L&L publishing

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.

Postby C. Hampton » 10/02/02 07:05 AM

I posted this msg in another section of the forum, but I think it deserves to be a separate post.

I am happy to notice that I am not the only one that notice John (the spectator) in the Malone tapes.
I am, like a lot of magicinas thankful to L&L publishing for the outstanding job that they are doing for the magic community, but as usual there is room for improvement.
I am going to write directly to Mr. Falanga, but the issue that I want to address is the following and I would like to get your opinions on the subject(maybe is just me, I might be too picky):

-Seeing the same spectator over and over in all their videos retracts from the credibility of their reactions.
This may seem as a small detail, but I do not think it should be ovelook. It shouldn't be that difficult to get new spectators.

-The second thing is the setting. As far as the decoration goes, the painted books and the fabric covered walls they just don't look good.
I remember the classy videos from Stevens and although they didn't have the technology that L&L has, the settings, the introduccion of the performer gave to the product a classy touch that L&L still needs to acomplish.

-Please, please, please, do not strech the material that much.Example: The invisible thread series should be a volume, at the most two, but three.....

Last thing, the music at the beggining with the computer generated graphics need to go PRONTO!!!

Those are my 2 cents to improve a great product.
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Postby Guest » 10/02/02 07:23 AM

Hi Carlos,

I have read on several threads that the reactions of John and Dave (the spectators) are genuine reactions. I do know that they love magic and I was not surprised to see how well they received Bill Malone. Bill is an incredibly powerful entertainer and I believe the reactions you saw were genuine. As far as the other items go, you make some very good points.
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Postby C. Hampton » 10/02/02 08:38 AM

I have no doubt that the reactions of those espectators are genuine from the performance of Bill Malone.
The only problem is that we are repeat customers, and we see them over and over again.
It is a credibility issue and that is why they need to get new spectators, specially if you have a strong performer like Malone, that you know for sure that is going to get reactions from almost any type of audience.
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Postby Guest » 10/02/02 08:46 AM

I can think of several crappy magicians that have books and lecture notes out that would probably get no reaction from Dave and John if they were performing for them.

I still remember the first of many times I was asked to give the cards a "shiffle". I laughed so hard I never thought my pants would dry. Of course in their books, the "shiffle" line is followed by "always gets a laugh".

Anyway, I went off on a tangent. Time for my medicine.
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Postby Matthew Field » 10/02/02 09:42 AM

In the upcoming, November, Genii I address this subject in my review of the Bill Malone set.

John and Dave are probably giving their honest reactions, but they have become "professional spectators" and they know they're on camera, so they try to act.

And like many amateur actors, their technique stinks.

David's stock reaction is a slack-jawed amazement. Sometimes he's just got to touch the cards on the table to make sure they're Aces and not some kind of mechanical marvel. John is so overly enthusiastic that he looks like he'll have to wash his underwear immediately upon retiring from the studio. He gives this reaction to something as stupifying as a Double Lift.

This is over-acting, sometimes called "eating the scenery." In acting class (yes, I've been there) you learn the danger of this, and the techniques for stage are very different from those that apply to television.

The worst aspect of this phenomenon is that these videos are instructional in nature, presumably meant to be viewed repeatedly for the learning process. On repeated viewing, these spectators become more and more difficult to stomach.

I first commented on this subject in the context of the Paul Harris "Art of Astonishment" video, where some of the audience reactions were so over the top that they made the entire video repulsive.

It is, perhaps, the most frustrating part of trying to write constructive reviews that criticism never seems to make a difference. Look, for example, at the way the Malone videos are shot, with a camera on Bill's right side when he, as a lefty, is often playing to a spectator on his left. I made similar comments regarding the Sol Stone video from my friend Meir Yedid's company, where excellent views of the side of Dr. Stone's left arm often fill the frame.

And as I've also said in print on more than one occasion, Mr. Falanga and Mr. Maxwell and most of the other directors of magic videos have never studied directing (yes, I have), yet they have no hesitation leaping into the role and we have no hesitation purchasing the results. We'd brook no such thing from, say, a magician who had never studied magic.

I am (painfully) aware of the small market for magic-related material, and I am grateful that we have books, videos and magazines devoted to our art. But it is, after all, an ART and artistry should be a goal in all we (and they) do.

I'll be interested in reactions to my November reviews.

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Postby Scott » 10/02/02 05:05 PM

They are not movies guys, they are teaching videos. If your watching them like a movie, you're going to be disappointed. Look what happened on the Paul Wilson tape. What a super magician who's spectators were poor. Think about the effect, not the fake reactions from repeat spectators.
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Postby Guest » 10/02/02 06:06 PM

At the end of the day magic instructional videos are not for entertainment they are tools. I don't see how a spectators reaction has anything to do with utilising the information.
Something that some apparently don't understand also is that most magic videos aren't one shoot deals. Some tricks are re-performed a few times before a final is used. Just like a book thats edited, videos are also. I respect the audiences they get for the shoots just for sitting through the crap several times..........
But thats my opinion
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Postby CHRIS » 10/02/02 07:29 PM

That is why the best performing video sequences are shots of a real world performance on stage or a restaurant or some other venue. Real crowd, real reactions. In a studio setting I would show as little as possible of the spectators and would instruct them to 'keep it down'. The spectator reactions are unimportant. They are only there to pick a card or provide any other absolute necessary interaction with the performer. I fully agree that these hyper reactive spectators are a real pain in the ... on these videos.

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 10/02/02 07:38 PM

When I made Jon LeClair's video, "Whose Afraid of Invisible Thread?", my co-producer and director Monte Johnson found a local bar/restaurant and we just went in the middle of the afternoon and started shooting Jon working for spectators. Since it was thread work, Jon wanted us to shoot it from full sun through the afternoon as the sun went down so that various REAL WORLD lighting conditions would be seen. And, we used REAL spectators in a REAL bar. We never did a second take with the same people that I can recall. If we needed to do another take, we moved over to a new group of spectators.
I was quite pleased with the way it turned out.
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Postby Adam Brooks » 10/02/02 08:03 PM

That is why the best performing video sequences are shots of a real world performance on stage or a restaurant or some other venue. Real crowd, real reactions.
Amen, Chris! My favorite videos are still the ones that manage to combine real world performances and separate, studio sessions for tbe explanations. The Lovell Man of Danger videos are a SUPERB example of this, IMO (The only problem with them was that the sound disappears for about 2 seconds, every 15 seconds on two of the videos. Anyone else have this problem?) Nevertheless, I loved the format, and whenever a "real world" magician wishes to create a video, I feel a similar format should be used. There are plenty of magicians out there, all the truly entertaining ones, whom we WANT to see perform, we want to see them putting their routines to work, so we can see for ourselves that "this routine absolutely kills!"

Of course, there's always the other side of the coin. Videos of people like Marlo or Jennings, where the purpose of the video really is solely to teach technique.

Depends what you want, really. No matter what, you get knowledge. If that's all you want, fine, you're not losing anything. If you want to see the stuff in action, how much more trouble is it to record the material being done for real audiences in a non-studio location?

I leave that as an open question to those of us who have dealt with this kind of thing.

My two pesos,

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Postby sleightly » 10/02/02 10:09 PM

It is my (worthless) opinion, that the majority of consumers of magic videos will *never* perform the material contained therein and that the videos ultimately are an entertainment form...
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Postby Bill Mullins » 10/03/02 07:29 AM

Originally posted by Keven Williams:

Something that some apparently don't understand also is that most magic videos aren't one shoot deals.
Unfortunately, far too many videos _are_ one shoot deals. Dan Harlan lectured here last summer right after he filmed his "Packs Small Plays Big". He said they were filmed straight through, one take, in a marathon. (perhaps a couple of blatant mistakes were reshot).

I'm sure we all can think of a video where we were watching in wonder, asking ourselves "Why didn't that get reshot?"
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Postby Bill Mullins » 10/03/02 07:50 AM

Originally posted by Scott:
They are not movies guys, they are teaching videos. If your watching them like a movie, you're going to be disappointed.
All true, but a well produced lecture note (like Daryl's Millenium tour) is much easier to work from and read than a simple set of photocopied notes.

Or to compare to magic, a well-presented effect is much stronger than a simple trick.

Many magic videos have piss-poor production values, and it shows.
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Postby Matthew Field » 10/03/02 09:01 AM

Again, off topic (because it does not concern L&L) is the subject of the failings of video as a learning medium, one of my many unpublished essays. (Unpublished because it is unwritten.) It is based upon a discussion I had with Mr. Kaufman (or "Kaufman" as it seems the new Genii Forum protocol would have it).

The main failing of instructional videos, versus books, is (IMHO) that books allow one to progess at one's own pace while videos, for the most part do not, for reasons I'll get into. With a book, you can pause as long as you like to work through a move or trick, pick up the book and maybe backtrack a sentence or two, and move along when you're good and ready. If the book is well written, the things you've got to do are spelled out so you can concentrate on the steps individually.

The video is shot in real time (or, maybe, slow-motion which is not much better in this context), so things move along at the speed the director, or perfomer, determines -- not you. Yes, you can mark the spot or freeze frames (easier, of course, with a DVD), but I still find the process much more difficult for learning.

In the course of the discussion with Richard, I mentioned Larry Jennings' explanation of Jay Sankey's Revolution Count on one of his videos. The count allows you to show three face-down cards sandwiched betwen the four Kings. Each King shows separately (you can name the suits) but there are actually only the four Kings in play -- no additional cards at all. I challange anyone to learn the count from Larry's video demonstration -- there's just too much going on at each stage. I think you need the printed page.

Further, there is an aspect of videos which make them appear to be TV shows. TV shows have a beginning and an end, and you watch them in one viewing. There is a psychological "push" at work, I believe, that makes a viewer want to watch an entire video, to get to the end (like in a movie: "THE END") rather than pausing to consider something which might need slower sailing. I admit a bias toward the thinking of Marshall McLuhan in thinking about media.

Yes, I know, I'm one of the Genii video reviewers and I'm saying I think videos have a built-in deficiency vis-a-vis books. They also have their advantages which I've stated before in print.

But this is an unwritten essay, off-topic to boot, so I'll shut up now.

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Postby CHRIS » 10/03/02 10:25 AM

Matt,

I very much agree with your position. In the beginning of the Card College ebook project, I had very interesting discussions with Roberto Giobbi about the pros and cons of books vs video vs ebook.

Some of the points you mentioned were the reasons why Roberto never did do a video version of his Card College. As you can imagine he had big offers to do so. He rejected them because he felt that video is not the right format to teach a subject like card technique and theory. This is very commendable, because he left a big junk of money on the table.

But he wholeheartedly embrassed my ebook proposal and is extremely happy with the result. The main reason being the fact that an ebook can combine some of the advantages of book and video. I don't want to start another discussion of book vs ebook. We had many of those in the past. But I think the Card College ebook shows one solution of keeping the book benefits (self pacing, more detailed description, illustrations, ...) as well as getting some of the video advantages (timing, motion, quick understanding of the overall process, ...) as well as adding new ones (hyperlinking, searching, ...)

I am quite sure we will see more of these kind of ebooks cropping up.

Roberto also made a very interesting point. In order to write a book, the author has to digest the information he wants to pass on. He has to think much more about the 'how' and 'why'. In short much more work has to go into writing a good book than shooting a good video. You have to be a damn good teacher to do that well. A video is much simpler. You demonstrate the move. Demonstrating and teaching are two very different things. Somebody might be a great performer, very skilled, but he cannot pass on his knowledge so that others understand it.

A funny fact. Roberto estimated how many hours of video it would take if he would have to say and demonstrate on a video everything he has written in the books. If I remember correctly it was something like 64 hours. Imagine that 64 hours! Now you can gauge how much information there is in a 3 hour video set, versus Card Colleges 4 volumes.

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Postby Guest » 10/03/02 02:03 PM

The best of all worlds is having both an instructional video/DVD and a companion book. How many times have you read an effect/method in a book and pass it up based on description alone. Along comes the video and you see an effect in action and you say to yourself, "wow, I have that book with that trick and I passed on it...it looks great". I think the written word fills in the blank spots in many of the videos. The book also acts to jog your memory when an effect is forgotten... and besides you can't take a video to the bathroom with you. ;)
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Postby Scott » 10/03/02 05:02 PM

I don't see where writing a book instead of a video is "Commendable". In fact, I believe it to be short sighted and narrow minded. If you were to do any studies into the way people learn, you'd quickly find that people learn different ways. Some people can open a book and learn everything, while some people struggle greatly to learn from words on a page. That's not opinion, that's fact. Auditory and visual learning are quite different and many people are at one end of the spectrum. Ignoring the people at the end opposite you is hardly something that should be applauded.

Just because you understand and learn from books without problems, doesn't mean everyone else does.

There is no "One's better than the other" because it's totally dependent on the person learning the material and what their disposition to learning is. There are many tests on the internet to determine which type of learner you are.

The goal of the material is to teach people, right? If you have 2 students, one who reads a book and learns it first time and one who has to "do things" and see them work before he understands them, do you teach them both in the same manner? Do you ignore the student who "needs" to see to learn and only teach from the book, all the while, watching him slip further and further behind?

Both need to be taught and both need the method that best "teaches" them.
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Postby CHRIS » 10/03/02 06:47 PM

Scott,

maybe I expressed it wrong or you misunderstood. Yes, I know there are 'visual learners' and there are 'textual learners'. Different people have different ways of learning. We have no disagreement there. And that is why we did the ebook. There is text, illustrations and lots of video clips for the ones that learn better from moving pictures. We felt that such video enhanced ebooks combine the best of two worlds and are ultimately better than either book or video alone.

But as I said above, it would have taken dozens of hours of traditional video to provide the same level of detail and information as in the book. Roberto felt that he could only do a suboptimal job even with a multi volume video and therefore he didn't do it. I think having quality standards and sticking to them is commendable. That is what I meant. He has is principles and lives by them, even if somebody offers him a big junk of money. That shows character. But that is not to say that Roberto will never do a video. Perhaps a subset of Card College could be put successfully on a video or DVD, or perhaps performance sequences of the tricks in Card College. But I bet my house that you will never see the complete Card College material as traditional video set.

Just to make this cristal clear, I have to say that this is how I understand Roberto's position. I am not speaking for him. This is my interpetration of the discussions I had with him.

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Postby Tim Trono » 10/03/02 10:17 PM

Ill throw in my two cents.

First, it IS hard to find good spectators. I can somewhat understand the concern BUT Louis Falanga has found spectators that DO work and I think it would be unwise to bring in new spectators that you are unsure of when you are spending thousands and thousands of dollars on a video production with only a few days to get it right (while you have flown in the performer, booked the camera people, etc.). Why take that chance and have a huge unknown factor. The last thing you want to worry about as a producer is spectators that freeze in front of the camera or just suddenly dont react to great magic. Louis has a winning formula and uses it period.

And as was previously pointed out, the tapes/DVDs are primarily meant to TEACH. So instead of being upset about David and John think about the GREAT material that has been presented to the magic community.

Again, just ask yourself why Louis would want to bring in spectators for a major production that he has never used before and has no idea how they will react IF the magic is strong. That would be unfair to the performer and to us, the consumer. You may think you can just interview someone and tell if theyd work well or not but from experience I can tell you that you cannot. Some people who you think will be great turn out to be duds and some spectators who you think will be quiet and reserved are a blast and simply help create a better experience.

Second, it is NOT as easy as you might think to make people look comfortable and natural. Let me give an example. If you go to a party and pull out a video camera and start filming, people simply will ACT differently. Most people are VERY uncomfortable and it takes them quite a while before they forget the camera is there. Try taking a camera into a restaurant or bar and see how many of the people freeze up or shy away from it. It is much easier said then done. Ive seen some performers who KILL but when a camera is turned on the audience is just dead. This is not unusual.

Third, I think many assumptions are made without really knowing the facts. I just met David and John and some of the other spectators that L&L uses at their last shoot which Ill discuss in a moment. What you see is WHO these people really are. even off camera they are NOT trying to act amazed or humored or whatever what you see is what they are feeling! They truly LOVE magic and are amazed by seeing good performers. They feel comfortable now being in front of the camera. And thus Louis uses them. There is NO prompting. The performer has to WORK for the reactions. I previously discussed this with Michael Close and with Bill Malone after they finished their shoots. Michael and Bill both advised they really had to work for their reactions and they are a couple of the top workers in the world but it wasnt a piece of cake. In the shoot I just saw one of the spectators actually started to get tears in her eyes at one point due to how utterly strong what she had just seen was the reaction was 100% legit. People just got into it because we were all having FUN and watching GREAT magic.

So I guess you have to really ask yourself if youd rather watch David and John or watch a great, strong performer STRUGGLE through a piece because he has a bad spectator who is nervous, cautious with their reactions, etc. You may think there are NOT bad spectators but when it comes to filming there ARE bad spectators people who feel very uncomfortable on camera, who suddenly become careful of their reactions (reserved), etc. I recently did a shoot which is not out yet and the very well known performer had one spectator who just sat there as she was kind of nervous due to a personal thing that we never would have known about talking to her at length. So we substituted her and another spectator and then the performer KILLED. It was day and night. However, the problem becomes that if you have to constantly REPEAT due to a poor reaction it kills the reaction of all of the good spectators who now have to watch it again. Thus Louis has spectators who he KNOWS will react, are comfortable, etc. He ensures the performer has their pieces ready. When the camera rolls the number of reshoots is at a minimal because all of the factors have been honed out from time after time.

Even KNOWING that he has spectators who will react and who LOVE magic, Louis is actually quite careful and wise in how he treats them so as to ENSURE they are comfortable and thus show up better. When you arrive for a shoot you are treated like royalty. You are fed great food, you get to hang out with a bunch of fun people, and you get to enjoy the gorgeous surroundings of the area. I cannot tell you how relaxing it was during breaks just to stand out on the balcony and look at the beautiful view of the lake and mountains. Its breathtaking. You are NOT crammed in some hot studio for 12 hours with constant reshoots. Everything is well planned and the guests and performers are treated extremely well so they WILL feel comfortable and this in turn will hopefully be conveyed on camera. Everyone leaves smiling and glad they were part of the experience. You feel like youve just been let in on a very special thing.

OK so now about my recent L&L experience to shed a bit of more light and to let you know what I saw. I posted this on another board but will copy it below (some of it I mentioned above):

Last weekend the whole Murphys Magic Supplies team was invited to and attended an L&L shoot of Tommy Wonder. Louis Falanga and the L&L crew were unbelievably gracious hosts.

As far as the shoot WOW! Tommy Wonder is undoubtedly one of the, if not the, VERY top thinkers, performers, creators, etc. in magic PERIOD. The videos/DVDs do not have a release date but when they come out BUY them. They will include material from the Books of Wonder by Stephen Minch PLUS new, never before released items that Tommy has been holding onto and guarding jealously. The footage will include interview segments hosted by Max Maven with some thought provoking questions (Max apparently gave a great deal of input as far as the overall production Max is a master of details and certainly brought this to the shoot).

This was the first L&L shoot Ive ever been to. I was EXTREMELY impressed on many fronts. The professionalism, thought, etc. that L&L puts forth are to be applauded. They treated everyone from performer, to guests in an incredibly gracious and hospitable manner. What a spread they put on! I can also tell you for a FACT that the audiences are not primed as per prior posts Ive read. These people that Louis has as audience members absolutely LOVE magic and react accordingly. I am pretty low key by nature but most of the people Louis invites to be audience members are fairly outgoing and have very visible reactions. That is simply who they really are. I cannot even tell you how strongly people reacted to Tommy Wonder. The reactions were simply incredible (and deservedly so) and they were VERY REAL! I spoke to Bill Malone after his videos and Bill advised he had to WORK for the reactions he got hes a top professional and CAN create the strong reactions. I think it would be unwise for Louis Falanga to NOT invite spectators who love magic and react strongly to it. He is obviously trying to portray the performers in the best light possibly and make it comfortable for them. I can tell you that from sitting in on this shoot there was NO prompting and the incredible reactions I saw were 100% because we all watched an incredible performer.

L&L is a class act and it was nice to attend a shoot. It opened up my eyes in reference to some of the posts Ive seen. When they do eventually release the Tommy Wonder videos/DVDs dont hesitate to get them.

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Postby Scott » 10/04/02 03:31 AM

Chris, thanks for clearing that up. I think your idea (or whoever's) of having an e-book with pictures and video clips covers all bases and is a well rounded solution for all types of learners.

I might just have to check into that!
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Postby Terry » 10/04/02 05:02 AM

Scott,

You can also use cassette tape to learn. Eugene Burger recommended readnig the book onto a cassette and referencing the pictures as needed. That way you get the audio instructions and visual reinforcement.

Just a thought....
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Postby C. Hampton » 10/04/02 06:59 AM

Mr Trono,

I want to thank you for giving your point of view on the subject, but there are some points in which I dissagree.

You said:

"And as was previously pointed out, the tapes/DVDs are primarily meant to TEACH. So instead of being upset about David and John think about the GREAT material that has been presented to the magic community. "

I mention in my post that changing these spectators will be a way to improve an already great product, so I agrere with you that the product is great.

But your argument can translate to the movies as well.
Why a director is going to take a risk with a new actor, if he knows that Antonio Banderas is going to do just a fine job?
Then, we can watch Star Wars, Face off, We were soliders, and all the movies interpreted by Antonio Banderas. I don't think that the audience will like that. Even if you change the main actor in every movie and leave the same supporting actors, that will not fly a mile.

If we are going to support the idea that the video is only a teaching tool, then I rather have no audience or a magicians audience instead of the same audience over and over again.

I was pretty happy to find out that L&L is putting a collection together with Mr Wonder's material, but it is just sad that we are going to have to see John and David again in them.

Don't get me wrong, I do not have anything against these two spectators, I think that they were great, but for a couple of shootings and maybe an ocassionaly come back, that is all.
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Postby CHRIS » 10/04/02 07:10 AM

Tim,

I believe you when you write that there is no prompting of the audience or 'preparation' of the spectators going on at L&L. But there is an implicit pressure on the spectators that in my opinion makes them behave the way they behave. See, they are invited by L&L. They are going to see great magic for free and have a wonderful time, meet artists maybe get free bees, food, a.s.o. They want to be invited again. So they are going to 'play' the part of a great spectator. And since they are bad actors they play the part really badly.

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Postby KenAbbott » 10/04/02 07:47 AM

I also found the reactions of John and David to be distracting. Especially when John was in the second row, reacting wildly. But, what is up with the guy on the right side of the table who never wears shoes? He was in one of Michael Close's videos in his sock feet also.
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Postby Matthew Field » 10/04/02 09:38 AM

Originally posted by Ken Abbott:
He was in one of Michael Close's videos in his sock feet also.
At least it's not Smell-o-vision.

But seriously . . .

Tim Trono raises some excellent points, and I'm not disparaging Louis Falanga's productions. But my point remains -- when you have some people who, whether they mean to or not, over-react on a consistent basis, shouldn't you try to get some other folks to "step up to the plate" as primary assisting sspectators? These two guys (David and John) have more screen time than Conan O'Brien, fer crissakes. I expect to see them starring in their own productions next. "David and John Go to the Castle," maybe.

After a while, seeing magician after magician use these same people as assisting spectators becomes self-defeating. These spectators may, as Tim says, give consistently strong reactions, and I'm sure they are not specifically prompted, but they also know (a la Pavlov) that big reactions mean they'll be featuring again in the future, and the response when the viewer (or at least me) sees them is that the reactions are phony. That in and of itself diminishes the impact the performance has on the viewers of the videos and, as I stated earlier, the teeth-gnashing experience of repeated viewing, as one tries to learn the damned tricks, is torturous. Ultimately, one is left not knowing what response the magician would get in front of a "real" audience. Isn't that self-defeating, Tim?

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Postby Tim Trono » 10/04/02 09:50 AM

Hi Carlos. I don't think it is fair to make a comparison to mainstream movies. Although I DO feel the quality of teaching video SHOULD BE the highest that can possibly be achieved, I think there are major differences which may the comparison inaccurate. With movies, as we all know, the production costs associated with even a low budget movie are in the millions. With the very small magic market (a SUCCESSFUL video in magic may sell 1500 or 2000) there simply is not the amount of time and money available. Thus a lot of the niceties of mainstream production are simply not viable. Second, a mainstream movie may take a year to several years to gather and produce. In magic we are putting these out much more rapidly as their primary function IS to teach. So there is simply not the time and money to try new spectators over and over as we bring the performer back. Third, the more the performer does the routine, the more likely it is that it will be less effective. Thus to change out spectators because one or two are not reacting and having to have the performer do it again for a majority of the audience eventually kills the performance. Magic unlike mainstream movies relies on real time reactions. I am an advocate for changing the "background" (i.e. where the video is filmed) and have done so in the different videos I have produced for magic BUT it can create some real nightmares. Again, Louis has a formula that works and he uses it and it's a wise business decision... he has a very controlled background/setting, he has spectators that he knows will react, he has performers that he knows will sell, and thus he puts out some great product. Chris, you do raise a valid point but I can tell you from my experience that the individuals ARE like this off camera. I was around them from 9 AM to late afternoon and what you see is who they are. If it IS bad acting they were carrying it off camera as well. So I do think you raise a valid point BUT I'd rather have them then magicians sitting in the audience or spectators who are duds and make the performer look awkward. All of this is just my two cents. We all have different things we like or dislike, different things we are looking for (some are buying to primarily be entertained and some are buying to learn new routines), etc. Thanks Carlos and Chris though as it's always good to examine these issues.

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Postby Tim Trono » 10/04/02 09:56 AM

LOL... hi Matt. You WILL be glad to know that in the latest video filmed (Tommy Wonder) the spectators HAVE been moved around and a few new ones have been added and John is sitting in the second row (David is upfront). I had to push to have Tania in on the last set... I'm the Tania fan club president LOL.

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Postby Steve Hook » 10/04/02 11:01 AM

Tim:

You make some good points. However...

What you are "hearing" here at the Forum is the same thing I've heard from friends outside the Forum:

"John and Dave are annoying".

It doesn't have so much to do with whether they're faking their responses or whether the performer had to work for their guffaws but with that simple assessment: they're annoying.

86 'em!

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Postby mike cookman » 10/04/02 11:04 AM

I watch L&L videos for the material, primarily. I dont care at all that those two guys are always there. I didnt see anyone complaining about Tania always being there. I certainly have no complaint with her being there.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 10/04/02 02:22 PM

Originally posted by Tim Trono:
In magic we are putting these out much more rapidly as their primary function IS to teach.
I take you at your word when you say this. But since they are put out so rapidly, the cynic in me thinks that they are also put out to line the pockets of Harlan, Ammar and L&L.
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Postby C. Hampton » 10/04/02 04:17 PM

I totally I agree with Mr Mullins in his asertion, that is why I was asking not to do the 3 or 4 volume deal, that is just basically a scam, and they know it. That is why they break down the good material and distribute them through the collection, so us customers are force to buy all the volumens to get the good stuff.
Overall there is a great amount of great material, but there is as much, if not more of pure filler. :mad:
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Postby Tim Trono » 10/04/02 05:22 PM

I am a real advocate that videos/DVDs only contain material is strong, usable, etc. Id rather have a video with two or three killer usable items than five volumes of fluff. I state that upfront because of what I am about to say LOL. I totally understand WHY three volumes has become the mainstream way of marketing. It is very important to realize this is BUSINESS. If it was always a matter of breaking even financially then L&L, A-1, Murphys, Hermetic Press, Meir Yedid, Kohler, Kaufman, etc. would NOT be doing this. So Bill, you are partly right it IS to line the pockets but I dont necessarily think that is bad as long as the product is a good product.

To plan, film, edit, produce, and release a video and/or DVD is not cheap process. There are tons of costs associated that you probably would not even consider, and some you would, including but certainly not limited to: performers fee, travel and lodging and food expenses for performer, camera crew fees, film, rental of any additional equipment not in stock, editing fees, food/beverage (for guests at shoot), spectators fee (sometimes small fees will get paid to a few select people to ensure a few pleasant to look at spectators i.e. model types- are there), authoring fees, graphic design fees for video sleeves and DVD cases and ads, reproduction fees, film costs for printing, advertising costs, shipping costs, etc. As I mentioned earlier, a hit release in magic may only be 1500 to 2000 units. When you then look at wholesale rates, jobber rates, etc. it quickly becomes apparent that doing one volume is a losing proposition financially. Please dont misunderstand it doesnt make sense to do it financially BUT I DO feel that a multiple volume shoot should NOT be done unless it is warranted (i.e. the performer has enough STRONG material for how many ever volumes).

Part of the problem is our own magic community. I cannot even stress how much illegal duplication is going on. That REALLY cracks into the profit margins of some of the producers mentioned. Youd be amazed that even in such a relatively small market how much that eats into things and you have to remember this IS business thus it needs to make financial sense to continue.

The rip offs come in a number of ways including but not limited to: people who dupe videos for friends, shops that rent video (this drastically hurts sales as people will buy and watch one time or illegally dupe the rented video the shop buys one instead of several copies and it just keeps recycling), and those that share videos.

DVD sales are significantly higher than video sales and I feel one of the main reasons is is that it has been harder to dupe them. However, even this is changing. You may have read in the latest MAGIC Magazine mention of L&L having their Malone DVDs illegally duped. There is some scumbag somewhere ripping them off and thus hurting all of us. So, you may ask, why not just sue these people to put a stop to it? Well, quite honestly there is simply not enough money IN magic. By the time a lawyer gets involved you have eaten up more than youve lost. And most shops or people that are illegally duping or renting (when the video advises not to) arent worth going after as they dont have a large pot of money to win. Its important next time you see someone illegally duping a tape or a shop renting a video that it is not supposed to rent that you point it out and take a stance. If, as an example, L&L is loosing money Louis can simply close up shop and retire and wed be sh*t out of luck as we wouldnt be seeing the many wonderful releases in the can including Tommy Wonder, Ted Lesley, Richard Osterlind, David Regal, Daryl, etc. In the end WE are the ones who suffer. It may seem like no big deal if you see this happen once or twice but these quickly add up. I am sure youve heard that shoplifting raises the price we all pay for consumer goods and this is basically the same thing.

Part of the problem is also a misunderstanding of the business aspect of magic. I recently read a post where an individual, who I have a great deal of respect for, advised people not to buy from their favorite shop but to get it directly from the creator. I know this individual had the best intentions in mind and I too am all for supporting creators BUT think about this If the creator gets a retail sale he is happy. However if the shops get those orders instead they will be happy that a new item is moving and making money from them. Thus they may pick up a dozen or more units (yes at wholesale but that still ads up to more than the single sales). They will also push it more if it is doing well for them. So they order more and the creator or producer gets more orders. It is common to always instantly steer sales to the creators when, in fact, it would behoove everyone to really support their favorite dealers and direct sales that way instead. In the long run this is more beneficial for EVERYONE including the creator. Ive SEEN it happen where shops cannot compete with an aggressive creator so they dont carry or push and item. The creator does better initially but in the long run if he had supported the shops and worked with them (instead of being a competitor) hed sell many many more units. Thus there are a lot of misunderstandings about the business aspect of magic and more and more people get into releasing items without truly understanding these important distinctions. Ultimately this hurts as well.

OK I digress but I think the above points ARE important and relative.

Multiple volumes are not made to screw us (the consumers). I honestly feel that way. Instead they are done to make a project possible. I can GUARANTEE you that there would NOT be a Bill Malone, a Tommy Wonder, a David Regal, a David Roth, etc. shoot if there were not multiple volumes BECAUSE the producers would lose money very very quickly. By the time youve paid these top professionals (who are taking a cut from what theyd be making performing but are mostly doing it out of love of our art) and paid all of the other costs I mentioned above (and more) and compared that to what a single video would make theyd lose money almost instantly. Again, I am NOT promoting fluff just trying to address the business side of things which is typically overlooked. Its almost looked upon as bad that L&L, A-1, Murphys, Hermetic Press, Meir Yedid, Kohler, etc. are making money Im not sure why in any other industry if you are financially successful you are regarded highly for that.

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Postby Guest » 10/04/02 09:56 PM

Personally, I think that if Louis wants to sell more videos/DVDs, all he needs to do is put Tania in the front row, and leave the camera fixed on her. Just my opinion. :D ;)
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Postby Tim Trono » 10/04/02 10:52 PM

I TOTALLY agree David. I joked with Louis and Tania and told them they should have Tania on the cover of EVERY L&L Presents and more people would be getting multiple copies of their newsletter. Or at least have Tania on every cover holding a small picture of the featured performer. Tania had no idea what a fan club she has in magic LOL.

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Postby CHRIS » 10/05/02 04:25 AM

Tim,

you made some very good points regarding the business side of magic. If no money can be made, the quality and amount of products will suffer.

However, I do not agree with your opinion on 'selling directly to the end consumer', be that either the creator or publisher or manufacturer. You wrote that it is bad for magic.

If you look into other product sectors you will quickly find that it is a very good development. Think about Dell computers. They helped lower the prices of PCs for everyone. Did it kill the PC industry? No. If anything it stimulated the industry. If done well, a direct sales strategy can be much more benefitial for the creator or author or performer. When he can make more money he will be able to put out only quality material instead of a lot of fluff. An example I know most about is my own direct business strategy. Currently I am not selling through dealers or distributors. That means I can pay much higher royalties and royalties are calculated from the end consumer price rather than the dealer discount price. The end effect is that an author gets 6x to 8x more money per sold copy than in the traditional business model. Yes, of course, right now we are selling a lot less quantity. But this is just a matter of time to build up a loyal customer base with good products and outstanding service. If we would sell through dealers we could sell more and probably in the short run earn more. But in the long run the authors and creators would loose out. I am convinced that over a period of 10 years a direct sales strategy is much more benefitial for everyone. The author makes more money, the consumer gets lower prices and the publisher or manufacturer will earn more too and has direct contact with his customer base.

The Internet changed the game. It is possible to succeed with a direct sales strategy. It is not easy, as anyone who has sold online will atest. But I think that it is a win-win situation for customers and authors. And these are the two groups I care most about.

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Postby Terry » 10/05/02 06:21 AM

Have to say I agree with Tim on this one in that we need to support the local merchants if we want to keep them open. Example:

I'm a hunter and we have 2 choices for purchases - Wal-Mart & Mike's Guns. Granted everything is cheaper at Wally World (I have additional 10% disc as part-time employee), but alot of their products are seconds. Most usually buy from Mike to help keep him open, the quality of goods & service and the chance to "chew the fat" with other guys in the store.

Re magic shops - I like being able to walk into one and review a book prior to purchase and talk to others for their opinions on products.

Re DVD/Video debate - I think we tend to compare magic DVD/Video prices with other entertainment video prices. As Tim pointed out, in magic there is a smaller market which keeps the price high to cover costs. The price is relative to the market.
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Postby Tim Trono » 10/05/02 10:18 AM

Hi Chris. Although you do certainly raise valid points I don't think your comparison makes this an "apples to apples" situation. The computer business is a multi billion dollar industry. What they generate in a day, the whole magic industry probably generates in a year. I just dont think its a fair comparison. Neither are such things as the movie industry (mainstream), the music industry, etc.

If you look at other more volume businesses (producers of product) such as L&L, Murphy's, Hermetic Press, Kaufman, Meir Yedid, etc. I'd imagine that they have more capital to offer because overall they are generating more income due to more business/volume. Thus, with all due respect, I doubt you can offer more and make it more beneficial to the creator. Im not trying to knock you but just trying to look at it from a business perspective.

You mention the internet and it does make things easier but even with it I dont think you can move the product that, as an example a 100% dedicated sales team of 6 people such as Murphy's has, can move. So I believe volume DOES make a difference and the only way to ensure this is kept up is to primarily focus our business towards the shops generally.

I certainly support the creators as without them there would be NO shops BUT I think it's best business wise to go through the shops. I think we should be supporting the shops better. Let's say I am releasing a product on my own and NOT selling to the shops, distributors, etc. or even selling most of it myself. I get 300 sales. Maybe if those sales had gone through the shops, the shops would see a money-making, successful product and thus push it more. Trust me this IS the case if they are seeing a product move they WILL push it more. Then because of the volume of the shops throughout the world, I'd be selling WAY WAY more than the 300 units. I've SEEN people try to sell items directly and cut out the shops and they lose in the end. Sure they'll make money but based on volume not anywhere as much IF the product is good (method, effect, packaging, competitive price point, etc.).

Also, the more I think of it, the more I disagree on the small independent guy such as yourself being able to make it more beneficial to the creator. You know I have a lot of respect for you Chris and you've actually helped me out quite a bit prior. I also, for the record, think you do really great work. So I dont say this as a personal thing But why wouldn't a Tommy Wonder or a Bill Malone come to you for a project? I'm not trying to say that in a bad way though it sounds it... sorry... the answer is simply that you are a one person operation (doing a great job mind you) whereas a company like L&L has multiple resources, a team, and can generate a much greater income and thus really make a big project work financially. Most smaller independent guys can't do that. When I was previously working with Kevin King and we owned Reel Magic we were doing well and our products were successful but we certainly were NOT creating the income for big projects, paying a great deal to talent, etc. We both had other jobs just to live. I think I DID overstate it when I said it was bad for magic.... I think that I probably should have said something to the effect that it is not the best financial or business thing for the creator and it hurts the shops business wise which CAN hurt us all.

It's an interesting discussion we typically dont think about. Just think where we'd be without L&L, Kaufman, Hermetic Press, A-1, Meir Yedid, Murphy's, etc. Just think where we'd be without the shops supplying us the newest items. I certainly DO advocate supporting the creators but I am just stressing that we should not forget the big picture. A lot of people don't understand this industry because most are not in the business side of it. However, if you look at the boards there are a lot of comments made about the business side "without" looking at or knowing the bigger picture.

Wow sorry this has kind of gotten off topic

Well, it's my one year anniversary with my girlfriend so I have to get out of here and go get some roses, etc. Its way too easy to get addicted to these discussions LOL. Have a great day.

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Postby Scott » 10/05/02 05:21 PM

Maybe brick and mortar shops would do more business if they didn't charge $35 for a DVD that was sold to them for $10.

I'm happy to support any brick and mortar shop over an all internet business providing I'm not getting raped. I'll gladly pay 20% more at the store, but some magic shops prices are just flat out wrong.

I have seen videos, yes, normal "Easy to Master.." videos for $43 each in a magic shop. That's just rape.
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Postby CHRIS » 10/05/02 06:53 PM

Tim,

upfront, I as well highly respect you, your work and enthusiasm, and what Murphy has brought to Magic. I also highly regard the work of people like Stephen Minch, Richard Kaufman, Louis Falanga, and others. They do wonderful work and produce most of the times great products.

But we disagree on the business model. I am not saying that for everyone and everything a direct business model works and is good. For digital content, like ebooks or software, the Internet and therefore a direct business model without a network of dealers is very effective and has a high chance of making larger returns than going through dealers. Time will tell. In a few years it will be easy to judge if my strategy works or not.

Running the numbers, I think the advantages of a direct business model is fairly clear. Let's take the 300 copies you said you could sell, if you sell directly without going through dealers. Taking the numbers I have mentioned before (and I can back them up with data if you like), one copy sold makes ~8x more money for the author or creator than going through distributor or dealer. That means you would have to sell 300 x 8 = 2400 copies to produce the same amount of profit for the author. You also mentioned before that a successful video sells 1500 to 2000 copies. So what do I miss here? The direct business model clearly wins over the distributor dealer path. Because over time, ten years or so, I can sell more than 300 copies. Perhaps 500 or 600. Maybe more if the Internet is becoming more popular, which it will. This simple analyses tells me that a direct buisness model has a lot more potential. It is still not easy to do and realize these numbers, but who said that doing business is easy?

Beside this to some degree academic discussion I very much resent your statements about my business. All you know is myself. You do not know who is working behind the scenes, you do not know who is helping me and working with me. To claim that I am a one-man operation is wrong. Yes, it was my idea, and I do a lot regarding publicity work, marketing, service a.s.o. But don't think that I do all the work myself, converting, publishing, ... you might be surprized how large our operation it is if you would know all the details. You can see it clearly on the output we generate. If I would have to do all by myself I could not sustain that level and amount of quality products.

You wrote "But why wouldn't a Tommy Wonder or a Bill Malone come to you for a project?"
How do you know I am not working on a project with one of them? Just take a look at my author list: Roberto Giobbi, Jon Racherbaumer, Peter Duffie, Jamy Ian Swiss, Steve Mayhew, Aldo Colombini (will soon be released), Bob Cassidy, Shigeo Futagawa, Jarle Leirpoll, ... and all the others I have missed. I would put a Giobbi, Racherbaumer or Swiss anytime on the same level as a Wonder or Malone. They are all great in their own way. More and more authors are contacting me for projects. There are several top names among them. Just wait and see. Yes, I also publish less known authors, because I want to help them and give them a chance. These are the Giobbi's and Malone's of the future. Not all of them, but some will be.

In all fairness, in the two and half years I am in business, I went from a nobody, to somebody that publishes some of the greatest in magic not even mentioning the work I do to preserve old and classic works. Not bad if you ask me. I am proud of my record. Falanga also started small with one book he did together with Jennings. We all have to start somewhere. Lybrary.com is growing very fast. About a year ago Joe M. Turner compared Lybrary.com with a Chihuahua. I think I upgraded to a Schnauzer. And before you know it, we might be a German Shepard. I promised him to prove him wrong. Wait and see.

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Postby Tim Trono » 10/05/02 11:54 PM

My apologies, Chris. You are correct... I was making an assumption of your business when in fact I don't know a lot about it (I know you guys are doing great work, etc. but do NOT know a lot of facts about the actual business). I've said on this and other boards before the danger of making an assumption and I did precisely that. Sorry!

I certainly DO know you have some top talent and Jamy Swiss has spoken VERY highly of you in our personal discussions. I am a HUGE fan of Giobbi's work... just read the ad of his lecture video and you will see my quote of how highly I thought of that.

Im not saying an independent producer cannot make it work. I do think you are a rare exception though as I know you work extremely hard. And you are correct... not only did L&L start small but so didn't Murphy's and some of the others mentioned. Now if you go into our warehouse/main office you'll be amazed at the size of it and we'll soon be going into an even bigger (much bigger) and better facility. If you saw where it started you'd be amazed. Anyway, my main point in all of this is that we often forget to support the shops. In the end they are VERY VERY important.

The number I used of 300 is simply a random number I pulled... on any strong product we'd move SUBSTANTIALLY more than this... sorry for any confusion this example caused.

I know we disagree on the business structures and thats OK. I think we do both want our companies to better magic generally and to make what we offer and how we do business better and better. I think we also respect each others businesses. One of the things we really concentrate on is supporting the shops and we are working on new and very interesting ideas to do an even better job on this.

Again, my apologies for making an assumption without any facts. Stupid on my part.

One of the other comments above mentioned annoyance at paying $35 on a video when they felt they should pay much less. There are a few points that are wrong with that post and, as I indicated prior, clearly show statements such as this are made without real knowledge of the business side of things. First, I believe this individual "may" be comparing it to more mainstream releases but magic, as was discussed prior, is a VERY VERY small market. If we were selling thousands and thousands then the price point probably COULD come down. But such is not the case as was already discussed. On top of this, the shop is getting the product at less than the retail price BUT they have to make a profit to stay open whether it is a brick and mortar shop or an internet shop. You don't think when you buy a $500 TV that the store pays $480, as an example, for this item... NO... it's profit and it's what allows them to stay open. There are a LOT of costs associated with running a business, big or small... warehouse space, office space, telephones, computers, 800 lines, employee salaries, overtime, employee benefits, taxes, electricity, shipping, supplies, office equipment (Xerox machines, fax machines, etc.), and a million more... running a business is not cheap. So businesses producing books and videos have to make a profit to continue as do the shops. It's so easy to complain that a video is costing $35 but would you rather just not have access to the information... would you rather L&L, Hermetic Press, Kaufman, A-1, Meir Yedid, Murphy's, etc. just stop putting out items? Would you rather have the shops stop making a profit (and it's NOT huge) and stop selling? I think the pricing you see IS competitive based on the small volume of our field, etc. When you are a company like Microsoft, etc. you are selling millions so you can/have to do more volume and this brings your costs down and thus the product can be more competitively priced. Trust me... no one is making a huge amount of money off of any one product in magic. Too often people mistakenly feel that a $35 video is making $35 for the producer of the video. This is just NOT the case by far. They may think the shops are making $35... again... this is NOT the case. The margins overall are fairly slim.

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