Being Sunk by a (False) Transfer

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.

Postby Dustin Stinett » 01/25/11 03:19 PM

I started this thread because I didnt want the original question to be lost, but something Jonathan Townsend wrote in it piqued my curiosity:

Jonathan Townsend wrote:Put, take or toss; if they notice the transfer you're sunk.


Im not quite following you, JT. Are you talking about a poorly executed transfer (thus someone noticing that something fishy happened), an unmotivated transfer, or something else?

Thanks,
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Postby Ian Kendall » 01/25/11 03:35 PM

I feel that the overwhelming problem with most false transfer techniques is that they are a million miles from what would be described as 'natural'. Retention of vision moves are the worst for this - it's almost as if you are screaming 'I'm doing a move - try to catch me'

The bottom line is that you are merely placing an object into your hand - a completely inconsequential action that deserves no extra attention at all. In fact, once you draw attention to what you are doing you are inviting all the negative connotations that we try to avoid.

Larry Haas made a wonderful analogy in MUM a couple of months ago, talking about looking out onto a still lake, and then someone throws a rock into the water which causes disturbing ripples that are impossible to ignore. The average false transfer makes _huge_ ripples.

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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/25/11 03:46 PM

I was thinking back to Hugard's report on Ramsay, that he just held up a coin and it vanished.

IMHO the transfer action is entirely a matter of context - and must happen below audience interest lest the audience backtrack. I suspect a take can more easly integrate with a flow of action (avoids body turns, arm crossings etc) yet there are circumstances a put is more congruent than a take, say when you are placing additional items into your other hand.

I sincerely hope Miller (or any of our past elder/wiser) would not offer a univeral opinion on such a matter - unless in Swiftian humor.
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Reason: interest is not the same as attention. It's important that the follow the action, not that they feel any need to question it. ;)
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Postby erdnasephile » 01/25/11 04:03 PM

Part of the problem is that we don't often transfer things from hand to hand in real life--we usually use the "correct" hand in the first place. (Michael Close and John Mendoza have written on this previously)

As Michael notes, one exception is when we have made a mistake. Juan Tamariz takes advantage of this idea with his Crossing the Gaze strategem.

We also do this when we are counting a handful of objects and when we are taking a shower and passing the soap from hand to hand.

Another situation I thought of was when we pick up something very hot, which I suppose is a cousin of the first exception.

With respect to Ian, I do think the action doesn't necessarily have to be absolutely natural to be rather convincing. The best example I can think of is Bob White's false transfer on his Cups and Balls DVD. His facility with the move is unearthly and despite knowing exactly what was going on, I kept getting fooled by it (so I adopted the techinque :) )

I do agree, though, that it is most effective as an "in transit", motivated action. (Although JIS notes that if you are planning to use a bunch of them in a routine, you need to use canceling methodolgy to cover your tracks).
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Postby Tom Stone » 01/25/11 04:08 PM

I'd read the June 2009 issue of Genii. ;)
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 01/25/11 04:15 PM

Well, for meand like JTits all about context. There has to be a reason to transfer the coin from one hand to another.

Ian, while I agree with your assessment of most retention vanishes, its apparent you never saw Dai Vernon vanish a coin. He put the coin in his hand. It disappeared. I knew exactly what he was doing. But my eyes saw that he was, without any doubt, putting the coin in his other hand. And then it disappeared. It remains the most remarkable vanish of a coin I have ever witnessed (and Ive seen a few). So I guess the point is that its not the sleight, but its execution. (And I can still hear his voice saying, Its not a move. You just put the coin in your hand. And thats what he did. Though I tried, I could never duplicate it.)

Thanks guys!
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 01/25/11 04:32 PM

People don't behave logically, or to some universal definition of "naturally," most or all of the time. Picking a coin up with one hand and putting it in the other is not something that draws attention to itself unless you do it in a suspicious manner or you feel guilty.

It's really helpful to be able to pick something up with the hand that's holding out immediately after the "put." A wand, a pen, a card, a voodoo doll--whatever.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/25/11 04:59 PM

IMHO there's some timing and pacing involved in the "let me get my woofle dust" for that strategy to work as congruent to ones character. It seemed too easy to get into character as easily distracted or forgetful which almost worked until the proximity of any magical revelations aroused audience suspicion. That's my experience in the matter anyway.

Following some sage advice given long ago I set up an exercise to find out just how I transfer an object from hand to hand in the context of needing the hand holding the first object to acquire another object. It took a bit to overcome the studied and awkward habits from book-learning and then many repetitions before I could do this natural action while studying it - much less with a mirror nearby to watch myself from audience view.

What I wound up with was something that I can't really call a put or a take so much as having the hands close near one's center for an instant where one hand grasps the object while the other swings first slightly toward then out and away from the other hand to acquire the thing that you're already put as your focus of interest. That has the focus of interest shifting before any action takes place.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 01/25/11 07:24 PM

I think to illustrate my point of context or reason, Ill just use Al Goshman. To Richards point, theres nothing logical about making coins disappear and reappear under a saltshaker. But it made perfect sense for him to pick up the coin on his right and throw it into his left hand so the girl seated on his left could say, Go. Of course, everyone in the roomoften myself includedsaw that coin travel from hand to hand.

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Postby Max Maven » 01/25/11 07:34 PM

Gene Matsuura has delivered a talk about Slydini, entitled "Better Than Natural" -- a brilliant discussion of this issue. Although he has only delivered the talk three times, fortunately the third (and, thus far, best) one was done last year in Portugal at the first EMC gathering, hence it can be viewed by those who "attended" that on-line virtual convention. And, I believe that it is still possible to buy a registration for that.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/26/11 09:15 AM

Thanks Max,

For those who are up watching the EMC videos, he was a speaker early on in session seven.
It was a treat to see him. It's an interesting talk. So strange to see him assume "the position" at the table and then get into manerisms which I saw in NYC years ago when Slydini visited the Saturday afternoon gathering or when J. P. Laramee did some of that material at his place - also decades ago.

There's some implied yet unstated legitimate hypotheses in psychology to explore (perhaps Wiseman et al might) where a point of attention to a person is weighted more strongly attractive to attention than a point of attention to a place where a thing is not found.

Gene's advice about studying ones own actions and finding places to direct a focus of attention are sensible. I wonder what it looks like when he uses these strategies in his own magic.

Does he (Gene) do a version of the Cylinder and coins? Asking as that's a challenge to manage several coin vanishes in a way that looks magical rather than "clever" or "good hiding".

Getting back to transfers, false or otherwise, IMHO they are usually supposed to be the least important action/item for consideration at the moment, at least for those who wish to clearly distinguish their mundane actions from those they use to effect their simulated magic.
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Postby Russell Davis » 01/26/11 12:11 PM

How about this clunky rewrite? "If they don't notice where the object however briefly IS, its magical disappearance is sunk. If they SEE the object actually in the receiving hand, even briefly, then the small ripples (putting vs. taking, other not-perfectly-natural hand motions) quietly flatten away."

In defense of a sufficiently natural visual-retention pass for the purpose of an eventual disappearance (not a shuttle pass for the purpose of an exchange), it has the useful effect of calling strong attention to the inarguable, although temporary, presence of the item actually visibly THERE in its new location the other hand. It is most like actually having the object there IN that other hand (as in most lap, pull, or topit work, or, c'mon, play), and makes the item's revealed absence more magical than a non-v-r pass.

Naturalness is overrated. It's just one element of the art(ifice) of magic.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/26/11 12:33 PM

Russell, I sincerely doubt we need to discuss whether the audience needs to feel certain about where the objects in question are in context of the performance.

It may strike you as odd that someone who does a fairly competent and convincing retention pass, and having more than two such sleights in print, would argue against drawing attention to the action of placing a thing when congruent context does not make that action self evidently ordinary, as when carefully adding a coin to a collection of objects already in hand.

Out of simple respect for our audiences I feel it appropriate to give them credit enough to know when we contrive to seemingly convince. To presume that by simple experience they know when we could as well have simply picked up the item with that hand instead of performing some awkward action. They know. Why do some here insist on pretending not to know?

By way of contrast I'd like to point you and the group to Al Schneider's Coins Across where he starts by making a fist of one hand, and keeping that hand in place as he brings the coins over to the top of that fist, sets them down and watches them sink in. That, IMHO, is a motivated placement procedure.

As a means to help avoid doing much of what is shown, taught and poorly imitated outside of its natural context I would encourage folks to install a small sound clip to play whenever you catch yourself (or are looked at by others innocent eyes as doing something awkward ) in an awkward position. From the song by Madonna - the phrase Strike a Pose. That will likely serve as both reminder and an amusing way to shift into director's mode and ask whether the action and it's presence in context of the routine actually adds as far as the audience is concerned.

Don't just stand there, let's get to it
Strike a pose, there's nothing to it

Vogue, vogue
Vogue, vogue


With a nod to the other divine ms. M,

-J
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/26/11 02:55 PM

Tom Stone wrote:I'd read the June 2009 issue of Genii. ;)


Hi Tom,

Turning to your article on page 33 (volume 72 page 561) I wonder what would happen if instead of just turning to the volunteer you waited for them to respond then turned for a half beat to the audience then did your sleight.

On the physiology side, I can assure you that it is often easier to catch someone using sleight of hand by way of peripheral vision than in narrow sharp-focus vision. Also while saccades are of interest when it comes to a single person's vision in a controlled environment they are not likely so helpful with larger audiences as eyes wander all over the place all the time to check the door, curtains, assistants, clock... However they did play an interesting role in a scene in Peter Watts' story Blindsight where a creature became effectively invisible by staying out of where the person was looking since it could see the electrical activity in their visual cortex.

I feel we are well advised to treat attention as a creature which has a narrow focus of awareness - though not so sure a simplistic visual approach is going to be most useful in the long term. IMHO something which engages by way of pacing and then leading is more likely to permit backstage mechanics to happen more easily than overt distraction by way of appearing unfocused, having things out of place or otherwise contrived in a way which might not survive a second viewing.

I guess the basic question about false transfers is the magician's equivalent to 'why did the chicken cross the road'. The best answer may well be that to the chicken there is no road and that it saw something it wanted over there.
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Postby Russell Davis » 01/26/11 03:27 PM

Maybe I was a bit off-topic. Okay, to address the false transfer action itself: motivating it is of course very important to help the audience accept it, or better, ignore it. My experience is that many magicians don't motivate the transfer nearly early enough for the audience to anticipate, and in a small way even be relieved by, the upcoming (false) transfer.

In the case of Schneider's pop-up move, I think a case can be made that it IS executed mainly to demonstrate its powerful visual retention aspect, a quality that trumps using an artificially static fist for a coin receptacle. Not sure of any other motivation until I check the video again.

Thanks for the sound clip reference. Sure, posing as your own director is useful until you get an actual one. Use a mirror too.

I gather Madonna is an artist. She doesn't affect artistic attitudes?

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Postby Ian Kendall » 01/26/11 04:30 PM

I'm fresh off the plane and a bit woozy, but Dustin, I think you misunderstood me. If Vernon said

And I can still hear his voice saying, Its not a move. You just put the coin in your hand.

Then I agree with that wholeheartedly. It's what I've been saying for ages. What I have an issue with, however, is the studied and extravagant closing of the fingers over the coin. Making it, if you will, a move.

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Postby Dustin Stinett » 01/27/11 01:29 AM

Ian Kendall wrote:Retention of vision moves are the worst for this - it's almost as if you are screaming 'I'm doing a move - try to catch me'

I was reacting to this statement, but I certainly can agree with your clarification. So we can agree that the issue is not retention sleights per se, but their poor execuation. Even if technically done well, they can be done in a way that they scream "move" and that's bad. (The same can be said of many sleights, of course.)

And I'm pretty much always woozy, but that's another story. ;)

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Postby Ian Kendall » 01/27/11 05:42 AM

I believe there is a big difference between a 'false transfer', where something is apparantly just placed into the hand and a 'retention of vision' vanish, where all attention is placed on the action with bizarre finger actions. I've never seen an example of the latter that didn't look exactly like what it was.

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Postby Dustin Stinett » 01/27/11 12:08 PM

The technique used by Vernon is a "retention of vision" vanish.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 01/27/11 12:09 PM

And it's published in Greater Magic.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/27/11 01:31 PM

Would that be Crawford's Elusive Coin Pass?

I wish folks would use word "illusive" for the retention/persistance of vision stuff. :)

One can get what Roth called a 'burn' on almost any transfer by timing the closing up from view action in the recieving hand to coincide with the instant the giving hand starts to make the coin retreat from view.

BTW, Fred Kaps used Chapender's drop vanish and got quite the illusion of a coin being dropped/tossed from the fingers of the hand that's swinging downward toward the other hand which waits then seems to catch the coin. It's demonstrated in his Coins video.
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Postby Ted M » 01/27/11 01:41 PM

Greater Magic references so we can all follow along:

1. A Coin Vanish, Dai Vernon (retention/persistence of vision), p. 666
2. The Chapender Vanish ("illusive"), p. 667
3. The Illusive Coin Pass (T.J. Crawford section), p. 717
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/27/11 02:36 PM

Thanks Ted,

For those who don't have a copy of Greater Magic on hand, the Crawford and Vernon passes can be found early on in Bobo's Modern Coin Magic, though the Vernon pass is titled "A Coin Vanish".
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Postby Jim Maloney » 01/27/11 02:55 PM

Also, as a reference (and as a historical note), check out Downs' "The Art of Magic", in which he states at the beginning of Chapter 12:

"We cannot do a greater service to the reader than to open this chapter with a description of one of the most illusive coin passes in the whole range of coin conjuring. We can not claim that this pass is original, or even new; but it is not generally known to the profession. The sleight was a favorite of Harry Stork, and it is a specialty of an esteemed correspondent, Mr. T.J. Crawford."
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Postby Curtis Kam » 01/27/11 05:11 PM

I'm with Mr. Davis of the previous page. Naturalness is not a goal in itself, it's just a means to an end. The Crawford Illusive pass is another way to skin the same cat.

It is certainly possible to convince an audience that a coin is in your (say) left hand by: 1)arranging things so that the coin is naturally in your right hand, 2) finding a logical (and apparent to all) reason to transfer that coin to your left hand, and 3) performing a false transfer that accurately simulates reality. Having done all that, the audience will probably believe that the coin is in the left hand.

Experience also shows that seeing is believing. And if the audience sees the coin in your left hand, they will believe it's there.

The first example works because by acting naturally, your actions fade into the background, allowing the spectators' minds to "fill in the blanks". They convince themselves that the transfer happened. In other words, naturalness deflects suspicion.

But here's the rub--there are times when naturalness alone is insuffficient to deflect suspicion. Generally, this occurs right after the first coin has disappeared. If your routine calls for another to vanish, your every move is suspicious, regardless of how natural you are.

Erdnase recommended that the advantage player should blend in with the crowd, and at the first hint of suspicion, he should retire. Good advice for a crooked gambler, but an entertainer can't stop the show as soon as people start to watch him closely.

The Crawford retention pass is one way to go in such circumstances. The Professor seemed to think so; see his sequential illusive passes in his "Five Coins and Glass".

I've performed that sequence for lay audiences, have heard people wonder aloud, "Where are they going?". Further, I have been foolish enough to perform coin vanishes for gangs of small children. Naturalness is useless in that context, but show them a good retention vanish, and their first suspicion is your sleeves or your pockets, and not the other hand.

There's much more to say about this, but most of it has already been put forth by Jean Hugard, and Whit Hayden.

I should add that IMHO, the best retention vanish is one that relies upon principles of naturalness to create the convincing illusion of the coin being tossed into the left hand, even though the coin never gets close. Often referred to (in this thread, I believe) as the Goshman toss vanish, you can find an early version described in Bobo's Modern Coin Magic and attributed to Milt Kort. (See "The Magnet")
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Postby Leonard Hevia » 03/01/11 07:05 PM

How was Hugard, a man of great knowledge and experience sunk by John Ramsay's false transfer? John Carney recounts this story in his introduction to Carneycopia. When Vernon asked Hugard about the method of Ramsay's coin vanishes, Hugard's response was to simply say that the coins just vanished from his fingers. Not even a theory on his part.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 03/01/11 07:27 PM

Leonard Hevia wrote:How was Hugard, a man of great knowledge and experience sunk by John Ramsay's false transfer? ...


Believe it or not you still have the chance to discuss this with his student, Andrew Galloway. Also if you can get to Bobby Bernard and David Berglass they recall the man. Much to learn if you watch and listen as they recall. Howie Schawarzman also met the guy and saw him do some magic. Another resource for insight and good advice.

If you carefully read the Genii article and watch the video clip that came with that issue you can see for yourself. There are other clues in print about the "how" of his demeanor. From there it's between you and when you need to announce the magic. ;)
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 03/01/11 07:28 PM

Leonard Hevia wrote:How was Hugard, a man of great knowledge and experience sunk by John Ramsay's false transfer? John Carney recounts this story in his introduction to Carneycopia. When Vernon asked Hugard about the method of Ramsay's coin vanishes, Hugard's response was to simply say that the coins just vanished from his fingers. Not even a theory on his part.


I feel the same way when I see Mickey Silver vanish a coin. Just because I know it's in the other hand doesn't mean I know how the hell it stayed there.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 03/02/11 01:45 PM

Picking up from Leonard's post about hiding rather than spotlighting sleights and going from page xxv in Carney's book to item 4 on page xxvii we find a dictum: "Execute the sleight in a non-demonstrative manner." and come to a crucial choice in the matter. The sleight or the magic.

So is it really all about the stool, and we just turn up the music so we don't notice folks flinch when that ratchet clicks?

Robert-Houdin made a choice about pandering to awkward habituated preconceptions among magicians. Maybe it's time to admit that the shoe fits but we don't have to wear those shoes anymore?
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Postby Leonard Hevia » 03/02/11 08:56 PM

The magic. I'd rather not annoy Mr. Galloway. I think I'll watch that Ramsay DVD film of his Cylinder and Coins again from that issue of Genii.

Carney gives us his answer on the same page. It was all in Ramsay's deportment; his timing, eye contact, attitude, and gestures. Fom my perspective, the line was drawn in the sand long ago. What is more desirable: non-demonstrative false transfers, like Ramsay's, or retention of vision style vanishes?

...I like them both. Vernon did too.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 03/02/11 10:15 PM

Vernon's vanish "sunk" me too. And he was teaching it to me and a friend! We knew exactly what he was doing, but it still fooled the eyes and the brain. An awesome memory I will always treasure.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 03/03/11 09:20 AM

If you noticed the transfer you knew both the what and the when of the method, just perhaps not the precise mechanics of the how - the magical effect being long lost or 'sunk'. One could argue that it's more useful not to get gasps of admiration over the illusion offered by one's transfer but instead to get the trick moving.

How are you doing on getting your necessary false transfers to escape notice and subsequent backtracking?
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Postby Leonard Hevia » 03/19/11 01:19 PM

Hi Dustin--I assume in your last post that you witnessed Vernon's Retention of Vision Vanish. I envy you. Do you know if Vernon performs the RoV Vanish in the Revelations videos when he performs the "Coins to Glass"? I know that this is the vanish described for the "Coins to Glass" in Volume 1 of the Vernon Chronicles.

Your point is clear. When you witness a perfectly executed RoV Vanish, you know that the coin is still in the other hand, but you wonder how.

Jonathan, you are exactly right, if the false transfer is noticed, I refer to the casual false transer--not the RoV, it may not be convincing enough to your audience. It is absolutely imperative to keep the routine moving after a false transfer to prevent backtracking. The illusion of the casual FT is too paper-thin to stand on its own.

To answer that question Jonathan, I try to follow the Ramsay precepts that Carney outlined in Carneycopia. Ramsay's strategy to get his FTs unnoticed worked against Hugard for Gods sakes.

I recently studied the Ramsay Coins and Cylinder film and I have to say that he does it well, but without sound, it almost looks surreal and hard to follow. Did that man ever wash his hands? His hands looked like he just finished working on his garden or changed the oil on his car.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 03/19/11 11:37 PM

Leonard Hevia wrote:Hi Dustin--I assume in your last post that you witnessed Vernon's Retention of Vision Vanish.

Yes, Several times. He even attempted to teach it to a friend and me.

Leonard Hevia wrote:Do you know if Vernon performs the RoV Vanish in the Revelations videos when he performs the "Coins to Glass"?

I honestly dont recall and I do not have those videos any longer. I suspect that he does, but cant say for certain.

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Postby Leonard Hevia » 03/21/11 06:49 PM

Thanks Dustin. I guess at some point I will snag that Revelations DVD where Vernon does the "Coins to Glass".

It's interesting that Vernon recommended the breaking of the wrist for this vanish, yet David Roth doesn't advocate that.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 03/21/11 07:15 PM

Ask Mickey Silver about the vanish.

About the only person I've ever seen who does not sink when doing a contrived and what feels as if it were an in-center-of-attention false transfer.
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Postby Leonard Hevia » 03/22/11 05:44 PM

I thought Silver was going to release a DVD tutorial on his RoV technique.

Isn't the RoV a center-of-attention false transfer? Aren't you supposed to burn the image of the coin on the spectator's eyes after the hand close over it?

I've seen excellent RoV vanishes from other close-up magicians like the New York Coin Magic Seminar gang, Curtis Kam and Larry Barnowski.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 03/23/11 09:22 AM

There's been a few announcements but none from Mickey himself about teaching his high fingerpalm transfers.

The RoV is a visual artifact created by timing the closing off of view with the start of a change in motion between the hands, either the putting hand starts to retract or the taking hand starts to move away, nothing to do with center of attention or visual focus.

I've been around retention based work from my start in coin magic in NYC and the "best" I've seen was when David Roth used my silver dollar and got a burn on a coin that was not quite all the way into his closed hand.

IMHO the studied placement is a tell. So far I've only seen Mickey get the "watch my hands and the coin" serve as more than a clever (and obvious) false transfer and directly/consistently yield method-as-magic reactions.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 03/23/11 11:00 AM

Jonathan Townsend wrote:IMHO the studied placement is a tell.

Which is why Vernon didn't do that.

Right now, pick up a coin, holding it with your right thumb and finger tips. Using a natural pace, put the coin in your left hand, and close it (not one finger at a time or any nonsense like that--just close your hand around the coin). That's what it looked like when Vernon did it. I can still hear his voice: "Just put in your hand."

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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 03/23/11 11:22 AM

Yes, that's the tell - the put.

Here's an exercise well worth doing and only takes about thirty seconds if you'll follow along:
Put a coin on the table in front of you to your right.
Put another object about a foot from the coin.
Ready and set - here we go:
Pick up the coin.
Pick up the other object.
What you just did is ... your answer to the real question.
It's thirty seconds later and now you know.

It was about a dozen tries before I could just pick up the objects and not notice the transfer - much less do something all 'magiciany' - and another several tries before I could watch myself do the actions without interfering and still another several tries in front of a mirror before I could watch the actions directly without interfering.
Last edited by Jonathan Townsend on 03/23/11 11:28 AM, edited 0 times in total.
Reason: learning is not always as easy as we imagine watching
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