Newer videos vs. Older, More Mature Videos

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Postby Guest » 07/30/01 07:03 AM

There's been debate on what is the better way to go, books or videos. The general consensus is that there are good and bad sides to both. I won't list them because there is already a long thread of reasons.

So I want to take the initiative, and discuss aspects of videos. Mainly newer videos, which I like to think of as "AA" for After Ammar, for his Easy to Master Card Miracles series, and "BA" for Before Ammar.
I have found that the newer videos seem to be more exciting and bearable to watch than the ones filmed in the 80's.

Maybe it's the MTV generation and growing A.D.D. population whittling at my attention span through osmosis, but I've tried watching older videos, and I found a few of them tedious. I found myself fast forwarding through some of the performances because seeing the mechanics of a sleight is more enjoyable than their performances. To name a few, Brad Burt, Allan Ackerman , Darwin Ortiz, Rafael Benetar, Martin Nash & Dave Neighbors. (Maybe it's an A-1 Magic thing?) This isn't to say that these guys aren't talented, but I feel that the videos do not showcase their talents in a way that suits today's standards.

-Production levels are higher today because of technological developments, although Jay Sankey, Brian Tudor & Kenton Knepper have gone against the grain and used camcorders.

-Quality of the Material seems to be better on today's videos, but that could be deceiving because the material on older videos were not presented in a more entertaining fashion.

-Presentation of performers seem to be higher today because of guys like Jay Sankey, Greg Wilson, Lee Asher, Daryl and David Regal. Maybe because the use of video to teach was still a new medium, and that may have played a factor in older videos.

Does anyone else cringe when when an older video is being advertised on magicsmith? Or when an older video is re-released? I only know of Pat Page's and Alex DeCova's re-releases that have gotten praise. Does anyone have any thoughts on videos?
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Postby Doomo » 07/30/01 11:38 AM

Presentation in general is snappier and more vibrant. Even on the Sankey tapes there is Jay performing at a mile a minute. But in general, there is audience and lively audience at that. And a lot more editing. This I think is one of the chief differences. Previously tapes were served like big slabs of meat. There was probably a lot of material there, but whew! Now they are chopped up into bite sized chunks with plenty of shots of appreciative audience members applauding. Have you ever seen a tv show without its laff track? It is very strange. Are you familiar with Monty Python? If so then watch the movie " And now for something completely different". It is a compilation of the skits from the tv show but without the laff track. The feeling is quite different. People tend to need reinforcement to laugh. In other words company. Watch a funy movie by yourself. You might smile or chuckle but you will rarely laugh. Have the sound of friends laughing too, even in a darkened theater and you too tend to laugh. This same principle is used on videos.
RFA Productions yeah... It is cool stuff.

www.rfaproductions.com
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/30/01 11:46 AM

One of the big problems in making videos is money, and time, because time equals money, and you have very little of either in making a magic video.
When I set out to make videos, it was very important to me that the camera be in the best possible position to show what is happening at every moment. That means lots of editing. Editing is EXACTLY what A-1 video and its schockmeister Mike Maxwell is trying to avoid. He REFUSES to put the camera behind the performer for explanations. So, all you get is close-ups of the hands from the front, and the performer is left breaking his wrists, trying to show you what's going on from his point of view.
Editing creates interest in your brain. 10 minute, locked-down camera shots do not.
Using a home-quality video camera is less important to crafting an interesting, informative, and entertaining videotape than intelligent direction and editing.
It's no coincidence that the worst videotapes seem to come from A-1they are the tapes that have NO direction whatsoever and minimal editing.
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Postby Matthew Field » 07/30/01 12:14 PM

Editing is EXACTLY what A-1 video and its schockmeister Mike Maxwell is trying to avoid. He REFUSES to put the camera behind the performer for explanations. [/QB]


It's even worse than that, as you'll se in my September Genii reviews. Mike actually misses both the vital performance shot and the explanation shot in a new video.

I would not go so far as to call him a schlockmeister -- he has had the courage to put on video some serious sleight-of-hand magicians. As you know, Richard, that's not exactly the short path to the bank.

Editing, and re-shooting, are the keys. But, as you know, preparation (pre-production), lighting and knowing where to place the cameras are also vital. As I've said (in Genii, actually), folks seem to think shooting with a home camcorder prepares them for professional video direction, that they can just go out there and "wing it" with no real knowledge of TV direction, editing or the rest.

And we, the paying customers, actually accept this by our silence.

Matt Field

[ July 30, 2001: Message edited by: Matthew Field ]
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Postby Guest » 07/30/01 01:00 PM

I have always wondered why some of the mistakes on some of the videos were not edited out. On one of the A-1 All Star Tapes, Dave Neighbors does his version of the portable hole and calls it something like "pocket coins". During the performance you can see him doing the kick move twice and actually see the coin slide under the pocket.

If I were ever put into a position where my creations were going to be on tape for all to see, it would be shot and edited to my satisfaction. Some people settle for "good enough".
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Postby Guest » 07/30/01 01:42 PM

As a 'child'(?) of the 'print' era may I ask a very simple question!....Is it cheaper to produce and market a Video than a properly printed Book?
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/30/01 01:47 PM

Wallace, the way most magic videotapes are made, it takes EXACTLY one day to shoot a videotape and one day to edit it.
Compare that to the MONTHS it takes to write a book, and the MONTHS it takes to illustrate a book.
The cost of producing a videotape is less than half the cost of producing a book, and it takes 1/100 of the time.
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Postby Ray Banks » 07/31/01 10:11 AM

I only have a couple of videos and while they offered me the proper amount of information both of them were poorly produced.

Caveat: I work in television and video and have taught television production at a major university.

In today's world it should be impossible to produce a bad video. The equipment is just too good and with the software available for even home computers, almost anyone can edit a production well. I taught 6th, 7th and 8th graders to edit a production in six weeks!

So the questions is --"How would you shoot a magic instructional tape?"

Well--since you asked. Let's use a card effect as an example.

I would have two or three (depending on the effect) cameras each feeding a separate reorder. One would be a medium shot showing the magi and all of the manipulations required for the effect--the audience perspective. This lets you view the misdirection moves as well as the card moves and gives an overall view of the effect.

A second camera would be close up on the hands for the sleights while a third would be from behind on a side angle and also close up on the hands.

Show would go kind of like this:

Show the entire effect from the audience perspective. Next show the close-up of the sleights from all of the angles necessary to explain then run the first segment again to put it back into perspective.

Big time ramblings, I know. Also remember to seven P's which applies to both television production and magic:

"Prior Proper Production Prevents Piss-Poor Production (Performance)"


;)

[ July 31, 2001: Message edited by: Ray Banks ]
Pick a card....Any card....NO not THAT card..THIS one!

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Postby Steve Bryant » 08/03/01 01:21 AM

I'm not sure where to stick this, but, I just watched the TOM MULLICA PRESENTS ORIGINAL BASH FOOTAGE video and it is easily one of my all time favorites. Tom and Jeff Hobson (quite funny throughout) introduce each of the following, who presents a feature effect. See the following, 20 years ago (recorded at the Tomfoolery during Tom's annual parties or bashes, '79-'85) with big hair and big lapels. A few times I was badly fooled, and I laughed often. Great stuff from Jim Ryan (joke at this point), Roger Klause, Paul Gertner, Tom Mullica, Jon Racherbaumer (presenting a Hofzinser card to Doty), Doty, Larry Jennings, Dan Garrett, Tim Conover (doing magic), Gordon Miller, Jim Ryan, Ed Eckel, Phil Willmarth, Bob Carver, Paul Diamond, Glenn Haywood, Richard Kaufman, Gene Anderson, Bob Lewis, Bob Elliott, David Solomon, Howie Schwarzman, Neil Foster, Jay Marshall, and Tom back with his rabbit, Duke.
Altogether 1 hour 35 minutes of some really classic performances.
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Postby Matthew Field » 08/03/01 09:31 AM

Steve Bryant's post about the Tom Mullica "Tomfoolery" video raises an interesting question which I'll post as a new topis here.

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Postby Jeff Pierce Magic » 08/30/01 09:54 PM

In a post by Ray Banks he states...

"In today's world it should be impossible to produce a bad video. The equipment is just too good and with the software available for even home computers, almost anyone can edit a production well. I taught 6th, 7th and 8th graders to edit a production in six weeks!"

Ray, I have to disagree with this statement. This is the exact reason for so many poor videos. If you have never driven a car before and you buy a Porsche, are you going to enter the Grand Prix or even drive it off the lot? I think not. Not without training, practice and experience can someone consistantly produce top notch videos.

I'll say this again, "You get what you pay for." I feel that if just alittle more time and effort was devoted to each phase (pre-production, shooting, editing and post-production), yes they would cost the magician more upfront, but the benefits will come on the back end by a longer period of sales.

BTW, The school children had the advantage of being taught by you and I suspect that you have the knowledge needed to do so.

Jeff
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www.jeffpiercemagic.com
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Postby Andy Hurst » 08/31/01 07:11 PM

I'll say this again, "You get what you pay for." [/QB]


Sadly with magic videos that isn't the case. You get what you get.

There are some excellent videos, with great production quality and well explained effects that retail for $25 or so.

Then there's videos that cost $35 and not only have some of the worst thought out and impractical nonsense on them (magically speaking), they were shot with some home camcorder in a bedroom with a sheet hung up behind the performer, with the wrong lighting and stuffed animals popping up all over the place.

I dont mind paying $20 for something like a Sankey video for example. It might not be the highest production quality, but it's not dreadful either, and I'm probably going to learn some good magic (and have a giggle along the way). I also dont mind paying $35+ for a video that has great effects AND good production quality.

But I do object to paying $35+ for something that's been thrown together for the profit of the performer only, or something that is well produced but the magic is lame.

Bottom line: It's buyer beware. This is the world of magic - you don't necessarily get what you pay for, you often get a lot less.

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Postby Chris Bailey » 09/24/01 01:03 PM

The Ammar videos set a new standard and MagicSmith is following it as well as a few others. But if a video isn't the greatest but has good stuff in it I don't necessarily mind. Jay Sankey comes to mind. I always laugh and come away with good material. I'm a die-hard book man though and I REALLY want to see his stuff in print. Tapes have a shelf life of about 7 years I think before the qualityu starts to deteriorate. DVD of course is a much welcomed alternative but there's something about a book on my shelf that comforts me.
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