Cellphone magic

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.
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erdnasephile
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Cellphone magic

Postby erdnasephile » April 19th, 2018, 3:44 pm

I recently was present at a non-magic function. The night's entertainment was a magic act which consisted of almost 100% tricks with cellphones and other technological devices. The show was professional, high energy, and well performed, albeit a bit repetitive. The audience response was enthusiastic. I was caught out several times during the performance and enjoyed myself.

However, when I spoke with conference attendees the next morning (they didn't know I was a magician), they seemed less enthused. The prevailing sentiment seemed to be that as impressive as the tricks were, they were all a result of technology somehow. The more I thought about it, it seemed like a case of the magic not transcending the methodology.

The tech savvy (or those who watch TV and movies) know about the remote control of cell phones, harvesting callback numbers, caller ID, voice commands, website spoofing, and Bluetooth. Not only are these the "magic" of our current age, they provide ready fallback explanations of tech tricks--the modern equivalent of "he's got fast hands" or "it went up her sleeve." While this can be partially mitigated by doing tricks with their cell phone, when cell phones are involved, tech would always seem to be in play.

So, my question for the group is: what's the best way to present tricks involving cell phones without causing the audience to jump right to a tech method (right or wrong) they can live with? Put another way: Is it possible to perform cell phone magic and leave the audience with no possible explanation?

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Re: Cellphone magic

Postby Joe Mckay » April 19th, 2018, 3:57 pm

Max Maven said an interesting thing once. About doing magic with technology. He felt it weakened the magic to perform a trick with a piece of technology that is inherently more impressive than the trick itself.

How many tricks with a phone are ultimately more impressive than the fact you can instantly talk to anyone on earth? You don't get those jarring ideas when using low tech objects like pencils, cards and books.

That said - I think the fact that you can use smartphones to record videos can make for some interesting magic. Since you are using that function as a simple record of what took place - in order to refer back to it a minute or two later.

Andy over at The Jerx has a couple of great tricks that use the video function of modern phones in this way.

http://www.thejerx.com/blog/2015/6/22/cellphone-magic

http://www.thejerx.com/blog/2016/8/17/in-search-of-lost-time and - see here for an update - http://www.thejerx.com/blog/2016/10/24/callbacks

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Re: Cellphone magic

Postby lybrary » April 19th, 2018, 4:24 pm

erdnasephile wrote:Is it possible to perform cell phone magic and leave the audience with no possible explanation?
No. Even the better tricks done with a smart-phone are on the level of a bar bet. They are great things to do if you need to kill some time, but they are lacking that deep and profound mystery a good magic trick can evoke. The phone is the explanation. It is a bit like with many math tricks. Few spectators will really be able to reconstruct the method, but everybody knows it has something to do with math. Having said that, it doesn't mean it can't be entertaining. The mystery part will be lacking but it can still be a great performance.
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Re: Cellphone magic

Postby performer » April 19th, 2018, 5:05 pm

Instinctively I have although thought that tricks with cellphones are bloody ridiculous especially to people like me who barely know what a cellphone is and what I do know is that I detest the bloody things and consider them a menace to humanity even worse than the magicians who use them. In fact I was going to to purchase a phone jammer to get some peace from the damn things until I found out that they were illegal.

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Re: Cellphone magic

Postby Jack Shalom » April 19th, 2018, 7:05 pm

So, my question for the group is: what's the best way to present tricks involving cell phones without causing the audience to jump right to a tech method


Have them end up in the guts of a dead fish?

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erdnasephile
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Re: Cellphone magic

Postby erdnasephile » April 19th, 2018, 7:33 pm

Jack Shalom wrote:
So, my question for the group is: what's the best way to present tricks involving cell phones without causing the audience to jump right to a tech method


Have them end up in the guts of a dead fish?


Ha! I had forgotten about that!

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Re: Cellphone magic

Postby Tom Gilbert » April 19th, 2018, 9:14 pm

I believe that Bob Cassidy was against using electronics in general.

Quick story though. I was with a non-magic friend when a magic buddy stopped by. He showed my friend an effect with a cellphone. My friend said something to the effect that the trick was great. When my magic buddy left my other friend asked if I knew what app was used.

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Re: Cellphone magic

Postby observer » April 20th, 2018, 2:09 am

I would like to just say that I agree with all the responses so far.

Which is sort of a boring thing to post, but there you go.

Would it help if I admitted that I clicked on this thread because I thought it was going to be about cellophane magic?

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Re: Cellphone magic

Postby Jack Shalom » April 20th, 2018, 2:38 pm

It's a sticky subject...

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EndersGame
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Re: Cellphone magic

Postby EndersGame » April 28th, 2018, 5:34 am

Are you familiar with Greg Rostami's Inject 2.0? It's a very versatile tool that has a lot of potential, and can be used to perform a wide range of effects.

If you're not familiar with it, check out this promo video here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-2Sv71s-kE

Below are a couple of raw performance videos that use Inject. See more examples on Greg Rostami's youtube channel here.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEBSqEdJZ3Q
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbvBoeP92Tc

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I think that when used well, using a cell phone can really create some great magic, and gives new possibilities. It also connects well with the modern generation, and gives card magic a whole different feel than what they are used to. In my own experience, I've found that young people respond very positively to it. They use their phones all the time, so having magic happen on their own phone in an inexplicable way really can have a big impact.

I've personally performed Josh Janousky's IG (see my review here) with great success. It uses Instagram for a card reveal, and is very easy to do, and yet it really does blow people away, and they love the novelty of using technology for the reveal.

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erdnasephile
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Re: Cellphone magic

Postby erdnasephile » April 29th, 2018, 9:43 am

I have watched the videos linked above--thanks for the references. I'm sure those are fine tricks and am glad you have had success with the latter.

However, I would like to consider just the bare bones plot of the first video: Magician tells spectator to search for any subject on their phone and then he tells you what you searched for.

I described the effect to someone who knows little of magic, and their response was that the magician was somehow able to look at what was on the spectator's phone--which is, of course, the correct answer.

Phone pairing is a concept that is not unknown to people with smart phones, especially with the advent of the Apple watch. The notion of "forced pairing" is also not uncommon in popular fiction. For example: http://personofinterest.wikia.com/wiki/Forced_Pairing The idea that technology is covertly being used to gather personal information is also forefront in the news.

That's why I suspect at the function I was at, initially people were fooled, but when they kept mulling over what they had seen, their minds constructed a method they could live with.

When starting this thread, it was not my intent to review/criticize specific iphone tricks or step on anyone's toes. It's just that it's my aim to leave no possible explanation and (as Hadyn has written), I want people to hurt themselves over and over when they think about what they've seen. If the explanation "Oh, he must have done something through my phone" or "it's a fake website", or "he had me choose from a list" makes them comfortable, even if they are 100% wrong, I feel I haven't done my job.

PS: I was very happy to read the ProMystic article in this month's Geniii (pg 95) where Rob Gould and the ProMystic consortium not only anticipated my question, but also provided a very cogent, reasonable answer.

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EndersGame
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Re: Cellphone magic

Postby EndersGame » April 29th, 2018, 7:53 pm

I appreciate your reply erdnasephile, and particularly I would agree wholeheartily with the following:

It's just that it's my aim to leave no possible explanation and (as Hadyn has written), I want people to hurt themselves over and over when they think about what they've seen. If the explanation "Oh, he must have done something through my phone" or "it's a fake website", or "he had me choose from a list" makes them comfortable, even if they are 100% wrong, I feel I haven't done my job.

That's a valuable sentiment worth repeating. Strong magic does indeed require creating the illusion of impossibility, as Darwin Ortiz explains so well in his book Designing Miracles. And it is our job as magician to rule out all possible explanations from the minds of the spectator, whether they are the method used or not.

If technology is going to be used in magic, it does bring with it new dimensions:
- new possibilities: new ways of revealing information, and even new methods - as in the case of Inject 2.0 and IG.
- new challenges: spectators might attribute the magic to the technology, like the examples you mention, and it's our job as magicians to anticipate that and rule that out as a possibility.

To me, the new possibilities offered by technology are exciting - new methods are possible, and not only that, in my experience the spectators love it when magic happens on their phone, because these are kinds of magic that they haven't seen before, haven't considered, and the magic uses devices and websites like Google that they are using every day. This can make magic all the stronger and real for them, because it is happening in the world they are part of every day, and it's happening in new and exciting ways they have never imagined or experienced previously.

I do think the challenges can be overcome, but especially it requires considering the criteria that you mention as an essential one when deciding which tricks to perform and how to perform them. Ideally you want to use multiple methods, where technology is just one part of the method, and traditional sleights are another. This is the "veils principle" that Darwin Ortiz describes, because the use of traditional methods will force spectators to discard the notion that technology was part of the secret, because they'll say things like "but he can't have just used a fake website or done something with my phone, because he never saw the card that I picked!"

In my opinion and limited experience with these types of effects, the benefits (new methods, and a real connection to today's generation) are worth the effort it takes to overcome the challenges. The key here is good magic design, which as you rightly point out pays careful attention to performing and presenting an effect so that it does seem truly impossible.
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Re: Cellphone magic

Postby EndersGame » April 29th, 2018, 9:28 pm

Out of interest, for those who might be unfamiliar with the possibilities, here's the official list of effects that are included with Inject 2.0, taken from the ad copy:

1. Google Peek - Know what your spectator is searching for on their phone. You can also perform Google Peek even if your phone is dead!?
2. YouTube cards - Magician plays a YouTube video on the spectator's phone that predicts which card he will pick/name.
3. Cards - The magician knows which card is selected from a virtual deck of cards (a web album) on the spectator's phone. You can also use this to force any card.
4. Glance - This effect works with the Glance Magazine test by Steve Thompson ... this is the closest thing to real mind reading without the traditional phishing.
5. Hand Gestures - The magician predicts on the spectator's phone which one-hand gesture he will display. Requires no props.
6. Actors - The magician googles the images of an actor that the spectator is thinking of.
7. Actors Force - You can use this effect to either know which actor your spectator is thinking of, or you can use it to force an actor.
8. Stanford List - Predict which item on a list a spectator will think of - this is another force utility that gives the spectator a completely free choice.
9. Any Card At Any Photo - Spectator 1st selects a photo on their phone, and then selects any card in a face up deck. The selected photo is written on the back of the selected card!
10. Any Card At Any Number - Spectator thinks of any card and then selects a number on their phone. Without the magician ever touching the deck, their card is at their number.
11. Houdini Eyes - A freely selected card is discovered in the eyes of a photo of Houdini on the spectator's phone. This photo can be posted on the spec's Facebook timeline.
12. LOVE Colors - The spectators writes the word "LOVE" with four different colors in any order. When they look at their phone, the magician's prediction matches perfectly!
13. US Coins - The magician finds a photo on the spectator's phone. The spectators arranges the four US coins in any order. The photo perfectly matches their free selection.
14. ESP - The spectator thinks of any ESP signs. The magi then reads their mind. In a role reversal, the magi then thinks of a symbol, and the spectator reads his mind!?
15. Planets - A Google search for a planet on the spectator's phone, proves to be the planet that the spectator was merely thinking of.
16. Cities - The spectator thinks of a city and the magician correctly reads their mind by finding that city on their online maps.
17. Web Album - An album of 100's of photos is shown on a spectator's phone. The magician can always predict which of the images the spectator will select.
18. Google Cards - The spectator thinks of ANY card. The spectator types "what am I thinking" in Google. When the magician waves his hand over the spectator's phone, Google VISIBLY does an image search for the spectator's card.
19. 100 year swipe - The magician correctly predicts ANY year that the spectator is thinking of on their phone.


Note that I don't have this app, nor do I have any connection with the creators. I'm just interested in the same question raised in the original post:

"What's the best way to present tricks involving cell phones without causing the audience to jump right to a tech method (right or wrong) they can live with? Put another way: Is it possible to perform cell phone magic and leave the audience with no possible explanation?"

As mentioned in my previous post, I think that the "Veils Principle" from Darwin Ortiz can be very helpful here. While one single barrier might be transparent, multiple barriers in a single effect will almost certainly make an effect impossible to figure out. An example Darwin gives is how a marked deck on its own might arouse suspicion, as might an Invisible deck, but when used together the one helps cover the tracks of the other. Lay-people will typically suspect the obvious method, and it's your job as a magician to disprove any possibility of that method being used. It's especially important to do this with what spectators would consider to be obvious explanations, and make it clear to spectators that you aren't using those methods. So you could use a marked deck in combination with a cell phone, and make it obvious that you never see the face of a selected card at any point - this will convince spectators that you can't possibly have used a technology trick, because at no moment did you ever see the card (but you didn't need to - you used a marked deck).

When using a cell phone, it's important to eliminate any suspicions that will arise later, and be pre-emptive by creating intellectual/conceptual barriers before the magic happens. So by constructing the effect properly, and presenting it well, you need to eliminate the possibility of certain methods that they might come up with later as possible explanations, making them mentally concede that what might otherwise appear to be a plausible method is an impossibility. This thinking in effect construction becomes all the more important when using technology like cell phones, because the natural thing for a spectator to do is to attribute it to a technological trick. For this reason you need to go out of your way, for example, by showing that you haven't touched the phone the entire time, or couldn't possibly have done anything to influence their choice, or obtained information in advance.
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