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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Grand illusion » » Pricing of illusions (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Oliver Ross
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Hi everybody,

After browsing through the internet of different illusion builders,admiring their great work, I asked myself what is it making the prices of some illusions more expensif then others.
Of course there's the detail work, the need of electronique, maybe even the materiel used for the building that will make prices change.

Exemple : Why a difference of 1500,- $, or even more, between two "simple" ilusions. By simple I mean that nothing technical like electronique or wires are needed.
Both have their blueprints in official books and the most expensif needs, in my opinion, less detail work on decoration and painting then the less expensif.
I'm talking about well known illusion builders, not knock off builders.

What are your thoughts on this point ?

Oliver.
afun14u
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It's like the Clothing industry...it's all in the "Name" on the Illusion. Nothing more! The two prop's could be built exact the same - same wood, same paint, same everything - is just one has a VERY well known builder and the second someone lesser known and that's it!
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1906Alpha1906
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My answer to this would be livelihood. Some builders are solely builders and not performers, or were performers at one time and now have retired and rely solely on building. Some builders build for the sake of building, and not to make a living. You never know the situations of the builders unless you gain a personal relationship with them. Some builders may have a "real job" and build on the side. Setting prices is based on their needs as well. Different materials in different parts of the world cost different amounts of money. Not all materials available to some are available to others, and they have to be imported, exported, ordered, etc. Different woods are available to different regions. It may cost more in certain areas to have different materials to use to get the job done.
Experience is also a key point. And of course TIME. What is one's time worth?? That is the main point. If you were to put a price on your time, what would it be? Of course, you would establish that yourself, and not let someone do that for you. There are quite a few factors that go into pricing what builders do what.
Equiptment - how much money and time do builders have in their equiptment? What type of equiptment do they use? The amount paid for that equiptment? Example - a piece of Freud Equiptment cost tons more than a Ryobi, however, a Frued will out perform a Ryobi any day. See where I am going? *smile*
While two in comparison may look the same perform the same, the builder is not the same.
Don't forget, each builder is a real person, and has their own background on why they are building. ITS FOR SURE NOT TO GET RICH!!!! *haha* Everyone has a personal background and story, and when you are spending certain amounts of money, those are the type of things you need to know.
Sometimes you pay for the name, but at the same time, they wouldn't have the name unless they were really good at what they do.
Anyhow, that is just my 2 cents on it.
Oliver Ross
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Thanks for your replies guys.
As said already, I'm talking about professional fulltime job builders.

1906Alpha1906,

Your remarks are correct if you would compare different builders.

In my exemple I would take the same builder for two different illusions, so the availability of material would be the same, as the use of their equipment.
Time would not be an issue, as they could take the time they need to build them.
So to me the only point come to my mind : Their name.

Maybe we should ask the professionals directly to find out ?

Just to make things clear, I'm not complaining at all, I just would like to understand.

Oliver.
ClintonMagus
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Also, with the top builders you can be assured that you will actually get the prop in the promised time frame...
Things are more like they are today than they've ever been before...
Oliver Ross
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Is there any professional fulltime job illusion builder out here at the café who could help me to understand please ?

Thanks.

Oliver.
Craig Dickens
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Okay, let me try to explain. There is a common perception among magicians ( generally those who are not full-time pros) that a builder is really nothing more than a contractor. I can't tell you how many times I get calls from someone who tells me he would make it himself ( he has the plans or the Rand Woodbury video) if he had the time. Very insulting. Very naive.
Here is the answer--
the masters hand
Why does Lance Burton get paid more than the guy at the party. They both produce doves, same tricks.
Why does a designer dress cost more than the knock-off. Same amount of fabric.
Why does a Rolls cost more than a Toyota...both do the same thing, same amount of metal.
See where I am going with this?
Large shops with employees have greater overhead ( rent, insurance, electrical cost,etc) that has to be factored in to the price as well. Also location--rent is very high in California, less in Vegas, less in Nashville.
Also quality and functionality. I remember back in the 1970's when I lived in Chicago and had limited exposure to "the real stuff". Abbott's was selling their Crystal Box for $1750 ( remember--the 70's!!). I heard the John Gaughn model was $3500.00. "Why so much?" I asked a friend. I then saw them both in person. The Abbott base could best be described as a wooden boat. The Gaughn model, unbelievably deceptive even up close. Fibreglass bottom, polished aluminum everywhere, welded aluminum legs ( not wood like Abbott's), industrial hardware I had never seen before. Now I understood and appreciated not just the building difference but also the design elements that the builder brought to it.
Most illusions do not have plans. They are sketches that show minimal information and the expertise of the builder works it all out. The first one built is often a functional prototype that puts the builder in the red from time invested to work it all out. This is then recovered in the subsequent copies.
Also think of other industries that deal with the arts--songwriters and singers for example. A songwriter pens a song and gets royalties for it past the initial writing. Builders ( especially of one of a kind props) are paid once and yet the performer then can go on to reap the financial benefits forever. The builders participation is often trivialized or forgotten as if they were just some contracted employee who was found at the hardware store.
For a great reality check, contact professional prop houses or set builders about rates. Magic builders are pretty inexpensive by comparison. Even though you may not be headlining television shows, you are now dealing with the big boys who build and supply for pros. Builders know what competitive rates are and also what the market will bear. We do expect to be compensated for our efforts. This is a business and is treated as such.
Yes, some builders charge more than others. Doctors, Lawyers, repair shops....that is how it works. Every builder has their specialty. Things they are particularly great at. See the props in person if possible. The differences will become apparent.
e-mail at:magicaldickens@aol.com
website: www.dickensmagic.com
hugmagic
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Great post Craig. It is hard for guys to understand that so much more goes into making magic than just a couple of hours time and some raw materials.

They are also paying for the experience of someone who has done this before or something similar and can make it work.

Good post.

Richard
Richard E. Hughes, Hughes Magic Inc., 352 N. Prospect St., Ravenna, OH 44266 (330)296-4023
www.hughesmagic.com
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Write direct as I will be turning off my PM's.
Magicque
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Amen Craig!
;-)
Rich Hill
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Great post, Craig!
Rich Hill
<BR>www.richhillsillusionshop.com
Oliver Ross
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Thank you very much Craig.

This is an answer I can accept and understand. You explained very well all the background of this issue, giving me exemples.

The only point I still don't get is, why two different illusions build by the same professional builder have so much difference in their price.

Maybe I would need more information on the material and its amount used in the building process.

Let me give you an exemple : The Lady in the Puzzle Illusion and The Wakeling Sawing.

If I'm correct both illusions are build out of wood. Having seen both illusions, to me there's more detail work on the first one, than on the second one (painting).
Maybe the wood used is not the same ?
Maybe it takes more time to build the second one than the first one ?
Maybe you need more people to work on the Wakeling Sawing than on the Lady in the Puzzle illusion ?
But maybe I'm completely wrong and miss something ?

I know, I'm still sticking with the raw material, but everything starts there. An special experience in working with one specific material doesn't justify, in my opinion, such an important difference in the pricing. And I'm not talking about 250,-$.

Just to make things clear, I'm not saying that the illusions are not worse the price or that they're too expensif. I've got a lot of respect for professional work and experience, because I can't do it. And if I would try to do so I'm 200 % sure that it may not last for a long time and support repeat shows every night.

Oliver.
Craig Dickens
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Hi Oliver,
If you are thinking of the traditional wood Wakeling sawing, it is a more difficult build. Here's why. Painting is easier than a natural wood finish. If a prop is to be stained or natural, all edges must be concealed, all excess glue quickly removed. Any mistakes ,flaws, screws on a painted prop can be filled or concealed--no such luck with natural. The original Gaughn model was solid oak with Rosewood inserts. Very high skill level ( fine furniture) needed for that. It had real sewn leather straps and polished, welded aluminum legs. It is that prop that I have in mend when I quote. However if made out of plywood without inserts of Rosewood and wooden legs it would be cheaper to build. Fine furniture finishing takes more time than painting as well. Each coat must dry and be sanded before the next application. Lady in the Puzzle is actually a rather simple build as detailed in Jim's book. I built one made to look like a crayon box on a red rider wagon ( the performers concept, not mine) several years back. It required hiring a pro scenic artist to complete since the removed boxed looked like rows of crayons and the back like a childs drawing of a schoolhouse. The painting alone took the artist 2 weeks.
e-mail at:magicaldickens@aol.com
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reedrc
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Ok lets try a different approach. From an artist perspective.

I can speak from experience because I've seen terrible builders and amazing builders. I've seen why. And why not. First off I think the topic is brilliant. Its something I feel is important to be asked (from individuals who are not seasoned professionals) This is information every magician or illusionist need to know and contemplate. As artists and professionals honing their craft.

I've found a few things with an artistic fabrication of sorts. (whether your a boat maker. A car maker, a home builder) As an artist. You either have it or you don't. Each artist usually studies their art for years and years. Hone and perfect. This particular kind of fabrication takes an artist and ingenuity as an engineer. Two things that are hard to perfect or accomplish. Some builders have this . Others do not. (some THINK they do - but do not)

So. If you have a renowned artist and engineer. Someone who's taken all their life and honed their art for the very thing you are seeking. Why in the world would you seek a mediocre artist (or no artist at all) a builder who has no vision, has no understanding or passion for the art you love. Just to save money, when
the end product would be just as soul-less as the art that went into the project.

To me. Its easy to spot the masters from the masterless. They are true artists and brilliant engineers who have worked most or all of their lives to hone their craft.

If you were a pilot. had the means to buy a state of the art aircraft. But a prude business man. need to save some money. What would you do.

Would you go and get a ship builder to collaborate with a consultant who designs planes. Or would you
go to the plane builder, someone who has studied their art, their craft so much that they could do it in their sleep. Something that WORKS - is tried and true - is engineered my a consummate professional,
and built by the best hands and knowledge in the industry

or. Would you rather risk your career for someone who builds dam great, who can read blueprints but DOES NOT understand the ART and the rest that goes into a LIFE of study in honing their individual crafts.

Doctors work a good part of their lives in order just to practice.
If you were on your death bead. Would you go to the local free clinic and hope some schooling newbie save your life to save some money? or would you rather go with someone who is QUALIFIED
to do the job you wish them to.

Magic & illusion fabrication is an art. And like art, its value is more than that of something that has no soul.
No real purpose. A shell. A copy. We see this all the time with "builders" (especially overseas) (but here in the states as well) There will ALWAYS be folks who WANT to be an artist who never will be. Those who WANT to be engineers. Who never will be. Folks that thinking shortcuts and penny savers will get them
to the place people , REAL artists have worked their lives for. Well there are no shortcuts in this business
there are no black and whites. Either you have it or you don't. Those who do, there are only a handful, know it from the sheer volume of business they incur. Johnny Gauhan an artist, a connoisseur of history
and all things mechanical. He's worked his life to learn history to apply to his art, and take it beyond with modern illusion (and historical illusion) (as an example)

The artist and engineer . The illusioneer.

Your paying for a life of artistic direction, and design, knowledge and study. While also paying for precision engineering and fabrication. Its expensive. Yes. But would you not like to invest in a work of art, that YOU can use to accentuate your art on stage? Or would you rather have a soul-less poorly manufactured facsimile. The art of illusion is an art. Either you've got it . Or you don't.

If you are an artist. This should not be hard to understand. If your not. I truly wish your happy with your soul-less fabrications. Where you cut costs, relied on incompetent and art thirsty individuals. It will show.
And bleed through and permeate your performance, and your show & art will suffer.

Why be mediocre when you can blaze your own trail , using the best minds and hands in the industry. If your not ready financially. YOUR NOT READY YET.

This is just my two cents, I truly hope this makes some sense and helps you on your journey. Good luck.
Oliver Ross
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Craig and Ryan,

First of all let me thank you for your professionnal inputs. I think both of you hit it. I really makes sense to me. Both of you are professional illusion builders and I think someone can't get a better point of view and detailed explanation elsewhere than from the professionals.

To me it was very important to understand. I think that it's very important aswell to explain all this to the magicians; the pro, the half pro, the amateurs and the wannabe's.
Someone said :" Understanding and admitting is the first step to knowledge."

Maybe like this we'll see less "rubbish" on stage and less knock offs aswell.

There's just a last little point where I don't really agree with you Ryan. And that's "If you're not ready financially. YOU'RE NOT READY YET".
In my honest opinion, you can be ready, but just don't have the money because there're other things that are a little bit more important in your life (i.e. your kids, the house, a new car) or for your artistry (new costume, a stage background, some lighting, some sound equipment...).
So this might open by the way another discussion on : "'How to find out if you're ready ?"
Who can tell you ?
Which are the steps to get ready ? And so on....If someone has an idea, please feel free to PM me. Just to get your opinion.

Anyway, thank you again for your great input. It helped me to understand and I hope I'm not the only one.
Honestly, two great posts !

Respectfully to the art of magic.

Oliver.
reedrc
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Oliver Ross: I'm just a creative consultant & Designer. I leave fabrication to the real artists and professionals. (Willie Kennedy, David Mendoza, EDF, Tim Clothier, and others) I feel "being ready financially" is a crucial step in the process. These things do cost money. If you were to buy a car but did not have enough money one might get a loan, a sponsor . (Or buy a mini bike) But a mini bike certainly is not a car correct? Who can tell you if your ready: A professional consultant. (Jim Steinmeyer, Don Wayne, Mark Parker, and others) These guys would be on your production team to aid you in making sound decisions with your technical, Props, light, sound, choreography, Illusion details, design fabrication. The people or professionals you choose to surround yourself with to help build your show can really improve things ( or dramatically decline them ).

Again cheers for your post this is the MEAT people should be reading . .
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