The last couple of months I’ve watched a lot of online magic shows and I’ve come to the conclusion that the one thing they all need is a producer. Someone to make the show run smooth, whether is changing cameras, reading comments or just someone to troubleshoot any problems that may come up.
My buddy and I have been working together to produce each other’s virtual shows.
It’s amazing what a little bit of production value adds to the show. Also it’s helping me develop some stuff for stage shows that will use video projection!
If you’re doing a virtual show, find someone to run the production, it helps a lot!
I’ve now gotten my first live virtual show completed and it was a huge learning experience. First of all, it wasn’t a full of show of me, it was a variety show that I co-hosted. Pulling together all of the technical things to make it work was a huge challenge for me. There’s a huge learning curve.
In the show we did, the format was Matt Baker and I hosted live acts. Bringing in those acts was a bit of work after reviewing the video I’ve learned to make the transitions much smoother.
I think the key to doing virtual shows is to actually go back and watch them and see what you could do better. Treat not just the show as something that can be improved, but the medium it’s delivered in. Would the show be better if it had title cards, or a canned video as a transition? Things like that, you’re not doing a magic show, you’re doing a live TV show!
We’re now just over a month into the “Shelter in Place” on the West Coast and it’s interesting to have seen the boom and bust of virtual shows. I hesitate to call it a bust, because there was no real way of making any significant money from them…initially.
The amount of people that were putting out daily content has slowed to a trickle. The amount of time it takes to do that is much more than I think most people thought it would. It’s more than just turning on a webcam and talking into it.
This video sums up the virtual magic show situation about a week or two into us all being stuck at home:
The nice thing right now is that we’ve hit a point where creativity is king! I think people are running out of tricks that they can do, or buy. People who can do a lot with a little are crushing it! However, that will start to slow down and people need to start making money. I’m noticing more and more “ticketed” virtual shows. I think this is the way to do it. Treat it like a live show, there’s as start time and an end time and the show is only available to watch then.
Last night I stayed up a bit later than normal to watch some of Saturday Night Live. This was their first episode that was done over Zoom. It was really interesting how it was done. Basically people in their houses doing bits by themselves. What was interesting was that it wasn’t live in the normal sense. It was all prerecorded.
I will say that I didn’t stay up and watch the whole thing, it was way past my bedtime. The host was Tom Hanks and his opening monologue felt really short compared to how they normally are. He had one camera on him and they gave texture to it by tightening and or widening the frame to accentuate the jokes.
There’s a lot to learn about virtual shows, we’re all trying to figure it out. It’s nice to see a big production like Saturday Night Live also trying to figure it out.
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.