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The PC gains ground

What do character generators and teleprompter systems have in common? The latest generations are based on the intensive use of personal computers and low-cost universal controllers.

Older teleprompters used a conventional monitor and a passive optical system to present texts that were manually swiped in front of a video camera. This system had several advantages: the use of paper allowed to accommodate last-minute changes and facilitated the communication of news to the presenters, while they were in the set.

Gradually, video monitors have been replaced with computer screens whose texts can easily originate from magnetic media. Thus, prompters have become software solutions that can be mounted on equipment from different manufacturers.

Lately it has become fashionable the use of small LCD panels of low weight and minimum current consumption, which are also used in laptops. This makes it possible to design transportable systems for EFP applications, which can even operate with batteries. In some cases the brightness and weight of the screens allows to suppress the optical system that was installed in front of the lens and mount the screen directly on the camera body.

In addition, the controllers that allowed to adjust the speed of the presentation of the text through electromechanical changes have been changed by simple devices that in some cases are nothing more than a conventional mouse , modified to have the appearance of common devices. Teleprompter manufacturers and integrators such as Listec Video and Smart Prompter have adopted this technology to improve their product offerings and become more competitive.

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Refurbished generators

These computers have been reformed thanks to the accelerated development of the desktop video market. The emergence of low-cost graphics systems to install on personal computers tends to make obsolete the expensive dedicated generators of a few years ago. Titrators have become multifunctional software solutions, which can be installed on open platforms and offer a very favorable cost-benefit ratio, when compared to conventional equipment.

In addition to traditional open solutions – such as Image North's Inscriber Technologies line of generators – other companies such as Pinnacle have appeared, whose dedicated, Windows NT-based equipment manages to match or exceed the performance of the most expensive generators of a few years ago and incorporates the advantages of working on an open platform.

Videonics continues to offer the small TitleMaker titlers, suitable for the event market and for small messaging systems on local channels. In addition, in 1997 it launched PowerScript systems – based on the PostScript standard – that offer professional performance at a fairly affordable cost.

A viable alternative is the use of integrated desktop video systems such as Pinnacle Systems ' Alladin Media Printer and Genie Plus , which provide powerful title generation modules and include the connections needed to integrate into an already installed system. Although this type of equipment usually includes an internal switcher and some effects capacity, in some cases its cost allows basic use as a character generator, without ruling out its additional use as an extra effects bank, or as a second channel of digital effects.

Titrator = grapher

The line between titration products and graphers is gradually disappearing. Better-spec character generators often include painting modules that allow quick image retouching in online editing sessions, and can even replace a simple graphics system in small operations. On the other hand, software solutions designed as plugins to integrate into composition or non-linear editing applications have appeared.

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The high integration of modern video cards has also made it possible to bring low-profile users the performance of high-cost equipment. Transparencies, manipulation of graphics and textures, automated operations, unlimited fonts and image capture are no longer exclusive privileges of users willing to pay figures of the order of tens of thousands of dollars.

It is even possible to mount relatively low-cost subtitling systems, which are installed on an ordinary computer equipped with a timecode reader card and handle the insertion of titles with a built-in keyer . This equipment can also easily handle the inclusion of close captions that, until recently, required artifacts that, although not very expensive, were inflexible and rather complicated to operate.

Even conventional model manufacturers have been integrating personal computers into their product lines, either as drivers of traditional systems or as an interface to low-cost dedicated systems, such as Chyron's PC-Codi and PC-Scribe, which also offer a Windows-based system to replace the dedicated keyboard of their Infinit character generators.

Other companies are upgrading legacy model dedicated hardware to integrate connectivity solutions based on conventional computers. Traditional firms such as Abekas and Quanta continue to offer high-performance systems that are often beyond the reach of producers of more modest resources.


However, not everything is rosy. The entry of personal computers brings with it some of the characteristic problems of the PC industry: when the end user must take responsibility for integrating the product, he is exposed to operating problems. A teleprompter may require some knowledge of operating systems to optimize performance, or to configure a serial controller. And a desktop video can lead to problems with hardware configuration.

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But, despite the potential drawbacks, one thing is for sure: after overcoming a few headaches, and once up and running, these equipment compete with traditional alternatives and help optimize the appearance of our products. And for less money, besides.

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