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Autocue is a UKmarker based manufacturer of Teleprompter systems, owned by QTV. The company was founded in 1955 and licenced 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.

Autocue provides international prompter sales and rentals to countries outside of the Americas, while QTV handles prompter sales and rentals in North and South America.

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 CRT monitor. 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 invented the first computer-driven prompting system, ScriptNet. At the same time the first newsroom computer systems were beginning to appear in television stations. Autocue Group recognised the need to integrate these two systems and gradually resolved any issues to ensure compatibility with all newsroom systems.

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.
WinCue running at The CBC

In 1994, the Autocue Group created the first flat screen prompters. During the past decade, small improvements have been made to the prompter flat screen monitors, but there have been no new major developments.

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 Carolinamarker, was acquired to complement the existing newsroom product range. The Group retains an office in Charlotte to this day.

Networked and integrated teleprompting

Autocue was the first company in the industry to provide simple PC-based prompting systems. These have expanded into an integrated suite of tools that cover every aspect of broadcast production: planning, newsgathering and ingest, production, scripting, running-order management, playout automation, media asset management and, of course, prompting.

Autocue and QTV produced the first IP-based networked prompting system allowing the prompt output monitor, scroll control devices and the computer running the software application to be located in different places, even in different parts of the world.

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