Editing to Protect the Secret

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Delusional, Jan 11, 2014.

  1. Hi everyone,

    In light of the recent discussion about Dan White's new television show, and Blaine's special a few weeks ago, I've decided to bring up this issue. Lately, it's been an issue that's been on my mind. I'm in the process of making a documentary, and included in it will be several of my performances. Upon completion, I hope to share the film on various media, such as YouTube, Vimeo, and possibly on my local public access station.

    Many magicians, such as Richard Kaufman and Michael Weber to name a few, have gone on the record to say that magic should not be done for a camera. This belief is supported by the claim that on television, magic is flattened out, and the dynamicy and audience connection of the performance is lost almost entirely. This is a claim that for the most part I tend to agree with. In fact it seems to me like live magic, and magic for the camera are almost two different arts completely. However, as television and Youtube have become popular places for magic to be viewed, one must consider taking advantage of the opportunities that can arise from publicizing your performances on these media. Because I have a passion for filmmaking, and a passion for magic, I've decided to combine them. So I have been doing a lot of filming of my live performances.

    As I look over the footage on my computer, I can't help but think of the annoying and inevitable ten year old boy that will hypothetically view my film, watch the effects, rewind, dissect them, rewind, rewind, and rewind until he figures it out. I can't help but think that said boy will feel so special about cracking the secret to an effect, that he will post the solution in the comments, thus spoiling the experience for the other viewers. Or worse, he could make a video of his own, that demonstrates the secret to the effect in its entirety (Which, believe it or not, I'm witnessing more and more. As an aside, when I first watched Collins Keys' presentation of Booked by Steve Valentine on America's Got Talent, I was surprised to see that one of the suggested videos on the side was a video that exposed every aspect of his performance in its entirety. Not only did this expose Keys' presentation of the effect, it also cracked open the general principle behind Steve Valentine's incredible effect). Because I have the respect that I do for magic, and it's mysteries, I can't help but feel disheartened when I see these exposure videos, and also can't help to think that it could happen to me-- Or anyone who performs magic on YouTube for that matter.

    The other reason that magicians resent filming magic is for the simple reason that psychology doesn't work on a camera. Misdirection doesn't work on a camera. Many subtleties may not even work on camera. But they sure as hell work for a live audience! But the thing is, is psychology, misdirection, subtleties, etc.. can all be undone when the magic is done on camera. It can all be undone by one thing. THE REWIND BUTTON. Someone can be fooled the first time, but unlike a live audience, internet viewers have an infinite amount of times they can watch the effect. And even if they crack the secret but don't post a comment, or make a video exposing an effect, the experience has still been mostly spoiled for them.

    So I've been thinking about an idea. Certainly not a new idea. But one that would aid in preventing these things from happening. Editing performances to be "rewind proof". Most of the performances I've been filming have had two cameras present, each capturing a different angle. So, say I were to perform a top change, a move that in an unedited video could likely be picked up on, even with proper misdirection and blocking. Do you think it would it be wrong, at the moment of the move, to switch the camera angle to a shot where the change is happening out of frame? Or what if I performed Smoke by Alan Rorrison, an effect that if viewed twice, could easily tip the method. Do you think it'd be wrong to cutaway to a different angle if it would protect the secret? Or even crop the shot so that the "work" of the effect happened out of frame? I mean really, is it at all a good thing if spectators can undo all of your hard work with the simple push of the rewind button? I'm curious. What are your thoughts on the editing of magic on video to protect it's secrets?
  2. I think it's okay as long as you don't cut away from the main focus. So if a card is selected and then placed back into the deck (but controlled as inserted or something) and you cut away from the insertion, then the people watching won't have seen that the card is supposed to be in the deck (or won't believe it).

    As long as you can preserve the effect, I think it's fine. Whatever you can do to make the experience the best for the people watching.
  3. I half-way agree with DecisiveAmbivalence but only slightly. . . it's a cheat and though an "innocent" cheat it still robs the viewing audience from seeing and experiencing what that effect would be like in real time. True, the cut away can be justified as a new camera angle with Camera 2 vs. 1, etc. but again, this is why Michael and others (myself included) loathe the "new" way magic is being filmed and the justifications we make for such subtle cheats. We tend to forget that an experienced mage can fill in the blanks and still reconstruct what type of move you would need to accomplish certain things. . . and trust me, it will be this type far more than a kid, who will be dissecting what you do on a video. . . frequently well known performers that simply don't believe they need to extend credit to the original source (it happens far more than you might imagine . . . let's just say that 1/3 of the heavenly host were cast out of heaven and leave it at that.)

    Study the older Henning & Copperfield shows as well as the Tv specials with Blackstone or the Mark Wilson "Magic Circus" and you'll see how magic is to be shot and hopefully, you'll understand better, why.
  4. I think it's an easy option for producers. After all, the heads of TV shows generally don't care whether the content is true to the art they just care that it will get viewers and make money. I agree that the effect should be preserved but my issue with clever editing is how much it enhances a trick. The comparison of something like Worlds Greatest Magic, which mostly shot it's acts in their entirety and a TV spectacular like Dynamo is similar to that of a natural body builder vs. a body builder doing steroids. One of them is just a shortcut to the end result.
  5. Funny thing, I don't like either of those. The majority of the World's Greatest Magic specials were boring as hell, and Dynamo is nowhere near as charismatic as he thinks he is.

    The trouble is that magicians aren't stopping to consider that film and TV are separate media from theater with their own languages. The majority of magicians approach working with film and video as if it were just a really ****ty version of theater. David Blaine didn't. That's why he succeeded where others failed.

    The problem as I see it is that when most magicians approach video and TV, they see only the restrictions. They see only the potential for exposure. They don't stop to consider what is actually possible within the medium, only what is impossible. Hardly what I'd call a recipe for success.
  6. That's all TV is Steerpike, a platform to fame and once famous you attract crowds, then you can charge substantial sums of money for public appearances. There isn't as much money in TV as the general viewing base thinks, it's just there to build a fan base for merchandise sales.

    People forget that most magicians have very little control over what actually airs. They only start having control over content when they become production, like David Blaine being an executive producer of Real or Magic.
  7. #7 Nicholas Gray, Jan 11, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 11, 2014
    You're performing magic not directing a film for Paramount Pictures, who wants to go into epileptic seizures trying to watch someone perform what amounts to glorified card/coin/mentalism tricks? I surely don't and neither does my 10 year old kid who is going to pick the bones off your creations like vultures on a dead bunny rabbit and go and poorly perform them in front of a iPhone 5s under flickering illegal incandescent light bulbs with cheeto dust on his fingers and upload it to YT where they'll receive 1,248 hits and 67 comments telling him how he sucks at magic and half of those comments will be of people calling him "fat, fatty, fat-ass, fatso, tubby and etc...." and he'll need $20,000 dollars worth of therapy which I'll be suing YOU for Delusional as it will be all your fault since YOUR tricks were either A: So weak or B: performed so poorly that my 10 year old boy who has the IQ of my first pet the pygmy goat known as "Alowishus", could figure out so easily in the first place.

    Exposure? Who cares about exposure? It's what keeps the magic industry alive and kicking, it's what keeps people who invent magic effects employed. If I wanted to sit in front of my computer screen and get motion sickness I'd NetFlix "The Blair Witch Project" and get my barf bag ready.



    Postscript: None of the above is in any way, shape or form accurate or true.


    Post-postscript: To be serious for a moment I think there's little to worry about. The majority of the exposure videos fall far short of being dangerous for a number of reasons. Mainly it comes down to pure "Incompetence".

    First off, to expose a magic trick, you have to be able to do it well to show what it looks like. Most of the exposure videos feature individuals who show little to no technical competence or experience with the tricks. As all magicians know, there's a huge difference between understanding a magic secret and being able to convincingly perform the related trick.

    The technique is so poor in many of the exposure videos, I think that someone searching for a secret, in many cases, will think that the secret is for a simpler or different trick.

    After that, they're mostly booooooooring....in most exposure videos I've seen there's little or no attempt to make the effect entertaining. This is no surprise as the person exposing the trick has no investment in the technique, method or prop. As a result, watch most videos that promise to expose the secret of some magic classic, and you'll find videos that are pure tedium to sit through and have no entertainment value. Perhaps even worse than exposing a trick's secret is to make the trick boring. And who cares about the secret to a boring trick?

    I deplore the old and incorrect adage, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach," when applied to the teaching profession.

    However, this adage is undeniably correct when applied to those who attempt to expose magic tricks.

    I'm not saying that online exposure videos are no danger to magic. There are a few videos that I came across that are rather devastating, but most of these were from television shows (probably copyright infringements), not from the masses of amateur videos. As we've learned from previous magic exposure, the revealing of secrets is far more devastating when it comes from within our own ranks. (as Craig Browning has already mentioned)

    Our art of magic will always deal with exposure. For now, I'm convinced that online exposure is no more of a threat than anything in the past.

  8. True. To a point. The business of TV is certainly very cutthroat. But even if David didn't have an executive producer credit, he still worked with his crew. That's why Street Magic was better than most of the World's Greatest Magic specials. He understood the medium he was working in. I stand by my stance that when most magicians record their magic on video, they truly have no clue what they're doing. Cyril Takayama understands TV. David Blaine understands TV. Among the Old Guard magicians, Paul Gertner understands TV. Criss Angel doesn't. Dynamo sort of but not really. All of the magicians on America's Got Talent don't.

    I'm not asking, "Is TV a viable way to make a living?" I'm asking, "Do you know how TV works enough that you can make your material look good when presented in that medium?" The answer, more often than not, is no.
  9. Only two "Magicians" ever made a semi decent income via TV; Mark Wilson and Steve Baker the latter of whom most here wouldn't know in that he was part of the old American Bandstand show. For most of the past 60 years Steve and Mark had more broadcast footage than anyone in magic, including Copperfield and Henning. . . David being #3 on the profit bearing results of TV Magic.

    Knowing how to USE the medium of video is the key and not everyone has that insight, especially when it comes to magic in that magic was designed to work with a real audience and have a relationship with that audience. TV doesn't allow us to do that much though guys like Blaine, Copperfield to a certain degree and perhaps a couple of gifted close-up guys seem to come very close to knowing that other side of the camera and how to look at it. Copperfield, to my understanding, spent many hours with Orson Wells discussing film and film production -- in his younger days David was starved for knowledge so he could become "the best". . . he was the Howard Thurston of our generation bar none. S&R on the other hand, gave us Busby Berkley while Lance gave us a glimpse at the elegance of magic during the 40's and 50's (Blackstone & Dante).

    The argument about using what's available with the medium you work with is a lie we tell ourselves to justify the deception taking place on the screen as the result of editing and pre-arrangments and most horridly, using obvious electronic effects like CGI and Green Screen. We KNOW we're perpetuating fraud on the public and deluding ourselves. This can be seen in how Criss whatshisface fell flat when he first opened at the Luxor. . . his lack of talent showed through quickly and had it not been for a bunch of horny teenagers, the show would have folded in less than a week. But moaning whores being as they are, filled the seats and bought him the extra time he needed for straightening thing out well enough to CONvince Luxor to keep him and even to get Cirque to come in and save his butt.

    Pardon my rant but it does apply to this discussion, revealing how said co-dependency hurts us as artists and causes us to hurt the craft because we became too dependent on sad tactics.
  10. Luis Piedrahita did a great talk at EMC about tv and magic and talks about the use of camera work (not editing, I see the two as separate) to get the best out of an effect on TV. If you watch his performances on youtube, which come from his slot on the Spanish tv show he works on (yes the clips are all in Spanish....deal with it!) you can see how strongly magic or more precisely pure sleight of hand can work on tv without the need for editing. If you search for his show on youtube look out for the specials where he has Derek Delgaudio on and you will see the perfect sync between magic and tv.

    Back to the main question about editing do I agree with it? From a magician's point of view no. I believe that a magician should be able to perform on tv what they can perform live. From a lay perspective it makes no difference. For an audience the effect is all that is important the method should never come into it. Saying that I'm not saying that editing i.e camera tricks should be used to achieve an effect, that's not magic, that's just film making.

    However if you are talking about using editing to help stop people rewinding to discover the method, then I think you should be taking a look at the material you are using and the performance of it, not how its filmed. In terms of magicians yes they could view a effect a few times and get an idea of how to achieve the effect, because of the knowledge they/we have. For a lay person no matter how many times they watch a performance they should never learn the method, if there is that risk then there are holes in the performance so therefore shouldn't be performed. If its a simple case of going onto youtube to find a video exposing the method then you shouldn't be using such common over used effects (this is where reading books comes into play if you want to find powerful uncommon routines, but that's another subject).

    At the end of the day do what you feel is right to make what ever it is your showing to an audience entertaining.
  11. I don't think this is the case. If you perform a routine (or a standalone trick) of card to pocket, good luck performing that several times for the same audience and still getting away with it. The same goes for many other effects.

    Some routines have repetition built into them (which repeat the effect, but build each time and utilise different methods) to help solve this problem and ensure the audience won't need to see the effect over and over again.

    A lot of the time though, you couldn't so the same effect twenty times for the same audience and get away with it. That doesn't mean your performance has "holes", just that if you WANT to repeat it, build the repetition in as part of the routine.
  12. And that's the epitome of why as magicians that we really should stick to the second rule of magic.

    Say it with me:

    NEVER repeat the same trick twice.

    I KNOW! I've been there, we've all been there. Doing a walk around and we find a small group of 4 or 5 people, one who happens to be a really hot chick with a pair of DD's who is begging to see that coin on shoulder routine again. I KNOW! Damn you reptilian brain! But we still gotta rise above and beyond and just say "well if you liked that one you will love this one." and break into some of our best "closer" stuff.
  13. Or as I said, if it's an effect which begs repetition, build progressive repetition into the routine with a finality to the climax so it's understood as complete and doesn't get requested to be repeated.
  14. #14 slicksleights, Jan 13, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 13, 2014
    This is the hole in the trick the, the repetition. Something like ACR has repetition but its so well hidden that the method flies past the audience. Something like card to pocket has quite blatant repetition especially if the footage can be viewed multiple times, therefore for TV magic there are big holes in that effect and should not be performed for such a media.
  15. Yes exactly, hence the discussion on editing and such. In this case, specific blocking or editing would be needed to hide the method. But of course you would have to be careful that the effect still comes across as well (which would be very difficult considering the card to pocket effect).
  16. So why would you ever consider using such an effect? My point is you should look at the material you want to use, then see how much editing would be needed to make the effect work for tv. If it requires a lot of editing to make it work for tv then its not an effect that should be performed on tv. take of look at this link, which is reference to my original post.


    in this clip you see how they use hardly any editing, just camera cutting between shots (which as i argued earlier is different to editing as i see it) the trick is highly technical but the mechanics are so well hidden a lay person wouldn't be able to figure it out from multiple views. And why does this work? Because he has selected a trick that works for TV not just any magic effect that he has in his repertoire. And this is my point look at the effects that you want to perform and view them critically to decide if they will work for TV or not, don't just select tricks on the basis that either they are your favorite or you perform them well live.
  17. Yes, valid points - I agree.

    My responses were more on the "ethics" of using editing, though you're right in saying that trick selection should reduce/wholly eliminate this problem.

    And I love those Derek DelGaudio clips. Not only great performances, but almost the only times I have seen him perform. Got to love Luis Piedraheta as well - although I barely understand a word of his performances on that show, I enjoy the magic and the performances just as much.

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