Teleprompters are typically a big annoying mess for any small shoot, but essential for long form DTC (direct to camera) I've worked with models which are basically just a computer screen hooked up to a laptop, to ones run off an ipad. For something that sounds as simple as "scrolling text", There are quite a number of ways to go about it. The Parrot has taken the tiny, easy to get up and running, route.
Typically, a teleprompter has a 10-15inch screen, mounted to a big frame which then the camera hooks into, or the prompter can have its own tripod and sit in front of the camera's rig, either way is a pretty large setup. This looks like the parrot's main selling point, that it weighs about a half pound total including whichever smartphone you hook into it. Overall i'm optimistically skeptical, and the 4 things that i think should be kept in mind for this product are the markets it is targeting:
- News reporting on location
- Video blogs for Youtube or Vimeo
- Wedding interviews
- Professional, and Indy film production
The first two I can see, the 3rd, OK... and some small indie film production I can see it being great in a pinch. But I wouldn't think of this for professional film production, it just doesn't make sense. A supposedly professional production has resources for a full size telepromter.
Screen & Text Size
One of my concerns is the screen size, which may be just fine for personal projects, but i wouldn't dare bring it to a corporate client. Text needs to be a certain size to be read easily at a certain distance, and you don't want the subject too close or else you'll see their eyes moving. This photo from the site doesn't help, showing the creator next to some very tiny text.
If the reader has decent to good vision, the parrot may be just fine, but it's one of those things I wouldn't give a definitive yes or no on, the reader has to see for themselves. The other hurtle is that the less screen space means fewer words on screen at a time, which again may be OK depending on the reader, the distance, and any other details of the setup.
Another concern is the glass itself, because it isn't glass, they put in acrylic. They claim "improved clarity", and 70% light transmission. I'm not sure how many professionals would accept putting plastic in front of their lens. Plastic has certainly come a long way, but glass is more even, and more scratch resistant than plastics. What i don't appreciate is them trying to make acrylic sound optically better than glass. Seriously? That being said, i'd believe it's entirely possible that it will work just fine, again considering this to be used by smaller shoots, not big corporate clients.
Instead of a rig, this just mounts to your lens's front threads. Now, while this is convenient, having a half pound of weight on the front of your lens isn't exactly what the lens manufacturer had in mind. Again, in many cases it will probably be fine, but I err on the side of caution, and would stick to solidly built lenses, no kit/plastic lenses, better yet: primes with internal focus.
Yet another concern, here is what they posted in the FAQ:
"Just do a search in the app store and you will find a number of high quality apps. Any of those are compatible with the Parrot Teleprompter... The truth is we are working on an app, and a handy little remote to control the teleprompter app, but it's not quite ready. Do I hear a stretch goal coming? Hint hint!"
Wow... that was... professional? So what you are left with is, someone else's app to be able to use this product. I wouldn't mind that if they had at least been up front about it in the campaign, not stuff it down in the FAQ.
Hovering around $100 for kickstarter pre-orders, claiming around a $150 retail price. Judging from the looks of it, I feel that's a bit inflated. Of course i have no idea what his production costs are and can only judge by what I see, and what i see are a piece of clear plastic and a piece of black plastic and a few bits.
The site claims lifetime warranty. Sounds great, but smells of smoke: "[...]from any manufacturer defects." So, scratching that plastic screen likely isn't covered.
Despite my trepidation, I will be keeping an eye on this little fella. Since i do a lot of these reviews/articles, having a quick setup teleprompter would be a huge timesaver over my usual attempts to just memorize my thoughts. I do think the price is high for what it is, but there aren't many competitors i'm aware of. So, if you're in the market for a tiny, simple telepromter, it's certainly worth a look.