Posted: Mar 1, 2012 11:03am
Just going back to what the OP asked for - details of downloads vs DVD, but also taking into consideration the opinions of other posters on the subject of printed material, books in particular.
I started out in magic in the early part of last year. I use a bit of everything - close-up, cards, coins and mentalism. I've got stuff from Youtube, I've bought plenty of 'tricks' from some of London's top magic shops, and bought stuff off Ebay and also from internet based business in the form of mail order and download - I've bought DVD's, downloads and can't tell you how much I've spent on books.
Here's what I've learned thus far - when it comes to dealing with the magic dealers that are online, tread carefully, and especially when it comes to downloaded material - there is some stuff out there that once I've parted with my money and got my download link that I felt sickened to have paid money for it. On the flip side, there are a few killer routines that I've acquired this way too, but what I've found is the vendor in question makes all the difference. I'm not going to name names, but one particular UK based internet merchant that I've downloaded from and also bought mailorder tricks from ... well lets just say I really don't trust anything on their website any more. I understand the need to keep the secrets secret before the transaction is done, but frankly some that I've seen are nothing short of a set ridiculous suggestions with unrealistic and unusable home-made gimmicks, which amount to nothing more than a sham.
When it comes to card magic I found instructional DVD's great to get me going, but more recently I found I needed more information which the DVD's just can't deliver. I've come to realise that the psychology of magic and the whole process represents about 80% of what we do, and the rest is the mechanics of the effect. The process, patter, build up, etc is so very important, and the DVD's which just show you a routine or three or four don't do that concept any justice. that's not to say they don't have their place, because I believe they do. The fact is that once you've digested your downloads and DVD's, you're gonna want books too. You could take the view of 'why not just cut to the chase and buy the book at the outset'.
If you're into mentalism then don't bother with any downloads or DVD's. It's all in the books. I've gained so much from PS1, 2 and 3 amongst many others. The fact is that it's such a wide subject area with so many different angles and subtleties to the whole discipline that a book is really the best place for it. It's also nice having the book to hand so you can read a page or two when the appropriate moment reveals itself, but with a video you've almost got to lock yourself away when you watch it and even then the detail tends to be lacking.
For video downloads of various things like cuts, deals, flourishes, etc, I've found Rich Ferguson's site offers good value, and they are quite clear and concise bite-size tutorials, but without any massive depth to them. For a buck-99 per download you can pick and choose the bits you want. Or you can grab the whole lot or buy his DVD's.
For downloads of card magic I've found Brad Christian's material on ellusionist.com to be excellent value - his tutorials show you exactly what you need, and he also understands the need to take into account how you SHOW the effect, not just how you DO the effect, and I like that a lot. I can remmonded Crash Course In card Magic and Ninja 1 and 2. Crash in particular is great for a total novice, but even though I came to that site more recently I still found some useful stuff from it - it may sound like a waste of money by duplicating things but I've also found that learning the same stuff from more than one source can also really help you to find and hone your own style.
I guess what I've trying to say is that it's horses for courses. It depends on what you want from your magic and which discipline you're interested in. I think everything has it's place.
A note on the comments made about the mass availability of downloaded material cheapening the art and giving everyone the secret - my own feeling is that this a very outmoded way of thinking. Regardless of the source, if someone wants to know how an effect is acheived or how a trick is done then they are going to find it if they are really motivated to do so. Having it available on download does not suddenly blow the lid off everyones little box of secrets - people actually have to go and look for this stuff in first place, it doesn't just end up in everyones lap or in their inbox. Whats more, they only get the commercial stuff when they've actually paid over their hard-earned money. From what I see, in general the commericial content I've seen is generally way better than the free stuff, and that's what justifies it as a viable commericial enterprise - otherwise these sites, like ellusionist.com and others just wouldn't exist. Non-magic folk are not paying over money to download stuff that they have no interest in learning and only to know a secret, not unless they really have nothing better to do, have money to burn or are completely mad. If someone wants to pay money to learn magic ... in whatever form that the lesson is delivered ... well they're entitled to know and I hope they use the knowledge well and in time are able to contribute something back into the art. People have to be motivated to find out whatever is they want to find out in the first place.
I've done magic in front of groups of people where the responses from within the same group have been everything from "show me how you did that" to just "I really enjoyed that but I don't wanna know how you did that - the fact that I don't know is what makes it cool and knowing the secret would ruin it." and I think that of the people that enjoy magic then that is how the demographic breaks down. The ones that wanna know may be our future entertainers and end up blowing our socks off when we see them on TV next ... isn't that what motivated you to do magic in the first place? You saw something and it motivated you - I doubt many people got into magic just because they stumbled across something completely by accident. And even if someone does know the secret, it still doesn't mean they can deliver the effect themselves. The genie is already out of the bottle and getting all tight-lipped about downloaded content is not gonna put it back in.