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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Ever so sleightly » » The evolution of balls for Cups & Balls (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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fortasse
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Why do you think it is that the standard-size ball for Cups & Balls today is a whole lot bigger than the balls that were used in the old days? And why are they generally quieter now (with the crocheted covers that are now the norm)? And why has red become the most popular colour instead of the tan-coloured or flame-blackened cork that was the standard in ages past?

As for the balls being BIGGER, is it perhaps because the cups have gotten bigger, so that the relative proportions have had to be adjusted accordingly, resulting in larger balls? Or is it perhaps because most ball-handling techniques today only require that one ball (occasionally two) be secreted in the hand at one time whereas in the old days (according to several of the old books) three, sometimes even four or more balls would often be secreted in one hand at the same time – clearly difficult to do with one-inch balls!

As to why balls are generally made to be QUIETER now, is it perhaps because the close-up performance of Cups & Balls is now more the norm than before, and the closer you are the quieter you have to be (OK, that one may be a bit of a stretch!).

And finally, the COLOUR of the balls. Why has red become the most popular colour? Is it because most table tops or pads tend to be black, making black balls unsuitable for contrast? Or is it perhaps because black clothing has become more the norm for the modern magician, again, making black balls unsuitable for contrast.

What do you think? Why are the balls today generally bigger, quieter and more brightly coloured than in the past?

Fortasse
HerbLarry
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Good questions and your theories are in line with mine.
You know why don't act naive.
Donnie Buckley
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Intriguing questions Fortasse!
I can tell you that I advocate brighter colored balls because they look larger and are more visible at greater distances - which are both theatrical reasons. So, it may be simply that the performance is more theater today than it has been in the past.
Along that same line of thought, a performance of the cups and balls from 200 years ago was perhaps more of a "task of labor". Santitary conditions being considerably less than they are today, it may be that the performer just used balls that blackened over time and new balls had to be blackened so they matched older balls.
I would guess that the brighter, bigger, quieter balls used in today's performances are simply a by-product of higher budgets, running water, and good sanitation in our modern world, allowing the modern performer the luxury of using even white balls if he wishes. Combined with an evolution of the cups and balls towards a theatrical performance, and away from a short con, the quality of the props have improved.
As to why they are predominantly red today though is another matter. I think it's because red balls just became the default color to include with inexpensive cups. The manufacturers only made balls in one color and chose red because all the other guys were doing it. Somewhere down the line, someone must have established the standard and everyone else followed.

Of course, I'm only guessing. I'm far from an historical expert on the subject.
Learn the form, but seek the formless. Learn it all, then forget it all. Learn the way, then find your own way. Rings-N-Things
Etienne M.
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Maybe a bit off topic but the most used color in spongeball routines also is red.
The first set of sponges I bought were also red.

Etienne
"Imagination is more important than knowledge"

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fortasse
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Fascinating responses so far! The thing that intrigues me about red balls is that they really know how to "flash" (bearing in mind that this is an open forum here) so you would think that performers would want to steer clear of them and gravitate instead to darker, duller colours, black being the best for this purpose because at speed, it comes across as natural shadow and thus greatly reduces the risk of getting caught out. Then again, red has more visual oompf and that may compensate for the added risk.

Fortasse
Josh the Superfluous
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Where do you get your history? The C&B museum has a section on balls. Maybe you should start there.
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dcjames
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Very interesting thoughts and questions Fortasse.

Perhaps the balls are larger to maintain the appropriate scale with the larger cups that have grown so popular in the past decades. Of course, with larger cups, and larger working balls, and bigger final loads are required... Could it be that, as Donnie pointed out, these larger props are a result of a more theatrical based entertainment today vs. the routines of so long ago? Or perhaps the increased size is based on the fact that people typically grow taller and have larger hands now than hundreds of years ago due to better nutrition, etc.

The question of why red is used so predominantly for C&B balls is quite interesting... Many children's toys, warning lights, signs, fire engines, etc. are red. Why? Red commands attention. It is one of the most naturally visible colors when seen in daylight, and is often used in advertising for this very reason. Perhaps this high visibility is why red was selected by so many ball manufacturers? (And also why it is so prone to flashing.) Many color theorists also state that red over any other color creates a physiological response in the viewer. Increases in pulse rate, blood pressure, and overall excitement are all reputed to be associated with the color red.

As you suggested, perhaps the advent of the crochet covered ball was to allow the performer to work much closer to his audience without fear of the tell that can occur when a ball is added to a metal cup. Does anyone know when crochet balls were first made for magical purposes? The '50's perhaps?
“Magic is very easy to do - poorly.”

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Keith Mitchell
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They did not have Magic Café 200 or 2000 years ago, therefore they had it hard when we have it so easy!
Tilman
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Hello Fortasse,

It's not exactly the same set of questions, but some of the questions you asked were adressed in an older thread - with some very valuable input that only Bill Palmer could give. It also reminds us of how long he has been teasing us with an English translation of the Joro book... Smile

http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewt......&start=0

Kind regards,
Tilman
fortasse
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Tilman : what a fascinating thread! Thanks for sharing it.
Fortasse
Larry Barnowsky
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I use 1 inch crocheted balls that are off white in color. I think they show up better from a distance than the red. Up to 10% of the male population that is red green color blind may not find see the red ball as something that stands out brightly as normal individuals see it.
djkuttdecks
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The balls are red for the same reason every ones first vanishing silk was red.
Donnie Buckley
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I would additionally assume that while most current performers of cups and balls are not surrounded, that was not true in the past. Wood cuttings of cups and balls performers of the middle ages are working surrounded on the street. Flashing a ball would be a concern so a darker ball, or a cork ball would probably be preferred in those situations.

If indeed the street performers of the middle ages were hustling the crowd with a rigged game then we can imagine the routine was more like a shell game presentation of today and getting busted with a ball in your hand would be big trouble.
Personally, I'd love to be able to get in my time machine and go back and witness what REALLY took place after the mountebank stood on his chair, blew his horn, gathered a crowd, and played a game of cups and balls.
Learn the form, but seek the formless. Learn it all, then forget it all. Learn the way, then find your own way. Rings-N-Things
Bill Palmer
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Quote:
On 2010-03-03 14:13, Larry Barnowsky wrote:
I use 1 inch crocheted balls that are off white in color. I think they show up better from a distance than the red. Up to 10% of the male population that is red green color blind may not find see the red ball as something that stands out brightly as normal individuals see it.


Red or Green will look like grey to a person who is red-green colorblind. However, yellow will still show up better against black for them.
"The Swatter"

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KirkG
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I think we perform in quieter venues today than back then. Enclosed carpeted homes, theaters and so forth. You no longer have the sounds of the street fair to cover the sounds of the balls in the cups.
Larry Barnowsky
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Bill,
You're right that yellow (as well as white) will show up better than red or green to a colorblind person because more light is reflected back to the eye. Red-green colorblind individuals don't see red or green as gray. People with the rare achromatopsia see no color. Red-green colorblind people can distinguish a gray object from a red or green one. They just can't easily identify a red object as red. For example a red ball sitting in green grass is easily seen by people with normal vision. It's much harder for them to pick it out. Red green colorblind people either have a defect or absence of the medium wavelength cones (green) in their retina. Most of these folks can see red if it is a bright red or bright Kelly green when in strong light. Once the red colors get muted toward pink or the green colors get lighter they have trouble seeing them as a specific color.

Larry
Bill Palmer
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Yellow still gives the best contracst against black, though.
"The Swatter"

Founder of CODBAMMC

My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
fortasse
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Which colour ball do you think contrasts best with (1) silver or chrome cups; (2) brass cups; and (3) copper cups.

Fortasse
Pete Biro
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Tomorrow I will do the cups on a TV show and will ask the director which balls, red or white (that I bring) will show up best on the TV screens. I have red and white Mike Rogers's balls, white knit balls and white dull rubber no covering.
STAY TOONED... @ www.pete-biro.com
Richard Evans
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Quote:
On 2010-03-04 15:12, fortasse wrote:
Which colour ball do you think contrasts best with (1) silver or chrome cups; (2) brass cups; and (3) copper cups.

Fortasse


I think it depends on the colour of your clothes and working surface.
I have six locks on my door all in a row. When I go out, I only lock every other one. I figure no matter how long somebody stands there picking the locks, they are always locking three. Elayne Boosler
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