One thing in magic is that people get hung up on is who created what and that if they thought of it without outside influence, then no one else could have possibly had the same thought.
My Russian Shell Game routine was inspired by a magazine column that Gary Oulette wrote. His ending used stacks of cups as the final loads to a cups and balls routine. In the article he “reserved all manufacturing rights“, I’m assuming he did this thinking no one had thought of the idea before.
Recently I was looking for something else and came across Cups and Cups and Cups and balls by Geoffrey Robinson
It’s the exact same idea as Gary’s, but it Gary never had a set made. Geoffrey did and it appears he had to do some problem solving. If you notice the small holes in the top, they are there (I’m assuming) to keep them from sticking together from the suction created if they are too tightly nested.
At the end of the day, you can’t assume you are the first person to have an idea!
About fifteen years ago I attended one of Gazzo‘s masterclasses on street shows. The main focus was on the Cups and Balls, but he also taught the tossed out deck, egg bag and one other card routine. I did his cups and balls routine for a long time, and occasionally still do it.
One of the things that he used in his routine were some fairly unique balls. They were little soccer balls, but they had a texture and density that I had never come across before. The were great and became the standard for many street performers. Unfortunately he hasn’t sold them for years. They feel like something you could walk into any toy shop and buy, however after years of searching I’d never come across them…until recently.
It turns out that I had been looking in the wrong place for them. I found them at the hardware store! I was shopping for something else, and happened to notice them, bought one and it was exactly the same thing!
I wish I was still doing the cups and balls in my main show, as this discovery would have come in super handy a decade ago! The moral of the story is to keep your eyes open, an ideas in the back of your head. As you move through life, look around!
One of the things I’m always doing it trying to improve what I currently do. Right now in my virtual show I do a modified version of my Cee-Lo trick, which is a cup and dice routine. This ends with the production of two large dice. The large dice are 1 1/4 inches on each side. To give you some perspective, the picture below is one of the jumbo dice next to a regular die.
The reason that the trick uses 1 1/4 inch dice is that for a live, in person show, it makes the loading procedure work. The cup will hold two 1 1/2 inch dice, but the method where the spectator loads the cup for you doesn’t work well with a larger die.
I was cleaning up and found the old set of 1 1/2 inch dice I tried using for Cee-Lo. It hit me, since I’ve changed my loading procedure for virtual shows, and there are no spectators to handle the props, why not move to the larger size dice. To give you an idea of visually how much bigger they are, the pictures below are a 1 1/2 inch die next to a regular die and a 1 1/4 inch die.
That extra quarter inch makes it look massive! The nice thing about how I load the cups for live virtual shows is that the size of the die doesn’t really matter. I’m getting a little more visual impact for no extra work! I’m a fan of that.
One of the tricks I’m adding to my virtual magic shows is Cee-Lo which is my cups and dice routine. One of problems going from an in person show a virtual show is that you can’t move the audience’s focus around as easily. At one point in the routine I need to load the cup and doing it in the room with people there is super easy, however it’s much harder with the focused eye of the camera.
Normally I would load this from my pocket, however that won’t work for the reason above. What I’m going to do is load from the table. I designed a holder for the dice and they will slide up into the cup from behind the table’s edge.
This holder is currently printing out and I’ll try it out later today. This is something that I normally couldn’t use in my live shows because I perform in conditions where people can frequently see behind my table. This is one of the interesting things about working on a virtual show, I can use techniques that don’t work for my in person show.
Tricks that end with something big appearing are always fun to do. They are (usually) amazing and the big object is an instant applause cue and signal that it’s the end of the trick. The challenge right now with all magic happening over cameras, is how do you load the object?
A couple of nights ago I decided I wanted to do a Cups and Balls type trick where someone couldn’t backtrack on video and figure out where the load came from. First I had to examine how to get the big object under the cup.
There are essentially three ways.
First you can take the object off screen for a second and load the item. This works for a video conference where they can’t rewatch the video of the trick later. Personally I think that magic that’s put out on video should be able to withstand at least one rewatching of the video.
The next way is you can load the large item like you would in a normal show. Unfortunately misdirection on a screen doesn’t work like in real life and while it still may play most of these style of loads will be less deceptive. I’m not saying all will, for example a load coming from under the table while you are sitting will be more deceptive that one coming from the back pocket while you are standing.
The final way is having the item in video’s frame and hidden, and sneaking it into the cup. The Larry Jennings / Ron Wilson Chop cup routine is a good example where the ball is stolen from inside a bag.
I decided to go with the having the item already in the frame as this is the method that would withstand the repeated viewings. That got me thinking about the Scotty York Cups and Balls routine where the cups start the routine loaded with the large balls. I then took the frame work of my Cee-Lo (cup and dice) routine and started playing with the cup loaded from the beginning.
Here’s what I came up with:
To do this trick, you’ll notice I’m not using the chop cup as it’s traditionally used. Normally people use the cup to help make the ball vanish and reappear. In this routine, I’m using it as a delivery system for dice. I came up with a way for it to give me two separate loads of dice. Once at a about the 43 second mark and then at about the 52 second mark for the large die. Making a “progressive loading” cup took a bit more work than just shoving dice into a cup with my hand, but I think it’s more deceptive on video.
Ideally since I’m only loading one die, I’d like to use a larger die as the final production. Due to the self quarantine, I’m limited to what I’ve got at home.
Right now as most of us shift from live performing to virtual performing, we really should be reexamining methods to see if there’s a better way to do things.
When I had six weeks of work cancel, I decided I was going to grow out my facial hair until my next paid show. Unfortunately that happened the other night, and I’ll never know what my full quarantine mustache could have been. The plus side is that I did a paid gig!
At the time the show was booked, it was a 10 min spot in a cabaret show with the audience’s chairs spaced out to meet “social distancing guidelines”. Then my county added restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people and an audience wasn’t a viable option. The producer adapted and decided to do a streaming show, so we performed live at the venue for people who watched online. Then the state added more restrictions and the hosts of the show did their part live at the venue and all the performers did their acts from home, and they were prerecorded.
The nice thing about recording my set is that I could do it twice and take the better version. I cheated it a little bit and recorded each run through with two cameras, so that using camera changes I could mix the two recordings.
The downside of recording a set by yourself is there’s no audience feedback. It’s very strange, and I think I could get used to it, but it would be my last choice in ways to perform. You either end up plowing through material, or taking long pauses that are awkward.
If I had more time to plan, and not a day to shift from a venue to the corner of my office with a backdrop thrown up, I would have approached it a bit differently. I probably would have dusted off the cups and balls and done that in my set. That’s a 5 min set that doesn’t need audience interaction. I would also have planned some more visual quick things that aren’t as good in a live setting, but work on video.
Over the weekend I got to watch many performers showcase their acts to a room full of people who book entertainment. I got to watch one magician, who I’ve known for years and he did everything right when doing the cups and balls on stage! Here’s the problem with the cups and balls, it’s not … Continue reading “Do It Right!”
Over the weekend I got to watch many performers showcase their acts to a room full of people who book entertainment. I got to watch one magician, who I’ve known for years and he did everything right when doing the cups and balls on stage!
Here’s the problem with the cups and balls, it’s not a stage trick. It’s a close up trick that takes up a lot of space. This makes a lot of performers think they can do it on a stage. Unfortunately, you cannot just put it on stage and have it work for 300 people without solving a couple of problems.
The first problem is the table top. If you are on a raised stage, the audience’s vision of the table top can be blocked because they have to look up at this. Years ago when I used to do the cups and balls in my show, I solved this by having my table sit at an angle, this is the same solution that I saw over the weekend. As a bonus it puts motion into the balls when you lift the cups and they roll, making the trick play a little bit larger.
The second problem with doing cups on stage is the balls most magicians use are very small, and usually a dull color. The ones with the crocheted covers don’t reflect light, this makes them appear smaller onstage. If they were glossy, they’d appear slightly larger as they reflect light. The magician I saw used glossy, bright red balls that were very big, at least an inch in diameter. You could see them from the back of the large banquet hall.
Take a look at your show, how can you make it play bigger, especially if you are moving from close up to stage.
I’m frequently asked about why the Evaporation’s standard version is orange liquid. The reason for this is simple, it’s easy to be seen. Rarely will you have an orange background that you are performing in front of, so the color won’t disappear into whatever is behind you. Using things like cola, which is a … Continue reading “Your Tricks Gotta Be Seen!”
I’m frequently asked about why the Evaporation’s standard version is orange liquid. The reason for this is simple, it’s easy to be seen. Rarely will you have an orange background that you are performing in front of, so the color won’t disappear into whatever is behind you.
Using things like cola, which is a dark brown be hard to see with a dark background, or using milk in an elementary school gym against a white wall make seeing the trick difficult. That’s why I settled on Orange.
You need to think about this stuff with all of your magic. For example I love the idea of cups and balls, more specifically cup and ball(s). So a chop cup would fall in this category. My marketed trick Cee-Lo (Available from www.hocus-pocus.com) which uses 3 dice and a cup has some clever work on the final loads.
Here’s a video of Cee-Lo:
The problem is that the action happens on the table top, and if you are are a raised stage the audience is looking up at the bottom of the table and can’t see what’s happening.
There are a couple of solutions to this:
Build your table at an angle, so the front edge is lower than the back.
Use video projection onto a screen.
Create a routine where none of the action happens on a table top.
The first two are pretty simple solutions, however how practical they are will depend on the venues you perform in. The third one is the one that interests me. You are now walking into fairly uncharted waters. Aside from Ball and Cone, the only other cup and ball type trick that happens in the hands is Axel Hecklau’s Just a Cup.
Axel’s routine is great, but I want to come up with my own take on an in the hands cup and ball routine. So my starting point was a baseball cap, which hand a brim that I can hold on to and a large ball, that’s an inch and a half in diameter. All of the action now happens at chest level and it plays much larger due to the bigger props.
This routine is still in its early phases, hopefully it’ll work out. Once it’s closer to being finished, I’ll start sharing some video of it.
The point of this post is simple: Look at the tricks you do and think you about what the audience can actually see!