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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Lights...camera...action! » » Shooting (Recording) Your Performance On The Street (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Silvio Solaris
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Xtreme Magic
1110 Posts

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A lot of people (magicians) out there have no idea what it takes to shoot a video on the street in front of a real audience surrounding you at times...IT IS NOT A STROLL ON THE BEACH.

Your moves you practiced a zillion times to perfection and performed flawlessly in a 'controlled situation' (no one behind you etc.) simply don't work quite as well anymore out there on the street. Now on top add a cameraman (team)...

My other hat besides magic is cinematography but when I perform magic I perform first for the spectator. The casual recordings I did at home or stage for evaluation I thought would be enough assurance that it also works on the street...Boy was I wrong. That I recently learned the hard way shooting my promo video. What a painful but great experience. When I looked at the first footage I flipped backwards...Flash, flash, flash...If you know what I mean. That valuable experience I like to share here with you so if you decide to shoot a video one day you don't run into the same mistakes and waste your time. Especially with a professional team shooting HD, High Definition it can get costly.

The most crucial point is misdirection. Almost non-functional for camera, especially in a wide shot because you have to consider that certain TV viewers out there watch the footage over and over...even in slow motion to find out the secret.

There is absolutely no way that you can just get a cameraman with a camcorder and just start shooting happily away thinking: Well, he knows, he is a good cinematographer, he knows how to compose a shot... WRONG! He might be the best cameraman in the world but he doesn't know anything about magic not even to mention what misdirection is and what it is used for. He doesn't know when and why you take (palm) a card out of the deck pretending that your hand is empty!?

Fact is: You have to let the man (and team) in on your routines and sometimes even on the secret(s) because otherwise he just shoots you from wherever he considers is the best angle turning your magic video unintentionally into a tutorial about 'how to palm a card and hand it to your assistant'...After I discovered the hard facts I had to co-ordinate and rehearse with my team every move, angle and composition like a ballet. This experience made me respect TV street performers (who perform for a real audience) like David Blaine and Cyril Takayama even more.

It is totally understandable and legitimate that at a crucial moment (move) during your routine which is relying on misdirection for your live street audience but doesn't work for camera, the cinematographer must help the magician, not to execute the trick, but rather protect the secret (move) by using a sort of 'camera-misdirection'. Why? Because you have to realize that watching the same performance on TV you have a much narrower field of view. You can be the world champion of misdirecting but on a TV screen everyone who wants to find out how it's done will find out. I remember when I was a kid watching my favourite manipulator Richard Ross on TV. Yes it fools you the first time, the second time...Then you watch it in slow motion and you can figure out the whole act. It works in a controlled situation but doing it for TV is a whole different ballgame.

Magicians who criticize certain TV street performers and making statements such as: 'He solely relies on camera moves and/or editing' simply don't know what they are talking about. If you never performed out there on the raw street for a 'raw' audience with a camera recording you, you simply can't grasp the reality of it.

Sometimes you have to even use some team members to block your sides. Yes, it is hard work. And by the way not everyone you can call a stooge. The definition of a 'stooge' or 'confederate' which definition I like better, is supposedly a spectator who helps the magician by handing him a prop or gaff. Yes, you don't need a confederate and most magicians look at it as the easy way out but to do the trick 'clean' for a TV camera, you sometimes have no choice. An assistant who is not directly involved in the trick and who helps the magician to execute a 'move' under sometimes the toughest conditions I actually call a Ninja, an invisible assistant.

What it comes down to is that you do magic, regardless if on the street or auditorium doing grand illusions, for 'a real audience'. By having this valuable experience I share here with you is that the hardest environment for magic is perhaps the street because it is quite hard to control and is unpredictable unless you have a fake audience...But we really don't want that right?! Good!

Conclusion: The video recording should show the performance of the magician but must at the same time protect the trade secret for the viewer at home watching it on TV.

My advice for all of magicians who want to shoot a video on the street or magicians criticizing and questioning the ability of a performer because of certain 'camera moves' or 'editing' should go out on the street with a camcorder and a friend and get a reality for themselves.

Have a nice shoot! Smile
Magical Wishes

Silvio Solaris

'Is all that we see and seem but a dream within a dream?' E.A.Poe
MitchMagic
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Wow, thanks for that it really informed me. I was absolutely ecstatic when a magician I know came as an exchange student from Iceland, he understood everything about filming.

What an essay! Superb!

Mitchell
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Aaron Chee
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Do I need to pay for this..

Man ! Am I in a Magic Cinematography Lecture...???

Well Done ! Silvio, thanks for shareing your experience and doing it the hard way.

By going thru the hard way will benefit you with the most mental and physical experience that is going to imprint in your mind.

Excellent again Silvio.

Aaron
Ace Illusions

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JoeJoe
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Myrtle Beach
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I've been filming myself on the streets for three years now, accumulating hundreds of hours of footage. I do it using a tripod and without a camera man. So far, you have only discovered the disadvantages of things you can control ... you have not even begun to realize the things you do not have control over.

Like an airplane flying over ... a siren in the background ... a baby starts crying ... a group of people start having a conversation right beside your mic ... a dishwasher drags a trash can along the concert to the dumpster ... the list goes on and on and on ...

-JoeJoe
Watch the Pilot Episode of my new TV Show:As Seen on TV: The JoeJoe Magic Show
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Silvio Solaris
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Very true Joe. In my post I just mentioned the visual 'basics'.
I actually had to repeat a performance a couple of times because of sound issues.
Let's say you have a perfect performance with great reactions and suddenly a siren...Now you have to do it again but the spectators might have to go or if you do it again for them (well, you shouldn't repeat a trick for the same folks right?)you don't get the same reactions anymore....Yes, you learn the hard way.
Anybody who for example watches Cyril performing so casually on the street don't know what has to be done to achieve that 'casual, let me show you a trick' feel.
Magical Wishes

Silvio Solaris

'Is all that we see and seem but a dream within a dream?' E.A.Poe
Bill Palmer
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Before I did magic for a living, I was a musician. I spent a lot of time in studios doing various kinds of recording. There are so many little details of just doing a good sound recording that most people don't even know about! The same is true of video work.

I got called upon several times to do television spots when I was working various festivals. I can learn lines quickly and figure out blocking fairly quickly, so I didn't have a lot of trouble, but sometimes the worst part of a taping was getting the "stars" of the shows to hit their marks and do their lines. I never gave any of these people trouble about things, though. Sometimes they would be doing a show that had a dozen or more segments, so they would have a huge amount of material to keep straight.

I just made sure that the things I did were down pat, so I could go back into what needed to be done.

People who have never done these things have no concept of what's going on out of frame.
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Bob Sanders
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Magic Valley Ranch, Clanton, Alabama
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Bill,

I totally agree with you on the fact that good recordings come from hard work!

Lately I have been doing some acting in live theater just to keep me honest on stage. There is a lot to know and it's a "use or lose" world. The "old guy" had gotten sloppy! Boot camp helps!

It is not the casual act it appears to be. Perhaps we need a magicians' reform school?

Producers love to use magicians because we don't rely on post production. We have to get it right in the first shot.


Silvio,

Thank you for your very well written contribution.

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Bob Sanders

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Dynamike
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I had a lot of recordings, never on a street. From my experience I can tell what you are explaining is hard. If it isn't one thing, it's another. Of course it would an advantage to have more than one camera person. It would help out with the editing. Of course it would be important to first make sure all cameras on the same color level before recording. One disadvantage is not showing the shadow of the other camera person while recording. If the camera persons do not know how the trick consists, they can miss the close-up areas of the trick, or the expressions of the spectator's face when it lights up. Some spectators might even look straight into the camera while recording. And of course hope the spectators are not one of those hecklers, mentioning they know how to do it. If one thing goes wrong everything must be recorded again. Of course it will take a lot of time.

When I first had recordings done at first, I thought it was easier than what it is. But when I reviewed the tapes I noticed we had to go back to the old drawing board.

One time I recorded a magician friend of mine performing in an auditorium. He had four children shows to perform to that day. I use two camcorders to record each of his shows. Every act of his was almost the same. It took a lot of editing of the 8 mini DV tapes to make it look like one good show from different angles.
Bob Sanders
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Magic Valley Ranch, Clanton, Alabama
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Outside funny things can happen that you don't notice until it is too late.

There is an old film of me that is really funny. In the background there is a hanging bucket that did not get notice until days later. It looks like a shot glass balanced on my nose! Great trick, if I could do it!

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Bob Sanders

Magic By Sander / The Amazed Wiz

AmazedWiz@Yahoo.com http://www.magicbysander.com/
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