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Autocue is a UK based manufacturer of teleprompter systems. The company was founded in 1955 and licensed its first teleprompter, based on a patent by Jess Oppenheimer, in 1962. The company began by producing teleprompting equipment, and now provides prompting, scripting, production and newsroom software applications and hardware.
History of Autocue and teleprompting
Prompting begins on paper
Prompting began with Jess Oppenheimer, a writer, producer and director on the TV show "I Love Lucy" in the early 1950s. To solve the problem of the actors forgetting their lines, he developed a rudimentary prompting system. Oppenheimer took out a patent on the system. He licensed the patent to the teleprompting company Autocue in 1955. Meanwhile, a separate entity, QTV, was established in the US. Both companies started by renting teleprompting equipment to studios.
Oppenheimer's paper roll system survived until 1969 when Autocue introduced the first closed-circuit prompter. This used a closed-circuit camera system to film a scrolling paper script and display the image on a monitor attached to the front of the camera that was shooting the presenter. Use of a two-way mirror system allowed the script image to be reflected onto a sheet of glass in front of the camera lens, meaning that the presenters were able to read their lines straight from the script while looking directly into the camera. The mirror system meant that the image of the script was not visible to the main camera lens, and indeed this is still the way that most teleprompting systems operate. QTV followed shortly afterwards with similar technology. In the 1970s both companies started selling hardware in addition to maintaining their rental operations.
In 1984, QTV acquired Autocue and retained the two brands in their respective regions. The following year, the newly formed Autocue Group released a computer-driven prompting system, ScriptNet. At the same time the first newsroom computer systems were beginning to appear in television stations.
Prompting enters the digital era
Autocue and QTV were also interested in digital prompting in more areas along with television news, leading to the development of its own scriptwriting and running order package. This package used by many newsrooms, conferences, sitcoms, major drama productions, and more. This system worked on an early version of Microsoft Windows, and was named WinCue.
In 1994, the Autocue Group created the first flat screen prompters.
Meanwhile, WinCue continued to accrue functions and features as customers (particularly TV newsrooms) demanded ever greater integration between the different elements of their workflow. Journalists need sources, and the ability to ingest, index and process stories from news agency wires was an early addition. Another requirement was the ability to control multiple playout devices, such as videotape machines and character generators, from a central running order. The Autocue Group accordingly developed its own automation system, as applicable to general programme playout as to news. This was followed by the ability to handle media as well as words within the production environment. Following a project with CNN, a wireless tablet-PC based system to effect and share script changes using ‘digital ink’ was added.
These developments were not completely organic in origin. In 1998, a newsroom application company, DCM, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, was acquired to complement the existing newsroom product range. The Group retains an office in Charlotte to this day.
Networked and integrated teleprompting
Autocue have expanded into an integrated suite of tools that cover every aspect of broadcast production: planning, news gathering and ingest, production, scripting, running-order management, playout automation, media asset management and, of course, prompting.
In 2011 Autocue launched its next generation video server. Autocue ingest and playout modules had been discreet black boxes hidden in amongst Autocue's automation, scripting, media asset management and news tools. The latest version is a Linux based box designed to work as part of an Autocue or third party production workflow or as a standalone box in its own right.