Way back in the early summer when my state had first started to reopen after the initial pandemic shutdown, and friend texted me this picture of a game wheel at a thrift store for $2.99.
I drove up and bought it. It needed some work, the whole from was stained, and have some sort of glue residue in it. What I found interested was that it was heavier duty that most of the game wheels that I’d seen before. The wheel is two feet in diameter, and made of thick wood, so it’s heavy. The pole it’s on looked like the top pole of a speaker stand. I took it home and it fit into the base of a speaker stand, that would allow me to use it without a table. I threw away the plastic base in the picture above.
This then ended up sitting in my shed for months, as I didn’t want to deal with cleaning up the wheel. I didn’t have an idea of exactly what I was going to do with it. Then I remembered reading about trick called Wheel of Mind by Amir Lustig and Hiam Goldenberg. I wasn’t exactly sure of the what it did, aside from that it was a force. Hiam puts out some pretty clever stuff, and for $15, I figured why not check it out.
Wheel of Mind uses twelve spaces and my game wheel has 20 spaces. Luckily the trick still works with more spaces. The other challenge is that Wheel of Mind uses both sides of the wheel. It turns out it’s really easy to remove the game wheel I have from the stand and turn it over. Now that I have what I’m going to use the game wheel for, it’s time to clean it up.
The first step was scraping all of the glue off of it. However the actual wheel was stained by whatever pen had been used on it previously. The next step was to remove the pins, and peel off the graphic from the front.
I recovered it with white contact paper on the front and back. Then using electrical tape, I made some lines and wrote the numbers in.
For less than $30 (that’s including buying Wheel of Mind) I now have a fun looking prop that will force something. I probably wouldn’t travel with this, unless I was doing a run of shows. It’s mostly for virtual shows, it’s also a cool set piece to have behind me.
The holder I was printing out the other day is finished and works great! I designed this to display to hold an envelope, or jumbo card upright so that it’s more visible than laying flat on a table. I also put a magnet inside of it so that I can simply stick it to the front of my small case.
Here’s the finished holder:
Here it is holding a giant card:
It holds it very securely, the card won’t fall out under normal circumstances.
It also hit me that I could put a magnet behind my virtual backdrop and use it there.
If I end up using it for virtual shows, I’ll need to print out another one to keep with that show’s props. I really dislike moving props around from case to case. That’s a easy way to forget or lose things.
One thing that I’ve been paying attention to at magic meetings and magic conventions is how magicians are using Zoom. Not from a magic method standpoint, but from using it as their stage. How are thing framing their magic, how are they bringing people from the audience onstage.
Paul Gertner has a really great way of using people from the audience. He has them on a physical screen in his space, and it really gives a feel of the person standing next time. If you get a chance to see him perform, it’s worth it to see what he’s doing. It’s great!
One of the big things that I noticed at the PCAM was the difference in how people performed if they were “Instagram” performers and weren’t doing live virtual shows. The clunky transitions between tricks, and tech transitions (like moving a camera from their face to hands) really highlighted this difference. The people that were live performers really eliminated this dead time, or made it interesting. This isn’t a knock on people that perform on Instagram, it really just highlighted how live performing is a very different skill set.
Just like many live performers have made the switch to Instragram or TikTok, I think people who perform on those venues need to start looking at how to perform live. It’s the logical extension of what they’re doing. Someone sees a video and wants to book you for a virtual show. I understand that live performing is something some Instagram performer have no interest in, and I respect that. However I also think that’s if Ellen asked them to be on her TV show, they’d want to do it.
Last weekend I attended the PCAM magic convention. It was a lot of fun, and they did a good job of keeping the day moving, it went from 10am to 8pm, then unofficially till about midnight.
When the booker approached me to perform at the convention, I decided to pitch something a little different from an act or lectures. I mentioned the little cooking demos I’ve done, and could do a cocktail for them. They like the idea and I got to do one of little mixology video for them!
It went over well! One of the fun things performing for magicians is when you do unexpected things. In that routine there are a couple of interest to magicians. There’s a production of two rats, which is interesting and the flaming jalapeno pepper. The pepper always surprises me that magicians get excited about that. there have been “flaming” objects around for years, not sure why this one makes an impression…unless it’s that it makes sense as a prop.
I’m glad that my whacky little presentation went well. I’d love to do more and more of these over zoom. It’s a different style of performing magic and I’m really enjoying it.
Designing and assembling a working teleprompter was a lot easier than I thought! Yesterday I rode my bike over to the Dollar Store and picked up a picture frame to use for the glass.
If I ever dis this again, the big change I would make is try to find glass that’s the exact size of the part it’s attached to. I’d also make a slot for the glass to slide into. Right now the camera’s screen is obscured, so I can’t see where I am in real time in the frame. This isn’t a huge deal, as I plan on using this for things where I’m not that active and moving around.
I’ve always said that getting better at magic is a lot of solving problems. This solved a problem. If I use it and like it, I may end up investing in a more professional setup…but maybe not.
Lately I’ve had a bunch of virtual MC work I’ve been doing. I feel like people’s introductions are getting longer and longer. Gone are the days of three bullet points and a name. I’m having a need for a teleprompter, so that I’m not reading off of a sheet of paper. Someone suggested I look into Padcaster:
This goes onto the front of your camera which looks through the hole in the back. Then you use your smartphone to make the text on the glass. The idea is you can read off the teleprompter while you look directly into the camera.
The camera I use is a Sony Handycam and it’s got a big front around the lens. I was worried I’d spend $100 and have a teleprompter that didn’t fit. I decided to give making my own a try. A quick google search led me to some premade 3d templates for teleprompters, but none was quite want I wanted. I custom designed the one below for my specific camera and cellphone:
The top part that goes on the camera has printed and it fits great! The tray to hold the phone is printing right now, and I need to go to the store to get some glass. I’m hoping this will work!!!
Doing stuff for TV is a lot of waiting, followed by we need stuff in 10 minutes. Recently I contributed to a bit on the news in Seattle, and it’s something that initially contacted me about a week prior. Then the day that it aired, they contacted me a few hours before they needed video. While doing 10-15 seconds isn’t a lot of work to produce, when you only have a few hours to do it, it is.
Here’s the news segment:
I sent them a 15 second bit where I just talked in front of the camera. That’s the audio that was used. Then I sent them a 15 second trick montage, of which they only used one trick. The trick they used was the only one that was beginning, middle and end on the video.
It took some work, but the MC videos are finished. These are tricks I was doing for a virtual MC gig. I had to do 7 introductions and wanted to have some magical things to happen while I did them. The thing was I didn’t want to do any full routines. This is an interesting shift from live to prerecorded virtual hosting. There aren’t any stage delays to cover, you really just need to move the show along.
Of the seven tricks I planned on doing, four of them turned out alright. There other ones are just straight intros. Here’s a highlight reel of the four tricks:
I think my favorite is the floating card. I’m not sure how subtle it is, but just letting go if it and it not moving is fun. You’ll notice by gesturing with my hands as I talk, I’m waving them over the top to show “there are no strings” without saying it.
I’m hoping people like that style, I’m having a lot of fun doing things like this. It’s making flex a creative muscle that I don’t normally use. The event happens on Thursday of next week, so we’ll see how it was received then.
Last night I picked up a last minute gig hosting a showcase. This is for a conference where people go to book acts, I showcased last year and can’t this year. However when I was asked to host their virtual showcase, I agreed as getting face time is always good!
Hosting these is more complex than simply doing material and then announcing acts. The host isn’t supposed to showcase their act. That said, when I accepted the gig, I immediately got started writing down ideas that were fun magical moments. I have seven acts to introduce, which is a lot of material to figure!
How I did this was write down a lot of ideas. Basically I’m just looking for a way to produce the acts name. These have to be quick, and not too involved. After the initial brainstorming, I started to make one of the ideas. One of the acts had a really long introduction. The idea was to have all the text written out, then have all the words change to his name. My first thought was to use black art on the table, but didn’t like that as it’s harder to frame my face. Then I thought about making a flap card. When I first learned to make more modern flap cards, I made an index card that was a flap card. It looks like Blake Vogt is currently selling one called Acro-Index, check his out if you like the idea, and don’t know how to make one.
Once I had the index card trick, I looked at all of my other ideas and started to look at all of the ones that could be adjusted to an index card. I got about 4 of the ideas to work with an index card, and then brainstormed three more.
That gave some options, not every act needs an trick with the introduction. I’m going to record all of them two ways. One as just the introduction and one with the trick. I’ll pick the one that flows better. I’m recording these today, even if they don’t work out, at least it was a fun creative exercise!
Most of us are in a world now where we’re booking virtual shows, instead of converting in person shows to virtual shows. What that means is that instead of trying to save a gig from cancelling, we’re creating a completely new contract.
This has created another new trend, the virtual rehearsal. This is where whoever is hosting your show wants you to video and sound check about a week before your show. I think these now exist for a couple of reasons, the first is whoever is running the show (in house IT, or outside company) for the booker wants to make it look like they’re giving more value. The next is that they’ve been burned by a performer previously. It could have been that the performer had bad internet connection, horrible camera, or a bad mic.
Here’s the big thing, what does this rehearsal fix? Most of us are building our virtual theater’s for shows, and don’t have a dedicated space that stays set up 100% of the time. If someone asks me to move a light, it probably won’t be in the exact same spot on the show day. Also it may get moved for another show.
I’m just unclear what the point of a rehearsal is. They aren’t running any production for me, so why is there a walk through?
Also, doing a full rehearsal (which is what people are starting to ask me for) doubles the time commitment to the show. I’m literally doing two shows. When I mention that, I have yet to have someone be willing to pay for the second show.