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.
Last night I was playing with a set of mini cups and balls that I have. This particular set was made by Leo Smesters. These are a great little set, however honestly I don’t have much of a use for them. When I originally bought them I had an idea, but haven’t done much with them.
I had the idea of doing a vertical three shell game. The ball would switch places vertically while the cups were stacked. Here’s a quick video of the basic idea:
There’s a little bit more to the full idea I have. Right now the cups are ungimmicked and they will stay that way. However the balls have magnets in them and they stick to each other through the cup. So the cups can sort of function like a chop cup or regular cup depending on the positions of the two balls.
My idea is to have one ball with a very strong magnet in it and then two others with smaller magnets in them. The audience is only aware of one ball. You will steal the ball with the strong magnet and use that magnet like you would a use thumbtip with a magnet inside of it. That will give much more options with what you can do with the cups.
Months ago I was texting with one of the groups I brainstorm with and I brought up the idea for this gag. You say, “You’ve been a great group, you know, I’m going to give you a free pitcher of beer!” You then reach into your wallet and remove a card with a picture of beer!
The play is on the picture/pitcher words that can sound similar. This would be a gag card similar to the Pride and Joy or the picture of my two kids.
When I have them printed, I also did a set with and empty pitcher. The idea is that I can also use the Out To Lunch principle and make the full pitcher become empty. I’m not sure if I’ll ever use it that way, however I was trying to be forward thinking. It’s much easier to have them both made at the same time, than having to go back and recreate it to make the empty pitcher.
Last week I ended up with a ticket to the Chicago Magic Lounge’s Virtual Happy Hour. I’ve never been in person to the venue, and on video it looks like a cool place. I think tickets are $15 and we had four magicians, a mixologist and a host. All of the performers were performing live at the venue except for one that was in another country.
I didn’t get a picture of the host Benjamin Barnes, however he did a great job introducing the acts. Personally, I would have liked to see him do a set in there somewhere.
All of the acts used audience participation, with the helper on screen. They were in engaging, and the audience was fairly active in the chat.
One interesting thing that happened during the show was at one point when someone was picked to help out onscreen the guy said something like, “I thought this was all fake…“. What he meant was that he thought everyone helping was a stooge.
That comment raises an interesting question: Do most audience members think these shows use stooges? I don’t know if there’s a way to keep people from thinking that. People have the same thought at in person shows, so it’s not unique to a zoom show. This is more of a concern for a ticketed show than it is for a corporate zoom show.
Back to the Chicago Magic Lounge, for $15 it’s a solid show and worth checking out online. I think the overall run time was about 2 hours.
When I posted the nut and bolt trick the other day I mentioned that what I posted wasn’t quite what I had envisioned the trick to look like. Ideally it would be a penetration type effect, with the nut penetrating through the thread of the bolt.
I just recorded a quick video of sort of what I’d like it to look like:
That video isn’t exactly what I’d like it to look like, but it’s pretty close. I think that makes for a more interesting effect than a visual animation of the nut unscrewing itself. Moving the nut while it’s covered by your fingers allows the spectators mind to fill in the whats happening may make it more magical.
The important thing is that if you have a gimmick, you should play with it. Figure out what else you can do with it besides simply what the instructions say.
The last couple of days I posted about a four ace production that someone posted on facebook, then posted one that’s better. It got me thinking about what are the reasons to post a magic trick on social media. For me, I usually do it because it’s interesting from a method standpoint, or something unique happens during it.
Here’s an example of a boring magic trick that’s interesting from a method point of view:
That video is a few years old, but what makes it interesting is the transposition of the pin and the ring. There are a couple of methods working at the same time to accomplish the trick. My reason for posting isn’t simply to have my friends tell me I did a cool trick, but to show something I’ve created.
Before you post a video, think about why you are doing it. What does posting it do to contribute to magic?
After watching a few virtual magic shows, I made a change to how I record part of mine. I used to have a separate close up camera for when I wanted the focus on my hands. Then it hit me, why not just use the feed from the main camera and crop it down. That was a simple solution and I think looks better than a second camera, unless the second camera was a drastically different angle, like pointing straight down.
You’ll notice in the square that I’m in, in the upper left there’s a smaller full picture of me. Doing this was simple, it’s just using the camera feed twice. The larger picture is cropped down to just my hands and the smaller is the unaltered camera frame.
I’ve always wanted people to see my face while performing and the bigger picture. In my opinion it helps connect with your audience when you are more than just hands.
I’ve been making tricks that I do is to make them more “bullet proof” on camera. One of the things that I’ve done is to use a gimmicked table to avoid going to the pocket to ditch or to steal things. This is changing how I think about a lot of close up magic.
One thing performing for the camera and not live close up is that it’s hard to get your face and table in frame at the same time. That is when you use a traditional table height, which is about weight height. You end up with either a very wide shot and it’s harder to see the action or just the tabletop and your crotch in frame.
Personally I’d rather people see my face open space on the table. In the past I’ve done a couple things, first having a smaller table top that’s slightly higher than normal helped. I also try squat down to physically get my head closer to the table. This is uncomfortable and wouldn’t want to do a whole show this way, but it helps allow me to get my face in the video.
Here’s an example from video of mine:
You’ll see in the video above that the table is at about belly button level, instead of at the bottom of my crotch. What I’ve recently done is raise my table up to a couple of inches below my armpit and shrink the size of the tabletop. That makes it a lot easier to show both my face and the tabletop!
For me when I perform, I want to have my face in frame as much as possible, that’s just as important as the magic. Sure there are times when you want to focus on the trick, but for me the overwhelming majority of the time, I want my face also in frame. Keep in mind, this is for a static one camera video, when you have a moving or multiple cameras, you have more options to show your face and highlight the magic.
A magician friend of mine a few months ago performed Albert Goshman’s Cards Thru Newspaper for me. I remember reading it in Goshman’s book, however I remember reading it and working through it and it didn’t feel spectacular. I was also probably 17 years old at the time, so that might have affected my opinion of the trick.
If you haven’t seen the trick, here’s Goshman doing it:
Compared to a lot close up magic, it’s pretty slow. It’s still a good trick for non magicians and had a couple of good moments in it. I like it as a “formal” close up thing that could be done via video projection. However, I have to look at what I don’t like about it. The biggest thing I don’t like is the newspaper.
In the trick there are two newspapers, the one laying flat on the table and the one being used as a cover. The cover newspaper was easily replaced by a jumbo card.
Replacing the flat newspaper on the table made me have to rework the method of the trick. There’s a couple of moments in Goshman’s routine where you need that newspaper. I could replace it with something like a handkerchief, but decided to rework the routine.
What I ended up with is something complete different than Goshman’s Cards Thru Newspaper, and an original trick. Taking a trick as a starting point and then continually removing what you don’t like is one way to create original material.