One of my favorite performing venues is what I call Formal Close-up Magic. It’s a combination of close-up and parlor magic worked in front of a small to medium sized audience. Much of the close-up magic is performed on a table. The inherent problem is vision. Most of your audience will not be able to see the table-side miracles. If money was no object I would have an incredible amount of fun with this problem. As it is, life keeps most of us on a budget which forces us to be creative.
After a few days of tossing the concept about in my head I gathered the electronics that I own and began to piece together what you see pictured here. A concept that I often live by is, “If you’re going to do something worth doing, do it right, do it big!” The art of presentation is what make things appear on a grander scale. Like a master chef who prepares the most elegant of meals that makes your mouth water just by looking at the dish, a magician and his setting are no different. One element of putting together a great show is to create an atmosphere which sets the mood for and exciting and wonderful performance. I like to use a backdrop, an array of tables and of course some type of PA system depending on the type of venue. Even as a child, my kid shows were put together in this way. Building a mini theater sets you apart from the low-rent entertainer who works off a TV table and out of his suitcase with little regard to his “stage”. It lacks professionalism. Creating the ambiance sets the mood right from the start.
While I’m still working on the set-up concept, this is what I have so far. Many years ago, I purchased a projection system for the dealer demos and lectures. It’s an Optima and went for about $2000. Many years since, you can find more portable and affordable projection systems starting at about $300. I also have a Sony HD camera. While you certainly don’t need to spend that kind of money, a good digital video camera can be had for under $300. An inexpensive backdrop system can be purchased from a camera dealer for between $250-$400. A projection screen can range from $50-$400+. The point here is that you can easily do this for a lot less monies than I spent!
The projection system can be switched between two devices. Using the remote control I can toggle between a computer and video camera. I have my 60 minute show mapped out to music. Sometimes, it’s background music; other times it’s music for a performance piece. I run the music through Microsoft’s Windows Media Player. This player has a great visual display that emulates a light show while the music is playing. The screen, as pictured, is filled with a very nice light display when performing the parlor tricks that do not involve being stationed at a table. These are effects that will play very well and be seen in a larger room without the use of projection. When I work the close-up effects, I simply toggle to the camera view and as if by magic, the screen instantly switches to an incredible view of the close-up arena.
I found that in a darkened room, a lighting fixture was needed. The result was a tripod stand that holds a lamp that illuminates a white bulb like a small spotlight. It lights the center of the close-up pad and allows for a clear crisp view on the big screen. While I’m still experimenting with the final result, I thought you can at the very least take what I’ve done so far and run with it. Have fun!