Prompter People, maker of all things teleprompter, sent us both the 22.5″ Desktop Flex and the 19″ ProLine Plus for this review. The ProLine Plus seems aimed primarily at field shooting or small mobile studios, and the Desktop Flex prompter feels like an at-home or studio solution — certainly not meant for the field. The manufacturer also sent along a Prompter People branded HD500 tripod and I’ll discuss that product here, too. During the pandemic, I’ve had the opportunity to use all three of these systems on several shoots. Here’s my full review.
Before 2020, my experience with prompters was limited. Then, the world changed, and like many of you, I found myself in the online streaming space. Suddenly, prompters in all their forms became much more interesting, not to mention vital as crews got smaller and the need for online content grew.
I hadn’t heard of Prompter People prior to being asked to review their equipment, but a quick Google search suggests they are leaders in the market. They carry teleprompters from small on-camera entry-level to $10,000+ robot-controlled options. If your work is in or around film & TV production, it’s a guarantee that at some point you’re going to need a prompter, and your choices will run the gamut in quality-from absolutely terrible to, yeah, robot-controlled high tech devices. For most of us, we just want something that works and works well, allowing us to concentrate on the lighting, camera, and audio — which is plenty.
ProLine Plus – with 19″ Monitor
I used both the ProLine Plus and Desktop Flex on four projects during the pandemic. One of the four projects included a whopping 45 pages of text. The others were less demanding on the on-camera talent, but each still required several paragraphs of critical text. Initially, I was drawn to the ProLine Plus because its footprint seems designed with mobile camera builds in mind. Plus, it even comes with a basic baseplate for 15mm rods.
First, my preferred way of mounting both the ProLine Plus and Desktop Flex is atop the Prompter People HD500 tripod (pictured below). Could you use a different tripod? Sure, but the HD500 is rated at 50 lbs. although, personally, I would feel more comfortable putting closer to 35 lbs. on it. Having a separately mounted tripod prompter versus one on-camera means you can disconnect the camera quickly from the prompter – a real benefit for b-roll shots. The flexibility of going to prompter mode quickly and easily was necessary for the projects I was working on.
Except for large live and sporting event lenses, the vast majority of camera and lens configurations will work with the ProLine Plus. Keep in mind that if you have the ProLine Plus attached, it will be tricky to connect a matte box with filtration, too — for that, I would recommend a very small profile clip-on matte box like this one from Wooden Camera HERE.
The act of changing from prompter mode to normal camera mode can be quite an undertaking if you use the included ProLine Plus baseplate. Not a problem if the entire shoot is prompter, but most of my shoots required various prompter and b-roll moments. This is something to consider for your particular use case, and this challenge was the main reason I mounted both prompters to the HD500 tripod, scooting it closer or further from the camera when needed.
Prompters, at their core, are relatively simple mirror + monitor devices, and that might explain the prevalence of poorly engineered prompters. Such is not the case with ProLine Plus. This prompter was developed by people who understand production. Both the glass and the elegant soft case are of high quality. If you place the camera correctly, the glass doesn’t create any vignette or odd distortion. However, I did find you lose about 1/4 of a stop of light when filming through the ProLine Plus glass.
The ProLine Plus comes folded together for easy packing and takes anywhere from five to ten minutes to set up once you get the hang of things. You’ll likely want a full-sized HDMI cable to connect from your favorite prompter program on your laptop to the monitor. VGA and Composite inputs are also options – SDI inputs would have been helpful here, but no such luck.
I found the monitor to be bright enough for in-studio applications and the angle of the glass, acting as a sun-hood, seems to block external light a bit. For the brief testing done outside, I did have difficulty reading text while dealing with sunlight bounce, but as with any monitor, ambient lighting should be on your mind. If you absolutely must use this outside at noon, I would suggest an overhead 4×4 floppy like THIS ONE from Matthews or another grip-centric brand.
The ProLine Plus ships with either a 400 nit or the slightly more expensive 1000 nit monitor. If you’re often filming in naturally lit spaces with huge windows or outside at noon, that might be an argument for the 1000 nit brightness. Studio folks will find the 400 nit brightness just fine for most applications. Remember, you need a monitor that allows you to read the text or other content easily — this type of monitor isn’t intended for lighting or monitoring shots.
You’ll also want to consider if you want an iPad-based version or if you want to purchase a dedicated monitor with your prompter kit. Personally, I like the dedicated monitor because on set, my iPad is busy being used for other things, and therefore locking it into a prompter rig for hours at a time doesn’t make sense. Prompter People offers an UltraFlex 12″ rig that enables the iPad Pro to be mounted for use as a monitor — so that might be the way to go if you already own an iPad Pro or Surface Pro.
Powering the monitor is possible with the included AC power cable. Although there’s no D-tap input included, you could certainly find a D-Tap to Barrel connector with a little careful research. I reached out to the Prompter People team to see if they had a recommendation for a D-Tap to Barrel cable and they suggested THIS.
Here’s a rear angle of the ProLine Plus showing the soft canvas material that envelopes the lens. You’ll want to be careful none of that material is encroaching on your shot. You can change your height and angle by adjusting the knob below:
In practice, this type of fine-tuning helps place the center of the prompter glass directly in the center of the lens. All camera bodies are slightly different, and the height from the baseplate to the center of the lens has become more standardized of late to account for rail-mounted matte boxes. Still, a prompter is a different animal entirely, and you’ll enjoy the ProLine Plus’ fine-tuning capability.
Configuring your ProLine Plus kit in a few different ways will change the price, but generally, you’re looking at around $2,000 for this kit. A bit pricier than other prompters on the market, although you’re getting what you pay for — this kit feels like it will last years and might be the only prompter you ever need to buy.
Desktop Flex – with 22.5″ Monitor
Towering above the ProLine Plus in terms of size is the Desktop Flex. This prompter, true to the name, is meant for desktop applications — which I found to be a little odd because none of my computer desks at home were large enough to accommodate a 22.5″ Monitor plus a large Apple iMac. Perhaps everyone has a larger at-home workspace than I do, but I will say this prompter seems fantastic for most studio applications.
If your eyesight is good, you can put this prompter several feet away and still read everything on the monitor easily. I tested the ProLine Plus from a distance of 6-8 feet and read without eyestrain. The Desktop Flex would be useful far, far beyond that distance. I could see its capability being functional for on-stage talent or when some space is needed to show the full set.
The Desktop Flex was sent with a mounting arm for desks, though for my needs, I found myself using the HD500 tripod for mounting the majority of the time. The included mounting arm works well, but I’m a bit confused why you’d want a 22.5″ prompter a few inches from your face. Even PrompterPeople markets the Desktop Flex this way — you can see one of their images below showing the suggested rigging.
At the cost of around $2,200 – depending on if you need the desktop mounting arm or not, the kit comes in slightly more expensive than the ProLine Plus (by about a few hundred dollars). Setup for the Desktop Flex is a little tricky to wrap your head around when everything arrives separated in the box. If you, like me, don’t have much prompter experience, I suggest consulting the manual on included thumb drive or the PrompterPeople YouTube channel for additional setup assistance.
Unlike the ProLine Plus, the Desktop Flex does not come with a case for transport. I would recommend purchasing a separate wheeled (given the overall weight) Pelican-style hard case with pluck and pull foam.
From the photo above, you can see the larger footprint of the Desktop Flex from the rear when compared with the ProLine Plus. I highly suggest using a dedicated heavy-duty tripod like the HD500 rated for 30ish lbs. for mounting on-location and to mount separately from the camera. I will say I was surprised by the quality of the Prompter People HD500 tripod. Call me old-fashioned, but using a tripod branded as a “Prompter People” product suggests that they are not TripodPeople, but that isn’t the case at all. I ended up using the $890 HD500 as a standalone tripod multiple times with camera bodies like the Canon C300 MK II, the C300 MK III, and the C500 MK II. The tension is tunable for both pan and tilt, and I never had any issues getting smooth pans and tilts while following action with this tripod.
In terms of software for the scrolling text there are literally dozens of quality options available on the App store or elsewhere for non-mac users. They aren’t very expensive and they all offer different features including voice tracking that may be more or less important to you. For me, I’ve enjoyed using PromptSmart Pro for macOS 11 or later as well as the paid $50 version of “Power Prompter“. There’s a ton of different options more optimized for Android mobile, iPad or iPhone available too.
To recap – you’ll want to consider how mobile you need to be on your particular production when looking at either the Desktop or ProLine prompters. Will you need to mount directly to the camera or to a desk, or are you able to mount to a separate tripod like the HD500 for added flexibility?
Does talent need the viewing experience of the 22.5″ Desktop monitor, or will 19 inches suffice? I found a 19-inch monitor very readable for a variety of situations. How much ambient light is in your location, or are you outside in a field at noon? Can you live with 400 nits, or do you need the 1000 nit monitor in the ProLine series? Your answers to these questions will help point you in the direction of the prompter model that fits your unique needs.
Either the Desktop Flex or the ProLine Plus in conjunction with the HD500 tripod can serve to meet your prompter needs. There are cheaper options on the market, but considering that the core technology behind prompters hasn’t changed in years, you’ll want something engineered to stand the test of time. Products that keep working from shoot to shoot become an extension of and not a hindrance to your work.