One trick that I’ve been interested in for a while is the Light and Heavy Box premise. This was originally done with a box that someone could lift, or couldn’t at the will of the magician. This is a trick that I’ve used in my stage show during a couple school assembly tours. It’s a great trick and gets good reactions.
About a dozen years ago I published a version that was close up that used a coin:
A couple of days ago I saw that Wayne Fox was offering a discount on a download of his Light / Heavy Project. This is an interesting idea, and it was a great purchase. Personally, I don’t think it will make it into my core close up set, however I do think it’s something that I’d do for a group that I’m really connecting with.
If you like the light and heavy premise this download is worth checking out!
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.
If you read this blog or follow me on social media, you know I’m not the Three Shell Game. I’ve come up with several original takes on the classic trick, which is great for a routine that’s basically been unchanged decades. I just built an ending for the shell game that I think is pretty cool.
Before I tell you what I did, let me tell you the two types of tricks that I think are usually the most lazy ways of being creative with magic. They are items that are hollow and turn solid and items that turn into glass (or clear plastic). Yes, there are execptions, like when Jerry Andrus and Danny Korem first did the Omni Deck. If you take a marker an turn it clear…great, but unless you have a really original take on the switch, it’s just a color change and no different from turning the marker from red to black.
So now, let’s get back to the shell game. Personally I’ve never done the ending where the shells turn solid. Why? I don’t think it makes sense. It’s a kicker ending that’s not really logical and doesn’t really move the ending forward. It’s too different from what has happened the whole time. It’s a “what?” moment because it thinking of the audience has to shift a lot from what was happening the whole routine. It’s almost like it’s the beginning of a new routine.
How did I fix the solid shells? I took it a step further. I used it as the starting point for another effect. Here’s how the routine plays. You do a few shell sequences, then cover a shell and pea with a shot glass. They are mixed around and guess where the pea is. When they lift the shot glass, then the shell, they see no pea, and then they discover the shell is solid. Now it’s a mystery they just discovered. They will turn over the other two shells to check them, and they are solid as well. Having them discover the solid shell is soo much better than you revealing it.
Now for the new ending:
When they look at the shotglass that’s sitting on the table, they see the pea under it. When they pick up the shotglass, they realize the shotglass is solid! The pea is embedded in the solid shotglass!
This is a solid (pun intended) ending for the solid shell game. It takes the routine one step forward to an ending that’s more logical than just the solid shells.
I’m going to try to put together some sort of a routine with the gimmicked envelope that was in yesterday’s blog post. Essentially this is an envelope that you can load things into while it’s closed. There’s not much to the envelope, basically it has a hidden trapdoor that allows you to load it thru the bottom. This post isn’t really concerned with the mechanics, it’s more concerned with what to do with it.
My first idea was for a trick over Zoom. What happens is you show the envelope and have someone name a card and it’s in the envelope. How I’m doing it is having someone off camera load the card into the envelope what the bottom of the envelope is off screen for a second. I’ve done this a couple of times and it works.
My second idea is to expose the camera edge with a fake explanation. You show a side view of the trick and what happens off camera is a “Rube Goldberg” sort of way to find the card and put it into the envelope. I think this is a fun blow off and gives you more time out of the trick. However the trick needs a kicker of some sort to so that it has an ending instead of just a blow off.
A few nights ago I woke up with a idea for a gimmicked envelope at about 3:30am. I went back to bed without writing it down. Then an hour later I woke up with the same gimmicked envelope idea “fleshed” out a bit more in terms of a routine. I went back to bed without writing it down again. I got up once more about 90 mins later with a more fully formed routine for the trick and immediately went to the office to build the gimmick!
First of all, if you wake up with an idea, you should always write it down. Most of the time if you got back to sleep, the idea is gone. I’m lucky that I work up multiple times with the idea and it wasn’t lost. Here’s the gimmicked envelope with a jumbo card inside:
I’m not sure that an envelope has been gimmicked this way before. Basically what it does is allows something to be loaded into the envelope.
What I like about this is that in the picture above you can clearly see the gimmick. It’s hidden in plain sight, and that’s what makes it interesting for me. Tomorrow I’ll kind of write up the rough routine for it.
One thing that I’ve been working on is learning to cast things in resin. I’ve been doing little projects for people to give me things to do to learn with. One thing someone asked me to do was make the coin for the Silver Extraction magic trick, but with a Silver dollar instead of the half dollar that it’s traditionally made with.
If you’re not familiar with the trick, here’s a dealer demo of it:
The trouble I was having was getting the coin made in resin without too many air bubbles. After a lot of work and learning, I’ve gotten a workable clear resin coin:
I think if I make another one, I will remake the mold with my newfound knowledge and that will give me an even better result. When I’m learning something new, I love working on projects for friends, as it helps me learn to do thing and try them in ways I wouldn’t normally.
Probably the most magical trick you can do is turn a one dollar bill into a one hundred dollar bill and give it to someone to keep. That will have more impact that almost anything else you can do. That’s why bill change tricks are popular, everyone has an emotional investment in them.
The nice thing about the standard Hundred Dollar Bill Switch is in a live show the folding process takes time which is good. Now let’s move the trick to Instagram where you have up to 60 seconds…and the attention span of the audience is even less. By the time you set up the premise and start folding the bill, you’re losing people. That’s why visual magic is HUGE on social media.
Another factor to consider in social media videos is that the bill isn’t borrowed, so some of the impact is lost. It’s always more amazing if the magician took MY dollar and turned it into a hundred, than used HIS dollar and turned it into a hundred.
Personally I think setting up a premise is important for a quick trick. There are a couple of ways to do that. You can do it in the video, or you can do it in the text of the post.
Here’s a video of a quick bill change for social media:
In the video I set up the premise, which is that it’s a “challenge” a friend gave me. I take up the problem, and solve it. I also solve it in an unexpected way. There’s a story there, I’ll admit, it’s a weak story, but it tells a story in about 12 seconds.
Personally I think it’s important to tell that story. Based on the analytics of my videos, the ones that are just quick tricks without the storyline never get the same amount of views as the ones that do. Of course this is my own experience, and I’m sure there are people churning out eye candy and racking up some big numbers in views.
Recently someone in a magic group posted a video of them doing a 12 minute “flash” act, which is essentially a series of tricks. The opening trick they did was show a torch a long time, then it turned into a cane. This is a marketed trick called “torch to cane” and you can watch a demo of it below:
Here’s the thing with the trick, you are taking something very interesting which is fire and turning it into something very uninteresting which is a cane. I think you’d be better off showing a torch and then doing fire eating (which is interesting) than turning it into a cane. The magician’s style of cane has been out of style pretty much my whole lifetime, so no one instantly know what it is.
A better idea would be turning fire into an animal.
The above video isn’t how I’d do it, but a dove is way more interesting than a cane. Fire is cool to look at, so make something appear that’s cool to look at. Maybe touch it to your palm, and your palm catches on fire, you toss the fire to the audience and it turns into a throw coil! That’s way more exciting than a torch to cane. Also if you think an appearing cane is really fooling anyone, think again. At best is a B- of a trick. Sure, it has it’s place in the right act, but it’s not a huge mystery.
When you are doing a transformation from one item to the other, the final item must be as interesting as the first. Torch to cane…nope. Cane to lit torch…YES!!!!
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.
Right now there’s a lot of interest in interactive magic tricks, where someone can follow along from their home, and the magic happens to them. There a principle that I was first introduced to in the trick Fingertip Mentalism from the book Nothing But Mystery by Jim Steinmeyer. Then I found the book Body Mentalism by Juan Pablo explains and explores the principle much more in depth.
Here’s a video I recently made using the principle:
Personally I like the idea of having people post a pic in the comments much more interactive than simply revealing where they are. Also I find a lot of humor in them posting their middle finger, but in my soul, I’m still a 12 year old boy.
Once you know how to do the math, it’s something that you can do anytime. What I like about it is the principle isn’t limited to “do as I do” type tricks. It’s handy to know things like this, it allows you to do some impromptu magic when you have nothing!