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Old 2nd September 2018, 10:26 PM   #1
Meadmaker
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Magic for Humans - Illusions, or cheating?

So I watched a show on Netflix last week called Magic for Humans and, either this guy is really, really, good, or it's just fakery. I mean, I know that all stage magic is fakery, but there's good fakery, and bad fakery......cheating. This guy is doing some basic magic tricks, but also doing some things that would be truly amazing, or so it seems to me, if he wasn't editing film, photoshopping, doing lots and lots of cuts and only picking the ones that worked. (e.g. He has a thing where he has some folks throw a dart at a board full of notes, and it turns out that he has written the contents of the note on a chalkboard behind the dartboard. I can think of several ways to do that, but all of them would be fairly obvious to a person who was physically present for the trick.) I can also think of one way to do that trick that would look really impressive on a TV show. That would be to do enough takes with enough different volunteers, and then only show the ones where the magician got it right.

There was a another trick where a child put a cup over a marshmallow, while the child was alone in the room, and the marshmallow disappeared, and the child was amazed. Once again, I can think of ways to do that, but most of the time the kid would figure out what had happened, or at least that there was a trick cup involved, but if you only showed a few seconds of film, from selected children, there might be several seconds before they caught on.


So, anyway, has anyone seen this show? If so, for those of you who are more familiar with magic than I, is this guy a great magician, or is he just fibbing about how much editing and/or clever camera work was required to make this look impressive.

And I note that some of the tricks were quite well done, but in the realm of ordinary tricks I have seen other magicians do. e.g. He "borrows" someone's cell phone, sends it flying on a pack of helium balloons, and then it turns out that he still has their actual phone hidden on his person. It was very well done. I couldn't tell you exactly when he made the switch. However, I've seen lots of variations on that, and it was no harder than some other tricks of the same sort. However, there were some that I would declare impossible without some form of post-trick editing.
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Old 4th September 2018, 09:22 PM   #2
Norman Alexander
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For the notes trick, all the notes say the same thing.
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Old 4th September 2018, 10:00 PM   #3
Matthew Best
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Originally Posted by Norman Alexander View Post
For the notes trick, all the notes say the same thing.
No, they don't. They say different things. (It helps if you've actually seen the show).

I found it impressive in a way, but when you make a big point of saying there are no camera tricks, it kind of spoils it when it looks like there might be because there's so much cutting between different camera views. Just show me one view without edits and I'll understand that it's the view you want me to see. That's fine.

I could only watch the first episode and got put off the rest for this reason.
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Old 5th September 2018, 08:51 AM   #4
Meadmaker
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Originally Posted by Norman Alexander View Post
For the notes trick, all the notes say the same thing.
As M. B. noted, nope.

The trick involved high school seniors leaving school, and the magician asked them what they thought they might do for a living. He had a bulletin board on wheels with notes on it that had different professions. The student threw a dart at the board, and the magician turned around the board to reveal a blackboard, with the chosen profession written on the blackboard.

I don't think there is any way to "force" a dart the way that you would force a card, so that means the message had to be chosen after the dart is thrown. There was no way, without editing, that he could have written the message, that means it had to be selected.

Here's where the trickery could come in. If that was actually a blackboard, there would be no way to store 25 of them. (That was the number of notes, or thereabouts) So, it probably wasn't a blackboard. However, anything else wouldn't look much like a blackboard. (i.e., there could be a roll of fabric with 25 messages, and a secret button press, or even voice command, could roll it to the proper spot.) I think that any such mechanism would be easily detectable by the "mark".

On the other hand, I could see the person being fooled for several seconds. He films the several seconds of amazement, and cuts before they say, "Hey wait a minute! That's not a blackboard." Several of his tricks could be done that way, but even in those cases, some of the subjects would notice right away, so he would have to not show the ones who noticed the deception. Or, as long as he was cheating anyway, he could just film an awful lot of students, with a prewritten message, and only use those cuts where the dart landed in the right spot.


Or......maybe some of you folks with more knowledge of magic could see some other way. If it's something super-secret, I'm not looking to reveal the real way the trick was done, just some information from a knowledgeable source to say that yes, a good magician could fool a live subject often enough that he would be reasonably confident that they wouldn't spot the trick.

I would like to think he really was that good, because if he were, his show would be pretty entertaining, but as it is the tricks look so close to impossible that I just assume that he's cheating, which makes the show boring.
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Old 5th September 2018, 08:56 AM   #5
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Being forced to ponder this, I think he could have had a flat-screen monitor on the back. Throw real chalk dust on it, and it could look like a real board from 8 feet away.
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Old 5th September 2018, 09:03 AM   #6
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I felt the same way about many of the tricks.

Especially the one where he asked people if they wanted something and then pulled it out of a bag. I can imagine how he could have pulled off the illusion of pulling any one of those things from a bag, but not how he could have anticipated the result of such an open ended question or have all those things prepared.

I feel the same way about something represented as live illusion that's really just camera tricks and editing. Feels cheap.
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Old 5th September 2018, 09:04 AM   #7
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I think any time video of a magic trick includes a cut, the entire clip should be dismissed as fakery.

Also any time the cameraman somehow fails to keep the entire trick in frame, despite that being their one job. Like the David Blaine thing where he's levitating on the sidewalk, but somehow it never occurs to the guy with the camera to just step back, hold still, and give us a wide shot of the trick. Instead it's a shakycam closeup that leaves you confused about what you actually saw. Because what you actually saw was a bit of obvious fakery that anyone with a pair of eyes and three feet of distance would see instantly.

The acme of stage magic is to fool the eyes of an attentive audience who can see for themselves the entire trick without interruption. You're allowed to exploit the geometry of the stage and the auditorium, but you can't ask the audience to close their eyes while you put the rabbit into the hat, or only look at the left side of the stage while you operate the elevator mechanism on the right.

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Old 5th September 2018, 11:08 AM   #8
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Haven't seen it but have read comments on other forums. Majority seem to think there is some kind of unacceptable trickery going on in regard to what the television audience seems. That may be true, but nothing you have described here requires it. As you have described them, I can think of ways to do the notes-on-board effect and the marshmallow effect without anything overly sophisticated.
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Old 5th September 2018, 01:31 PM   #9
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I'm not a huge magic fan and I enjoyed the show. It was entertaining and self deprecating at times. His banter was the least annoying of any magician I have seen on TV. And some of the gags were pretty funny even if the magic wasn't outlandishly great.

It is not a serious show about magic. It is a bit light hearted.

The best moment in the entire series is during the credits of the show with the moms:

One of the middle aged moms turns to one of the other moms and says something like "It must be hard to have a son who is a magician. What do you tell people?"


ETA: Another great trick he does is convincing someone they are invisible and most of the fun is that you know how he is doing most of the trick. The rest is probably easily understood by amateur magicians.
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Old 5th September 2018, 01:46 PM   #10
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The problem as I see it is that if he's not cheating, then we can't tell because the way the show is edited makes it look like he might be.

ETA I guess that's what I already said yesterday.
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Old 5th September 2018, 02:08 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Matthew Best View Post
The problem as I see it is that if he's not cheating, then we can't tell because the way the show is edited makes it look like he might be.

ETA I guess that's what I already said yesterday.
My point is that the target audience isn't watching that closely. Also, I have less trouble with it because he isn't actually claiming to be magic. He never uses the phrase, but I think he is an honest liar.
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Old 10th October 2018, 01:44 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Garrette View Post
Haven't seen it but have read comments on other forums. Majority seem to think there is some kind of unacceptable trickery going on in regard to what the television audience seems. That may be true, but nothing you have described here requires it. As you have described them, I can think of ways to do the notes-on-board effect and the marshmallow effect without anything overly sophisticated.
Agreed.Not seen this show ,but from clips on Youtube I'm not impressed,cas in point https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9NX2VjZNGc

Impossible to do without spectator being "In on it" and as someone else noted higher up there's camera cuts, in this trick it comes after suction device is placed on arm but before he starts "Pumping" when skin is suddenly a different shade.
I dont rate him as a magician at all https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hY4SRZIBFF8&t=61s

The two tricks here suffer from the "too perfect theory",awful obvious pre show,no other explantion.Well..maybe actors but I doubt it.
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Old 31st October 2018, 04:55 PM   #13
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The general rule for televised magic is trickery done live on stage is perfectly acceptable and, in fact, is part of the show, but using the camera or other TV SFX is cheating.
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Old 5th November 2018, 01:23 PM   #14
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Justin Willman is a respected magician, and all of the effects on his show can honestly be done without camera tricks. The chalkboard, the marshmallows and his studio-work is all fairly standard magic or mentalism and can be done without stooges.

The camera does have to occasionally cut-away from a sleight/prop/time-lapse, but only to accurately show the spectator's perspective of astonishment.
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Old 5th November 2018, 01:50 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Mr Salk View Post
Justin Willman is a respected magician, and all of the effects on his show can honestly be done without camera tricks. The chalkboard, the marshmallows and his studio-work is all fairly standard magic or mentalism and can be done without stooges.

The camera does have to occasionally cut-away from a sleight/prop/time-lapse, but only to accurately show the spectator's perspective of astonishment.
The problem with stage illusions is that any time the camera looks away, you've broken the magician's bargain with the audience. Even if no "cheating" happens during the cutaway, the magic has been lost. There may still be an illusion on stage, but there's no longer an illusion on screen.
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Old 5th November 2018, 02:03 PM   #16
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I've never enjoyed magic on TV to the same extent as seeing it live. There's always the nagging doubt that some sort of editing has been done to trick the audience. It doesn't have the same excitement that "honest" trickery has of seeing it live.

I'd really have to trust the producers to play it honest and not cheat, which I generally don't. Captain Disillusion has a good debunking video of an internet magician that used all sorts of editing BS to punch up his act, and there is really no reason to believe that others wouldn't also resort to this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dSp_f0f9gE
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Old 5th November 2018, 03:22 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
The problem with stage illusions is that any time the camera looks away, you've broken the magician's bargain with the audience. Even if no "cheating" happens during the cutaway, the magic has been lost. There may still be an illusion on stage, but there's no longer an illusion on screen.
The unblinking eye of the camera makes misdirection difficult; especially with rewind/pause. Some effects, like Blaine's levitation, require strict blocking that don't necessarily coincide with an interesting camera-angle. I agree that the art often suffers on TV.
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