Every now and then there are tricks that you can’t get out of your head. One of them for me is the Vanishing Bird Cage. I’ve revisited it several times over the years, and in the past hit stumbling blocks with it. The birdcage is probably one of the most difficult tricks I’ve worked on. There so much you need to overcome, it’s not as simple as the old magic catalog ad makes it seem.
One of the issues that’s easy to overcome is the issue of doing the birdcage later in your show. This was solved by Billy McComb with the use of a Take Up Reel. It was popularized by Tommy Wonder in Volume 2 of the Books of Wonder. By popularized, I mean people became aware of it. After that book came out, there were still not many people used one, simply because of price and availability. If you could find one or get someone to make you one they’d cost you somewhere in the ballpark of $1,000 or more!
One day I was driving and an idea hit me for a way to produce the second lock of a Take Up Reel on my 3d Printer, I pulled over and drew it on the back of an envelope. After using it and having some other people use it and gotten their feedback, I’ve finally decided to offer them to other magicians.
Here’s the promo:
When something’s in your head, if you keep chipping away at it, eventually you’ll come up with a solution!
One of the coolest card gaffs is the Modern Flap Cards by Hondo. He makes the as a premade gaff, or as a video where you can learn to make your own. The video is the way to go, as you’ll be a lot more versatile with what you can do. There’s a little bit of a learning curve to making them, but it’s really not that hard.
I use one in my preshow video in my cruise ship show, and in a lot of social media videos. I haven’t used them in a live show, simply because I don’t really have a place for them. The problem is a playing card is small, and the change is hard to view from the back row.
It hit me a while ago that you can do the change with the card isolated in a cup. I hadn’t had time to really play with it before the self quarantine, however I played around with it and here’s the card color change change in a cup:
There’s a little bit of knack to do the move in a cup. In a nutshell I’m using the weight of the card to keep the change from happening. It’s all about the angle you lean the card at. I think the next time I make some of the flap cards, I’m going to have a bit less tension, so that I have more wiggle room with the angle of the lean.
The discovery of doing the change in a cup is the direct result of playing with the gimmick and a good example of why you should be playing with gimmicks beyond what’s in the instructions.
The other night I was chatting with Matt DiSero about the Bounce No Bounce Balls trick. If you don’t know the trick, it’s a ball that bounces and a matching ball that doesn’t bounce. He came up with a really cool ending for the trick and I made a quick video of it:
Here’s the dilemma I’m having, in the video I feel like flash the palmed ball too much. Should I post the video on my social media or not?
Before you say, “why don’t you just rerecord it?“, let me tell you that I can’t. I had just sold the set of balls, so this was recorded right before I boxed them up. Now before you say, “why didn’t you rerecord it before you shipped them out?“, let me tell you that I couldn’t. I only had one tomato, and with the current self quarantine, I didn’t feel that a trip to the store to buy tomatoes would have been a wise decision.
For now it’s living on this blog. I may post it as sort of a look behind the curtain of how magic tricks develop.
Tricks that end with something big appearing are always fun to do. They are (usually) amazing and the big object is an instant applause cue and signal that it’s the end of the trick. The challenge right now with all magic happening over cameras, is how do you load the object?
A couple of nights ago I decided I wanted to do a Cups and Balls type trick where someone couldn’t backtrack on video and figure out where the load came from. First I had to examine how to get the big object under the cup.
There are essentially three ways.
First you can take the object off screen for a second and load the item. This works for a video conference where they can’t rewatch the video of the trick later. Personally I think that magic that’s put out on video should be able to withstand at least one rewatching of the video.
The next way is you can load the large item like you would in a normal show. Unfortunately misdirection on a screen doesn’t work like in real life and while it still may play most of these style of loads will be less deceptive. I’m not saying all will, for example a load coming from under the table while you are sitting will be more deceptive that one coming from the back pocket while you are standing.
The final way is having the item in video’s frame and hidden, and sneaking it into the cup. The Larry Jennings / Ron Wilson Chop cup routine is a good example where the ball is stolen from inside a bag.
I decided to go with the having the item already in the frame as this is the method that would withstand the repeated viewings. That got me thinking about the Scotty York Cups and Balls routine where the cups start the routine loaded with the large balls. I then took the frame work of my Cee-Lo (cup and dice) routine and started playing with the cup loaded from the beginning.
Here’s what I came up with:
To do this trick, you’ll notice I’m not using the chop cup as it’s traditionally used. Normally people use the cup to help make the ball vanish and reappear. In this routine, I’m using it as a delivery system for dice. I came up with a way for it to give me two separate loads of dice. Once at a about the 43 second mark and then at about the 52 second mark for the large die. Making a “progressive loading” cup took a bit more work than just shoving dice into a cup with my hand, but I think it’s more deceptive on video.
Ideally since I’m only loading one die, I’d like to use a larger die as the final production. Due to the self quarantine, I’m limited to what I’ve got at home.
Right now as most of us shift from live performing to virtual performing, we really should be reexamining methods to see if there’s a better way to do things.
The other night I was having a virtual magic jam and was showing some of my ideas using surgical gloves. Here’s a few of them:
Gloves are interesting to use for magic because they fit have a built in “black art” to them. Also like water they have rules, they have to stretch, are essentially air tight and things can’t get through them. We can now use those rules to our advantage. The old close up black art tricks with thing like the chinatown half no longer need the black card. You just set the coin onto your palm, and they can see right thought it!
I’m not sure that the use of gloves will have much of a life beyond the next year when all of this COVID-19 stuff hopefully is over. I do think that glove tricks are good social media content right now.
On Social Media Right now, it seems like everyone is doing shows on Facebook Live. It’s partially because it’s a new thing and seems fun, however personally I’m against it. I want to be clear, I’m not talking about teaching things like lectures, but people performing for people to watch. Here’s the problem, it’s visually uninteresting.
Typically, it’s a single camera, static shot of someone in a room. Visually that gets old very quick. Watch any produced magic TV show and you won’t see 5 minutes of video from a single point. Now watch any TV show and you’ll notice the same. If you Live Stream, why are you forcing your audiences to watch a static camera view your show?
We live in a world where you can do a two camera live stream where you change views or single camera, but have someone move it for different views. It’s not that hard, but you need to pump the breaks on your rush to get content out there and try to get it out in more digestible manner for the general public.
I sat down, wrote it out, then sent it to a buddy for notes and to punch it up. For me the fun part was building the props. Inspired by a picture that Christoper Weed had posted as a joke of a gloved hand wearing a thumb tip, I decided to do the whole show wearing gloves and had to turn “flesh colored” gimmicks into glove colored gimmicks.
I recorded and edited it. Editing is what makes your show watchable, and the lack of it is one of the things that I don’t like about most live streams. I don’t need to see you sip water, or dig around in your case to grab props. Editing is a lot of boring work, which is why I think a lot of people are taking the easy route and doing Live Streams, but doing it makes your show so much more watchable!
Hope you enjoyed my rant. The opinions above are mine. If yours are different, hopefully they make you think about yours.
In yesterdays post I showed a gimmick that I was making for a video. This video was made because my brother said I should do a cooking show for our weekly “virtual dinners”. A night before our dinner, I had a ton of ideas and wrote out a rough script, and sent it to a buddy of mine who punched it up. I then built the gimmicks and recorded the show.
Here’s what I made:
At about the 9 min mark you can see the gimmick I posted about yesterday. There’s a couple of other interesting magic effects that happen in the video as well. This was what I found interesting about making the whole video was that the cooking was a frame for magic to happen. It was a built in presentation hook.
It took over 12 hours to make this video, and the sole goal of it was to make my brothers laugh. That’s art, money or longevity of it wasn’t a consideration, it was simply to get a reaction. What reaction are the videos your are posting designed to get?
What are you doing to stay creative right now? I’ve got several outlets for creativity, however on of them is new to me. During the self quarantine, my brothers and our families have a virtual dinner once a week. Last week they asked me to do a cooking show, so I’ve been working on that for fun.
One of the things that I came up with was to turn a garlic clove into chopped garlic. The simple solution is to use a thumb tip. I didn’t really want my hands covered in garlic, so I thought about wearing gloves and a then this I covered a thumbtip with the end of glove and it worked great!
Forcing yourself outside of your comfort zone is a great way to get yourself thinking creatively! If the cooking show turns out watchable, I’ll share it here.
The other day I posted about a virtual gig I did. I was an act in a cabaret show and my bit was prerecorded, so I didn’t perform live. Honestly that was sort of a mistake. We should have found a way to do it live from different locations, and not prerecorded.
All of these things like Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Zoom, etc all have chat functions. When my prerecorded segment was on the show, I didn’t know if I wanted to watch because I was scared of what people would say in the comments. I forced my self to watch it and read the comments as my segment was playing. I decided what I could learn from negative comments would have HUGE value. I got positive comments, so my ego was unscathed.
One thing about doing a virtual gig is that you can use the comments to your advantage. You can use them for people to pick a card, name a number, say their favorite movie, etc. Now you can add some interactive elements to the show.
The takeaway is you should embrace the comments feature and use them to your advantage!
About six months ago I had an idea for a trick, essentially it was a signed card changed from a five of spade to a four of spade. You can read my idea for method for this trick here. This is basically the trick “Picking Off The Pips” that I think I read a version of in the Amateur Magician’s Handbook by Henry Hay when I was a kid. The difference is that it’s a signed card.
I was going to make up a card, but time wise never did. Then due to the cancellations of shows due to COVID-19 I was cleaning up my office and found a set of Dry Transfer Decal Card Pips.
This was probably the greatest thing that’s come out of cleaning out the office! Thanks to these I was able to easily make the gimmick for my idea.
The pip I added to the card was a bit smaller than the pips currently on a poker size deck, but I don’t think that will change how the trick works.
The trick hinges on people not being as familiar with a deck of cards as magicians are. I remember as a kid my mom coming home from work and they had a corporate trainer do a thing with a deck of cards. It wasn’t a card trick, but at the end the trainer asked if anyone had noticed anything strange with the cards. My mom was the only one who noticed that the red cards were black and the black card were red. The only reason she caught that is at that time she’d probably picked a hundred cards a week for me while I was practicing tricks. Normal audiences won’t notice.
I’m glad to have the gimmick, unfortunately I there are no audiences to do the trick for right now. I wish I could try it out.