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sb
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Ok, I have built bases, steps, and a small assortment of other odd illusions. I have not built anything new for awhile, but am about to undergo building 4 illusions. Everything I have built prior was made from wood. (with the exception of a few sets of legs, that I had made from angle with a caster and plate welded to the bottom). I personally do not know how to weld, but have used alumaloy and a torch to stick some alluminum together. I have the Rand Woodberry tapes, and I built a set of steps and a base almost exactly as shown in the video.

Well, I now have a guy who can weld virtually anything for me, and will do so for almost nothing, and even the cost of the metal itself is way cheap (he owns his own shop, and really likes my magic, and well... I think I have a great deal here!). This guy really knows what he is doing, but he does not know magic, but will work with me by his side overseeing everything.

I am going to ask a sort of hypothetical question here, and it may help to answer my many questions without typing for 7 days....

Lets say I wanted to buy a simple base from a reputable builder (or even a tippy top of the line builder). Would that simple base be made completly out of wood, like my homemade base (from illusionworks), or would it be framed out in aluminum and skinned with wood, or sheetmetal, or fiberglass. I guess the answer probably is you could do any of these.... But what would be the best, if you could have anything?

HOw about this.... http://www.splashescreative.com/mdm.htm
it is a production box for a million dollar mystery being built. Definitely a pretty high-level prop (your local mom and pop magicians <or me for that matter> don't usually do this effect at birthday parties.) I am not sure if the link worked or not, but the frame appears to be steel, with wood sides, and some kind of metal (the golden fatter tubes on the fold down walls). I believe that the outer finish is some sort of laminate. Or a really kick-butt paint job.

Now my point may be a little hazy, but what I am tring to do is when I build something, I do not want it to look and feel like it is homemade. If Bill Smith walked backstage, I want him to say, "that's nicely built, is it one of mine?". So back to my original hypothetical question (which is not that hypothetical, because I really do need to build a base) If I were to build a base, or set of steps, how should I do it? Aluminum, all wood, half and half?

Someone will probably bring this up. I do not intend to make an interlude or origami or any other illusion that has rights attached. I have a ton of pretty original ideas (youv'e heard that before, I know).

Thanks in advance, sorry if this is a muddled post, but lots of thoughts just started flowing out...


scott
sb
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Here's a little more to clarify what I am talking about...I just looked for a "twister illusion" on magic auction. It is gone, but was made by Wellington and was for maybe $6,500 and new for 13k. Its uprights (holding the box portion off the ground) were made to look like some sort of gears. An awesome looking twister! But then looking at other twisters on there, they were not even in the same league... I guess that's why it cost 13k to start with Smile

Or how about this

http://www.magicauction.com/Mag_auc/illusion_pg3.htm
double tip over box by Mendoza/Magiccraft opening bid $35k
This prop is just screaming TOP OF THE LINE PROFESSIONALLY BUILT! That's why it costs more that my car, and my wife's car too! Oh yeah, it is made to hold a big cat. And its made by Magiccraft.... Anyway, what is this prop covered in? it looks stinking great!

Ok, the best way for me to get this quality of stuff, is to go straight to a quality builder. I know that.... But 2 things are going to happen....
1. I am going to build my own illusions.
2. They are going to look good.

thanks again

scott
rtgreen
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Really, the only way self-built illusions (as opposed to using the word homemade, which seems to imply pooly made) are going to look great is through experience. Materials, construction methods, etc are all going to take study and experimentation to get to the quality you want. That is one of the reasons the top of the line builders can charge what they do - you are not just paying for the materials and time it takes to build the prop, but you are paying for the years of experience they have accumulated.

I would suggest taking some time building either small working props, scale models of the larger props, or just study pieces to gain the experience quickly and allow you to focus on individual techniques that will come together when you build the complete props. Basically, a fine prop will be the result of a number of failures that lead you to being able to control the quality the way you want to. I think it's best to make those failures on purpose in practice rather than get 3/4ths through the prop and then have to start over.

Thanks,
Richard
Bryan Gilles
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This is something I've battled with as well... It would be great to have illusions that aren't your average birthday party performers "hand-me-downs".

The best advice I could give is this...
Push the limits of your imagination. Think outside of the box and the norm as you are used to. Once you've taken this step, put it on paper and think of all the pros and cons of your idea (ie., transport, cases to protect your invesment, angles, etc...). Now, think about your abilities..What can you do to make it reality... How much shop and woodworking knowledge/ability do you have to achieve your desired results? Take it as far as you can go... if you need to sub-contract a plastics-worker, metal-worker, or even a painter, then do it!!! Your results may even be better than you originally planned. I have so many ideas that I wish I could conjure up overnight (no pun intended). They will all take time and more than my ability to build. It's okay to not be able to do everything. You'd be suprised... some of the "big-time" illusion builders contract people to construct certain things that are not at their skill level.

Enough preaching from me...
Good luck and let's see some pictures...soon!!!

Bryan
sb
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Bryan, well said.

I have no problems using others to do things that I can't do. I do it all the time with my shows. I have a choreographer who also is instrumental in selecting dancers for me (I can tell if they look good, but I can't judge dancing abilities); theatrical director; lighting design; sound mixing; and marketing people. All of these people are not part of every show, but have all been used when the time is right.

Sure I could learn all of these myself, but why master them....I have a knowledge of all of it - enough to convey my ideas and visions, but why not put my show in the hands of people who really know what they are doing?

Thanks, everyone.

Scott
EsnRedshirt
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I just ordered a copy of "Seven Secrets of Illusion Design" from Paul Osborne's site. He also sells plans of individual illusions, and has several volumes of books on illusions, which include construction materials and tips. I'd recommend you go the same route- if you've got a chance to learn from the experts, take them up on the offer. (See the "Grand Illusion" forum, the sticky at the top has everything you need to know about his books!)
Self-proclaimed Jack-of-all-trades and google expert*.

* = Take any advice from this person with a grain of salt.
Chance Wolf
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Richard is absolutely right on all points.
The "Look & Feel" of any major Illusion is created through experience. There is no fast track to this...unless you have access to a shop and can be a fly on the wall. And even then it would still take a lot of time to absorb what you see, execute it, fail, execute again, sort of fail and on and on until...VOILÁ!!...a nice slick looking Illusion that would fool the BIG BOYS!
I gotta tell you, even with my experience, I still struggle to obtain the "look" and quality of the big boys.
Just get your hands covered in sawdust, paint, anything else that makes a mess and get at it. The more work you put in the better the final result.
Good luck and have fun!
Chance
Creator of Wacky Wolf Productions & Fine Collectibles

A DECADE of building Magic and we're just getting started!

http://www.wolfsmagic.com
makeupguy
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The whole secret is the finishing... take the time to Sand, prime and get a professional paint job. "The Big Boys" take the time to have their metal powder coated..and that alone is a sign of something expensive.

I think that the more "sculptural" you go, the more professional it will look. Look at the difference between the original origami and Cris Angels.. it's such a diferent amazing look.. but the same method and effect... but you'd never know it to look at it.

Not every change can be that drastic.. because some illusions need to be boxes.. but think of a twister.. with the legs actually made from welded gears and stuff.... it would take the pretty one from Wellington even further!!!
Bryan Gilles
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Criss Angel does Origami? or is it Interlude? I'd love to see his adaptation to Origami if he does it...

Bryan
George Ledo
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Okay, here's my five cents' worth (that's two cents adjusted for inflation)...

Going back to the original question, I'd say you're putting the cart before the horse. You need to design (as in totally figure out the look of the prop) before you can even think about what materials to use.

For instance, say you're building a doll's house illusion on a table. If the house is gingerbread (aka carpenter Gothic), you need a table from the late 1800's. You could use the most gorgeous, expensive polished-chrome legs in the world, but they would look wrong. On the other hand, if the house is what we used to call high-tech style in the 1980's, then the late 1800's legs would be out of place but the chrome ones might (and I say might) work. In one case you would use wood, and the other case you would use metal.

The twister illusion you mention, with the gear legs, is a perfect example of this. The entire thing was designed first, and then the correct materials were selected.

You may want to take a peek at some of my articles in The Buffet section of The Café, where I go quite a bit into illusion and prop design, including period research. It may be more than you want to know Smile , but it's based on years of working in professional theater and theme parks.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
www.georgefledo.net

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