Well I think I jinxed myself yesterday. I was chatting on the phone with a magician friend of mine and mentioned that I’m just getting to the point where virtual shows aren’t stressing me out all day. I think I would have reached that point a lot sooner if I had a dedicated space to perform virtual shows in. I’m having to build and take down the virtual theater each show. I’m just now getting comfortable with the show and doing all of that.
Yesterday right before showtime I was running some new cues with my daughter who runs the production end of my show and we noticed my video was lagging. My video would freeze, then speed up to get caught up to real time. I then spend an hour stressed out trying to diagnose what what going on.
I never did figure it out. If you have any ideas of what may have been causing it, let me know!
However being aware of the problem really helped. We found out that my audio was constant, it was just an issue with video, so every one could hear me the whole time. I ended up having to time the magic moments around the freezes. How I did this was go fairly slow and almost wait for the lag before the magic happened. Once the video froze, then sped up I have at least 15 seconds of good video, so I would make the trick happen then. It worked and the booker was happy with the show. I also made them aware of the problem during the check in before the show.
This is a good example of why being comfortable with the material in your show really pays off. My brain was working overtime working around the tech issue, that if I had to think much about my show, it would have been a really tough show to do. I’m not saying doing “easy” or “self working” magic tricks is the way to go, I’m saying being comfortable with your material. I do a couple of technical things in the show, and I’ve practiced and done them a ton, I don’t need to devote brain power to them if I don’t need to.
I’m trying to free up floor space and visual clutter in my performing space for my virtual shows. One of the ways I’m doing this is switching from using camera tripods to using mic stands. I found some mic stand camera mounts and using them to attach the camera.
The mic stand in the picture is a tripod style, but also using the pedestal style. Visually there’s a lot less clutter that I have to see while performing. Also these pack down much smaller than a traditional cameral tripod.
I’ve done one gig using these and I like it. I really like having to see less clutter while I perform. Got another gig tonight and hopefully I’ll still like using them.
One thing that I think is never taught to magicians is how to work on your show. Most magicians have no idea how to do this…I didn’t for the longest time. This week 5 years ago I drove from Seattle to Nebraska to do an 8 week school assembly tour.
The pay was garbage, but that’s not why I took the tour. They had me doing three to four shows a day, five days a week, and that’s why I took the gig. I left Seattle with some rough ideas for what the show would be like, but no established routines, just some props.
Let me stop and say that this really isn’t a good way to approach a tour. I took the gig specifically to generate material. For what it paid, I wasn’t going my tried and true material. That’s said, I did have an idea of tricks that I wanted to do, I just hadn’t really done them in a show context before.
For example, this is where I learned to do my multiplying billiard ball routine. It started out using a shell, but due to the wide angles of a school gym, it morphed to a no shell routine. I dropped a lot of material and added a lot on that tour.
OK, so how do you work on a show?
For this tour I recorded at least one show a day. Then I got back to the hotel and watched at least one show’s recording from that day. I took notes and wrote jokes every night. That’s a crap ton of watching yourself, but you get good really quick. Every night I would have several actionable things to not do in my show as well as several new jokes or bits to try the next day.
That’s how you work on a show. Record every shows (or at least one if doing multiple a day) and actually watch it with a critical eye. Write notes for what you like and don’t like. Then watch it again and write new material to add.
However, it’s work and it’s a pain to do. When you’re on the road by yourself it’s much easier to do than when you’re at home with your family, or whatever home based distractions you have.
You need to sit down and actually watch your previous performances. It’s amazing how many shows you thought were amazing are pretty cringy when they are taken out of “the moment”.
For a while I’ve been dinking around with a coins to glass routine. Here’s an early version of it:
The problem with the early version of the trick is that it needs some specific lighting. That’s not a problem for virtual venues, but I’m hoping this is something that could transition to my in person shows via video projection or in a some specific cabaret settings.
A couple of weeks ago I did it at the Mostly Magicians Virtual Open Mic and got some great feedback that had me start to explore ways to do the trick that relied a lot less on the lighting. I remembered going to a Tom Stone lecture a few years ago and some of the things he talked about helped me solve the problem.
Here’s what I the current version of the trick looks like:
Would this version hold up to repeated viewings as a stand alone social media video?
Probably not, but that’s not the intention. It’s for live performances, whether it’s in person or virtual and I think it fits the bill. The nice thing is that now I’m working on a trick that has a bigger life than just a virtual show!
In a continuing effort to use my virtual performing space wisely, I added a little bit more to the shelf below my working surface.
The four ball holders on the left are new, along with the coil holder. This also eliminates a couple of body loads that would have been in my in person show. There are still a few prop holders that need to be added, however it’s just a matter of time to design and print them.
Last night I performed at a hybrid in person / virtual show. The in person aspect of it was interesting as it was a socially distant, outdoor event in tents…oh, the show took place at the tail end of a snowstorm, so it was cold out! I was performing indoors with a an open roll up door in front of me. I could see one table, the rest were in tents watching on a projection screen which was showing what was on the zoom feed.
It was a very interesting experience. The camera was over my left shoulder and the audience in front of me. The challenge was where to play to. I chose to mostly play to the camera as that’s where the majority of the audience’s viewpoint was from. It’s very strange to no play to the only group of humans you can see. I didn’t ignore the one table I could see, but did most of my talking to the camera.
Going forward, I think ticketed, in person shows are going to have to do this hybrid approach to make any money if they physical audience has to be socially distant. How you will approach this scenario is something to start thinking about now…
In an effort to streamline things for my virtual show, I picked up some foot pedals. Each pedal acts as a button that you can program to do a specific task.
The first thing I did was something that Richard Lake mentioned in the talk he did with Nick Lewin and made them up and down arrows. I then went through my show in OBS and made a scene for everything, so my show basically went straight down. It was a pain to do, but useful if I’m doing the show without a producer.
Normally I have a producer in the room running my OBS scenes, so I changed the foot pedals to activate a camera shot. So I have my general, tight, and close up that I can control with my feet. I’m really liking having the control of the cameras with my feet.