be shown at a red-carpet awards dinner for young female athletes in Massachusetts. It turns out Cammi Granato was the speaker, and the nonprofit was the Young Women Leaders of Tomorrow. Last November, Granato was the keynote speaker for the launch of the scholarship program that recognizes female high school athletes who demonstrate exemplary leadership, sportsmanship, athleticism, and academic excellence, but due to her hockey commitments she was unable to attend the awards dinner with the other celebrity advisory board members.
I filmed more than 20 similar interviews for Vancouver’s DIVERSEcity awards gala earlier this year. DIVERSEcity recognizes businesses who promote cultural diversity in the workplace, so I was very comfortable with quick setups and coaching talent. What made the two projects different was that for the DIVERSEcity project, I also shot some B-roll and was able to record the talent’s responses into three shorter statements, rather than one long take, and insert the B-roll shots at the cut points of the shorter statements. Granato’s statement was to be one long speech with no B-roll, so she had to nail the whole thing in a single take. Considering I find it normal for most talent to have difficulty remembering and reciting more than three full sentences at a time on video, and Granato’s script contained over 15 sentences, memorizing the script was not an option in the limited time constraints we had. We actually only had 40 minutes to set up, review, and revise the script, and film one good take before Granato had to leave for another engagement.
I decided at the last minute that I needed a teleprompter, and chose the Prompter People Broadcast 15" model. On the morning of the shoot I received a crash course in its setup and operation from a local PVA member and sales and rental store, ProVision Video, but didn’t get a chance to fully test the setup until I was in Granato’s living room with the clock ticking.
My first step was to install the 60/40 beam splitter glass to the tripod with the provided black aluminum mount. The mount attaches to the tripod’s plate and the frame of the beam splitter glass slides into the mount and fastens with two wing-nut screws. The LCD is attached to the mount with a single thumbscrew and it is the reflection from the LCD on the 60/40 beam splitter glass that the talent reads.
Once the teleprompter was mounted, I attached my Sony PD 170 to the mount using a Manfrotto 577 quick release adapter and pulled the lens hood over the front of the camera’s lens. The LCD connects to laptops with a VGA interface and this was my first problem area as my laptop has a dedicated NVIDIA 7600 graphics card with the newer DVI output, while the LCD only accepts VGA. Fortunately, I packed a DVI-to-VGA adapter; otherwise I would not have been able to connect the telepromter with my laptop.
I had previously installed the provided Flip-Q scrolling software and once on location I inserted the provided USB dongle and loaded the script, which I converted from a Word document to a Notepad text file. Once launched, the software displayed the shortcut keys, the first of which was F8, which filled both the laptop and the LCD with white text on black. The second and third problems happened at the same time as the text did not word-wrap automatically to fit the LCD, while the reflected image was predictably a mirror image on the beam splitter glass and thus not easily readable. A quick reboot solved the word-wrap problem, but it took a call to ProVision before I was able to flip the image on the LCD so the reflected image was orientated properly. In retrospect, I should have paid more attention to the initial screen that displayed the shortcuts, including F13, which creates a mirror image on the LCD.
At that point we were ready to test the system and adjust the speed of the scrolling to match Granato’s pace. We settled on six clicks of the down arrow key. After a quick dry run we had just enough time for two takes, and I was beginning to wonder if we would get the job done on time. I should have remembered that I was working with an Olympic gold medalist, and who better to perform under pressure? Granato nailed the first take. So the Young Women Leaders of Tomorrow have a great video to show at their awards, and I learned that teleprompters can make quick work of filming speeches.I even got a new hockey hero, even though I still don’t have a winning team to cheer for.
Shawn Lam is an MPV-accredited videographer and business owner based in Vancouver, BC. He specializes in stage event and corporate video production and has presented seminars on business strategy and stage event video at WEVA Expo 2005-2007 and the 4EVER Group’s Video 07.