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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Time after time » » Practicing in front of a mirror vs. video recorder (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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scottds80
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In my practicing and rehearsing, I've learned a few self taught lessons on the subject on how to review yourself.

I have been practicing both in front of a mirror and a video recorder. There are pro's & cons for both. In the end, I recommend using both, but a video recorder MORE.

Mirror:
Pros
- easy to visually check your moves AS THEY HAPPEN. You can catch yourself red handed and FEEL where the problem is coming from immediately.

Cons
- You may get too used to practicing this way, and you will begin to rely on the reflection of yourself to feel your next move. Believe me, when I eventually got a video recorder, I felt awkward because I couldn't see what I was doing as I relied on my reflection too much.


Video recorder:
Pros:
- You get to see exactly what your audience would see. Mirrors are different.
- You can practice your misdirection then see if it works as you watch yourself later (pretend you are a layman)
- You can sit down, relax and watch where the problems (flashes, angles) are coming from over and over again.

Cons:
- Good video cameras are expensive. Obviously it will cost you plenty of money if you don't already have a recorder. But it's well worth it. You want a good quality recorder to check your subtle moves, and plug it into a television as large as possible.
"Great Scott the Magician", Gippsland
8ofdiamonds
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I use 2 cameras, 1 in front positioned as a normal audience member would watch, and I position 1 way off to the side (wing area) where I always tend to find people lurking trying to catch what I am doing. Helps your angles in the long run and teaches you not to be a static performer.

80d
kosmoshiva
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With both mirrors and cameras be careful of being fooled by the distance they are from you. It ain't the same distance as a spectator's face! A camera has a lens on it, rarely being 'life size', and a mirror, while being the correct size is the incorrect optical distance ... um, yeah, I think that's right.
Anyway. One of the big dangers with mirror work is pretending to be fooled by your own misdirection and doing a mental 'hiccup' when you do the move and missing it, thus thinking you're brilliant when y'ain't. You can't misdirect either a camera or a mirror, but you sure can kid yourself with a mirror.
That being said, I prefer the mirror, simply because it's so ... analog ...
Don't forget to breathe.
MagicMichealMan
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Camara's are the way to go!!!!you can view yourself over and over again!!! in a mirror you can to but on a cam corder you can see your progress gain,

-mike-
George Ledo
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A number of years ago I tried a video camera and found out that the biggest advantage was that, with the camera, I didn't have to look at myself all the time. I could also replay the thing in slow motion and look at the little details as much as I wanted.

Many years before that, I realized that, with a mirror, I was seeing a mirror image (yeah, no doo-doo, Sherlock), and not what the audience was seeing. Also, like kosmoshiva said, I could close my eyes and pretend I wasn't seeing something. Smile
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
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Philip Hilton
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Both, but what has been said concerning mirrors is very true, as its all too easy to miss something in a mirror and think you're better at a move than you really are. A camera is much better, but takes time to set up and get to later, but worth it, because you really see all your bad moves and it teaches you very quickly. When its on film its there and you have no escape. I film my routines but only after I've worked to the mirror to get the obvious moves down. It is very important though to remember that real people move and come in at odd angles. I use a tripod, but thinking about it it would be really good to get someone on a hand held shooting your rehearsals. Still what is important is that however you do it, that it works for you.
Cheers Phil
fakiir
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I guess the best way is to practice little details and moves in front of the mirror and as you put it all together (move, routine, show) you film it. Then you can have a nice overall picture of what you are doing. Normally I sit in fron of the TV with pen and paper and mark all the mistakes down. After watching back to the mirror... Kind of same point of previous writer?
Father Photius
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As TV magicians like Mark Wilson will inform you, TV offers the magician the "Best" angle. It is fixed and two dimensional. As such the angle from any camera position is more limited than the naked eye beholds from the same angle. Always when practicing with a camera move it around to several positions. You don't have to use more than one camera at the same time. Just record different practice sessions from different angles. You will be surprised at what you see.
"Now here's the man with the 25 cent hands, that two bit magician..."
George Ledo
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Okay, so here's a weird idea...

The other day I was at the local Costco and saw a home-security system consisting of four or five very small video cameras and a monitor that could be tiled to show all the cameras at once. I wonder if this could be used for rehearsing a magic routine -- just place the cameras at different angles and shoot away.

The downside might be the size of the images, but it might be possible to record it all at once and play back each camera's take individually. If I did close-up, I'd probably get one of these systems and set it up "permanently" around my practice table.

Now, remember, if you see these camera systems sold in magic shops next week as "The Ultimate Rehearsal System," you saw it here first. Smile
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
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The Amazing Noobini
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Cameras will give you a false sense of security!

What you see on the tape/disc is only a fraction of the detail the spectator sees. This is because if you shoot indoors in regular lighting, the shutter speed will be so long that many frames of action are simply not on the tape. You won't see a flash of a coin or card because that microsecond was never recorded. The eye will see it tho.

Also a digital video camera typically reuses the same pixels if there is no great change between each frame. Some parts of the previous picture is used again for the next frame because it's simply more economical in terms of light/exposure. Small flashes and details will get lost. Long shutter speeds also produces motion blur which often completely hides flashes. Just check your tape in frame by frame slow motion. The real world doesn't look like that!

If you want to use a camera to check flashing you need to have a studio lit room and then shoot "progressive scan" which means that every pixel is reshot in each frame. This will typically produce an unnatural looking jerky effect (popularized in action movies with the arena fight scenes in Ridley Scott's Gladiator) but you will see detail more like the eye sees it.

Myself I have just done the mistake of having practiced a couple of coin retention vanishes for two months in a mirror only. Yesterday I tried actually doing them and I felt completely helpless without the mirror image. So I need to set up my camera and rework things a little.
"Talk about melodrama... and being born in the wrong part of the world." (Raf Robert)
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Tanner & Company
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Havent ever thought of a video camera, maybe I should try that.
George Ledo
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Quote:
On 2008-01-07 11:42, The Amazing Noobini wrote:
What you see on the tape/disc is only a fraction of the detail the spectator sees. This is because if you shoot indoors in regular lighting, the shutter speed will be so long that many frames of action are simply not on the tape. You won't see a flash of a coin or card because that microsecond was never recorded. The eye will see it tho.

You're right, but remember that not everyone does close-up sleights where little things in the hand may flash. When you're doing a stand-up act or an illusion show, a camera will show you the big picture, which is really what you need.

For the intimate sleight stuff that they will see from all sides, I agree that mirrors probably work better. However, an ideal setup would be three mirrors (front and sides), but you can't watch them all at the same time.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
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Jake Heller
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I like video cameras a lot better. When watching myself on them I find that my patter is not as smooth as I thought it was when practicing without. It really helps get your presentation down pat.

Also if you know any magicians that are better than you or have more experience it is nice to have them critique the video with you and point out the specific places you are making errors.
The Whisperer
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I too have experimented with both, but have an alternative. Another Magician friend and I usually spend a couple of hours a week with each other practicing. We are both honest with each other and this allows for advice, ideas and creativity. If you have someone that is trustworthy, honest and willing to watch, try this out!
Sh3ldon
Gerald
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Good thoughts in these posts! Let me echo and add a few ideas:

Watching yourself in the mirror can help in the beginning stages of practice and rehearsal, but it gives you a very limited perspective. It is best to get away from the mirror as soon as possible. Bad habits can develop if you are a “slave” to a mirror.

Video clips set at different angles or even better, a video of your performance can be very enlightening. Video gives you a better picture of what people actually see and how they react. Video reveals where you need to work on your scripting, elocution, blocking, timing and pacing; problems which a mirror can not reveal.

Most important: We tend to see what we want to see both with mirrors video. In the final analysis, “one can not be one’s own director.” (I don’t know for sure whose quote that is, but it is an insightful one.) Find a qualified, experienced person (or persons) to watch and advise you. A drama coach is a good resource. (Your local high school or community theater is a good place to look.)

When you and your coach or mentor think you are ready, go out and entertain the crowd. You will gain confidence with performing experience. You’ll be surprised at the wisdom that comes from experience: IF you keep your eyes, ears and most importantly, your mind open.

Gerald
jake.o
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I use a video camera because I feel that when I'm using a mirror I concentrate on seeing how it looks rather than performing to the best of my ability, so with a video camera I can perform and then watch it back several times to find out what to improve.
Juliegel
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I find that both don't work because you are seeing yourself from your own perspective,(I think Jay Sankey said the same once). If I had to choose though I would go with the mirror because that way you have to do the move to see it. Playing the tape in slow motion does nothing to help because you don't perform in slow motion. As for the "close the eyes and pretend you cant see the move", you have to work on that because working around it will lead to bigger problems like blinking at odd moments in a performance for no reason.


Juliegel
George Ledo
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Quote:
On 2008-07-18 06:57, Juliegel wrote:
Playing the tape in slow motion does nothing to help because you don't perform in slow motion.

Sorry, but I don't agree with that. Back when I was doing the split fans (around 1970), I filmed myself on Super 8 and played it back slowly on an editing machine. Watching what it really looked like -- which was not what I thought it looked like -- helped me come up with a variation that I ended up using from that point on.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
www.georgefledo.net

Latest column: "Sorry about the photos in my posts here"
Juliegel
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Well I can see that working in that since but I feel that becoming to dependent on a camera could lead to problems like blinking.
Aaron Little
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A webcam on a notebook computer seems to be the best of both worlds. You can see your performance real time just like a mirror and it can be recorded to your harddrive just like a video camera.

My notebook actually has a webcam built in.
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