Mindfreak I and II

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.

Postby MaxNY » 07/21/05 08:08 AM

Hey the ring and the ice-cube was cool!! If it was real-time, than it was brilliant. If there was a waitress disruption, that now lives in the CRF (Cutting Room Floor) than it was still very effective.
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Postby Ryan Matney » 07/21/05 08:30 AM

I'd be very curious to see Angel live. What are his live shows like?
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Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 07/21/05 08:34 AM

I'm not sure what he's done live since his show in the WWE building in NYC a few years ago. Here's a review from Brian Wendell Morton:

http://www.liesofbrian.com/ARTICLES/angel.html

-Jim
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Postby Ryan Matney » 07/21/05 08:40 AM

I have a great idea for a magic special that is the answer to this type of magic. I'm trying to sell my idea to CBS.
"Magic for Senior Citizens" No flashes, no loud music or hot girls to give them a coronary thrombosis. It's just me, a table, 3 spectators and nothing but self-working card tricks.
60 minutes of me giving directions and never touching the deck. I've asked Karl Fulves to consult.
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Postby MaxNY » 07/21/05 08:42 AM

Remember when a Henning special would air, then the next day evryone would be doing "The Sands of The Nile", or "Needle Thru a Balloon" ? I wonder if magic shops are getting calls today for, "That Voodoo" trick? "You know the one where people like hurt if you burn the cuff off the doll?
---Criss used to put together a spook show at Madison Square Garden, called Madison Scare Garden. I have seen him entertain people outside of his old WW theatre, and people were really digging his stuff.
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Postby Steve Bryant » 07/21/05 09:02 AM

Ryan, there are excerpts from Criss's live show in his previously shown tv specials (which I think are available). I never got to see them live, but the look and feel were awesome. Lots of strange little creatures skittering about the place.

I enjoyed the shows last night, but the burn was lame compared to the burn some guy does in Cirque du Soleil's O. In that, the guy is totally on fire, nonchalantly reading a newspaper that is also on fire. It's one of the most incredible parts of O. Ah, but the levitation of a girl on the street is a lovely bit of magic, one of the best things Criss does. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.
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Postby Brian Morton » 07/21/05 09:45 AM

Since my piece on Criss Angel's WWE show has been linked here, I won't elaborate on it (although it was a few years back, and I'll give him credit that anyone and everyone can improve).

That having been said, I don't have cable, so I haven't seen his show. However, on a private blog, some friends of mine (who are non-magician laypeople fans) made comments such as this about the Mindfreak show:

...We also watched a bit of Criss Angel: Mindfreak on A&E, since it came on after Inked, but I'm not impressed in the least.

...I don't know what it was about him, in particular, but he just irritated the crap out of me. That and I tend to be a mite cynical when it comes to magic and/or illusions being done on television. It all felt so scripted and ridiculous.

...my man had been psyched about criss angel so i joined him to watch....and sorry, but that one near the end when he did a "levitation" with a girl out on the street, you could SEE the fabric of her shirt bunching at the hips where the wires would be! harrrruuumph.

...I stopped watching after he flung himself in the pool to stop his arm from continuing to burn, during the practice for the "human candle" thing. He irritated me as a person and I wasn't impressed with seeing "illusion" on television. It loses all trace of amazement for me, because on television, damn near anything is possible.

These comments are from laypeople who are definitely magic fans.

Just noting.
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Postby Pete Biro » 07/21/05 10:45 AM

Leet's see what the real critics say, the ratings and the folks at A&E when they decide to do more with Criss.
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Postby Robert Allen » 07/21/05 10:50 AM

Sadly I can't view these shows since I don't have cable TV, but from the reviews it sounds like we've come to the crux of the dichotomy between "magician" and "entertainer". The reviews so far make it sound like people are distrustful of "magic" they see on TV, and some of them didn't find the show entertaining. If it had been just a straight magic show then the performer might have captured more of the audience. And if he had been highly entertaining then he would have captured more of the audience. But by straddling the middle ground he risks failing to satisfy either group enough to have a vocal fan base.

This isn't necessarily a new problem. Years ago, and decades ago, Doug Henning and later David Copperfield did true magic shows on TV. I never found them particularly "entertaining" but because they were *magic shows* I watched them and learned from them, and yes enjoyed them just a bit (though I enjoyed Worlds Greatest Magic which showcased various original acts more than the dedicated, 1 magician, evening shows.) Henning and Copperfield both became famous as *magicians*. And the shows were (or at least advertised as) broadcast "live" and without camera tricks. For better or worse you were going to see a magician do his thing on TV. What would you see? Maybe you'd see something go wrong "live". There was anticipation and excitement.

Now, with heavy staging, non-"live" shows which are heavily edited, and outright trick photography there's no mystery, no anticipation. You're going to see precisely what the producer wants you to see. You're watching a TV show. That someone like Chriss Angel is hanging from hooks or risking being burned means nothing because we know nothing really bad is going to happen on the show (if it did we'd be reading about it in the newspapers first.)

Strangely this is all a reflection on the medium, not (necessarily) the messenger. I doubt anyone could really entertain in the medium Chriss Angel is performing in. Though for me the whole "tattooed/goth" thing was done firstly and bestly by Alice Cooper about 25+ years ago. I don't see how anyone doing it now wouldn't be veiewed as a poseur by anyone in their 30's or older. It's a tough image to sell. I still like him better than Blaine though :) .
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Postby Pete Biro » 07/21/05 05:21 PM

Only moments ago I finished watching a tape I got from Ebay... of ORSON WELLES performing several illusions. Disembodied Princess, Aga, Lighbulb Cabinet... nothing ultra modern or anything we magicians have not seen before.

HOWEVER.... :genii:

To see Welles' direction, scripting and presentations... you were seeing real, compelling, attention holding MAGIC.

WOW! :cool:
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Postby Guest » 07/21/05 06:32 PM

Stooges, stooges, stooges, edit, stooges, eyeliner, edit, stooges.


anyone putting eyeliner on to try to look mysterious is trying too hard and in effect looking more ridiculous than mysterious.

whats the deal with the david blaine put down-completely unproffesional in my opnion.


Pete- great point about Orson Welles- now he was a master in the art of deception. Just his voice could conjure up demons.
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Postby NCMarsh » 07/21/05 06:33 PM

David Copperfield walks the walk and talks the talk. What you see on TV is what you get in person.
The nostalgia for Copperfield among those who are averse to T.V. "magic" is amusing...The Grand Canyon, anyone? "Flying" on the sidewalk outside of the theatre?

best,

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Postby Guest » 07/22/05 12:03 AM

I've got a question for you folks. I'm one of the editors on Mindfreak, and one of the things I've heard a lot of is people saying is that the tricks are all camera and editing effects. Let me start by stating flat out that I signed an NDA and simply can not get into specifics, so I apologize if I am a bit vague here.

Basically, I'm curious as to how you would approach your own TV special. That's not meant as a challenge, I genuinely would like to hear comments on how you think you'd present magic on TV.

As for our editing on the show, here are some overall approaches we took, why we took them, and I'm more than happy to listen to your comments, both pro and con. But I do hope this helps you understand why we do the things we do.

First off, I really thought having live, real people in the audience would be enough to tell the viewers at home that these are real tricks being performed. Do audience responses really not matter at all to you, the viewer?

One of the reasons we cut the effects down so much is that something can play brilliantly live and in person, but that pacing simply does not work on television. For example, I finally saw some of David Blaine's specials, and was bored out of my mind. I'm not harping on the guy, I just mean the pace of the show. It moved at a crawl. And slow shows mean people change the channel, and we have a lot of competition out there. Hundreds of cable channels vying for the same eyeballs, so if the show doesn't move fast and keep their attention, no amount of "unedited magic" will save it.

Second is a time factor. Figure 7-8 minutes/act. A single magic trick without editing could take half that time slot. Two tricks and you're on to a commercial break. Or, we can cut a trick down to 2-minutes, and let the live audience reveal that they've actually seen the same thing. Remember, this is a TV show, not a taping of a live performance.

Even then -- when Criss hung by fishhooks in Times Square for 6 hours -- the show wasn't 6 hours long! Why is it acceptable for that event to be shown in a time-compressed manner, and we expect the audience to believe the time has passed as stated, but time compression to cut a card trick shorter is seen as cheating?

And where do we draw the line? In an upcoming episode, Criss gives someone instructions on what to do with a deck of cards, then he walks away as the person follows his instructions. That's 30 seconds of explanation and 30 seconds of the person doing what they were told. We edited it down so that Criss walks away first, tells the person what to do from there and we see the spectator performing the actions at the same time (he says shuffle, we see them shuffle. He says cut, we see them cut). There's no cheating invovled, it's a matter of keeping the action moving. Is THAT "acceptable" to you?

Overall, I think we handled things as best we could. There will always be skeptics, and always be those who assume it's editing and camera trickery. I personally hoped the live audience would help allay those fears, but apparently I was wrong.

So what do you all recommend? Think of this as more of an intellectual conversation as opposed to changes we'll make to the show, because most of the episodes are already cut and there's no way we'd let something play out for 5-minutes anyway. Heh. But I am curious. Would you really go back to single shot, guy on a stage, 1960's television?
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Postby Ryan Matney » 07/22/05 01:12 AM

Hi Michael,

As I said above, I liked the show quite a bit. I thought it was the 'Blaine-style', for lack of a better term, but done by a much better performer with some personality.

I do get the attempt to be relevant to modern audiences. I thought most of the editing was pretty good. I do agree with Jim that repeating the same effect several times takes away a bit from the impact but I have no idea how you would change that or present it differently.

I think what most of the people here had a problem with was the effects that obvious require an edit to look as good as they do. Personally, if I had a tv show, I'd want to look as good as I could possibly look by hook, crook, or jump cut. But I do know a lot of that can't be duplicated exactly in live performance.
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Postby Guest » 07/22/05 01:51 AM

Michael,
Congrats on the editing! I thought it was just right and the pacing was brilliant.
best,
Adam
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Postby NCMarsh » 07/22/05 03:22 AM

Michael,

It is great to have you on board and I greatly enjoyed your work. I am currently cutting a 1 minute promo clip for my website and am facing some of the same issues.

Here would be my general approach to shooting/cutting a magic special:
  • I would use stills to make the reactions more visceral. In my current promo clip I have a shot that I am very proud of: we have a still image of a spectator opening his hand and screaming when he sees what is inside -- his friends are around him screaming and laughing...we do a Ken Burns style pan and zoom out of the image while we're playing the audio of the spectators laughing and screaming...this is a very effective shot because it freezes the moment of the response at its highest point and suspends it for several seconds...I would use this technique (though sparingly) if I were doing a special
  • I would try to create texture by intercutting between several very different kinds of performances...say: 1.) a formal close-up performance at a bridge table in front of elegantly dressed (but obviously real) audience members 2.)casually approaching random people in public places ala blaine 3.) quick and visual vignettes of my hands performing sleight of hand against black velvet...Mindfreak accomplished this nicely through the contrasts between the performances, the interview segments, the surrealist intros, the documentary stills of Criss' youth and the family conversations
  • I would try, as best as possible, to use the movement of the camera to convey a sense of energy -- rather than rapid cutting. I would have a strong montage at the opening and perhaps when coming into and out of commercial. Other than those moments I would want the cuts to be organic and I would not want the audience coming away feeling that there had been a lot of cuts. Wayne Dobson is particularly good at keeping a television audience hooked without using the rapid cuts -- and, if memory serves, he does rely on some interesting camera moves....
  • I would include interviews/soundbites from audience members...but I might put this in as part of an intro./closing montage rather than putting them immediately after the trick that inspired them...
  • In a subtle and intelligent way, I would use editing to eliminate dead procedure as much as possible and, with restraint, I wouldn't be that hesitant to use it to clean up methods...
  • I would think long and hard about doing a disclaimer -- I don't know if I would want to draw attention to the possibilities of the medium...I also might try to find ways of performing/situations that couldn't possibly be explained by camera tricks or editing -- quite a challenge...if i did do a disclaimer it wouldn't be an anonymous vo...it would be a shot of me looking straight into the camera and saying it myself...

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Postby CJJANIS » 07/22/05 06:21 AM

I really look forward to Crisss show, but I hate to say I was disappointed.
It was very Blaine like, too a fault. I feel he tried to hard to one up Blaine.
Criss created this image of Gothic, mystic, then spoiled it all by having shots
with family and hotel room shots that clashed with that image. I feel you should
keep the big illusions inside where they are more realistic. Most lay people who I
talked to just dismissed a lot of the show to camera tricks and stooges. I have heard
that his shows in New York where great, maybe indoors works better for the gothic
approach.
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Postby Robert Allen » 07/22/05 06:48 AM

I haven't seen the show (no cable), but as I noted earlier:

- consider a disclaimer. I always felt they were lame on the Henning/Copperfield shows, but in retrospect they seem to have served a purpose, though at this point it's unclear if the public 'well' is poisoned in terms of trusting what they see on TV.

- decide what the show's going to be about. Is it a magic show, a piercing show, or a 'reality' show. If time is truly as short as you indicate than the latter two of those would seem to be "filler".

- I'm suspicious of re-cutting longer tricks to change the sequence in order to shorten them. To the uninitiated that sounds to me like it's the same as trick photography; who knows what was edited out, or how changing the sequence effects the performance of the trick. Either allocate the time the trick needs, or find a shorter trick to do. I know that some tricks seem to have dead time, particularly if you have a slow spectator. Maybe, since the show is recorded, pick and prep a spectator. You could use a stooge as well but just getting someone who knows how to shuffle cards and follow instructions in advance might help. Maybe don't show them the end of the trick so as to preserve the denoument shot.

You have a challenge here obviously. Noam Chomsky once commented how it was impossible to discuss a complex point on TV because of the spacing of commercials.
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Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 07/22/05 07:18 AM

Nate covers some excellent points, and I agree with him on all of them.

One thing I would add is this: The impact of the magic comes from the fact that the audience feels that they have watched everything leading up to the effect and, despite that, the unexpected happens. The audience needs to feel that they have seen everything and have not missed out on an important bit of information. With the introduction of edits in the middle of an effect, the possibility (whether or not it actually happened) of trickery is introduced.

The one levitation in the park was great -- the camera moved all around Criss, showing it from every angle. It was really good.

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Postby Arnie Fuoco » 07/22/05 09:21 AM

I really enjoyed Mindfreak I and II and felt it was a step forward for magic on TV. I don't believe the effects were altered by any camera tricks or editing. What we saw on TV for the most part is what we would see if we were there as non-stooges. To me Blaine made a mistake when he had that one laspe of using the camera to enhance the Balducci levitation. If I'm wrong on this camera issue, Mindfreak is a bust.

The reason one suspects the camera is the sheer impossibility of the effects. But I have an explanation for all of the levitations using technology and audience management using stooges. Nothing wrong with stooges. They are used all the time as stage and audience assistants.

My one difficulty for an explanation is the levitation of the young lady outside the casino on the side walk. He asks "Have we ever met before?" To which she answers "No." This has two possibilities: (1) she is telling the truth and could still be a stooge with body setup or (2) she is telling the truth and is not a stooge.If the answer is (2) then I am really baffled.

Re trying to get the ratings for A&E from a business sense. This is exactly the type of format that has any chance of getting ratings in our one-second attention span society. Watch any show on commericial TV and keep track of camera shifts and you will be shocked how quick the camera moves.If that Orson Wells magic show, that Pete talked about, was on at the same time as Mindfreak, I would watch Orson and tape Mindfreak. But I believe I'm is a tiny minority.
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Postby Randy » 07/22/05 10:03 AM

Overall, I think it was pretty entertaining which is, ultimately, the real goal right?

As far as editing, if the borrowed ring-in-ice cube was not edited, then that was a fantastic piece of magic. I did go back and watch it a few times and, quite frankly, noticed what appeared to be a LOT of editing. I would love to know from Michael what the actual "real time" of that close-up miracle was. Also, did a "waitress" come by a few times during the routine to "clean stuff off the table", freshen up drinks, etc? I obviously don't expect you to tip the method, just would be interested in knowing if the vanish of the ring and re-apperance where actually 5-10 minutes apart as opposed to the edited version that insinuates an almost instant transposition. Thanks.
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Postby Brad Baker » 07/22/05 11:33 AM

Michael,

Basically, here's what you have to do to eliminate most of the suspicion (and it actually makes your job as "Editor" even easier!!):

First, put a disclaimer, as others have suggested, at the beginning of every show. It should state, to some effect, that what you are about to see is the exact same as if you were in the audience. All illusions/tricks will be performed in one single camera shot, with out any cuts. And, obviously, if you say this, you have to follow that rule.

Second, follow that rule. Shoot all the illusions in one camera shot, without any cuts. Any time I see a performer on TV take a ring, or any other object, and then the camera cuts to another shot, where the object magically vanishes, only to cut to a 3rd shot, where the object reappears somewhere impossible, it's a little tough to believe. I understand the need for pacing and such, but if the illusions are good and well-presented, people will watch. If it all seems like a bunch of TV trickery, people are going to give up on the show regardless of how great the effect seems.

Just my two cents.
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Postby Bob Klase » 07/22/05 11:57 AM

The nostalgia for Copperfield among those who are averse to T.V. "magic" is amusing...The Grand Canyon, anyone? "Flying" on the sidewalk outside of the theatre?
I don't think that's a valid comparison. Copperfield, Henning, etc certainly weren't perfect. I always thought the Grand Canyon was a mistake, but that was an exception. For the most part, Copperfield and Henning TV shows were commercials for their live shows. Today's TV shows are mostly just TV shows.

My power was out Wednesday night so I haven't seen Angel's shows yet (should see them tonight when they air again). But I did see his live show in New York a couple years ago. From the comments posted here I suspect that there's very little in the TV shows that will ever be seen in a live show.
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Postby Banachek » 07/22/05 12:30 PM

One thing to keep in mind here is Criss had two and a half months of shooting 17 episodes day in and day out with very little or no rehearsals.

As a result often a one camera shot does not get what you want. To do this you need to work with the camera man over and over again and script it with him. Criss did not have that luxury. As it was, we were way over budget. Orson had all the time in the world to script his effects. Criss had a limited time to bring them to fruition. If you want to see the scope of what was going on, take a look at the August Genii, it only touches upon it.

Criss' one day off was not a day off at all but a day of taking care of all the other business and editing what came in. Criss is involved in every single aspect of the show, from the music, to the effects to the story boards and ..... (you get the idea) he works of 3 to 4 hrs sleep a night.

There is no need for stooges in the ring in ice cube, butterfly or the voodoo effects as have been suggested. I was there and a major part of these.

There was no need for edits like in trashed but due to time, camera angles, people in the way, edits had to be made.

I am also not at liberty to discuss methods. But wait till you see the coin in soda can, then wait till you see the simple method when you buy it(if you buy it) and I think many will change their mind about what was used for what effects and what is possible.

Good thing is, the ratings killed for these specials. And this is great news for magic as a whole.

Also when you watch these please keep in mind that each episode is built around one stunt. Levitation was just that, built around one stunt, you probably will not see a levitation in any more of Criss' specials, been there done that now. These are not and were never meant to be your typical magic shows. It is so much more than that an many different levels.

Each episode has it's own feel to it. In many you will see the behind scenes build up. Some will deal mostly with one effect, others will deal with many effects as they build up to the major stunt. In other words, many of these are almost themed shows. For instance in burn, the voodoo doll started with Criss burning the Doll. In Levitation you see the butterfuly effect.


There is a lot of thought that has gone into each episode.

As for the surreal world. There are hidden meanings in each if you look close. I will give you one example off the top of my head: In one scene you will see the "young Houdini" growing a family (the reason is he feels Criss is crossing the line and may kill himself and he does not want to be alone) You see him water the family and nurture it. In the end when Criss succeeds you see him going to mow the family heads. In the most recent episodes, the scene with the beauty and Steve in the mirror show you that what you see is not what you always get and that often you see what you want to see, (much like in the discussions about the show :-) ) My wish and hope is that the story boards of the surreal world will become a comic book series.

Now there are even deeper meanings but these are for you to figure out :-) Look for the small things as well that you might not notice (Monty Python like) for instance, the kid flying a kite in the background of the Tesla Strike episode. Some of these might be cut out due to time constraints, 22 minutes is very hard to compress. you have no clue how many tricks, bits of business are on the cutting room floor. I can only hope some of these effects make it to the DVDs. But often shaving 10 seconds here, and 10 seconds there enabled us to include an extra effect you might not have seen.


This is not a show for magicians, it is a show for lay people, to build Criss as a household name and to get people to his stage show. Many of the effects you see on the show can be performed in his live show. Trashed certainly could be and many of the levitations would actually be easier in a controlled setting like a stage. Of course the burn could not for obvious reasons.

As for suspicions in editing "having to be removed" or the responsibility of the editor I am not sure why. The lay people do not know the difference. The editors job is to make a good story, they do an outstanding job in each episode. These are reality type shows.

Can't wait for next week :-)
In thoughts and friendship
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Postby Robert Allen » 07/22/05 12:54 PM

Just a few quick points for the record :) -

1. I don't miss Copperfield :) . I was just noting that there's a difference between stage shows on TV like his, and reality shows like Chriss Angels.

2. "Good thing is, the ratings killed for these specials." Congrats! That's great no matter what. It's good to see hard workrewarded by the viewing audience.

3. "The lay people do not know the difference" Perhaps. But IMHO magicians frequently understimate lay people. Many people just have enough manners that they don't give their true opionions, or they will go along with a trick instead of deliberately trying to spoil it for the rest of the audience. But most people 40 and under today are savvy enough to recognise and understand the potential for trick editing, whether it's done or not. But as long as the ratings are good, rock on :) .


4. "These are reality type shows." Ah. Oh well, they are popular I guess :( . I sort of wonder how that will get more people to want to attend a magic show, but then I'm not fit to be an accurate judge of todays consumers of pop culture :) .

Wishing continued success,
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/22/05 02:20 PM

Criss is aiming for an audience that thinks what they currently see as magic is cheesy and stupid--much of that audience is under 35 years old and have never heard of David Copperfield.

The coda by which Criss lives, and which you will read in our interview in the August issue of Genii, is that he can perform live ANY trick he performs in Mindfreak.

And, unlike David Blaine, Criss is an experienced stage performer, and he intends to return to the stage with a full-evening show featuring many of the items you've seen in Supernatural and things you will see in Mindfreak as the weeks go by.

Remember: A rising tide carries all boats. Criss Angel is the tide and the rest of us are the boats, so wish him well.
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Postby Robert Allen » 07/22/05 03:53 PM

Richard a ecrite:

Criss is aiming for an audience that thinks what they currently see as magic is cheesy and stupid-
I'm curious, since I don't get out much, what do people currently think of as cheesy and stupid magic-wise? If you don't want to name names, what *type* of magic? I'm sitting here trying to think of magic which general people might see and it would have to be:

- Blaine
- Lance Burton
- Amazing Jonathan
-(the former) Sigfried & Roy
- Penn & Teller

I'm not going to say that I think all those performers rock my world, but I was under the impression that at least Blaine, Jonathan, and P&T were considered non-lame by todays younger crowd. Am I mistaken? Or are you speaking of the non-big name magicians? The ones who make stupid jokes, humiliate 'volunteers', etc. while working parties and corporate events?
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Postby Guest » 07/22/05 03:58 PM

Criss' effort on this show should definitely be commended. He obviously put in lots of hours and lots of work to make this what it is,

but...

"Criss is aiming for an audience that thinks what they currently see as magic is cheesy and stupid...".

It seems like although Criss' goal was to make magic more modern and hip, a lot of the reviews think he just made magic more cheesy. The rocker look, the theme song, etc.

Magic is definitely something that just seem amazing and effortless... aren't we magicians? Shouldn't we do the impossible? If so why the need for all of these stooges, edits, cuts, etc?

If the people that put together this show really think they can pull one over on lay people and try to make them think that if Criss was in person that he could do these things in the same environment they are fooling themselves.

You mentioned that "The coda by which Criss lives, and which you will read in our interview in the August issue of Genii, is that he can perform live ANY trick he performs in Mindfreak."

That might be possible if he is on stage, has stooges in the audience, etc., but the fact is that in the environment that he performed the so called magic, (i.e. outside on the street, in restaurants) it can not be replicated in person.

We all know that.

Criss was on the Jimmy Kimmel show about a week ago. He performed 2 magic tricks:

1- Swallowed a string and it came out his eye.
2- Bend a fork, and then made another one break.

They came off looking very weak.

And then with the help of editing, etc. he performed these on the magic tricks I wrote about above on the 1st 2 specials.

Doesn't it just in general show the difference of what the ability of him as a live magician vs. a television magician?

So far the level of actual magic related ideas included in the show is very low.

Of course the illusions come off looking like magic on TV, but it's not like there will be any instructional video put out by L&L Publishing stating how to:

- vanish from a Garbage Can and appear on top of a building
- use a Korn Doll and hurt people (i.e. fire and needle)
- get a Ring Into an Ice Cube within 1 min 20 secs
- turn yourself into a Human Candle and then vanish
- make yourself Levitate way up in the air and then a spectator levitate outside on the street
- make a Butterfly fly from napkin
- have a Card move and then rise off the floor without forcing, or having prior knowledge

Are we also supposed to believe that John Edwards can really do what he does?
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Postby NCMarsh » 07/22/05 05:13 PM

L.Z.

I'm not sure why you are so convinced that this material is not possible live...here are practical methods for two of the pieces that you claim can only be done through stooges/camera tricks/extensive editing...I offer these merely as illustrations of the possibility of this material -- and do not claim that these are Criss' actual methods, nor am I interested in Criss' actual methods...I would also never dream of performing this material -- it belongs to Criss

that said...and off the top of my head...

the ice cube:

The pull described by Bob Cassidy in the context of "The Quarter Bend" on page 232 of The Artful Mentalism of Bob Cassidy is ideal. A duplicate ring is attached to this pull. The spectator's ring is switched for this duplicate. During the build-up to the vanish, the left hand has eons to load the ring into a cube in the left jacket pocket.

The particular method of preparing the cube would require a lot of experimentation. My basic idea would be to have the cube cut in half and, with a dremel tool, carve out a ring in each half. Some kind of adhesive may be necessary to hold the halves together in the drink following the load. In the pocket the ring is placed in the groove and the halves are closed. This would take 1-2 seconds.

The loaded ring is then loaded into the glass in the action of moving it to give the spectators a clearer view of the vanish...the method is over before the vanish is revealed...

or, even more practically:

a simple gold band is frozen into the cube...it can be loaded into the cup at any time during the performance...borrow a simple gold band...it is vanished...reveal the ring in the cube and have the spectator verbally confirm that the ring in the cube is hers (she gave you a gold band...she's looking at a gold band distorted by the ice...she's also assuming that, if it wasn't her ring, there is no way that you would be asking her the question)...the cube is broken open and, after a motivated and well-choreographed switch, her ring is returned...

the butterfly:

a butterfly is enfolded in a napkin or tissue in the pocket...this is stolen while the spectator drawing on the napkin....while holding out the loaded napkin, the spectator's napkin is folded in the same way...the loaded napkin is loaded onto the spectator's napkin as the right hand covers the left...all that is left is the reveal...there may be some sort of pre-show involved in the selection of the butterfly as the image -- but I don't see anything wrong with that...

the bottom line is this, because you see no other method than editing, camera tricks, or collusion (and I don't have any problem with these tools when they are used intelligently) does not mean that there is no other method...

this does raise an interesting issue...

I'm joe normal watching this show with my family...I see "trashed"...Criss eliminates the possibility of a trap door by pointing out that he's doing it on a cement sidewalk...Criss eliminates the possibility that he is getting out of the trash can by crawling out on another side by having spectators hold on to the can on all sides...I can see over the trash can so I know that he can't get out the top...how else could he get out?

There is one more obvious solution that hasn't been completely eliminated: every one is in on it and it is a cheap editing trick..

the authenticity and spontaneity of the people on the street really goes a long way to convincing the audience that the whole thing is above board...but I am reminded of a story about Faucett Ross...Ross was performing a signed coin in ball of wool routine at a fair...the routine reached its conclusion and Ross asked the man on stage who signed the coin to confirm his signature...the man told the audience that it wasn't the same coin! Ross was in shock...he later approached the man to ask why he had lied...the man said, and I am paraphrasing John Carney's retelling of the story in Genii, "look, I am an educated man, I know there is no way that that could be the same coin!"

This is an extreme case, but it points to a set of general truths:
  • If you eliminate every solution except for one, no matter how absurd or obvious it is, there is a certain percentage of your audience that will be convinced that it is the correct solution.
  • the strength of the conditions that you set up to eliminate or mitigate the possibility of that solution diminish as the spectators become convinced of the impossibility of any other method. i.e. the more that the guy at the fair is convinced that there is no other way for his coin to seem to be in a ball of wool on the other side of the stage, the less it matters to him that the coin is signed...even if this isn't rational

This is what makes magic on television so difficult: there is always one obvious solution that is extremely difficult to eliminate.

Were I involved in this project, and it were practical, I would have lobbied for "Trashed" not to have been on Mindfreak itself...if the method allowed and it was realistic to get the booking, I would have lobbied to get Criss on "The Today Show" and to do it live for the crowds outside "The Today Show" studio...you would get much more credibility because journalists are watching and because it is live...this also could have been incorporated into Mindfreak -- seeing Criss prepare for "The Today Show" would have been an interesting contribution to the Reality TV grain of the show...

I should be clear that I'm not saying "this is what these guys should have done"...I have no idea what kind of limitations are involved in this work...I'm just trying to explore the issues around magic on television and productively think about how its impact can be maximized

congratulations to all involved on a very strong product

best,

N.
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Postby MaxNY » 07/22/05 05:29 PM

I keep thinking of Roc's article about "The Too Perfect Magic Trick"...and want more, because this may come more into play as we try and keep up with the Avid Generation.
---An example of a Too Perfect Trick, might be The Burn. At first perceived by most audience as a stunt, but then perceived (by magicians) as a "Oh here I am, the guy holding the Ax" revelation. Perhaps to the lay audience (my wife), the stunt was just dismissed as "It wasn't him that burned"...Too perfect of a trick? My wife just dismissed it as a stunt done by a stunt man...even tough there were cut-a-aways showing his face. The switch at the end, was perhaps too fast. Not enough drama.
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Postby Robert Allen » 07/22/05 07:12 PM

All this talk reminds me why the objective should be to entertain rather than to just mystify without entertaining. If you're mystified while being entertained you enjoy the moment. If you're mystified while not being entertained you'll just sit there trying to puzzle it out.
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Postby Guest » 07/22/05 07:21 PM

Originally posted by L.Z.:

...it's not like there will be any instructional video put out by L&L Publishing stating how to:

- vanish from a Garbage Can and appear on top of a building
- use a Korn Doll and hurt people (i.e. fire and needle)
- get a Ring Into an Ice Cube within 1 min 20 secs
- turn yourself into a Human Candle and then vanish
- make yourself Levitate way up in the air and then a spectator levitate outside on the street
- make a Butterfly fly from napkin
- have a Card move and then rise off the floor without forcing, or having prior knowledge
I have very little time to post right now, so going to keep it very brief, but this here was a bit of a surprise. I mean, if Copperfield doesn't release a video on how to vanish the Statue of Liberty, then it's not magic?

I mean, by now most (all?) of us here know how that was done, and frankly, most of us will never have the resources to recreate it. Was it camera trickery? Sort of. But the same technique fooled a live audience. And we all know the statue didn't REALLY disappear.

Folks, magic is all about trickery in one form or another. Is it ok to light a stage carefully to avoid seeing the wires?

And the audience there DID see Criss Angel go under a garbage can and end up on the roof. And we still had to cut it shorter to keep the show moving.

I have the pleasure of getting to chat briefly with Mark Wilson at the Castle every now and then. He's a legend in our magic community, and how great is it that he had a TV series for as long as he did? But go ask kids nowadays who he is, and they won't have heard of him. It's sad, but it's what we're dealing with. It's ok, they don't know who Sinatra or the Beatles were, either.

As for using 1 camera and careful planning of camera angles, this is reality TV. Real people on the street. There is no blocking. There is no way to make sure one camera covers everything we need to see. If the camera misses it, we hopefully have it on the second camera. Otherwise, the moment is gone.

Sorry gotta run. Will respond more later. But there were some good insightful comments about the shows -- both pro and con -- that I really appreciate. I just hope most of you realize what Richard Kaufman said so well. This isn't meant for magicians, but it will certainly be a boost to us all.
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Postby Richard Lane » 07/22/05 07:58 PM

From this morning's issue of Cynopsis, a daily TV industry newsletter:

"A&E debuted two new series on Wednesday night - Inked (9-10p) and Criss Angel: Mindfreak (10p). Inked averaged 615,000 A18-49 impressions, and a median age of 33.6 years.
Criss Angel delivered 1.1 million A18-49 impressions, and a median age of 33.5 years - the youngest series premiere in A&E's history."
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Postby NCMarsh » 07/22/05 08:28 PM

Very nice -- thanks for posting Richard.
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Postby Guest » 07/23/05 01:36 PM

I watched the shows last night and didn't have a real problem with any of the material presented or the editing. I can see how all the material could be presented live with the use of staging and stooges etc, which is fair. My only problem was I find Criss Angel to be highly unlikable. I've heard him on the radio and found him to be an irritating angry guy and lispy. I think it is the New York accent and all that goes with it. I was raised in California and the South (Georgia) and even though my dad is from Brooklyn the NY attitudes and delivery are hard to take. beyond that I find him to be a creative guy.

As for folks who think Copperfield isn't known to the youngters (I mean real kids not just young adults) I do ask kids if they know who Copperfield is and who Blaine is. Far away Copperfield is better known.
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Postby Brian Marks » 07/23/05 02:42 PM

Camera tricks and editing are necessary. So what if it can't be duplicated in real life. David Blaine and Criss Angel have people taliking about magic. They want to see live magic and now you are in a position to show them. Do some well performed magic for them and they will remember you.
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Postby Robert Allen » 07/23/05 06:32 PM

"Camera tricks ... are necessary"

Necessary for what? Clearly they aren't necessary for magic per se since people were doing magic since long before cameras were invented.

To me, magic is like a play. It's LIVE. How would you feel if you were watching a performance of Swan Lake or the Nutcracker on TV and an animated character or three swooped on to the stage, while the live actors stared into the air and tried to interact with them? I'd be incensed and turn the show off. Camera tricks for a magic show on TV strike me as nearly the same thing. Good, bad, or indifferent I'm paying, or spending my time, to watch a *performer* demonstrate their skill, not to see the editor/animator demonstrate *their* skill.
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Postby MaxNY » 07/23/05 07:41 PM

There is no sex in his violence. Sex tells a story, most can relate to. Violence doesn't always do that. Blaine burnt ashes extinguished on his arm to reveal a loved one's name, very sexy. Hanging by meathooks , just plain violent. The storyline behind "The Burn" was that it was for his Mom...I guess we bought into that huh? I don't think there was one viewer that said, "Gee, I guess he really loves his Mom..." Maybe the disfunctional family was the story. Disfunctional violence ties in with The Gottis, and Dawg.
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Postby Guest » 07/23/05 10:04 PM

Originally posted by pierredan:
Mindfreak was very entertaining but lacked magical integrity.

David Blaine and apparently Criss Angel have developed a new style of magic: ?Magical Special Effects?. Prestidigitation and genuine illusions are being replaced by ?made for TV magic?.

What?s next, computer generated magical effects?
I could not agree more, no talent to have a special effects team in your corner..
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Postby Guest » 07/23/05 10:09 PM

Just ran into some lay types who watched the Criss Angel show and they loved it. They loved every bit of it and didn't question camera tricks or editing or anything.... there ya go.
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