Coming up in a few days is the Odd and Offbeat Variety Show which is a live show that takes place over Zoom. Here’s a peek at what has happened in the past on this show and what to look forward to this week:
The show is on 7/16 at 5pm (pacific) and is $7 per household.
One of the biggest challenges right now with all of the Social Distancing is breaking in new material. Personally I tend to try to work out things on stage. I try them, I ad lib, I tweak and adjust. Right now some in-person venues are starting to open up and this is great and will make working on new material much easier.
Here’s an early version of a trick that I wrote about a month ago on this blog. It’s using “fishing” along with a physical prediction for the trick.
The big change that I made was that I’m pulling the card out of the envelope before the card is named. I’m taking a risk that the person can totally screw my ending by lying about the card that they saw. However the questions leading into the reveal makes it hard to lie, they just can’t make up a card at the last moment as they’ve already confirmed things about it. That’s not going to stop an asshole from just saying a different card, but it does make it harder.
Early on in the days of “shelter in place”, bookers who had magic shows scheduled were blindly switching to online shows. They didn’t really know what it would look like, they just needed another option. Now that we’re almost four months into having restrictions on large gatherings, people are starting to look into booking these, and not just converting existing bookings.
Because of the shift from converted shows already scheduled to scheduling new shows, I decided it was time to make a promo video for my virtual magic show. Here’s what the current version looks like:
I’m going to make another version, this was the first so that I have something to show potential bookers right now. As I compile more and more video, I’ll make another promo video.
The other day I paid $15 to watch someone’s virtual magic show. It was interesting to see what other people think “interactive” means. I was disappointed that the guy that I watched and what he thought interactive meant.
He did a lot of do as I do tricks where when you follow the instructions you end up finding you own card sort of things. In my opinion you can only do one of this type of trick before it gets old. The dealing of cards is gives away the method as procedure if you do it more than once. The other problem with doing many of this type of trick is that if you don’t have a deck of cards, or only one deck and multiple people, you’ll probably be bored as YOU can’t do the trick in your own hands.
The bigger issue I had with how he interacted was that when he used people in the Zoom meeting room, their function was to simply pick a card and that was it. He never talked to them and to me, it really didn’t seem like he gave a sh*t about them. They simply said stop while he was dealing and that’s it.
Here’s a clip of a new bit from my show after I’ve introduced my producer, she’s waved at the audience and I’m explaining what her role in the show is:
At the end of the clip, you’ll see I’m talking to someone in the audience, without unmuting them. I’m engaging them and talking individual people in the audience. This is more than just when I’m specifically someone to help in a trick. I think this gives more of a live show feel, I can talk directly to or about people. It makes the show less of a poorly produced TV show and puts it into its own “live show” category.
In your virtual shows, look at how you are interacting with people, are they simply a prop or are you living a moment with them?
With the conversion to virtual shows, I’ve been tweaking routines that I already do to make them stronger in a streaming show. I recently wrote about how I’ve switched the loads of my Cee-Lo dice trick from using my pockets, to not going to the pocket at all.
One thing that I noticed was that depending on the angle, my dice cup which was black would sometimes disappear on the black table top. This isn’t desirable, so this morning I recovered it in natural tan leather. This makes the cup more visible and the whole routine easier to watch. An unexpected bonus to this is that the large dice actually appear a smidge bigger next to the tan dice up than the black dice up.
If you’re starting to do some virtual shows, look at your props and see what disappears to the background, then take steps to make it more visible. Changing the color of the outside of a cup was something really simple and took less than 5 minutes to do.
A friend of mine was doing a virtual magic show last night and I bought a ticket and watched it. He’s a great performer and magician, so I was excited. However when the zoom show started it was plagued by technical problems the whole time. His audio kept cutting out and his video was choppy or completely freezing. This is my greatest fear in virtual shows.
When you are doing a live show you know when there’s a problem. If your mic goes out, you can yell. If the lights go out, you could move the audience to the lobby. No matter what the technical problem is, generally you are aware of it.
In a virtual show, you are doing your thing to a screen and it looks OK on your screen as it’s the outgoing screen, however what people are seeing could be totally different.
Unfortunately with zoom the performer is the last one to know that there’s an audio or video problem. So what do you do when there’s a problem, do you end the show, do you plow through hoping it’ll get better? Honestly, I don’t think there’s a “best practice” as to what to do while it’s happening.
I think that right now people are aware of the medium and its quirks, but as we move forward, people are going to get more and more savvy and less tolerant of tech problems in zoom shows.
Normally I don’t produce shows, it’s a pain to deal with many acts that aren’t full time pros (and some full time pros as well). During the current “shelter in place” I’m co-producing a variety show that takes place over zoom. There are a lot of approaches to these streaming shows. Our theory is to do them live, and it give it the feeling that anything can happen. Also a live show that is happening while you are watching it has a different energy for the viewer than just watching a youtube video.
Here’s highlights from our last show:
We’re going to a fun, hanging out vibe and I think we’ve gotten that. It’s not just a show it’s a hangout. If you’re doing a streaming show, what separates yours from just a camera on your show?
After watching a few virtual magic shows, I made a change to how I record part of mine. I used to have a separate close up camera for when I wanted the focus on my hands. Then it hit me, why not just use the feed from the main camera and crop it down. That was a simple solution and I think looks better than a second camera, unless the second camera was a drastically different angle, like pointing straight down.
You’ll notice in the square that I’m in, in the upper left there’s a smaller full picture of me. Doing this was simple, it’s just using the camera feed twice. The larger picture is cropped down to just my hands and the smaller is the unaltered camera frame.
I’ve always wanted people to see my face while performing and the bigger picture. In my opinion it helps connect with your audience when you are more than just hands.
I’ve been making tricks that I do is to make them more “bullet proof” on camera. One of the things that I’ve done is to use a gimmicked table to avoid going to the pocket to ditch or to steal things. This is changing how I think about a lot of close up magic.
One thing performing for the camera and not live close up is that it’s hard to get your face and table in frame at the same time. That is when you use a traditional table height, which is about weight height. You end up with either a very wide shot and it’s harder to see the action or just the tabletop and your crotch in frame.
Personally I’d rather people see my face open space on the table. In the past I’ve done a couple things, first having a smaller table top that’s slightly higher than normal helped. I also try squat down to physically get my head closer to the table. This is uncomfortable and wouldn’t want to do a whole show this way, but it helps allow me to get my face in the video.
Here’s an example from video of mine:
You’ll see in the video above that the table is at about belly button level, instead of at the bottom of my crotch. What I’ve recently done is raise my table up to a couple of inches below my armpit and shrink the size of the tabletop. That makes it a lot easier to show both my face and the tabletop!
For me when I perform, I want to have my face in frame as much as possible, that’s just as important as the magic. Sure there are times when you want to focus on the trick, but for me the overwhelming majority of the time, I want my face also in frame. Keep in mind, this is for a static one camera video, when you have a moving or multiple cameras, you have more options to show your face and highlight the magic.
One of the things I’ve never really explored much was using a gimmicked table. The main reason is that it doesn’t really work in the venues that I perform in. I rarely have an audience that’s just in front of me, so the stuff hanging off the back of my table would be visible.
Yesterday I 3d printed a dice holder and it worked great. This was to avoid loading from my pocket. Then it got me thinking that I should remove the “two in the hand, one in the pocket” sequence from the routine so that I don’t got to the pocket at all. That would make the routine more deceptive, so I made a servante to ditch the dice into:
I was playing with a new routine and I’m liking it. I’ve come up with an interesting ditch of the one of the dice, that’s built upon something that I saw Tom Stone do at a lecture. It’s a way to get rid of one of the dice without having to put my hand on the table’s edge. It was part of his talk on “crossing the gaze” and something that’s stuck with me for years.
The new routine is starting to figure itself out, but it’ll be a bit before the sequence starts to get finalized. I’m happy I finally built this.