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Teleprompters - the mega stars' little helper in the event of sudden blackouts

Started by Cee_Kaye, January 02, 2024, 04:59:07 AM

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Teleprompters - the mega stars' little helper in the event of sudden blackouts
Every musician knows the situation or has already experienced it themselves: You rehearse in detail, learn the lyrics, enter the stage - and all of a sudden everything is wiped out. Blackout. Everything gone. Panic.

Mega Stars are no different ( There are a lot of photos in the popular search engines that reveal where our idols have hidden their little helpers that show them the lyrics of the current song: Elton John had a teleprompter installed in his grand piano, Billy Joel too. Alice Cooper, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac and many other stars are having flat screens set up at the front of the stage, which look like classic floor monitors from the audience side. Since the devices were sitting on the floor, it wasn't noticeable whether the singers were looking at the fans in the front row or at the teleprompter display.

The big bands have staff behind the stage who operate those little helpers. 99.9 percent of musicians are lacking of this comfort, but with few resources you can also bring this function to the stage as an amateur or semi-professional artist. It doesn't matter whether you place a discarded flatscreen TV on an inclined wedge or output the lyrics on tablets that are attached to your singers' microphone stands. The technology used is relatively simple: you load the text onto a laptop, connect its video output to the flat screen used as a teleprompter and then run your slide show. However, it looks weird if your singer keeps tapping on the laptop or tablet during the show to display the next song or its lyrics. Maybe he even keeps swiping around on the laptop screen or tablet display during the show to get to the next page of text. No way.

Bandhelper - an affordable solution for amateur and semi-professional bands
There's a more elegant and convenient way. The Bandhelper app has a feature that allows you to wirelessly connect multiple tablets and smoothly scroll documents. However, the prerequisite is that the devices involved on stage are operated on the same WLAN and have been equipped/synchronized with the data of the respective band before the show (such as set lists and document files).

But where do you get WiFi on stage? Many bands these days have digital mixing consoles that allow musicians to control the monitor mix of their in-ear systems themselves. The smartphone and/or tablets you use for the IEM Mix access the WiFi router that is connected to the digital desk or rack. This exact WLAN can be used with the Bandhelper app to allow two or more tablets to communicate with each other. To do this, go to the menu items Settings > Live Sharing > Share Actions and use the switch to activate the functions that you want to use on the respective device.

So how can you support the frontman and stop him from typing on his tablet? Very simple: you let "the guys in the second row" do it, e.g. B. the keyboard player. The keyboard players really appreciate that Bandhelper can control all of their stage devices such as keyboards, drum computers and voice processors using MIDI commands. To do this, they simply tap on the corresponding song in the set list and, as if by magic, all of their devices connected via MIDI are switched to the presets required for the song in question. At the same time, the first five seconds of that song are played to him and his fellow musicians via IEM. This is much more efficient than a simple count-in with click. It saves you having to look at the set list and ask embarrassing questions like "...what are we playing next?"

Control the singers' tablets via WiFi
Since I usually stand at the back of the stage behind my keyboard, use the tablet to control my MIDI devices and tap the next song on the set list, I can assist my fellow musicians by taking over this job. I therefore configure my device as a transmitter or MASTER ("Broadcast Actions" switch = On), which tells the tablets (receiver / SLAVE) of my fellow musicians which song I select (tap the corresponding song line with a finger) and from when the scrolling function should start (tap the screen or display with two fingers):

My bandmates select the "Follow Actions From..." mode on their smartphone or tablet, connect to my tablet and use a switch to activate the functions that they want me to take over, such as: B. Selecting the set list, selecting the songs and activating the scroll mode. Of course, the song could start scrolling immediately as you select it on the set list. But in practice it is more likely that a few sentences are said before the next song begins, which is why I only start scrolling when our drummer counts-in the song. This video illustrates how to do it:

Automatic scrolling or using self-determined times?
Bandhelper offers three parameters to control the scrolling function: the song duration, the auto-scroll pre-roll value and the auto-scroll duration. In addition, the app knows the number of pages of the PDF file that should be scrolled.

If you choose automatic mode, Bandhelper will do the scrolling with an algorhythm based on song duration and the number of pages (determined automatically).

If you choose the so-called manual mode, Bandhelper first freezes the document according to the time entered at the Auto-Scroll Pre-Roll parameter, and then scrolls the rest of the document according to the time entered at Auto-Scroll Duration. My experience: Due to the required test runs of the documents (see details below), this mode is a little more time-consuming to prepare, but is far more precise than the automatic function.

How to get prepared? We only use PDF files to display the lyrics that we create ourselves. They are loaded onto the Bandhelper server and automatically downloaded by the musicians' smartphones and tablets as soon as they log in to a WLAN with an internet connection.

Experiences from practice
I have had a number of experiences working with this type of teleprompter and have listed a few recommendations from stage practice below.

• A black background with white writing is easier to read on stage: the contrast is perceived more intensely and you are not blinded.
• The full screen mode in landscape format has proven successful for displaying the lyrics.
• Remarks such as intro, verse, chorus, solo or outro on the left edge of the window should be abbreviated if possible and displayed in a different color to make them easier to read. I always contrast notes in the text and use of backing vocals in color.
• When formatting the pages, you should set the vertical page margin (top/bottom) to 0 cm to ensure an almost seamless transition when flipping pages.
• Whether you provide information about the key, tempo (BPM) and duration of the song directly below the title is up to you. My experience has been that it's kind of irritating when, after a few rehearsals, the band decides to play the song in a different key or tempo and then you don't update this information in the lyrics sheet out of laziness, convenience or lack of time. The song duration in your own version often differs from the original, which is why this information at the top of the song lyrics is not necessarily helpful.
• Lyrics that can be found and downloaded online are usually not adapted to the beat of the respective song. In other words, if you intend to scroll the text, you should be careful to ensure that it scrolls at the speed of the beat. This can result in having to separate individual lines of text or insert an additional line feed between two lines.
• Soloes and interludes are particularly critical in this regard. These are often based on the length of a verse or a refrain (chorus). Then you simply insert the appropriate number of line feeds, as they appear in the verse or chorus. For soloes that deviate from this, you have to count the bars in a disciplined manner and then insert the appropriate number of line feeds.
• The lyrics are easier to read if you leave a blank line between the verse and the chorus. However, this blank line causes the scrolled text to shift slightly.
• Finally, you should spread the text evenly across all pages. Most word processing programs have a line spacing function which you can use to specify how large the distance between the individual lines should be. A value of 1 corresponds exactly to the height of one line, but is perceived as too crowded on stage and therefore difficult to read. A value between 1.15 and 1.5 lines has proven fine for us. I always arrange it so that the last line of the text is placed just above the bottom edge of the last page. If the lyrics end in the middle of the last page, you will be faced with a black screen at the end of the song.
• By the way: Tablets batteries of the brand leader usually last for several hours, which is why a fully charged iPad should last the entire evening from the sound check to dismantling without having to be connected to the mains. By far the largest power consumer is the display: even reducing the brightness to 40 percent brings a significant improvement in runtime.
• If you want to use a flat screen in the form of a floor monitor instead of a tablet, simply hide a smartphone or tablet controlled via Bandhelper in the base of the flat screen stand and connect it to the video input of the flat screen. Suitable adapters (e.g. Lightning to HDMI or VGA) are available commercially.

Determining the correct scrolling times requires test runs with your live recordings
Let's go. I tap the song on the set list, and the document with the lyrics appears in full screen mode. Wow, that worked fine. Now it's time to test and calibrate the scrolling times. I start the scrolling process with a 2-finger tap. At the same time, our live recording of the song in question, which is also stored on Bandhelper, begins to play. As soon as the song lyrics reach the middle of the display, scrolling should start.

• If scrolling starts too late or too early, the auto-scroll pre-roll value must be adjusted accordingly.
• If the current line of text moves up, the auto-scroll duration time is too short.
• If it moves upwards, the auto-scroll duration time is too long.
• If it remains constantly below or above the center line, the pre-roll value (Auto-Scroll Pre-Roll) must be adjusted accordingly: Above = add time, below = subtract time.

Usually you set the scrolling parameters so that you briefly tap the tablet screen with two fingers when the drummer counts-in. For songs with a longer introduction (e.g. a solo or an story told by the singer), it is a good idea to choose a pre-roll value of zero and issue the 2-finger tap when the first line of lyrics is reached.

The matrix function: Every musician is shown and played back what he needs
By the way: It's not just your singers who can benefit from this function: one of our drummers, for example, wanted to watch his drum scores. Does the guitarist need his tabs, the keyboard player his chord sheet or the saxophonist his sheet music scanned as a PDF file? No problem for Bandhelper. Thanks to the matrix function you can choose between the individual documents. Likewise, each individual musician can call up their personal MIDI presets and audio files, provided the Bandhelper database has been previously populated accordingly.

Does a teleprompter make sense for my band?
When you play on ever larger stages and you can no longer afford to make any mistakes. Mistakes come across as authentic and occasionally sympathetic. But given the number of smartphones that concertgoers use to record their concerts, it is inevitable that the incorrect passages are particularly popular and invite people to criticize them.

Are teleprompters addictive? I don't have that impression. They make you feel more relaxed and confident and are a kind of prompter or text railing at the edge of the stage. Because usually you only need the first sentence of the first verse to get back on track. But if you read the whole song or several from the teleprompter, you should sit down and practice, practice, practice or perhaps perform in a karaoke bar. What's your point of view?