Years ago when I was a teenager, I attended the Desert Magic Seminar in Las Vegas. One of the lecturers was Gary Oulette and he was talking about magic for TV and how they did The World’s Greatest Magic series. A few things about that lecture have stuck with me, the main one being why to use shiny mylar strips as a backdrop!

He talked about using stingers and adding little twinkles when the magic effect happens. I’ve also noticed that on Master’s of Illusion they do that as well. I think it really does add to the experience.

I’ve been messing with adding little twinkles to my videos when the magic happens. I’ve found a few that I’m using, but I think I need to keep searching as I’m not 100% happy with them. I do feel that they add to the video and are worth the time to search them out and add them in.

Let There Be Light!

When you’re doing virtual shows, a lot goes into them. More than just the tricks. Someone recently posted their “promo video” for virtual shows. There are some good elements to this, like the people reacting, then some bad elements, like everything else.

Here’s the video:

The big problem with the video is the guy’s lighting is horrible! Yes, I understand that some of the effects he’s doing require special lighting, but he’s not even doing that right, you can light the effect correctly and make it not look like you’re performing in a closet.

Here’s a screenshot from the above video:

Does that look like something you’d pay money to watch?

Not me.

Does that mean it’s a bad show?

Not necessarily.

Right now we all need to learn about lighting, video production, etc and we all need to learn the basics about all of it.

Is It Worth It?

Your opening is important, and that hasn’t changed with shows moving over to Zoom. Recently I was performing on variety show that took place on zoom and one of the acts opened with a “frozen screen gag” where it looked like his screen was frozen, but he was really just holding up a picture of himself in front of the camera. I guess, it’s funny, it’s not a particularly clever gag (Mario’s card gag with a frozen screen is way better and very clever).

Here’s the problem with the gag, if you do it and you’re really having technical difficulties it’s not good. Most of the issue’s I’ve noticed with zoom variety shows are right out of the gate when you first pop on screen. Doing a technical difficulty gag at that point is rough if you are actually having technical difficulty. The act I worked didn’t have their audio on, and the guy running the tech had no way to give that info to the act.

It was awkward.

Had the act not done the frozen screen bit, it would have gotten resolved much quicker. Just imagine if he did have tech problems with audio (which was real) and if he had planned to do the frozen screen gag later in the show, but then pulled that out, it would have played 10 times better and been super funny.

Your opening is soo important, it’s a risk vs reward thing. Is the risk of doing a frozen screen gag before you’re aware that you aren’t having tech problems worth the reward of a laugh or two?

I don’t know.

It’s an artistic choice the performer has to make. Every trick is a risk vs reward scenario.

Impromptu Zoom Magic!

About a month ago I added a new trick to Zoom that’s been doing really well. It’s an interactive trick, where someone thinks of someone in the Zoom room and I tell them who they are thinking of. It’s a pretty good trick because it’s so customized and uses what’s happening now. It’s “propless mentalism” in a zoom room!

What I do is make a progressive anagram for the first names of the people in the Zoom room and have someone think of a person. I then go through the flow chart and tell them who they are thinking of! It can be instantly repeated, and if people join later, you can simply add their names. It’s great!

One of the advantages of doing it people’s first names in a zoom room is the person thinking of the name is looking right at the name. That makes if very difficult for them to misspell it!

Give it a try, you’ll like it!

Virtual MCing!

Today, you can check me out doing some virtual stage hosting for the Coconino County Fair on their facebook page! I’ll be introducing their bands and doing some magic tricks.

When I was a teenager I remember in all of the Karrell Fox boxs there being tons of magic tricks that he used to introduce act. Things like a piece of rope ends up shaped like an acts name, or the chalk magically writes the acts name on a chalkboard. I remember thinking how that was very dated feeling. What I mean by that, is that it doesn’t (to me) feel modern in a live variety show.

Now that I’m doing some of this virtual hosting, things like that kinda make sense. In a virtual video, the trick can happen, then the bands video starts. There’s not lag between me leaving the stage, and the band walking on and getting ready. I’ve gone back and reread a lot of Karrell’s stuff and while the props need to be modernized, the ideas are solid!

Corn Dog Idea

Yesterday I posted about making a corndog out of urethane. Later I made one out of foam, and prefer it to the urethane. I think the foam works better with the texture of a corndog.

I started playing around with the foam corndog and it handles better than the urethane one. Here’s what I came up with:

The video isn’t what I made it for, but it makes for a decent social media video.

Still Working On It…

Months ago I started working on my version of Goshman’s Cards Thru Newspaper trick. My version ended up taking out everything I didn’t like about the trick, which are the cards and the newspaper. I ended up replacing them with Polaroid pictures and an envelope. It’s still a work in progress.

A couple weeks ago I was invited to be a guest at a magic club meeting that took place over zoom. One thing they did was allow people to perform and get critique from Patrick Martin, who also did a presentation during the meeting.

Only a handful of people took the club up. I volunteered to do something if they had space and wouldn’t get in the way of club member’s having the chance to be critiqued. They had plenty of space, so I did my trick with Polaroid pictures.

There was some great feedback, mostly with how bad my pictures were and how they showed up on the screen. They are 100% correct, here’s a screenshot:

magic trick

The reflection from my ring light made the picture hard to see. There are a couple of solutions for this:

  • Spray them with matte spray to dull the gloss
  • Have the camera behind the ring light and bring the pics past the ring light
  • Have more contrast between the animal and background in the actual picture
  • Remake the picture so that it’s not glossy (i.e. fake Polaroid)

I think the final solution will be a combination of all of the above.

Being A Good Guest…

A while ago I was doing a video hangout with some friends and somehow the idea of having my daughter as a guest on one of their livestream shows. Well, we made it happen a bit ago and it was a lot of fun.

Here’s the thing, it wasn’t easy and that’s the problem, so many people think they are interesting and that’s enough. Here’s the truth, you aren’t interesting, you need to make yourself interesting.

How do you do that?

Simple, write out a few stories and have them ready to tell. Watch some of the previous shows and try to anticipate what the host will ask you and then write some jokes or stories as answers. You may never need them, but the act of preparing puts you a step ahead.

Then something unplanned happens, like on the show last week, there was no audio for the first 10 minutes. The first thing we did was look at what we had prepared that was visual that we could do. We had a few things, and we also played with it.

Having the mindset of having to work to be interesting and fun, instead of thinking we were interesting definitely gave us an advantage!

Here’s the whole interview (keep in mind there’s no audio for the first about 10 minutes):

Magic Conventions…

One of the silver linings to the entertainment industry being closed due to COVID is that I can go to different magic conventions. I’ve always been curious about KIDabra, which is for family entertainers. This year they are having a virtual convention, and I’m lecturing at it!

I’ve got some fun stuff to share with the group, including the full version of my Spoon Stunt which has never been taught before!

Louie Foxx KIDabra 2020 from Mark Daniel on Vimeo.

The line up looks great, if you’re a family performer, you should check it out!

Three Card Monte Sequence

One thing that I like about the Three Card Monte is that it automatically engages the entire audience. It’s a game they all can play with being the person playing it. That’s why I think things like the 3 Card Monte or the Three Shell Game are perfect for virtual shows. The level of engagement is great!

Here’s a video from a practice session:

I’m working out the sequence, right now it’s:

  1. Mix and the money card is in a different position
  2. Set aside a non-money card, do the mix and the money card is now the one set aside
  3. cards change so the two non-money cards are now the money card and the money card is now the non-money card
  4. all cards change into jokers

There’s a lot of magic that happens in that sequence. It’s a pretty amazing sequence, and basically using the three card monte premise as a presentation hook for card color changes.