Gravity and the Bird…

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!!!

Ching Ling Foo’s Bowl…

Ching Ling Foo

Right now I’m reading the book Ching Ling Foo – America’s First Chinese Superstar. Honestly I didn’t know much about him, other than he did a bowl production. I’m about a third of the way through it and am really enjoying it. The author does a great job of describing the challenges of being a Chinese performer in a time that was very anti-Chinese.

It’s just now getting into the feud with Chung Ling Soo who was an American who pretended to be Chinese. In the book, they frequently talk about the bowl production, duck production and the production of Chee Toy (Foo’s daughter).

Apparently at some point there was film of Foo performing, but I haven’t found any online. I did find someone that tried to replicate the three productions that Foo did:

What’s I’m wondering is how big was the bowl that Foo produced?
The one in the above video is probably bigger as the title is “outdone”.

Secret Cabaret….

When I was a kid someone let me borrow a VHS tape of a recording of Simon Drake’s Secret Cabaret. This was a TV series from the UK in the early 1990’s (I think) and it was soo far ahead of it’s time. It’s the show that got me into being a David Berglas fan before I knew anything about him.

Here’s one of his routines:

He had two main characters, one was dressed in a top had and tails and the other was dressed in a “mad max” style. Everything that he did on the show was done in a very unique way.

One trick he did was he had two tables and a box on each table. How I remember it was he put something into the box on one table and one the other table, a hand came out of the box holding the item. It was a really cool visual!

It’s something that’s been in my head for a long time. I like the idea of the “instant” transposition. I’ve been kicking around an idea of having two paperbags and thing that go into one, pop out of the second bag. I was thinking of somehow anchoring the second bag upside down, so when I put things into the first (right side up) they fall out of the second bag and onto the floor or table.

The final one would be a coke bottle, and when it goes into your bag you crush it up (latex bottle) and it comes out of the second one and clunks down on the table or shatters on the floor.

Logistically, there’s a lot that would need to be figured out for the trick to work. It’s a “back burner” project for me, but one that I would really like to eventually do!

Take Up Reel – FAQ

The last week I’ve had a lot of people ask me if my Take Up Reel that I use for the vanishing birdcage trick works with an Abbott’s / Blackstone style vanishing birdcage. The answer is yes it does, I made a quick video that I’ve been sending to people who ask, here it is:

The cool thing about the Take Up Reel is that it can be used for more than just the vanishing birdcage, it can be used for any trick where you would use a wrist to wrist pull. If you want it to go up your sleeve and stay there, then it will work for that!

Working On It…

A couple of weeks ago I got to do my Polaroid Trick for an in person audience. I did it using video projection and it played well. Here’s what it looked like:

Here’s my notes:

  • The lighting needs to be better. It cuts off my face.
  • Some light background music would help it.
  • 0:26 mark: hold for the laugh a little bit longer
  • 1:27 mark: freeze and stop moving during the applause
  • 1:47 mark: pause another beat or two between the vanish and reproduction of the picture
  • 1:52 mark: applause is starting and I step on it by going to my next line

So what I need to work on is mostly timing things, and letting effects and the reactions “marinade” a bit longer with the audience.

On The Big Screen…

For a long time I didn’t really use any video projection in my show. Mostly because I didn’t understand how it worked and how to work it. In late January of 2020 I decided I was going to start to figure out how to use it in my live, in person stage shows. Shortly after I started working on using projection, the COVID pandemic hit and any work on in person shows went onto the back burner as I had to figure out virtual shows. Luckily those virtual shows have translated into me starting to understand how to incorporate video elements into my in person show.

Recently I did a theater show and got to start to use video projection. One thing I didn’t like about video was that I didn’t want the audience essentially watching TV. The ideal trick for this is the Three Shell Game. It’s interactive, and fills the screen nicely, but plus it still have whole audience interaction. I chose to use my Russian Shell Game as it has a payoff with the production of a dozen shells.

Here’s my first show using video projection:

It played well, and one of the silver linings to come out of the COVID pandemic is me not being afraid of using video projection/production in my show!

Adding Twists…

In a few months I’ll be doing some bits for the Kids Entertainer Fest which is a virtual online convention for family performers

I was asked to create some “filler” material and will be popping on throughout the convention to show and teach some quick tricks and stunts. I didn’t want to rehash old things that already exist. My goal is to create new things or some interesting twists on old tricks.

One of the things I started playing with making a troublewit out of a dollar bill:

If you don’t know, a troublewit is traditionally a giant sheet of paper that’s folded up to and twisted to make different shapes. Here’s Jay Marshall doing it:

The challenge from scaling down something that big to something very tiny is that it limits what you can do with it. The advantage of it being soo small is that it will allow me to do the magical kicker that I’m planning on doing with it, which is at the end revealing the one dollar bill has changed to a one hundred dollar bill!

Adding Production Elements

While I was on the road last week I ran the production for my buddy’s in person show. I’ve been running the production for his virtual show, so I know his show well. I can’t imaging having to run tech for a show I’ve never seen off of a cue sheet!

One of the cool things about doing virtual shows is that it’s taken a bit of the mystery out of using production elements in my show. Typically I’m a one person operation, so one of the challenges for me was how to use video projection.

Here’s what I did the other night:

The ATEM mini camera switcher that I’ve recently added to my virtual shows, I used for the camera feed in my in person show the other night.

I simply used the Fade To Black (FTB) button on the right to turn the video projection on or off. This was on the floor and luckily due to the placement of the button, it was easy to tap with my toe!

This allowed me to add the camera and be able to easily control it without adding a laptop and running the Media Star software to the mix. I’m not opposed to using a laptop as part of my show production…but this is a lot smaller and more convenient for smaller shows.

Still Working On the Polaroids…

One of the “quarantine” trick I’ve been working on for the last year is the trick with the Polaroids that disappear and reappear under and envelope. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I removed one of the pictures, so now it only uses three which really streamlines the trick. I also altered it so it’s not just the same vanish and reproduction three times. Finally I figured out how to make one of them appear face up under the envelope.

Here’s a video of me working on it:

It’s crazy the changes this trick has made in the almost a year since I started working on it. It started out as Goshman’s Cards Thru Newspaper, but now I can say it’s completely it’s own thing. There’s really nothing left of that routine in what I’m doing now…except the under the envelope switch, which isn’t unique to his routine.

When people say to make a routine your own, I think this is kinda what they mean…

Complete Cheapo Copentro

I’ve written about my fascination with the coins to glass magic effect. One version that I’ve always likes is the Jack Hughes Visible Coins To Glass, or in the USA we tend to call it Bob Kline’s Copentro. That’s the version where the coins visually appear in a shot glass that’s covered by a larger glass.

There are other version of the trick where the glass held mouth up with your hand above the opening of the glass. The coins then “drop” into the glass from your hand. Here’s an example of this version of the trick:

The problem with the version with the handheld glass is that it’s pretty obvious to anyone that the coin came from your hand. The glass doesn’t really isolate where the coins are appearing. The glass does add a fun sound when the coin arrives and adds a prop which may make the trick play a little bit bigger. Both of those a great additions, but they are really aren’t additions to the magic effect. They don’t make it more amazing or really any different from a coins across that happens in the hands.

That’s why I think I really like the Hughes/Kline version where the cup is isolated. It is something more than an in the hands coins across.

Over the last 18ish months I’ve worked on several versions of the trick. One that I will probably never use is this one:

The video above is the more complete version of the one I posted back in January (see it here). I wanted to figure out not just how to get the coin into the shot glass, but how to make the whole thing work start to finish. I’m glad I did that and have that version of the trick out of my mind now…until I try to start to work on how to make multiple coins appear in the shotglass…