DEEPER LOOK: Lock Stock & Riot shows style is filled with possibilities

February 9th, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Products

Magic and style go hand in hand.

Especially since the start of this new era of street and close-up magic, performers have not been content to wear the tried and true tux-and-tails type of outfit. They instead incorporated parts of their own sense of style into their presentation. David Blaine wore T-shirts in “Street Magic” for a reason: He knew he was going to perform for people in public places, and needed to dress appropriately.

Here’s the best part: Our style can be incorporated into our magic. How many of us say we’re just card guys? How many of us think that the only way to express our magic is through a deck of playing cards?

The best of today’s magicians don’t think that way.

Production director Peter McKinnon didn’t think that way. He kept a leather notebook filled with ideas that he would perform regularly. And he didn’t stick to cards. He used coins, gimmicks and much more for his performances.

Some of those ideas were published for the first time to the magic community in Lock Stock & Riot. The six-routine project includes a tie production from the act of taking off a hat (Suit Up) and an intensely visual ring disappearance (Pantheon). Even the card work in Lock Stock & Riot has a wide range, from a pure flourish in Breakdown to a beautiful piece of magic in Pandora.

Lock Stock & Riot reveals P:M at some of his creative best, because he looked around at the things that inspired him and gave them new magical meaning. These are ideas inspired by the things around him, and they likely would have stayed in his notebook if it hadn’t been for prodding from Team E. The video, in addition to teaching six incredible routines, teaches that everything about you can inspire something your spectators will love. What do you see? And what can you do with it?

If you don’t have Lock Stock & Riot, now is your chance. Dive in.

FOUR POINTS: Reasons why teaching the ACR took a full video

February 5th, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Four Points, Products

Despite the amount of material we’ve released over an almost 15-year period, our older material still draws attention, and none more so than Crash Course 2. The video teaching the ambitious card routine (ACR) has been one of our best-reviewed videos because it features Brad’s teaching style at its best, and it’s packed full like a Southern bell’s suitcase with sleights, moves and ideas.

Released in 2003, it marked a departure from Crash Course 1, which taught several stand-alone routines from beginning to end. With a concept of teaching the ACR, it taught so much more than a routine — it taught how to make OUR OWN routines. The ACR is a classic of magic: It was a specific variation of that trick that Dai Vernon used to fool Houdini. It can be done myriad ways with a borrowed deck of cards. Every card worker has their take on it, and usually relies on some form of it as their go-to trick.

That means there’s no one way to teach an ACR. There are multiple ways, and that’s exactly the approach Brad Christian took with the video. And that approach makes Crash Course 2.

Performances

Crash Course 2 offers some of the best examples of learning by watching. The video was PACKED with performances of the effects taught. It gave watchers a chance to see exactly how the sleights played to real people, and how some performances don’t exactly go as planned, but still look magical. We also got to see so many great reactions, from the kid with the “Jackass” shirt to the girls Nate Staniforth performed for.

Utility

At its core, Crash Course 2 is a video packed with controls — a lot of different ways to accomplish the same thing. How many different ways do we REALLY need to know how to get a card to a certain position? The serious answer is simple: A LOT. For many, Crash Course 2 was a first toolbox, or arsenal. It gave magicians many options of accomplishing a certain task, and that freed up creativity.

Versatility

The moves taught in Crash Course 2 go way beyond one-hit wonders. Many of those moves can be adapted for other purposes. Take the push-off double lift, for instance: It works at either the front of a trick to show a card going somewhere it’s really not, or it can be used at the end of a trick to reveal what a card really isn’t. By learning all the different uses for a sleight, the video taught a powerful lesson about using sleights in different ways.

Ownership

This is probably the most important point: The other three points basically give magicians the power to create their own routines based on their performance character. David Blaine got many interested in magic, but one thing the video drives home is that people don’t want to see magic tricks performed — they want to see a GREAT MAGICIAN performing magic. Learning a variety of sleights and different ways to use them lets magicians take ownership of their own magic, and that’s the best lesson of all.

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.

Marked Dealers marked a new era for this card-reading utility

February 2nd, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General

Madison Dealers, especially the first Erdnase Green version, are filled with advantages for the skilled card handler. The full-bleed back is reminiscent of the Bee decks long favored by sharps. The stock, discovered and tested by Daniel Madison at great lengths, is one of the finest we’ve found and provides superior strength and handling. And the shade of green is exactly the same as the first edition of S.W. Erdnase’s bible of card handling, “The Expert at the Card Table.”

But the biggest advantage is hidden in plain sight.

Dealers are marked, after all. Each card back clearly identifies what’s on the other side, as long as the secret markings are understood by the handler. It’s a TREMENDOUS advantage, whether the sharp is at a high-stakes, back-room table or in front of an audience.

But the Madison Dealers started something at Ellusionist. Consider these points about the marking system:

  • • It’s something that DM wanted for the price of a regular deck of cards. Before the Dealers, a working set of marked cards could cost $20 to $30, or even more. Handmade decks might have flaws that threatened the deception of the utility. But having a marked deck emerge for the price of a regular custom deck is, quite simply, a game changer.
  • • The philosophy is so powerful that it has been included in other decks. The Kings featured a new, unique marking system, and the 1800 Vintage decks were redesigned to include a marking system. In other words,
  • • The system behind the Dealers remains one of the strongest on the market, because of its minimal alterations. Consider a marked deck one would obtain from a big-box retail store. Those usually have a back that features obvious clock designs, with one “wheel” for suits and another for values. That means there are 15 to 17 points where alterations may be made. Alterations to regular Rider backs reduce that number of points to 9 or 10. But the Dealers have only six alteration points, and those points are small. And the back’s repeated use of the small dots make the alteration spots even more difficult to detect. That means the Dealers can withstand the scrutiny of more savvy laymen.

The Dealers mark a new age for marked cards. Use them wisely — these incredible cards give you much more than just a step ahead.

Syfy becomes a new home for great magic with TV lineup

January 26th, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General

Something amazing is happening at Syfy. The network known for so-bad-they’re-kinda-good B-movies such as “Sharknado” and for stepping up its drama game with “12 Monkeys” and “Helix” is finding a new niche for great magic shows — the kinds of magic shows that make us cheer, not cringe.

Look at this lineup:

  • • We’ve already told you about “Wizard Wars,” the show that transforms the spirit of a jam session into an “Iron Chef”-style competition. Featuring Penn & Teller as celebrity judges, the show is the brainchild of Rick Lax and Justin Flom, and starts its second season Thursday. The new season features even more big names in close-up, including Project Manager Adam Wilber, Justin Miller, Messado, Eric Jones, Nathan Kranzo and more. The second season debuts at 9 p.m. EST Thursday.
  • • After “Wizard Wars” is a new show that promises plenty of close-up magic just by the name. “Close-up Kings” features Johnny Blaze, Magick Balay and Loki performing magic and stunts during a cross-country trip. As the journey progresses, the illusions get more orchestrated and turn into “Ocean’s Eleven” kinds of capers. “Close-up Kings” airs at 10 p.m. each Thursday.
  • • Already airing on Syfy is a new show from Troy Von Majik. “Troy: Street Magic” features the UK magician in a David Blaine-style street setting. Interesting use of hidden cameras gets completely different kinds of reactions, and each episode features environmental effects, from breaking and restoring a pair of designer glasses in front of the shop owner to bowling in a unique way. “Troy: Street Magic” airs at 10 p.m. EST each Tuesday.

It’s a solid lineup for the kind of close-up magic we love and live every day. The latter two are our favorite kind of magic shows, where magicians take their art to the street and capture the reactions of amazed onlookers. And though “Wizard Wars” takes place on a stage with an audience, it has close-up and creativity in its heart, and gives one of the best looks into a magician’s creative process without spoiling the magic. Plus, Penn & Teller are the perfect judges to critique a show based on magic creation.

In short: All these shows are great for magic, and it’s awesome that Syfy is highlighting the shows that magic fans and magicians alike can enjoy.

Do you plan on watching? Let us know in the comments below.

FOUR POINTS: Ready to meet your idol? Prepare for the possibility

January 19th, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Four Points

It doesn’t happen very often, but when you get to meet someone you idolize, it’s an incredible moment.

It happened to Resh Gohel, of Darwen, England. The magician is also the owner of Resh’s Restaurant, and his guests last week included two of his favorites: David Blaine and Derren Brown. He got a chance to tell each of them about how the magicians inspired him to pursue magic — Gohel, a performer who works weddings and corporate events, hopes to leave the restaurant behind and perform full-time.

Gohel got to express his gratitude for discovering how magic can influence people’s lives.

“The main thing I love about it is that everybody has problems in their lives, but when you perform to somebody and do something that wows them, they forget about them,” he said to the Lancashire Telegraph. “You know for a fact that they are bamboozled and that they have forgotten about everything else. Nothing else matters for those few minutes.”

The story got us thinking: Are you ready to meet your idol? What would you do if you did? Squeal and giggle? Pump ’em for information? Get an autograph? We believe in the power of positive thinking, so it never hurts to mentally prepare to meet the person who inspires you. And the exchange might help give you some motivation or insight to help push your magic to the next level. Here’s some tips:  Read more