Ever since I put out my Take Up Reel, I’ve been invited to a lot of magic zoom get togethers to answer questions about and the vanishing birdcage. I never really thought of myself as an expert at the vanishing birdcage, but apparently I am (or at least people think I am). I don’t think I do anything groundbreaking with the cage, but I have put a lot of time into it and know what I like and don’t like with them.
During one of these magic meetings, someone asked me a great question. They mentioned they showed a video of someone doing the vanishing birdcage to their girlfriend and asked what she thought of it. The girlfriend’s impression of it was the cage looked funny. When asked how she thought it worked she said it was a trick cage designed to disappear. She didn’t know how…
This is a very important observation and it highlights the problem with most vanishing birdcage routines.
The problem is most people only present it as the effect. The cage disappears. When the only thing in the routine is the cage disappearing you live and die by the prop. For example you walk out onstage with a funky looking tiny birdcage with a rubber bird dangling in it. Then the only real “routine” is how impossible the vanish is…of course it’s not going to hold up for a modern audience.
This is where Billy McComb got it right. He started used a mouse not a bird, and it’s a little cage for the obviously not real mouse. The mouse then does some comedy, and then the cage vanishes. The routine isn’t about the cage disappearing, it’s about the mouse doing stupid things.
I think the way to make the Vanishing Birdcage good is to not make it about the cage. You’re selling something else, and the vanish of the cage is a punctuation at the end of the routine!
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!!!
Recently I released my Take Up Reel through Hocus Pocus and the response has been amazing. Honestly, I thought they would sell two of them, but they are selling as quickly as I can make them!
I just want to say “thank you” to everyone that has supported this magic release. It’s been several years in the making. From the initial development of it to me road testing and tweaking it…to having other people road test it and doing some more tweaking.
Here’s the next batch of Take Up Reels that are going out.
I wish these reels were easier to make, they take about a week from start to finish to make…and I can only do them in small batches.
Here’s some advice if you are thinking of putting out a magic product, actually put in the time to work it out. Don’t rush ideas out to the market. There’s soo much that’s put out that you can tell wasn’t really tested out on audiences in the real world…whether that’s an in person or virtual show.
One of the magic products that I put out and that I’m the most proud of is the Take Up Reel that I created. What a Take Up Reel is used for is to shorten a length of string and was popularized by Billy McComb and Tommy Wonder in their Vanishing Birdcage routines.
As far as I know I’m currently the only person / company that makes a Take Up Reel for sale. I’m working on a batch of them this week. It takes about a full week to make one from start to finish. Here’s one of the locks coming out of my 3D printer:
Magic is being revolutionized by 3D printing, especially stage magic. It allows you to affordably make soo many custom props that would have cost tons of money to have fabricated 5 or 10 years ago.
If you’re not out printing stuff, I highly recommend learning how. It’s pretty easy, and you don’t even need to own a 3D printer as there are companies you send the file to and they’ll make it for you.
One of my favorite creation is my take up reel. It’s something that I’ve wanted to use forever and went out and created a way to make it happen. Normally when I put out magic props, I put out what I use. When developing this, I got it to work great for me and thought I had a final product. I then sent it out to some people and they didn’t use it like I did. That led to me improving it and ended up with a better final product!
It’s always great when I get emails from people who have one:
“Louie’s Take-Up Pull is incredible. If you want to perform the Vanishing Birdcage in the “real world” you need one of these, but you can do much more with it. I have several Take-Up Pulls made by Hammerton and Martin but this high quality modern recreation is every bit as good and at a fraction of the price of any of the others. I highly recommend Louie Foxx’s Take-Up Pull!”
Getting emails like this makes all the work in testing it worth it!
A couple of days ago I wrote about doing the vanishing birdcage for virtual shows. You can read the post here. The thought I had was that a virtual show is the ideal venue for doing the vanishing birdcage. The nature of the venue will allow you to ditch the cage in a manner that isn’t really possible in a live, in-person show.
I was just watching a streaming magic show and someone did the birdcage and used shifting of cameras to unhook and ditch the cage. It’s a great logical moment to get rid of the cage. I’m glad to see someone thinking along the same lines as me.
Personally I think a title card is a great way ditch the card over a camera shift, but both work great.
I’m fascinated by the Vanishing Birdcage trick. I remember hearing stories of Bert Allerton doing the vanishing birdcage close up at tables. The story I remember reading was that he took the sides off of his cage so that it would vanish quicker and have less bulk in his sleeve.
There have been many other people that have done the cage, and solved many problems. For example, using a Take Up Reel to allow you to do the cage later in your show.
The biggest challenge is how do you deal with the cage after the vanish (if it’s not your closer)? There are a lot of solutions ranging from using a small, flexible cage and just leaving it in your sleeve, to having a secret pocket in your pants your ditch it in.
Recently it hit me, that a virtual magic show is a great place to use the cage in the middle of the show. After the vanish you could have a title card that says “no rubber birds were hurt in this trick” or something like that. Then in the few seconds that plays, you ditch the cage. As long as you use title cards previously in your show, it won’t feel out of place.
Every now and then there are tricks that you can’t get out of your head. One of them for me is the Vanishing Bird Cage. I’ve revisited it several times over the years, and in the past hit stumbling blocks with it. The birdcage is probably one of the most difficult tricks I’ve worked on. There so much you need to overcome, it’s not as simple as the old magic catalog ad makes it seem.
One of the issues that’s easy to overcome is the issue of doing the birdcage later in your show. This was solved by Billy McComb with the use of a Take Up Reel. It was popularized by Tommy Wonder in Volume 2 of the Books of Wonder. By popularized, I mean people became aware of it. After that book came out, there were still not many people used one, simply because of price and availability. If you could find one or get someone to make you one they’d cost you somewhere in the ballpark of $1,000 or more!
One day I was driving and an idea hit me for a way to produce the second lock of a Take Up Reel on my 3d Printer, I pulled over and drew it on the back of an envelope. After using it and having some other people use it and gotten their feedback, I’ve finally decided to offer them to other magicians.
Here’s the promo:
When something’s in your head, if you keep chipping away at it, eventually you’ll come up with a solution!
Newer performers frequently ask me about how I travel with my show on an airplane. People are worried about lost luggage. Unfortunately the only thing you can really do about that is to either carry everything on, or accept that can happen. I guess there’s a third option and that is having a show where … Continue reading “Travelling…”
Newer performers frequently ask me about how I travel with my show on an airplane. People are worried about lost luggage. Unfortunately the only thing you can really do about that is to either carry everything on, or accept that can happen. I guess there’s a third option and that is having a show where you can find all of your props in your destination city. Then there’s combinations of the three.
Unfortunately for my show, I can’t do it all in my carry on. Some of the items I use can’t be taken in the cabin of the plane and can’t be sourced locally, so I’m stuck checking at least some of my show. Since I have to check a bunch of stuff already, I check almost everything.
Currently here’s what I carry onto the plane in my backpack:
The white tube has my vanishing birdcage. If that wasn’t so easy to break by someone who examining it, I’d check it. In the zipper compartment is my cage pull, a thumb tip, mismade bills and a thumb drive with everything the people running the theater would need (cue sheets, video, music, intro, etc). Then in the yellow case is my audio gear (mics, mic packs, audio ape, etc). Everything else in the backpack is my personal stuff, so books, my laptop, etc.
I’ve had my luggage “lost” by the airline once, and they had it delivered to me within six hours. I also have had TSA screen my bags and forget to put a couple of things back into it, luckily after weeks of phone calls I tracked down my props!
What do I do if my luggage gets lost?
I’m lucky that I can do a lot with simple stuff and in the past I’ve done a lot of standard magic, so I can source a show locally. It’s not the ideal situation, however I can go to the Walmart in any city and pick up a two deck of cards, rope, scissors, yarn, pad of paper, duct tape, a couple of handkerchiefs and some markers and I’m good to go. This isn’t the show that I want to present, but I can do a decent show with that.
The Vanishing Bird Cage is one of the hardest tricks I’ve ever worked on. It seems like every problem I solve, another problem pops up. In the recent past when I did the cage, the plan wasn’t for it to stay in the show for very long. Because of this, I didn’t put a ton … Continue reading “”
The Vanishing Bird Cage is one of the hardest tricks I’ve ever worked on. It seems like every problem I solve, another problem pops up. In the recent past when I did the cage, the plan wasn’t for it to stay in the show for very long. Because of this, I didn’t put a ton of time into it.
Now that I think this is something that’s going to be in the show for a little while, I’m putting more time into it. I want to do the vanish of the bird cage faster than the “slow motion” vanish. I’m having a frequent problem with the cage hanging up on my sleeve at the exact same spot. I think it has to do with the coat more than the cage. Material seems to bunch about 3 inches inside my sleeve and the cage gets stuck about 20% of the time.
My solution was to have it not run up the sleeve. I’m having it run across my hand. This gives me a more unusual grip of the cage, the cage sits on the palm of my hand. It’s similar to the one handed grip that John Carney uses in the CARNEY 2013 video on the Vanishing Bird Cage.
The main difference Carney’s grip and mine is that my hand is completely palm up. The cage can be displayed with no support from either hand, aside from my right palm as a base.
Adjusting my grip has reduced the cage hanging up to less than 5%. This is good, but still a long way to go!