Last week I ended up with a ticket to the Chicago Magic Lounge’s Virtual Happy Hour. I’ve never been in person to the venue, and on video it looks like a cool place. I think tickets are $15 and we had four magicians, a mixologist and a host. All of the performers were performing live at the venue except for one that was in another country.
I didn’t get a picture of the host Benjamin Barnes, however he did a great job introducing the acts. Personally, I would have liked to see him do a set in there somewhere.
All of the acts used audience participation, with the helper on screen. They were in engaging, and the audience was fairly active in the chat.
One interesting thing that happened during the show was at one point when someone was picked to help out onscreen the guy said something like, “I thought this was all fake…“. What he meant was that he thought everyone helping was a stooge.
That comment raises an interesting question: Do most audience members think these shows use stooges? I don’t know if there’s a way to keep people from thinking that. People have the same thought at in person shows, so it’s not unique to a zoom show. This is more of a concern for a ticketed show than it is for a corporate zoom show.
Back to the Chicago Magic Lounge, for $15 it’s a solid show and worth checking out online. I think the overall run time was about 2 hours.
When I posted the nut and bolt trick the other day I mentioned that what I posted wasn’t quite what I had envisioned the trick to look like. Ideally it would be a penetration type effect, with the nut penetrating through the thread of the bolt.
I just recorded a quick video of sort of what I’d like it to look like:
That video isn’t exactly what I’d like it to look like, but it’s pretty close. I think that makes for a more interesting effect than a visual animation of the nut unscrewing itself. Moving the nut while it’s covered by your fingers allows the spectators mind to fill in the whats happening may make it more magical.
The important thing is that if you have a gimmick, you should play with it. Figure out what else you can do with it besides simply what the instructions say.
The last couple of days I posted about a four ace production that someone posted on facebook, then posted one that’s better. It got me thinking about what are the reasons to post a magic trick on social media. For me, I usually do it because it’s interesting from a method standpoint, or something unique happens during it.
Here’s an example of a boring magic trick that’s interesting from a method point of view:
That video is a few years old, but what makes it interesting is the transposition of the pin and the ring. There are a couple of methods working at the same time to accomplish the trick. My reason for posting isn’t simply to have my friends tell me I did a cool trick, but to show something I’ve created.
Before you post a video, think about why you are doing it. What does posting it do to contribute to magic?
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.
A magician friend of mine a few months ago performed Albert Goshman’s Cards Thru Newspaper for me. I remember reading it in Goshman’s book, however I remember reading it and working through it and it didn’t feel spectacular. I was also probably 17 years old at the time, so that might have affected my opinion of the trick.
If you haven’t seen the trick, here’s Goshman doing it:
Compared to a lot close up magic, it’s pretty slow. It’s still a good trick for non magicians and had a couple of good moments in it. I like it as a “formal” close up thing that could be done via video projection. However, I have to look at what I don’t like about it. The biggest thing I don’t like is the newspaper.
In the trick there are two newspapers, the one laying flat on the table and the one being used as a cover. The cover newspaper was easily replaced by a jumbo card.
Replacing the flat newspaper on the table made me have to rework the method of the trick. There’s a couple of moments in Goshman’s routine where you need that newspaper. I could replace it with something like a handkerchief, but decided to rework the routine.
What I ended up with is something complete different than Goshman’s Cards Thru Newspaper, and an original trick. Taking a trick as a starting point and then continually removing what you don’t like is one way to create original material.
Lately I’ve been thinking about how live magic is going to change after shows start up again. I’m thinking mostly about material selection and what people will be willing (or not willing) to do in the context of a show. Before COVID you could get people to do just about anything, however I’m not sure what the future holds.
One thing I know is that if your “Go To” trick is sponge balls, you probably need to come up with another trick. I think they’ve passed their prime. Most who magicians rely on a trick like sponge balls don’t have much going for them. If you can’t crush a close up set without them, then you’re doing something wrong.
For close up, I’m lucky that I stopped doing sponge balls a long time ago. However I do the a card that appears in held in my lips as a phase of my ambitious card. I’m going to need to rethink that phase, and come up with something else to do, or just eliminate it.
A couple of months ago I recorded my Coin in Chapstick magic trick and haven’t looked at it. I’m glad I finally did, the trick looks great! My only problem with it is that it doesn’t really have a place in my show. I did a blog post about it awhile ago about how just … Continue reading “Lip Bomb!”
A couple of months ago I recorded my Coin in Chapstick magic trick and haven’t looked at it. I’m glad I finally did, the trick looks great! My only problem with it is that it doesn’t really have a place in my show. I did a blog post about it awhile ago about how just because it’s an everyday object doesn’t mean it’s right for your show.
You can watch my trick here:
The trick would be better suited as a “street magic” type video than it would in formal show. I’ll probably write it up and publish it in Vanish Magazine.
Well, in the span of two days the world has really changed, or at least the United States has. In a span of 48 hours we’ve have bans on events of over 100 people and entire states close their school districts for over a month! Many performers are complaining about this, instead moving forward and … Continue reading “Social Distance Magic”
Well, in the span of two days the world has really changed, or at least the United States has. In a span of 48 hours we’ve have bans on events of over 100 people and entire states close their school districts for over a month! Many performers are complaining about this, instead moving forward and innovating.
Right now as a performer you don’t have control over attendance caps on events or the venue being able to sanitize it, so let’s look at something we can control, close up magic. Right now no one wants to touch anything. Everything is getting wiped down and people are constantly sanitizing. It’s gotta be a hard time for a close up magician. One of the advantages is that people can touch the props and the magic happens in their hands.
Currently having someone hold sponge balls isn’t socially acceptable, I’d argue it hasn’t been for a while as they are full of germs. Even if you wash them every night, they are gross by the time the second person holds them. Sponge balls are crutch for lazy close up performers. It’s easy for a beginner to get a reaction with them, and I’ll admit it’s a good trick. If you took it out of your close up set, would people like your act the same?
I’m looking at my close up show and thinking about what I can do without people touching anything. I don’t do sponge balls, or sponge anything, so that’s no problem. My ambitious card routine (technically a multiple revelation) needs one bit cut out of it, which is the card to mouth phase. This is a bit I started to get uncomfortable with a few years ago, and this is what I need to force me to take it out. My linking pins routine has two in the hands phases, however those are newer additions to the routine, and I can revert to the old routine which is almost as strong as the current one. The shell game,and cup and dice routine all can be done without people touching anything.
Look at your close up show, can you do it in our current climate of “social distancing”?