Video for magicians. Part two.

I recently gave some thoughts on promotional videos. They were of course strictly my opinions however they were based on a great deal of experience in the field. Every now and then I get involved in emails and try and give specific advice. I have decided not to do this any more!

I recently got involved in a correspondence with someone interested in entering the cruise market. His initial video, which was unavailable online, contained two items that were palpably unsuitable to send to anyone booking this kind of work, and I pointed this out. Next he wanted to know whether a video featuring needles and razor blades was suitable. NO.

This leads me to one final statement on videos that are designed to raise work in a specific area. Make sure they are suitable! With a family audience, it is highly unlikely that any booker wants a performer who presents magic that could influence young people and possibly cause them to cause damage to themselves by trying to emulate it. Look at your market, look at your repertoire and use your best instinct. If in doubt have several videos (or one video cut several ways) to cover the various markets you are interested in.

I want to continue my last blog with a word or two about the performer’s use of video support, or as it is often referred to I-mag.

It can be a wonderful blessing to have a video camera blow up the action that is taking place on stage, but there are a few points I would like to make.

1      The only point for video support is to supply close-up shots of the action, important props, selected cards, facial expressions etc. If the video is just a long shot then it does very little good. In fact in my opinion it can do harm, as the audience’s attention is split between the live action and the screen(s) and you have split the focal point of your audience.

2      The best way to improve the quality of your video assistance is to write a short, clear and simple script for the videographer. Let him know what you are going to do and when the close ups will be most useful.

3      If there is more than one camera involved, find out which one is going to be used for the close-up shots, and play the appropriate action to that camera. Play it just a little slower than you would if there were no cameras present, because he needs time to focus.

4      Try and work from the center of the stage and twist your body from side to side to display the props/action to the live audience. If you keep striding around from one side of the stage you will find the camera misses your actions and it looks bad on screen—which is where most people will be watching.

Both of these last two points can best be summed up by thinking of yourself as performing on a live TV show. You are playing to the camera, which is relaying your actions to the crowd. Concentrate on making eye contact with the live audience and occasionally really blasting the camera with your eye contact.

5      Sometimes this video assist is projected without a copy ever being made. But if it is recorded make sure that you request that they make a dub for you. This could be your next promotional video waiting to happen.  Usually, if it is a corporate event, they will keep a copy for their records, though it isn’t always easy to get one, but give it a try. It is usually the case that they edit the cameras on the spot for use during the live event. However, you can always request that they run ‘iso’ on the cameras, and that way you will get footage from all the cameras shooting plus the line edit. Offer to pay for any additional cost.

It is always useful (actually, almost essential) to get some audience reaction shots in order to edit your promo tape later. A few friendly words (and sometimes a $100 bill!) can work wonders in obtaining co-operation. You might just end up with a three thousand dollar video shoot for  (almost) free!

One other topic worth discussing is the use of a pre-show video presentation to set up the opening of a live show. These were very popular for many years and indeed rather effective. They were usually referred to as ‘credibility builders’ and contained a bunch of short clips from ones various TV appearances.

I certainly used one for many years and it was a rather fun video that combined television footage with archival promotional footage and clips of some of my friends/heroes/mentors. If you would like to view it (it is actually rather fun for magicians!) you can find it on my website at

I very seldom use this video now as things have got much tighter in regard to copyright restrictions. Clients can be very nervous about potential lawsuits due to infringements. They were always fun though and I do miss the way they managed to let your audience know about your credits without having an MC mangle them!

More to the point now is a brief Keynote/PowerPoint clip that can run after your show to let audiences know about your website information. I general also have a very simple graphic with my name and photo that is shown on any screens prior to the show. These can both be burned onto CDs, with a back up on a thumb drive.

~ by Nick Lewin on October 19, 2012.

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