Video Killed the Sleight of Hand Star

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Coin magic on video is a completely different species of magic.
Yet it is still magic, right? 

With video you can accomplish some of the most amazing effects, never possible with traditional sleight of hand alone, because you can so perfectly control your environment. And I'm not talking about CGI. For this post, we'll consider that true cheating. Let assume that skill and performance are still involved.

So, how is video coin magic different? Let’s look at some of the distinct features.

With video you can choose the exact sounds your magic makes. Did your coins “talk” when they weren’t suppose to giving away their true location? Then just use that free editing app with your phone and remove the audio before you share it…no one will ever be able to prove otherwise. 

What if the mood wasn’t just right? Then add in a background track to energize the magic and elevate it to the next level. What if an audience reaction was obscene or worse, not heard? You can change the volume on that too, making it quieter or louder... or all together different. 

In short, you can draw attention to the exact sounds to make your magic stronger.  

Lighting, my favorite aspect of coin magic, is always the toughest to get correct. In videography, an optical art, good lighting is essential. Bad lighting can destroy an effect. But thanks to simple editing apps, you can boost dark lighting and at least make things visible in new ways using filters. This can completely change the mood of an effect.

If you follow me, then you’ll know, I always want to generate more light in my magic; be it with the boosted color on the Tiger Tan Coins and new Kingdom Coins, or creating movement, light flairs, and retentions of color with classic silver coins. Light reveals all. And coins, being metal, shine brightest. Why not make your magic as visual as possible and take advantage of lighting? 

A quick everyday performance tip on the subject: Know the light sources in your performance venue and use them to your advantage creating bright highlights every time! And also, use those lights to cast dark shadows for contrast. Sadly, this detail is often overlooked in Live close up performance. It could help so many effects.

Lighting is even more important with video magic because coins often appear extra small on screen. Color changes and quantity of pieces are can be difficult to distinguish if lighting choices are not considered when filming. The good news, with video, if your lighting was bad, you can shoot it again and make it look perfect every time!

The final thing I will mention for this short post, is that never before have we so easily had the opportunity to tweak and change the motion of magic. The software and tools are within the reach of anyone.

The “Cardistry Kids” have blown the door open, using dynamite, showing us what is possible by altering motion. I don’t believe that people knew how beautiful a card spring style flourish could be just ten or fifteen years ago. But filmed with a wide angle lens and slowed down with 60 frames per second is like watching a fish swim upstream on a National Geographic special: simple, yet mesmerizing. 

The eye is allowed to take in every detail and appreciate every little perfection and imperfection. When a flourish is consumed in slow motion it becomes a different kind of art: a hybrid of manual technique and motion photography.

I’m wondering what we will be able to do with this as we explore more and more aerial coin stunts. I’ve toyed with slow motion, one you can see in the first couple seconds of my promo... But, REALLY I look forward to seeing who will really take this manipulation of motion with coins to the next level. 


Now after reading this, you may say, “That’s not magic. Everything you talked about was computer generated, not magic.” And you might be right, but magic was never easy to define.

I’m actually curious what you think about captured and preserved presentation of magic. Does it create or destroy magic? ...or does it make a hybrid art of “magical?” … or something else?

 Your thoughts? They go right below:

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  • RaYaR

    “Coin magic on video is a completely different species of magic.
    Yet it is still magic, right?”
    For the moment i’m more spectator than practician, i’m far to use all you are say in this post but i think video can’t be treated in one example. Magic is an effect produce by a prestation with objects and eventually gimmicks.
    The goal is the reaction of spectator, so why not use the advantages of video to push more the boom effect.
    But at this time we must separate the 2 ways, a little like “stage magic” and close up, stage magic keeps the viewer away from the magician like video push away more this. For me the problem is that with the video we can too easily amended (to don’t say cheated) the tricks…Especially in a discipline like the close up (with the “public” factor). But this last point during never long time, one day or the other it is possible to go back to the way of doing by turning to the basics.
    Things must be appreciated at their true value!
    (and like you said for the cardistry move, that give a wonderful options to present moves)

  • Bill Bateman

    This has inspired me to do more video of my practice. That way I can slow it down to spot mistakes and ways to improve. I can also use the lighting features to help me find the best for shows. While I don’t always have control, I can move and adjust as much as possible. It is all part of practice and pre planning.

    For a demo reel, if I can really do the move, like your 4 coin catch in the early part, then showing it in slow-mo helps me get around the charges of a camera trick. ( Irony in silver?)

    I think the bottom line is that we DO perform live. As a training a development implement, this is great. For a reel to highlight a skill we have it looks awesome. And if you fake a reel you know what happens when you are called on to perform. You become a Verb.

  • Bruce Roberts

    Thanks Jeff!
    Blog on video magic is Great food for thought.
    On another note…. I belong to a magic club in Ft. Worth. We meet once a month at Bruce Chadwick’s Business “Illusion Warehouse”. Would you consider coming down here to do a Lecture/tutorial? And of course bring your product to sale.
    Bruce Roberts

  • Steve G

    Call me old school, but magic is a live performing art. It’s too easy to create “magic” with camera tricks… Live and in their face (politely of course) there’s no question that camera tricks were not involved. Also, live gives you the opportunity to connect and interact with your audience to better entertain them. Finally, if using video, your sleights better be perfect because video can be replayed, slowed down, etc. And the fixed view from the camera severely hampers the use of any misdirection, which, per the above, may be quickly dispelled on replay anyway.

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