Archive for the ‘Four Points’ Category

FOUR POINTS: This is why AI will never make better magic tricks

Monday, November 17th, 2014


FOUR POINTS: This is why AI will never make better magic tricks

So you saw that story about how a computer designed a magic trick, and it made you give up magic, right? Seeing that a computer is capable of devising a trick that fools laymen and magicians alike, you threw down your deck of cards, completely gave up on your idea of combining a glide and a cop and went back to browsing listicles involving cats and Emma Watson?

Yeah, we didn’t think so.

The report about researchers from Queen Mary University of London touts that researchers programmed a combination of the mechanics of a jigsaw puzzle, the method of a mind-reading card trick and results of experiments into how humans understand magic tricks. From that, the computer came up with some variants. Able to process a larger amount of variants, one of the co-creators of the project said that the amount of variants “keeps audiences guessing.”

Most of you probably caught on that one of the tricks is more of a puzzler, and the other is mathematical. Probably didn’t leave you feeling all that threatened, and you went back to practicing your table faro shuffle. Still, there might have been a seed of doubt — is this just a harbinger of things to come? Will AI progress to the point where we can get fooled by machines? Is this the beginning of technology changing magic?

We feel your pain, and we’re here to assure you that magic will be fine. We may eventually be enslaved by hopefully benevolent robot overlords who at least give us sme food before they use poisonous gases to poison our — you know. But they will never fool us with magic tricks. Here’s why:  (more…)

FOUR POINTS: FIFA World Cup filled with lessons for magicians

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014


FOUR POINTS: FIFA World Cup filled with lessons for magicians

The 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament is getting close to its finish. As of now, eight teams remain in contention to call themselves world champions in a game played in virtually every country of the world.

This year’s tournament has been especially thrilling. Football is close to a religion in many countries, and the game’s popularity has surged even in the “soccer”-shy United States.

Because we have magic on our minds almost all of the time, we haven’t followed much of the action. Our staff is international, but there hasn’t been much trash-talk between us. We can’t help it — the things we are seeing in the magic world are just too awesome to ignore, and we have so many incredible irons in the fire.

But there are a few things about this year’s tournament that inspire our sleight of hand. It might seem counterintuitive for something played with feet to influence an art that depends a lot on our hands, but we found some important lessons that the beautiful game can teach the beautiful art of magic.

PATIENCE

Haters point to the low scores of matches and think the sport has no excitement. Obviously, they’ve never sat down to watch a game, and understood the thrill of watching a successful defensive stand or a brilliant scoring shot.

Magic is much the same way. If we hurry through a trick and rush it past our spectators, we risk losing the impact needed for that incredible reaction we crave. The old saying of how the hand is quicker than the eye leads us to assume that speed is king in magic, but that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Slow down. Let your play develop. The perfect opportunity for maximum impact will present itself.

MISDIRECTION EVERYWHERE

One of the daily Google searches we check is for “magician,” and we can’t tell you how often that terms is associated with players. We didn’t really understand why, until we watched a few highlights from the tournament. We saw top players displaying a dizzying level of proficiency moving the ball, whether they moved into position or took a shot on goal. They are always juking, dodging, faking and making other moves to make defenders think the ball is headed elsewhere.

Every move we make has to be similarly structured. We must display the same amount of proficiency, in order to keep spectators guessing about where we are going. The advantage we actual magicians have over a player on the pitch is that we get time to plan and structure everywhere we want to go, everything we want to do.

INCREDIBLE SAVES

Even before Tim Howard’s record-setting performance in the U.S. loss against Belgium, we have been impressed with the efforts of keepers. Goofs happen to us, whether it’s a dropped card or a lippy spectator. Those are shots on our goal. Part of our skill as magicians is to deflect those shots on our goal. We learn how to cover a goof, how to handle a rowdy audience member, how to transition off a failed trick.

PERFECT PRACTICE TIME

The perfect time to absorb all those lessons is during a match, which runs about as long as a movie. That’s also the perfect time to practice your moves, especially the ones you’ve recently learned, and are looking to advance them to an instinctual level. Remember that practicing while your eyes are focused elsewhere is great conditioning for muscle memory — you start to feel when things are right or wrong.

FOUR POINTS is a regular feature that celebrates magicians’ favorite number by highlighting four critical bits of importance, awesomeness or otherwise. Send your suggestions to joe@ellusionist.com.

FOUR POINTS: Consider adding these accessories to your wardrobe

Monday, May 26th, 2014


FOUR POINTS: Consider adding these accessories to your wardrobe

A lot of our customers ask us which deck of playing cards they should pick, and our answer is usually the same. Because all of our decks have some of the best stock, finish and handling in the business, we recommend that people choose the deck that best fits their performance character.

That’s a fancy way of saying this: Match your style.

Not everyone can use a deck of Arcanes in black, for example. The iconography lends itself to a darker, more mysterious style. Someone who seeks an elegant, refined design will lean toward Artifice, and someone who sticks with table demonstrations will be best served with a deck of Dealers.

We encourage people to treat deck selections like clothing, in a sense, because the same philosophy applies to wardrobe. And that’s something you should be carefully considering, because part of entertaining is looking the part. Nothing enhances your appeal and professionalism like the right wardrobe (consider it your costume), and a magician who does not dress like a pro will find it difficult to score repeat bookings.

We’ll assume you’re familiar with the basics, such as pants, and get right into advanced-class material — you should be thinking about accessories. These enhancements to our clothes also offer performance advantages for the right kinds of effects, as well. (If you really must know what we think about pants, we highly recommend wearing them.)

Whether you are selecting a wardrobe for professional gigs or you want to dress to be magical anywhere anytime, here’s four accessories you should consider as part of your performance character:

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FOUR POINTS: Going back to basics always good practice for experts

Monday, May 12th, 2014


FOUR POINTS: Going back to basics always good practice for experts

Think about how long you’ve been into magic, and all the arcane, obscure material you’ve hunted down. From memorization techniques to NLP, from gambling cheats to elaborate gaffs — look at all the material in your library and rate how complicated they might be.

Got it? How many of those books or videos are intended for beginners?

FOUR POINTS: Going back to basics always good practice for expertsSeriously: Got a copy of Card College? Crash Course in Card Tricks? Tarbell? Royal Road? When was the last time you looked at one of the basic beginning books and reviewed it with an experienced mind?

We know of at least one group on the Internet devoted to going back in time. Members of the secret group are revisiting Roberto Giobbi’s “Card College,” all five volumes, and making videos based on the principles taught. Their goal is to get a deeper understanding of the magic taught within.

And the first step was Vol. 1, where sleights such as the thumb break, step, overhand shuffle and ribbon spread are taught. Tough stuff, eh? Yet these experienced card workers, most of whom have regular paying gigs, devoted the time to holding a pinky break.

It’s genius for a lot of reasons, but four main ones stand out:

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FOUR POINTS: Pursuits of magic, music have much in common

Friday, April 4th, 2014


FOUR POINTS: Pursuits of magic, music have much in common

We’ve met so many magicians, illusionists, sleight-of-hand artists and other performers that we’ve lost count of the times we’ve lost count. Some of them have successful magic careers, some just love performing. All of them are incredible.

And we can’t help but notice all the things that they have in common: They are largely outgoing, have no problem talking to anyone anytime, are creative and so much more.

One of the less common things we’ve seen that magicians have in common is a deep connection to music. Not every magician might know an arpeggio from an allegretto, but most seem to have a strong sense of rhythm and tone. Whether they choose music for a show or play music on their own, magicians just have an ear for music.

It got us thinking exactly what makes magicians and musicians mesh so closely.

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