Archive for January, 2013

FOUR POINTS: Basics will improve pics of your magic gear instantly

Thursday, January 31st, 2013


FOUR POINTS: Basics will improve pics of your magic gear instantly

They say good things come in threes, and seven is a lucky number.

But magicians know that four is a truly magic number.

~ There’s four suits in a deck of playing cards.
~ Four seasons, four dimensions, four main directions.
~ We buy coins and sponge balls in sets of four.
~ Four personality quadrants (very handy to identify in spectators.)
~ Scientists have discovered that four is the magic number for the chunks we can hold in short term memory.
~ When we have issues with our diagonal palm shift, we usually utter four-letter words. (What, you don’t? We do. And you’re lying.)

Because four is a magic number, it’s perfect to use in a new feature on the Ellusionist blog: FOUR POINTS. It’s a pretty simple feature: We’ll give you four important points about a topic, from practice to pop culture and everything else related to magic. And we’ll kick this feature off with something near and dear to our fans’ hearts, judging from what they send us regularly:

FOUR BASIC PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS THAT WILL IMPROVE YOUR PICTURES INSTANTLY

Photography is important to us, because it’s also important to our fans. We make beautiful, eye-catching things such as the Infinity deck (pictured above), and we want to show them off right. Our fans are also proud of the gear they get from us, and love sending us pictures of what they get.

Not everyone has an awesome camera with top-end lenses, or the new iPhone 5, with its crazy awesome low-light abilities. Most of us have basic point-and-shoots that do pretty well. The pace of progress has given us some pretty powerful point-and-shoots, actually. But there are some basic things you can do to make your photos instantly better, no matter what you are shooting with:

FOUR POINTS: Basics will improve pics of your magic gear instantly

LIGHT: Whether you use daylight or your camera’s flash, you need light for a good picture. Don’t be fooled by the monitor that shows what you’re shooting — a camera sees light differently than the human eye. Make sure your subject is lit well. If you don’t want to use a flash, find a lamp or two.

DOING IT RIGHT: Blackwater’s picture of a burning chunk of ice is a dark picture, but his use of light (and how he caught flames on ice) won him first place in one of our photo contests.

FOUR POINTS: Basics will improve pics of your magic gear instantly

SUBJECT: Pick a clear point of attention. It’s one thing to slap a bunch of stuff down and cram it all in the frame. It’s quite another to focus on one thing and let it enhance all the others. Want to take a pic of all your decks? Pick one or two and place the rest in the background. Think about eye-catching ways you can ARRANGE all the items you want to picture. Then use the rule of thirds to decide how to compose your shot.

DOING IT RIGHT: Martin-zz won second place in that same contest. Notice the Ghost card: It’s off to the side, instead of being smack in the center of the frame, and his written message is tucked away in the corner. That’s good composition.

FOUR POINTS: Basics will improve pics of your magic gear instantly

BACKGROUND: It’s said that photography is all about what’s NOT in the frame, as much as what’s in the frame. Make sure the background complements the point of attention you picked in the last step. And make sure your subject is clearly in focus. Everything else can be fuzzy.

DOING IT RIGHT: Onesickknave was a photo contest finalist with his shot of practicing. The ace in his hands is a clear center of attention, yet the mirror and computer screen enhance without distracting.

FOUR POINTS: Basics will improve pics of your magic gear instantly

MOTION: Do everything you can to eliminate camera motion. In other words, don’t move. Lighting issues make indoor close shots hard to capture, and fluorescent lights confuse cameras, so find a way to make your camera as stationary as possible. Prop your camera against books or on a table. Maybe a cheap, small tripod is something you can cram in your budget.

DOING IT RIGHT: This photographer for Michael Baker (performing in the background) was in bright daylight, which makes taking pictures so much easier. (In a nutshell: Bright daylight means the shutter is open less, which means the camera can stop motion better.)

Your turn: Show us how you put these tips to use. Grab your favorite Ellusionist gear, snap some shots and send them to us on our Facebook or Twitter pages, or e-mail them to joe@ellusionist.com.

Auction raises $1,600 for Wayne Houchin, who is ready to return

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013


Auction raises $1,600 for Wayne Houchin, who is ready to returnThe last two months have been a challenge for Wayne Houchin.

In December, his head was lit on fire by a Dominican TV show host. He suffered first- and second-degree burns and spent several days in a hospital before being released. But because Houchin said the incident was an attack (and from the video, it sure appears like it), he pressed charges. The resulting legal procedure required Houchin to remain in the country while authorities waited to arrest the host, Frank Barazarte.

The resulting treatment, extended stay and recovery took chunks away from Houchin’s performance tour. Away from his livelihood and his career as a magician. The future medical and legal costs will also take their toll as the bills come in.

But things are looking up. As predicted by doctors, he appears to be making a full recovery, according to a report in his hometown paper, the Chico Daily Democrat. His skin, while splotchy, is healing. His hair, singed away by the attack, is growing back. His hands, while burned, are still fully functional. And he’s ready to resume his performances at the end of January.

In December we asked for your help: We put eight rare items up for auction, including skateboard decks, rare uncut sheets, and prototypes of a Black Club ring and Blue LTD deck.

AND YOU CAME THROUGH. BIG TIME.

Thanks to your generous bids, we raised more than $1,600 to donate directly to Wayne (total reflects final amount after eBay fees). That money will go directly to him and his recovery.

Thank you so much for helping us help him. Houchin is an influential magician whose impact is still felt among our customers. His man-of-few-words approach is often imitated. He is one of magic’s most generous teachers and skilled performers, who had just recently hosted the Discovery Channel’s “Breaking Magic.”

Again, thank you so much. You can still donate to Wayne’s recovery by sending money via PayPal. Here’s a breakdown of the items and the final bidding prices:

Packing light is good, but do you have everything you really need?

Friday, January 11th, 2013


Packing light is good, but do you have everything you really need? A while ago, we asked our Facebook fans and Twitter followers how small a case they’d need to hold materials for a 30-minute set. An interesting trend came from the results. See if you can spot it:

  • ~ A pocket
  • ~ A playing card case
  • ~ A cards box.
  • ~ Nothing. There should be enough things in the crowd to use.
  • ~ Deck of cards.
  • ~ Four boxes of cards, which, by the way fit perfectly into the box that candy makers put chocolate oranges into.
  • ~ A wallet with coins Not exactly a very moving 30 minutes set though….
  • ~ Well I do walk around so, if you gave me paper and a pen, I could do mentalism to every one.

A lot of the answers were thinking small. The most popular answer was the box that held a deck of cards: That’s all some magicians need. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But think about this: Is it really everything you need?

Magicians have to be more than performers. They must be promoters. And they must be prepared for many situations. Kids, for instance: You really think the little darlings will be riveted by your gambling routine? And we know for sure that you can’t stuff a set of sponge balls in a deck box when cards are in it (we’ve tried).

We’ve seen a variety of rigs and cases. Daniel Martin has two large cases for his stage show; Nate Staniforth stashes everything he needs in a larger briefcase. Others have two or three different cases, depending on their gig.

The point is this: We’re all for efficient, manageable portability. But don’t be afraid to think a little bit bigger. For instance:

  • ~ Promotion: How are ya going to do it? Do you have room for a sign you can set up, or are you relying on business cards or a nametag?
  • ~ Think about everyday integration. We know lots of magicians who wear rubber bands like bracelets and who always keep a pocket of change handy. And, of course, most of us carry cards like the deck was another wallet. If you make carrying props a habit, it gets easier to pack and prepare.
  • ~ Cargo pants. They never went out of style, and magicians are some of the most likely people to take advantage of all that space. Provided that these are something your performance character would wear, we can’t recommend them enough.
  • ~ School or work luggage: Whether you are a high-school freshman toting the freshest Jansport, a hipster with a fair-trade messenger bag or a working professional with a luxury briefcase, there is likely room in there for a few of your props.

Inspired by his surroundings: Mario the Magician let magic find him

Friday, January 4th, 2013


Inspired by his surroundings: Mario the Magician let magic find himSometimes you gotta leave before you see the magic all around you.

Mario Marchese, who performs as Mario the Magician, says in a mini-documentary that he traveled to a bunch of artistic places that were supposed to inspire, enervate and infuse. But he ended up finding his greatest magic back home in New York City.

Now he is becoming known for his quirky, ingenious creations and his ability to pack a big show into things he can carry while skateboarding. He has written a book of card tricks for kids and had his devices on display at the legendary Tannen’s Magic Store. He’s performed for thousands upon thousands, and appeared on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”

The documentary shown below premiered in December at the David Rubenstein Atrium of the Lincoln Center. Director KAL captured Mario’s love of performance and willingness to let the art inspire him at home. Someone contacted our customer service department thinking that we would love this video, and they were right.

Where are you at? Same ol’ city? Some boring small town? It doesn’t matter where you are. Inspiration surrounds you. The only reason it eludes you is that your surroundings are so familiar that you see right past them, the way the human eye “ignores” things that don’t move.

Time to look again.