Hybrid Events…

Lately I’m getting more and more requests for hybrid events. These are live, in person shows, that also have a virtual component. I think we’re going to have more and more of these. Last week I did four school assemblies that were hybrid, with some of the kids in the room with me and some at home. I just hosted a charity auction that was a hybrid event:

Here’s what I’m noticing about these, you can’t easily stage it for both audiences. Most event planners think you can just plunk up a camera, and that’s not the case.

For example the event in the picture above, they had me set up for the camera, but didn’t think about the in person audience. First of all I’m sitting at a table on the opposite side of the room, so I’m losing connection with a huge chunk of the in person audience. The didn’t have a monitor, so I couldn’t see the gallery view of the virtual audience, so I didn’t have any connection with them.

The gig went well, it was a hosting gig, so it wasn’t a show and we ended up raising more money than the charity’s goal for the evening, so it was a success…but it could have been soo much better for both audiences!!!

Hybrid Magic Shows…

This week I’m doing a series of hybrid in person / virtual shows for a small school that has about 20 kids in each show. Yesterday’s group upper elementary school age and the rest of the week will be middle school aged kids. Doing the show, I was very chatting with the kids and the kids were very chatty with me, however I held them and no one logged off the zoom as this was an optional event. The principal was impressed that I held them all and kept the kids engaged the whole time.

Now…going forward for the next school that contacts me for a hybrid show, I think if I know it’s going to be a hybrid event, I may try have my daughter run the Zoom part of it. The experience the kids at home got wasn’t the best. They had an iPad in the back of the room, so it was just a blurry wide show of me 30 feet from it. Having a camera that could move (pivot) and zoom in and out would be a huge advantage. They also had a large projector screen with the Zoom screen on it, I think I would ideally have that behind me, so then I could use that screen to my advantage and do some close up stuff.

All of that would be the ideal way to do it. Unfortunately, that’s probably not how it would actually play out. How it would probably actually play out is this:

  • I’d ask them to log me into their Zoom room and they’d say they couldn’t due to privacy reasons.
  • I’d ask to have the screen behind me and they’d say no because of how the room has to be laid out for social distancing
  • I’d ask to plug my camera into the computer they are using for Zoom and it would crash it because their computer doesn’t have enough power to run an external camera.

Knowing my ideal hybrid situation now will hopefully get me at least one of the three. Now that I know what to ask for, it’ll be easier to get something!

Telegraph to the Rescue!

Not too long ago I added the remote control chattering teeth bit from my in person shows to my virtual shows and to my surprise, it was a hit! Honestly I didn’t think it would play as well over the screen. After trying it, it’s staying in the family virtual show!

One thing that I didn’t like is that my hand had to drop out of frame to push the button. Honestly, this really isn’t a big deal, and I don’t think that anyone notices it and this isn’t really a magic trick, but a comedy bit. I was going to build the remote transmitter into a foot pedal, then noticed I an old telegraph key kicking around. Here’s what I built:

I had to 3d print the base under the telegraph key to hold the remote transmitter and battery. The telegraphy key simply sits on the floor and I push it with my foot.

I’m a huge fan of props with things that no one sees but you, and there’s some embellishment that only you know about. I know I just built thing, but whenever I look at it, it makes me smile!

Returning to My First Virtual Gig!

Later this evening I’ll be performing a family night show for the first group I did a full, live virtual show for. I’m amazed that a year later I’m still doing these shows and the show has come a long way! I’ve added a bit more production, I’m using more audio effects, and have tricks that are better suited / created for the virtual viewer.

This is the promo video I made from that first show:

It’s also the promo video I still use to promote virtual shows. I probably should have updated it a months ago, but it’s gotten me a lot of work!

Some of the core of that show hasn’t changed, like the silk in peach and the gypsy thread, however a lot has been changed or added.

I used to do a coin sequence that ended with some jumbo coin manipulation. That’s gone, it’s been replaced with my coins under glass routine.

Right now the show opens with the three shell game, a year ago that was in my recorded preshow video.

wheel of dinner

The show used to open with my flea circus, which was great, however it’s now too much work to set up. Early on in the virtual show timeline, I had a studio in my buddy’s garage that I could leave the flea circus set up in. Unfortunately he moved and that studio is now 5 hours away and my virtual studio is now my office. There’s really not enough room to do it in the office.

I would close the show with a password prediction, but that has changed to the Wheel of Dinner.

I’ve learned soo much over the last year, it’s been a very educational time. Like any show, it’s evolved over the last year and I’ve evolved in how I perform in the show as well!

Alexa’s Aces

Awhile ago I wrote about a card trick I was working on that used an Amazon Alexa for the reveal (you can read the blog posts here and here). Here’s some video of it in action:

It’s a good novelty reveal, the weak spot for me is that I have to briefly see the aces at the beginning. I wanted a trick that would work start to finish without me having to see anything. I came up with the solution. It’s a 100% self working, you wouldn’t need to be in the room for the trick to work. I’ll write about it another time.

Gravity and the Bird…

Last week I had a “Treat Yo Self” day and picked up Gravity by Joao Miranda. This is an electric invisible thread reel and it’s pretty cool. I personally don’t use invisible thread in my in person shows, as there’s too many variables for me to use it reliably. However I do use it frequently for prerecorded videos as I can control the conditions and breaking the thread isn’t really an issue. The main reason I got it was there’s been many times where I needed a thread to be pulled for something and it was just me in the room and had to rig some janky pully system. This should solve that problem.

The Gravity reel has three modes

  • ITR: It handles like an old school ITR with constant tension on the reel.
  • Remote: It’s slack until you trigger the remove which will then put tension on the reel.
  • Programable: You program a series of retractions into the reel

It’s the programable mode that has me the most excited. It’s super easy to program. I’ve wanted to have the bird from my vanishing birdcage routine do a trick in my virtual shows for a long time. Here’s my first attempt at programing the reel:

It was a bit after I made the video that I realized I could probably make the bird and card move at the same time very easily with the Gravity reel. That’ll be something I work on later today. So far I’m loving the Gravity reel!!!

Alexa’s Aces

In yesterday’s blog post I wrote about using Amazon’s Alexa to reveal a specific card, which is the Ace of Spades. The next step is to figure out the trick that will bring us to the reveal of the Ace of Spades. I wanted all of the action to happen on their side of the screen, so I would just be giving verbal instructions, not manipulating any props.

Here’s what I came up with (with the help of Jonathan Friedman and Chris Beason):

The shuffle their deck of cards and remove the four aces in the order that they shuffled them to. The aces are held in a facedown packet and you spell “amazon alexa” shifting one card from the top to the bottom for each letter. You then ask their Alexa, “Alexa, what’s your favorite playing card?” and it will respond “Ace of Spades”. Have them flip the entire packet over and the Ace of Spades will be showing!

The work is pretty simple, you just need to spot the location of the Ace of Spades in the four card packet. What is spelt will be determined by the position of the Ace of Spades. If it’s:

Top: Spell Alexa
2nd Down: Spell Amazon
3rd Down: Spell Amazon Alexa
Bottom: Spell Amazons Alexa or Amazon Alexa Trick

How I remember is that the words are built like a pyramid. The shortest thing you spell is on top and the longest is on the bottom. If you just remember the two words AMAZON and ALEXA you have pretty much all you need to know, except adding the S or word TRICK to the bottom phrase.

Go out and have fun with this trick…or do whatever with this knowledge

Alexa’s Card Trick…

Recently I started doing a trick over Zoom where I trigger the Amazon Echo / Alexa at the spectator’s house. It’s got a fun feel, because the trick happens at everyone’s house how has an Alexa that can hear it respond.

It started out with me figuring out you could get Alexa to reveal a specific playing card by asking, “Alexa, what’s your favorite playing card?” and it will say “Ace of Spades“. Most magicians know you can get a random playing card by asking it to “pick a card“, but being able to get a consistent card is helpful for a reveal.

That going me thinking about what else might be Alexa’s favorites. I started asking all sorts of questions starting with “Alexa, what’s your favorite…” and have a little bit of a list going. There’s a list on Reddit from about 3 years ago, and some of the answers have changed since then, but it will give you an idea of some of the things to ask. Something to remember it to test your results on other people’s Alexa’s before you roll out the trick. There are somethings that have variables, like when I ask, “Alexa, what’s your favorite season?” I get one answer and other people get a different answer.

OK, now that I had the reveal for the trick, I needed to come up with the trick. I’ll write about that tomorrow…

Virtual Show Pricing…

Ugh, so my laptop has been working less and less well with virtual shows. It’s doing a strange things where my screen freezes, then speeds up to get caught up to real time. Luckily it’s not as bad on the audience’s screen as it is on mine, but it’s still there. It’s doable, but not a great experience for the audience.

If this was happening six months or a year ago, it wouldn’t have been a big deal as we were in the middle of the COVID pandemic and there was a long tunnel of virtual shows ahead. Right now I’ve got about 10 virtual shows on the books, but most places are booking me for in person shows. That makes it a hard decision to go out and buy a new computer. Do I just struggle through the last of the shows?

I decided to get a new computer to run my virtual shows on. This got me thinking about why virtual shows should cost at least as much as your in person magic shows cost. The main reason is that I am providing the venue, before the booker did that. Because of that I have “venue costs” associated with the show. That’s things like keeping my tech up to date and in working order, in addition to the maintenance of the performing space (backdrop etc).

At this point in the evolution of virtual magic shows, if you are charging less than you were 18 months ago, in my opinion you are charging too less. Keep in mind I don’t count other people’s money, you charge what you need to charge to survive and I won’t judge you on why you are charging what you are.

On The Big Screen…

For a long time I didn’t really use any video projection in my show. Mostly because I didn’t understand how it worked and how to work it. In late January of 2020 I decided I was going to start to figure out how to use it in my live, in person stage shows. Shortly after I started working on using projection, the COVID pandemic hit and any work on in person shows went onto the back burner as I had to figure out virtual shows. Luckily those virtual shows have translated into me starting to understand how to incorporate video elements into my in person show.

Recently I did a theater show and got to start to use video projection. One thing I didn’t like about video was that I didn’t want the audience essentially watching TV. The ideal trick for this is the Three Shell Game. It’s interactive, and fills the screen nicely, but plus it still have whole audience interaction. I chose to use my Russian Shell Game as it has a payoff with the production of a dozen shells.

Here’s my first show using video projection:

It played well, and one of the silver linings to come out of the COVID pandemic is me not being afraid of using video projection/production in my show!