As we said last week, if you’ve ever stood in on a production that has you read from the teleprompter, you may find in the script you’re encountering some abbreviations you don’t understand.

Not knowing these abbreviations may mean you don’t know what you should or shouldn’t do at the time.

“OTS” is one of those abbreviations. What does “OTS” mean? Let’s find out!

What “OTS” Means on the Teleprompter

When you are standing in and reading a script from a teleprompter during a rehearsal, if you encounter the abbreviation “OTS” — especially in parentheses, like “(OTS)” — it means “over the shoulder.”

But what’s over the shoulder exactly? Practically speaking, what “OTS” means is that there will be something inserted into the frame over your shoulder. If you’re having trouble imagining that, just look to TV news. When you’re watching a news anchor reading the news, over that anchor’s shoulder will often be a visual. That visual is the OTS.

When you encounter the abbreviation “OTS,” don’t actually read it and say “OTS.” Rather, you will probably do nothing as something is added to the frame at this point in the script. However, sometimes an on-camera performer may refer to or interact with the OTS. In such a case, the script may offer a direction such as “(To OTS:),” meaning that the dialogue would be delivered to the OTS.

How to Handle the Direction “(To OTS:)”

In order to “talk” to the OTS, you will need to understand how the frame is composed. When you are standing in, see if you can find a monitor. It may not be hard because there may be one mounted on the camera! See if you can figure out where the OTS’s are placed — over your right shoulder or over your left shoulder. Then, while looking at the monitor, practice pointing to the OTS area so you can get a sense of where the OTS “hovers” in your space.

To “talk” to the OTS, you may have to simply turn your head and deliver your line. It can be tricky to do because in theory, you have to look away from the teleprompter to deliver the dialogue directed to the OTS. If there is a lot of dialogue to deliver to the OTS, you might see if you can ask production to mount a second teleprompter that matches your eyeline when you are turned to the OTS. That way, when you turn to talk to the OTS, you go from reading the main teleprompter to simply turning to read a second teleprompter, but creating an effect that you are turning from the main camera to talk to the OTS.

Stay tuned to Stand-In Central for other teleprompter terminology!

Have you worked with a teleprompter when standing in? What advice do you have when working with a teleprompter? Share your tips in the comments below!