If they can’t see it—they won’t like it!

I am going to write a very brief blog about a very important topic. Visibility. For all the hundreds of articles written detailing tricks you will never learn and moves you can never master, this is a topic that is seldom mentioned and it deserves to be at the front and center of every magician’s attention zone. Whether you perform stand up, close up or strolling magic one simple mega rule applies; if they cant see it then they wont like it.

There are a few other very simple rules I would like to propose.

NickLewin-DW-0041sm1    If you are performing stand up magic in a nightclub or banquet environment make sure you hold up those props at least chest high if humanly possible. The lower you hold the props the tougher the visibility factor. If you are dealing with a small object like a treasury bill or a playing card, then try to display it at almost face level. If you follow this rule the audience can not only see the prop you are displaying but they can also observe your facial gestures too— a big bonus.

2    If you are working close-up magic at a table, realize that if there are audience members seated in front of you in rows, usually only the front row (and not always even them) have a clear view of what is happening on the table. Of course there are exceptions, however, these are usually only working areas that have been designed to showcase the close up magic worker. The sight lines are great in the Close-Up Gallery at the Castle or Warren & Annabelle’s in Maui but these are the exceptions to the rule.

3    If you are performing at a table, it is much more visual, and better for visibility, if you stand up rather than sit down to perform. This way it becomes much easier to display props in your hands, which allows you to really scan the objects towards the audience when displaying them. Of course, standing up makes lapping items a lot tougher, but you sometimes have to give up a little to gain visibility!

4    Are you using the biggest props that you can to achieve your chosen effect— are you performing the coins across with dollars original_5or half dollars? It really does make a difference if you are using a 12-inch silk or an 18-inch silk. A little bit of thought, and perhaps some work on the handling, can make a huge amount of difference to how commercial your act is. Whoever said size doesn’t matter definitely wasn’t talking about sleight of hand props.

5    Not all cards are created equal. When you display a playing card to the audience, some cards are a great deal more visible than others. Black cards are generally more visible. A two of clubs is a delightfully visual card. From a distance any high spot card or court card looks almost indistinguishable from all of its counterparts. It may be worthwhile in a card trick (even when a free choice is possible) to loosely force from a block of ‘visible’ cards.

6    If you need to get a playing card signed during your show, try and get a “clean” looking card like a 2 or 4 of the apposing color from the Sharpie you are using for the signing. A court card only allows a tiny signature along the side of the card, while a seven thru ten make visibility tough from any distance. These are small but important details.

bc5d2259_std7    Be very aware of the color that is behind you when you are working if there is a chance that one of your props will “disappear” into it. If you are onstage with a red curtain behind you and perform the Untying Silk with a red handkerchief then you are lessening your chance of reaction and visibility. Have some duplicate props ready to substitute as circumstances dictate. That same red handkerchief will look great in front of a black curtain, but having a white Untying Silk will improve things in the red curtain scenario. It is actually really just all about being a professional.

8    If you are doing something with props where you feel that visibility might be an issue, then tell your audience what you are doing while you do it. The old golden rule is “Tell them what you are going to do, tell them when you are doing it and then tell them when you have done it.” It makes a lot better sense to do this than making them guess what the hell is going on.

I could probably add to this list at some length, but you probably get the idea already. A little specific thought about your own act will probably be of more use to you than my doubling the length of this list!


~ by Nick Lewin on August 28, 2015.

4 Responses to “If they can’t see it—they won’t like it!”

  1. Nick,
    Another great column!
    Just to support your ideas and comments:

    #1 My mentor told me years ago; ” With stand up, hold the prop near your face. The prop with out your facial features means absolutely NOTHING.”

    #2 and 3 The number of people watching close up should stay around 30 to be effective, and sitting down with the people, at their EYE level was essential!

    #4 You are correct about money magic. My teacher went from quarters to silver dollars way back in the 60’s when doing his work with coins i.e. Coins across, Cap and Pence, and Chinatown dollar. It is strictly for VISIBILITY!

    I could add more, but I don’t want to put anyone to sleep!

    Oh, my mentors name? Don Alan.
    If anyone needs more information or verification about the above, go out and get Racherbaumer’s book on Don Alan’s work .

  2. Anything Don Alan said was WELL worth listening to. You were really lucky to be able to learn from him!

  3. Your cards across is a great example of what you preach.
    The contrasting colours made me want it. Very visible.
    I am glad I have it.

    I once asked Ken Brooke about one of his tricks ( think it was the lapel flower) If it could be seen from a distance. He walked to the window
    and said “I left my matches on the dash of my car across the street; can
    you see them?”
    ” Yes” I answered
    He replied ” How far away is that?”

    Bye the way; I think he used one of 2 Dupont lighters or an electronic Ronson usually.

  4. Great story! I’m loving your bottles…….

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