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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Grand illusion » » Why the cost of Illusions (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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magicofCurtis
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Kevin you hit it on the nose.....
Face
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Like magicofCurtis here, I must say, that I also agree with you Kevin totally Smile
Magical Dimensions
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Nice post Kevin!

I started this thread to see what kind of responses I could get. Kevin did the best so far!

I wanted a lively discussion on this topic and to see how other people thought. I must say again that I like Kevins post. It make sense and justifies the high cost of illusions. Way to GO!

I was only kidding in my last post. I wanted to raise the bar a little and see if I could get more people to tell me what they really think about the high cost of illusions.

Well, now that this is out of the way, anymore thoughts about the high cost?


Ray Noble
Peter Loughran
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I might also add that there is additional overhead aside from the actual materials of bulding one prop, there is also storage costs, Shop rental, Hydro, heat, water, other employees, machinery, tools, advertising, website maintence and design, Accounting fees, lawyer fees, Taxes, shipping fees, sometimes royalty fees, R&D, travelling expenses, vehical maitence(we have a truck to transport big materials or for transporting an illusion to our case builder), insurance, blue printing and AUTO CAD Design fees, Graphic artist fees, computer matience and internet costs, and the list goes on.

We do some tig and mig welding, but sometimes we also job out some of our bigger metal work, and these particular specialists charge around the $80-$100 an/hr. range. My regular Builder Shawn gets around $80 an hour, but he is worth every penny when you see the final product. Anyway my point is, the cost of the materials is just one small part of the OVERALL cost in running the business, so that we may be on call to build illusions with regular business hours.

Because it is also such a small market, like Kevin said, we are not pumping out a dozen illusions a week, so you need to charge accordingly to make sure that your bills are covered so that you can remain in business and continue to serve the small magic community.

P.
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Magic Patrick
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I have a Jack Murray illusion and it is worth every penny. I will buy from him from now on. You only think that you are getting ripped off if you get a subpar prop. If you do, never buy from that person again. If the builder does a great job like Jack Murray than you would not feel this way. Magic is more than the tricks it is about the performance and how the prop looks on stage. People will more easily pay 100 to 200 for a show if the magi looks credible with nice props. If not than cardboard boxes would be fine.

Patrick
Drs_Res
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Allow me a question to the pros here please.

Are you not, in many cases, also paying for performance rights as well as the illusion itself?
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Face
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I must mention, that Ray has started a very interesting topic here in the Café. It has been long time since someone has come up with something really interesting.

Thanks for that Smile
Magical Dimensions
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Face, I was trying to get a really good discussion going on by playing the bad guy! I did good, because we have some very good posts on this thread.

Peter Loughran, man oh man! You listed a whole bunch of stuff that I didn't even think of! Way to go!

Now when someone ask the question why an illusion cost so much we have our answer right here on this thread!

Ray Noble

P.S. for the record I agree with everyone here except for my first three post! LOL
magicross
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I think that the best way to get a cheap illusion is to build it yourself. That way you are only paying for the costs of materials. If you want to buy an illusion or have it built for you, you have to except that the cost will be more.

I recently rebuilt my version of the zigzag and it took me just about 3 weeks from start to finish. This was because althought I did modify and tweak the design for the new version I had already done all the hard work on the previous model two years earlier, however I have another illusion that I have built that has been going for over nine months.

During those nine months the actual time spent doing the major construction work was merely 2 weeks, by this I mean the base and the box for the illusion.
The rest of the time has been spent testing and modify the design workings of the illusion to get the best results possible.

The skills used to build illusions cannot be taught its something you learn over a period of time, its a specialized area and as a result it will cost more.

To but it into perspectice in four years I have built five illusions.
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EsnRedshirt
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Magicross- you're right. Building it yourself can be even more expensive than having it built for you when you take into account the time and learning curve. You have a friend with a MiG welder? No? Hmm, better buy one then take a class on welding. That's $400-$500 minimum plus a two-to-five week course. Fortunately, you don't need much welding to build a Zig-Zag.

To everyone-
Personally, I love to design and build illusions. The design process itself is a fun mental challenge, and I always learn new things during the building process. A good builder, in addition to carpentry and welding, should also know: sewing, life casting and foam latex, electronics (and robotics!), how to work with fiberglass, how to work with rubber and plastic, how to work with powder coating, and even how to work with air and water pumps, not to mention the best way to paint all the diverse materials listed above.

Additionally, they need to know about stagecraft; how will the lights affect the colors on the illusion? What stages can the illusion be performed on- proscenium, thrust, round? How much work is required offstage? How can I built it for both portability and durability?

Obviously, building illusions is tough. And there's very few professional builders who claim it as their only source of income. We all know the ones who do- their names are famous in the magic community. Not only do they build those illusions, they work with their customers to ensure the product is worth the money, from customization to repairs and technical support.

It's not a cliche, it's a truism- "You get what you pay for."
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* = Take any advice from this person with a grain of salt.
Peter Loughran
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Ray after our nemerous discussions on some of your original levitation illusions and such in the past and your knowledge and experience with illusions, I was at first like..."he knows why the high cost, so whats up with this post" And now I discover you were just being sneaky! LOL, great idea to get a thread going espicially for those that didn't know the answer to your question, they will surely understand better now after reading this thread!

P.
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Bill Palmer
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I did illusions in one of the most difficult venues there is -- outdoor Renaissance Festivals. There are no lights -- you perform under sunlight. Often there is no shade. There is pitiful little storage area, and sometimes your props get rained on. There are whole new criteria for all of it.

I built a lot of my own props. I did it by drawing up plans and farming out the parts that I couldn't do myself to experienced workers -- welders, metal benders, carpenters, etc.

I learned a lot about what makes illusions work. I also learned the value of sweat equity.

In 1982, I was the illusion consultant for the first big show of a fellow who is now a "name" in the business. I didn't have a woodworking or metal shop at the time, so we farmed things out to the lowest bidder. What a mistake!

One of our fellows was a carpenter/metal worker who always had "a better idea." He ruined a couple of illusions by adding reinforcement in places where it wasn't needed and where it interfered with the operation of critical parts. In short, we had to pay for everything three times. And it cost us in the long run.

I've seen Bill Smith's stuff, Bill Schmelk's stuff, Johnny Gaughan's stuff, Owen's stuff and most of the others up close. Their stuff works, troups and lasts. If you don't have the skills they have, you will find your road to illusion building paved with failures and near misses.

And you can't afford that, particularly when a person's life may be endangered by a silly mistake.
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Magical Dimensions
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Hi Peter,
Yea, I thought that it would be real fun to play the bad guy to start this thread.

For the record I meant no disrespect to ANY magic builder. I know the real deal about the cost of building illusions and agree with everyone here!

I didn't want people to JUST talk, I wanted them to get really mad (at me) and feel that they really needed to voice their reasons. I wanted facts and nothing but the facts that would make it clear to anyone why great builders charge what they do.

I felt that the best way to get this thead off and RUNNING was for me to just come out with my head down and SWINGING! LOL

It was fun..

We all can see now that a great professional built illusion does cost money. And you truly get what you pay for.

To the magic builers I take my hat off and bow to you. You guys are the ones that makes our shows more magical with your craftmanship and love of the art of illusions.

Ray Noble
Banester
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I don't agree with that: "We all can see now that a great professional built illusion does cost money". Are we really paying for the cost of the illusion or the cost of the expertise of the builder? I have numerous books that have plans and even brag about how cheap you can build this or that. There is no way in heck I would ever attempt it though!

While the original question was more or less about a project that you the magician dreamed up and someone else is just providing the material and labor to build, I can see why they do charge alot. They have to wear many "hats" per say; a welder, woodworker, glass cutter, painter, etc. Not only that, but they have jigs and patterns set up for specific items and have worked out problems with gimicks involved with the illusion. Even if your illusion is defferent it most likely uses the same principals in some other illusion out there.

So I don't agree with the expense part, but gladly pay for the experience/workmanship part.

I wasn't going to go into overhead because I feel you can control that quite a bit. For instance, do you need that 40k cad program or can you do without it like you have for the past 20yrs? I can go on about overhead if some others question that though.
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Jack Murray
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Well you can "try" to control overhead but I have things that cost me through no fault of my own, all the time.
Shipping is a good example. I have spent more time on "shipping issues" in the last three days than I have in fabrication.
Needless to say, shipping is my worst headache.
Peter Loughran
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Jack, I agree with you 100% shipping is so time consuming and such a headache, its rediculous. It takes me so much freakin time just filling out all the forms, waybills, Ba13 forms, customs doccuments, letters of instructions, comercial invoices, etc etc., then you have to no only case each illusion, but then wrap each case in cardboard, tie down to skids etc. attach shipping lables etc., wait for drivers blah blah. But that's not all, oh no, then the shipping companies will call you because there is a problem, and then call the the customer and then you have figure out power of attourney for the customer because its being delivered to a house and not another business, and then they need more info on the contents, so you have to fill out and fax more doccuments, and then you have to deal with brokerage and customs agents, and the shipping company, and the customer, holy cow its a ton of work.

Then you get a bill, and the amounts charged to each party is wrong, so you have to call them up and try and straighten it out, they promise it won't happen again but low and behold, the illusion you are shipping out the very next day, well you go through the exact same thing again.

Then the customer gets it and you hope its all in good condition, don't even get me started if the shipping company loses or damages a prop, it is just brutal. People have no idea how much goes into shipping large freight with high dollar values until you do it a few times. I spend huge hours a month on shipping detail, its insane. Thank god I have guys to work in the shop on fabrication, I couldn't imagine having time for all of it.

It also doesn't matter which company you use either they are all the same, I have delt with them all, fed ex, ups, Menlo, emery, etc etc.
P.
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Jack Murray
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Well I'm glad I'm not alone, But WHY can't these shippers just do THEIR job so I can do mine.
I tell them all the time "I'm not in the shipping business, why do I have to do YOUR work?"
reedrc
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If I remember right I think jack was telling me one time some bonehead drove a forklift into one of the cases.

Shipping companies are BRUTAL with this stuff... Just totally blows me away.
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Peter Loughran
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I had Fed-Ex admit to that one time. So it seems it’s a common occurrence. I once shipped an illusion in a crate and it got to the customer in 3 cardboard boxes all in pieces (again that was a Fed-Ex). I never use Fed-Ex anymore.

They told me they opened the crate for customs, and couldn't get it back in the crate, so they boxed it up in cardboard boxes, and of course the illusion would get damaged. Idiots. We use pressure crating, once you open it, it’s not meant to be shipped again unless you know how to pressure-pack it.
We now only ship in wrapped ATA cases.
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Jack Murray
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Yes, forklifts and ATA cases are my favorite combination. It's sad when others have absolute NO pride in their work so they trash yours.
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