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Waterman

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Reply with quote  #1 
Although their reasons escape me, I've heard some magicians report that close-up magic does not translate well to television and/or computer screens. 

In thinking back to televised magic specials where close-up magic has been performed in some context, I cant think of how the effects would be compromised by the constriction of an audience perceiving it through a screen of some sort.

Examples that come to mind are a seashell matrix routine performed by Doug Henning, David Copperfield's televised performance of Timothy Wenk's, "Misled", and Don Alans Chop Cup routine on the Tonight Show. Michael Ammar, David Roth, Dean Dill, and Lance Burton have all performed close-up effects on television and, as far as I can remember, I was impressed/fooled by the performances.

Perhaps it was because I was watching through the eyes of a magician and not a layperson that allowed the effects to "work", yet why would these accomplished performers choose to do televised close-up if there was even the slightest risk of the trick not being perceived the same way by an audience who witnessed it live?

Obviously, the current increase in ZOOM shows has led me to think about this perception and hopefully structure a show that isn't compromised by the limited "viewing frame" a computer screen would have for an audience. 

Any advice from those who are already booking and performing ZOOM type shows would definitely be appreciated.


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marv long

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Reply with quote  #2 
Performing Close-Up magic on TV and performing ZOOM type shows can/are really two different subjects.


There can be tech problems with close up magic on the screen. A couple of examples: Loads at the back of the table now instead of back become bottom third of the screen. It just went from unimportant visual space to important visual space because of the 2D framing. If you are recording you also face the dreaded rewind/slo-mo syndrome. And you can't misdirect a TV camera. I will not look somewhere else.
That's a couple of items.

But there are also performance issues as well.
Close-up on TV in the examples you gave were watching other people watching close-up. You empathize with them. Their reactions drive the magic.

Now a ZOOM type show usually is done for the people on the other end of ZOOM. Now the trick goes beyond technical aspects of a 2D screen and goes into how to engage and interact with the audience. I know much of the stuff I have done recently on Zoom I rely heavily on self-working material that the audience can interact with or even perform themselves.

These thoughts are only a starting point for your question and I'm sure many others will add to the discussion with their thoughts and what they are doing.
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #3 
Angles can be controlled on TV which can be of benefit to both stage and close-up magic. For me the big difference is this: TV takes an elephant and makes it the size of a small kitten on the screen. However it takes a coin or playing card and enlarges it or at least keeps it at pretty much full size. So I think close-up plays better on TV than stage magic does. TV is a very good medium for close up magic, assuming that the camera doesn't see into Slydini's lap!

Copperfield and others perform close-up in their stage shows by projecting it onto a huge screen. It looks great.

Mike
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marko29

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Reply with quote  #4 
Mike, I reached the same conclusion: close-up magic is better for TV for the reason you say. You can magnify a coin to almost fill the screen but if you use the same degree of magnification with an illusion box, for example, you would get only an area the size of a coin. Even in live shows where they project the action on big screens, small tricks look much better than illusions because they can be magnified much more whereas you can magnify an illusion cabinet just so much before it becomes bigger than the screen. I noticed this when "The Illusionists" played in Panama a couple of years ago. People are so used to watch screens every hour of the day that most watched the show on the big screens instead of watching the live action on the stage! And the smaller tricks produced better reactions. Of course I'm talking about "visual" close-up magic, not the interactive kind. I don't remember who was the magician but he performed some matrix type and other visual coin routines to music which was projected on the big screens and it looked super-spectacular and brought down the house.
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Waterman

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Reply with quote  #5 
Interested to hear from those who have been performing ZOOM shows...details, hints, and lessons learned would be great insight as we might be entertaining through this venue for several more months.
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #6 
"Although their reasons escape me, I've heard some magicians report that close-up magic does not translate well to television and/or computer screens."

Waterman, I think some of the arguments about the effectiveness of magic on television and/or computer screens are applicable to magic in any venue.

The trouble is, when discussions of this type come up there is a tendency to have an "all or nothing" debate.  In other words, folks on one side say all magic works great on TV and on the other side, folks are saying it doesn't.  Of course the truth is that both are right.  There are certain tricks that probably suffer from being viewed on the small screen while some others probably are made to look even more impressive given the space constraints.

But it isn't limited to discussions of televisions or computer screens.  How about stage magic where because of distance, subtle gestures or facial expressions are lost in the lights?  Surely those nuances are better seen and more effective on camera.  My point is that no matter the venue, there are advantages, disadvantages, limitations, etc.  Is there such a thing as a "perfect" venue?  Is the parlor at the magic castle with limited seating, great sight lines and stadium seating a perfect venue?  When I performed on stage, I was constantly trying to improve my angles so that the entire audience could see what I was doing.  I hated to think that when doing the billiard balls, with my right arm raised in the "typical billiard ball pose", the entire left side of the audience was clueless.  So I had to adjust.  I made sure to be deeper on the stage and turn my body slightly to the left and make certain that my right arm, displaying the balls between splayed fingers was slightly out in front of me.  Then I had to worry about the angles on the right, so I didn't flash the shell.  Compromise isn't always easy.

I think it is safe to say that some close-up tricks lend themselves to television for sure.  But all magic on television and/or computer screen, phone or tablet will suffer from the inherent constraints of the medium.  What you see is what you get.  Misdirection is absolutely more difficult on the screen.  Particularly when the camera is zoomed in.  That brings up another point and that is the cameras themselves.  The number of cameras and their placement as well as the ability of the operator all have an impact on the quality of the show and the effectiveness of the magic.  If you use body language, facial expressions, etc. in order to misdirect, then you are severely limited when the camera is in tight on your hands, right?
Just makes sense.  Some would call cameras unforgiving.  I guess that is close to what I think.

Another thing lacking on television or Zoom meetings is the loss of community.  Sure, there are others watching the same thing, but you cannot really interact with them.  If you are on a Zoom meeting, even if the microphones are all live, you still don't achieve the same effect as being in the same room, rubbing shoulders with others.  It is just different.  There are a lot of dynamics a live audience provides that are lost on the small screen.  If someone wants to catch you out, they will get their nose right up to the screen and focus on your hands for example.  They aren't likely to do that or even want to in a group setting.

My overall advice is that magicians need to understand the venues in which they will be performing, their strengths and weaknesses, their advantages and limitations and make the best out of whatever their situation.  All venues have plusses and minuses.  They just do.  Minimize the negatives, take advantage of the positives and your magic will prosper.
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Harry Lorayne

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Reply with quote  #7 
     Over the few decades I've received literally  thousands of snail mails, emails, phone calls from young and old and from all over the world telling me, raving, about how much they enjoyed, and how much they learned, watching my 4-vol. "Best Ever"  DVD set. Obviouslyh done for cameras.  (To Which I paid no attention when doing them - my attention was on the audience. 

     Wanna' see some samples? Go to harryloraynemagic.com , click on "videos" - and  then click on youtube that's near bottom of the paragraph there.   


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Waterman

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Reply with quote  #8 
I appreciate the responses. As Ray said, the arguments regarding the pros and cons will be either on one side or the other...with no gray area in between. Like many topics in magic, this all or nothing attitude based on an individuals stance in a "magicians debate" can lead to some intense and sometimes offensive posts. 

A magician from upstate NY and I were recently talking about his loss of income this Summer...in the area of 50 thousand dollars. I asked if he was considering ZOOM as a possibility of recouping his losses and he flipped out. He mentioned similar dynamics that will be lost in a performance that Ray mentioned, as well as audience members being more likely to give credit to the camera rather than the magician for the miracles they witness on screen. Although I thought it would make sense to use ZOOM as a temporary venue to at least pay his mortgage and put a little food on the table, his mind was obviously already made up. His belief is that ZOOM should not be a venue for magic...case closed!

I know that magicians are successfully doing ZOOM shows to appreciative audiences and am still interested on the lessons they have acquired and any advice they would be willing to share. I have been asked to do a ZOOM show for our students when school starts up in the Fall and would appreciate any suggestions!!



 
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Waterman
I appreciate the responses. As Ray said, the arguments regarding the pros and cons will be either on one side or the other...with no gray area in between. Like many topics in magic, this all or nothing attitude based on an individuals stance in a "magicians debate" can lead to some intense and sometimes offensive posts. 

A magician from upstate NY and I were recently talking about his loss of income this Summer...in the area of 50 thousand dollars. I asked if he was considering ZOOM as a possibility of recouping his losses and he flipped out. He mentioned similar dynamics that will be lost in a performance that Ray mentioned, as well as audience members being more likely to give credit to the camera rather than the magician for the miracles they witness on screen. Although I thought it would make sense to use ZOOM as a temporary venue to at least pay his mortgage and put a little food on the table, his mind was obviously already made up. His belief is that ZOOM should not be a venue for magic...case closed!

I know that magicians are successfully doing ZOOM shows to appreciative audiences and am still interested on the lessons they have acquired and any advice they would be willing to share. I have been asked to do a ZOOM show for our students when school starts up in the Fall and would appreciate any suggestions!!



 


Waterman, take a look at Mike Powers recent video of Marlo's Unbelievable Aces.  Perfect trick for the small screen.  You can control the angles with the right camera set up.  In other venues, it might be a little more limited.
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marv long

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Reply with quote  #10 
In my first post I pointed out a couple of potential problems with close-up and TV. I was hoping (still do) that it might spark a discussion about some of the technical challenges of framing close-up to better fit the small screen.
But we already know the answer to the question.
If you you do it right it is great. How do we know? How many magic videos do you own and watch? Was everybody around the table for Shin Lim at FISM?  How about AGT or Fool Us - Close-Up. As other have pointed out - close-up begs for TV because it is so difficult to perform for a large group. It is by it's very definition close-up. If the spectator can't get close then the tv screen becomes their seat. Is it better live? Yea I think so - but only if you get to sit at the table.[wink]

Cheers
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #11 
Quote:
Originally Posted by marv long
In my first post I pointed out a couple of potential problems with close-up and TV. I was hoping (still do) that it might spark a discussion about some of the technical challenges of framing close-up to better fit the small screen.
But we already know the answer to the question.
If you you do it right it is great. How do we know? How many magic videos do you own and watch? Was everybody around the table for Shin Lim at FISM?  How about AGT or Fool Us - Close-Up. As other have pointed out - close-up begs for TV because it is so difficult to perform for a large group. It is by it's very definition close-up. If the spectator can't get close then the tv screen becomes their seat. Is it better live? Yea I think so - but only if you get to sit at the table.[wink]

Cheers


Technical issues are of utmost importance. When I did The Magic of Magic, two of my effects needed to be tweaked in order to remain within the camera frame. One was less of an issue while the other forced me to do something completely differently. I ended up liking the change better than the original.

If you control your cameras, you may position them for best angle, width, height, etc. If someone else is in charge, make certain to block out the various tricks, especially if using multiple cameras.

It goes without saying but lighting and sound also matter, no matter the venue. If you have to use a mic. make sure to get comfortable with it. Otherwise it will distract and ultimately detract.
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marko29

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Reply with quote  #12 
I have already done five Zoom shows and would like to share some of my experience, for whatever it's worth. My first show was for a local theater. They are closed, of course, but still try to do things over Zoom. We had a rehearsal a day before. It was more technical but I went over some tricks just to see how they looked on the screen. However the first thing is getting the right distance for the camera. Zoom is landscape view so I placed my computer about 6 feet away. I sat on a chair with two small tables, one on each side of me. The top of these tables were visible on camera. These are light, tripod tables familiar to all magicians. Sitting down between them I was visible from the belly up which pleased the people I was working for and me too because this shot filled the screen beautifully.

I tested some tricks, as I told you and found out that "vertical" tricks are out because Zoom being landscape view, a part of these tricks was always out of the screen. I'm talking specifically about rope tricks (the rope hangs vertically and the bottom part of it is always out of the screen), Chinese Sticks (the same problem with the bottom tassels out of the screen), and tricks of that sort.

"Horizontal tricks" like a Torn and Restored strip of paper I perform are OK if the prop is not too long and it can be seen completely without going off the sides of the screen.

The shows I perform run for a little over 45 minutes and I combine normal stage or party type tricks (egg bag, Twenty Century Silks, Diminishing Cards...) with close-up tricks... well, not exactly close up but rather some tricks I can perform close to the camera. For example, the Diminishing Cards is not a close-up trick but it can be performed close up for the camera and it is wonderful. Tricks like pencil through bill, papers to bills, torn and restored sewing thread are great.

I had to forget about audience participation because I can't perform and handle the computer at the same time. If you have someone to do this for you, then you have lots of tricks you can perform.

In the first performance I found out about glare. This was totally unexpected by me but light glare on shiny surfaces of props makes it difficult to see. For example: my milk pitcher. Due to glare it was very difficult to appreciate that at the end of the pouring only a little bit of milk was left at the bottom of the thing... Full of milk it looked the same as almost empty!!! I tried twisting my hand like crazy to find the right angle but couldn't so out went the milk pitcher for the next shows. Color changing cards: the same problem. Glare on the back of the cards and red backed and blue backed looks the same. Maybe it´s my computer camera or the way light comes through my window but you better check in a technical rehearsal the day before.

I told you about my two tables. These were the visible ones but I had more. I had a long one in front of me where I had my laptop with the camera but I had lots of space for more props. Another on my right side out of camera view. I also had some other props on the floor in front of me. And that brings me to another point: Zoom shows eat material. In a little more than 45 minutes I have to perform 16 tricks. When you are performing in the flesh, there is a lapse between tricks where you get your applause. You also talk more leisurely and address spectators one on one. All of this takes half a minute here, half a minute there but in Zoom you don´t have any of that so you have to fill with more tricks to make the time.

A couple of magician friends who are also performing via Zoom told me that the worst thing about this is not having any audience feedback or knowing if your audience likes what you're doing of if you are flopping. The best thing to do is not to think about any of this and rather take the opportunity to discover how your face looks when you are performing because now you have the advantage of a screen in front of you where you're watching yourself perform and thus you can adjust, work on your facial expresion, and so on. I discovered I had an overly serious expression while performing. (Must be the years I have been doing all of this). I tried on a smile and it looked beautiful so after that, everytime I caught myself with a sourpuss expression I smiled for my invisible audience and really began enjoying performing all alone in my room.


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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #13 
Quote:
Originally Posted by marko29
I have already done five Zoom shows and would like to share some of my experience, for whatever it's worth. My first show was for a local theater. They are closed, of course, but still try to do things over Zoom. We had a rehearsal a day before. It was more technical but I went over some tricks just to see how they looked on the screen. However the first thing is getting the right distance for the camera. Zoom is landscape view so I placed my computer about 6 feet away. I sat on a chair with two small tables, one on each side of me. The top of these tables were visible on camera. These are light, tripod tables familiar to all magicians. Sitting down between them I was visible from the belly up which pleased the people I was working for and me too because this shot filled the screen beautifully.

I tested some tricks, as I told you and found out that "vertical" tricks are out because Zoom being landscape view, a part of these tricks was always out of the screen. I'm talking specifically about rope tricks (the rope hangs vertically and the bottom part of it is always out of the screen), Chinese Sticks (the same problem with the bottom tassels out of the screen), and tricks of that sort.

"Horizontal tricks" like a Torn and Restored strip of paper I perform are OK if the prop is not too long and it can be seen completely without going off the sides of the screen.

The shows I perform run for a little over 45 minutes and I combine normal stage or party type tricks (egg bag, Twenty Century Silks, Diminishing Cards...) with close-up tricks... well, not exactly close up but rather some tricks I can perform close to the camera. For example, the Diminishing Cards is not a close-up trick but it can be performed close up for the camera and it is wonderful. Tricks like pencil through bill, papers to bills, torn and restored sewing thread are great.

I had to forget about audience participation because I can't perform and handle the computer at the same time. If you have someone to do this for you, then you have lots of tricks you can perform.

In the first performance I found out about glare. This was totally unexpected by me but light glare on shiny surfaces of props makes it difficult to see. For example: my milk pitcher. Due to glare it was very difficult to appreciate that at the end of the pouring only a little bit of milk was left at the bottom of the thing... Full of milk it looked the same as almost empty!!! I tried twisting my hand like crazy to find the right angle but couldn't so out went the milk pitcher for the next shows. Color changing cards: the same problem. Glare on the back of the cards and red backed and blue backed looks the same. Maybe it´s my computer camera or the way light comes through my window but you better check in a technical rehearsal the day before.

I told you about my two tables. These were the visible ones but I had more. I had a long one in front of me where I had my laptop with the camera but I had lots of space for more props. Another on my right side out of camera view. I also had some other props on the floor in front of me. And that brings me to another point: Zoom shows eat material. In a little more than 45 minutes I have to perform 16 tricks. When you are performing in the flesh, there is a lapse between tricks where you get your applause. You also talk more leisurely and address spectators one on one. All of this takes half a minute here, half a minute there but in Zoom you don´t have any of that so you have to fill with more tricks to make the time.

A couple of magician friends who are also performing via Zoom told me that the worst thing about this is not having any audience feedback or knowing if your audience likes what you're doing of if you are flopping. The best thing to do is not to think about any of this and rather take the opportunity to discover how your face looks when you are performing because now you have the advantage of a screen in front of you where you're watching yourself perform and thus you can adjust, work on your facial expresion, and so on. I discovered I had an overly serious expression while performing. (Must be the years I have been doing all of this). I tried on a smile and it looked beautiful so after that, everytime I caught myself with a sourpuss expression I smiled for my invisible audience and really began enjoying performing all alone in my room.




Great feedback from someone that has actually done it. I used to be on local radio in St. Louis and when I began one of my mentors said to speak as though you are talking with a close friend or relative. It really works. I think you can learn to do the same thing on Zoom performances and eliminate some of the weirdness of performing to zero feedback or reaction.
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Waterman

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Reply with quote  #14 
WOW! I didn't expect such detailed feedback in such a short amount of time...much appreciated!!!! Lots to consider, but the advice from all who contributed will keep some of the stress at bay!
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #15 
Marko does a great job of describing the technical aspects.  I ran into that on a Saturday Session where I was in my basement sitting under a recessed light and it created glare.  You have to know in advance all of the things that are going to possibly affect your performance.  In my case, it wasn't a big deal because it was an informal jam session, but if it was a paid performance, then it would have been a disaster.

Reach out to people that have done online performances and/or lectures.  They will have a wealth of knowledge on what worked, what didn't and why and what they did about it.
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marko29

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Reply with quote  #16 
One other thing I forgot to mention: have some extra tricks ready at least in your first show. I always have them in normal shows but in Zoom I found out they were even more necessary because, as I said in my previous post, since you don't have a physical audience, you go faster and perform more tricks in the same time. I didn't know this at first but luckily I had my back up tricks ready and with a little extra talking I could make the time. With that experience I knew more or less how many tricks I needed for the next shows but for these I also had some extra tricks ready. What I did have in front of me was my bed table clock so I could judge time and make adjustments, if necessary:

reloj.jpg 


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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #17 
Marko29 - Can you give some details as to how the theater set up the show? It sounds like you performed from home and the theater had set up a Zoom meeting that patrons could pay for and watch from home. Or did people come to the theater (distancing with masks) and see your show on a big screen?

Was the theater able to get a solid group of people together to pay/watch the show?

Any feedback after the show regarding how people liked it?

Mike
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marko29

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Reply with quote  #18 
I performed from home and the theater people managed the technical end from their side (their home, I suppose). They sold tickets to the clients they had in their database and then sent the clients the Zoom link and password so they could watch from their own homes. They didn´t come to the theatre. Besides, here in Panama we are all quarantined in our homes and can only go out two days a week in turns according to a somewhat complicated system.

The theater sold 104 tickets at 7 dollars and we split 50-50 so it was not bad for working from home.

In regards to feedback, spectators can chat back at you but I didn´t read any of this during performance so as not to lose my concentration but the theater people were very happy and told me audience reaction was very good.

Second show I did was for a bank and their technical department controlled the event. This was via Skype instead of Zoom but it's the same. I charged a set fee, not my normal fee (everybody I know doing this has had to lower their fees) but it was sstill very good for a show I did from my apartment.

Other shows I have done were for birthday parties. In these all the guests connect from their home. They are virtual birthday parties with everybody in their homes. I really don´t know what else they do besides the magic show. I suppose they sing "Happy Birthday" and the kid blows the candles and maybe they talk about kid things...




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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #19 
marco29 - Many thanks for filling in the details. Very good information. I'm getting tempted to try my luck at a Zoom show. 

Mike
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