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Topic: Observe natural actions
Message: Posted by: Jaxon (Apr 17, 2007 03:55PM)
You won't beleive how helpful this is. To just watch how people move and act while doing things. I learned a lot by studying how people do things. And with todays technoloy it's easy to find people to watch. Just spend some time watching online videos such as youtube and study how people move.

In another post somewhere here on the Café I talked about the 3 different kinds of slight of hand moves. One of these are [b]Move that look like a natural action.[/b] In these kinds of moves the spectaros actually watch you do it but it doesn't look like you did anything suspicious. Just to give a few examples:

[b]A false pass or transfer[/b]
To the spectators it looks like you are placing the object in the other hand.

[b]Some loading moves[/b]
Loading a ball under a cup, a card under a glass, ditching something in your pocket under cover of getting soemthing out.

[b]Pretending the object is still in your hand[/b]
Let's say you jsut did a pass and they beleive the object is in your left hand. How you hold and move that hand is sort of like a sleight. They must beleive it's still there but they really can't see it.

Those are just a few examples. From observing how I and others move I've made a lot of changes to some of the sleights I do. What I use to think looked natrual I now realise look fake and suspisious.

Here's one thing I changed. After performing a pass with a coin I use to hold my hand in such a way that would suggest the coin is being displayed in that hand. But I noticed no one hold their coins like this unless they are performing. How did I decide how to change it? I observed people with coi in their hand. you can see it anywhere. The next time you're in line at the store look at how a person searches their pocket change for the penny they need. Hand someone some change and ask them to put it in their pocket. Name a pocket they'll have to change hands in order to do it. In other words if they obtain it form you with their right hand then ask them to put it in their left pocket. Then observe how they exchange hands. It might not look like most magic moves you know. If it does then that move might be a good one that duplicates a natural action. If it doesn't then maybe you can come up with a move that duplicates that action.

Here's another one. Go to a freind and ask them if they have or took something of yours. Don't start trouble.. :) It doesn't hav eot be accusing. Maybe you're looking for a lighting and ask, "Do you have my lgihter?". Or something like that. Observe how they show that they don't have it. Do they show their hands to be empty? If so, how do they do it. I guarentee it won't look like any "wipe Clean" type moves. They'll probably just say no and their action and attitude will convince you that they don't. I ask friends to do things like this all the time. I'll just say, "Do me a favor. Hold this in that hand. Now put it in the other hand. ETC... Then I just say "Thanks. I was just checking something for a magic effect (I'd only do this to a friend).

In fact I feel that an attitude is a better convincer then any action can be. If I act like it's in my hand then they'll beleive it is. So observe how people act too.

Sometimes this can get very interesting. I know one guy who only has one arm. So I asked him to show me how he shuffles cards. He showed me and with a little practice I was able to do it and it really looks natural for a one armed shuffle. I can do it while my other hand is doing some secret thing.

There's just too many ways this can be helpful to list them all here. But the bottom line is to observfe how people do things and try to make your sleights look as natural as the real thing. It'll be a huge help.

Ron Jaxon
Message: Posted by: Jaz (Apr 17, 2007 05:08PM)
I've done this.
Not too long ago I had people shuffle a deck and turn over the top card.
All that showed me is different shuffles and a sometimes confident turn over of the top card. It show me that there's no one 'natural' and different ways people do things.

To me natural means doing something with smoothly and with confidence.

This is also noticed will money and depends on thier dominant hand and where they're putting the money.

In magic there is a display or proof factor if you will.
This may be outright proving or a more subtle method.
Many times I feel that there is too much blatant proving that something has occured.
I agree that attitude plays a major role in magic.
Message: Posted by: Trekdad (Apr 17, 2007 09:05PM)
Ron and Jaz -- great thoughts; thanks!

As a beginner at just about all vanishes and various palms, I try to focus on keeping it looking natural, but it seems there's always something that flashes or doesn't look natural. This'll help.

Kinda reminds me about the first time I had to learn a golf swing -- it seemed like the most unnatural thing for the longest time.
Message: Posted by: Father Photius (Apr 17, 2007 10:56PM)
You've done it again, Ron. Great points and not just for newbies.
Message: Posted by: BrianMillerMagic (Apr 17, 2007 11:05PM)
Ron, I enjoy reading your slightly philosophical and always useful long ranting posts. And I don't mean that negatively at all. I've done some of this, and too came to the conclusion that natural is relative. What is natural to one person would look unnatural in another person's body. So instead of mirroring other people's natural moves, I try to pay attention to how I execute sleights when I perform, and then match my non-magic actions to the way I move when I perform. Eventually there will be a synergy between the two.

The first time this hit me is one of the first times I spent an evening doing magic/playing pool with Garrett Thomas. Everytime he was simply speaking to you, hhis arms/hands were in the exact positions that you see them in when he performs, say, Big Coin Little Purse. He might as well have been palming a five inch coin, but he was just hanging out. And it looked totally natural. Now if I tried to hold my arms like that and act natural, people wouldn't buy it for a second. It's a lot to think about. "Total devotion to your craft" kind of stuff.
Message: Posted by: davidpaul$ (Apr 17, 2007 11:14PM)
Now this is my kind of post. Thanks Jaxon for starting this. This is what I love about the art.

I too study people, as you mentioned, but also subtle body language. If you ever watch people eat, as soon as the food goes to their mouth the eye gaze automatically goes up and they look around. Studying eye movement is critical when we are performing our sleights. Eyes are attracted to movement, they are attracted to people when they speak, or noises, or to things we may be wearing
such as a colorful tie or lapel pin. The eyes can tell if we do something unnatural, like the examples Jaxon and Jaz mentioned above.

This is an interesting topic, and Raphael Benetar has some great advice on his Cups and Balls DVD discussing in-transit action, another natural body movement that goes by unnoticed. For Example:

You are sitting in your living room and you hear a car beeping it's horn outside.
You get up and look out the window to see who it is..........If you were to ask someone who was in the room with you what you did, they would say, you looked out the window........ BUT what you really did was, you got up, walked over to the window, moved the curtains with your hand so that you could look out the window.
People don't notice the in-transit-action of moving the curtains out of the way because it is insignificant. That little action, if studied, along with the other
natural actions discussed here can elevate our performances to new heights. He also demonstrates the above example in his cups and balls routine.

Thanks again Jaxon. Your posts are always thought provoking.
David Paul
Message: Posted by: Led Heflin (Apr 20, 2007 10:12AM)
Wow-- what great stuff! Thanks, Jaxon. I will definitely be putting some of these ideas into practice.

I have yet another slightly different approach to this that works for me, kind of the opposite of Brian's above. I try to get myself in a frame of mind in which I can observe how I do things naturally. I find that getting myself in that kind of observational state also helps me tremendously in practicing something new, in that the more I relax and develop a kind of meta-focus, looking at overall, whole-body movement, the less I am accidentally calling attention to the fact that I am performing a sleight. I try to match my own non-sleight movements, figuring that I won't have a lot of luck changing those non-sleight movements I make the other 99.9 percent of the time. Though I can definitely see how the other way around could work for other people.

I recently noticed someone else pulling off the approach that seems to work for you, Brian-- Penn Gillette. His hand gestures always seem to have a magicianly cast about them, with a slight flourish and a sl(e)ightly lifted pinky.
Message: Posted by: BrianMillerMagic (Apr 20, 2007 10:50AM)
Penn definitely has that kind of an approach as well. Gestures that would look totally unnatural for a "normal person" look completely natural when he performs, and when he doesn't. Good call.
Message: Posted by: Jaxon (Apr 20, 2007 12:40PM)
Although this is from a movie. At the beginning of the Prestige they showed a similar thing to what Brian said when they described the fish bowl production. About the man having to walk funny to hide taht he's holding it between his knees. So he walks like that when he's not performing to make it look natural.

Ron Jaxon
Message: Posted by: BrianMillerMagic (Apr 20, 2007 12:43PM)
Jaxon, precisely what I was alluding to. Glad somebody caught it :)
Message: Posted by: Wes65 (Apr 20, 2007 06:10PM)
I also enjoy studying people and see what looks natural. However, one thing to keep in mind is that nothing about magic is natural. In other words if you were a real magician who could really make things vanish and appear you would be very unnatural.

The key is to avoid suspicion. Unnatural + awkward + unnecessary = suspicion. However, Unnatural + flare = entertainment (sometimes). A good example of this would be the hanging coins routine that I do. I hold the coins in a fan (unnatural). I do a fingertip retention pass to edge grip (unnatural). In one move I repeat the motion of the retention pass except I actually take the coin. It is very difficult to make the actually take of the coin look like the retention pass because the retention pass looks more like a take then the real take. In other words the unnatural looks more natural than the natural. (Sort of like the fact that margarine has more butter flavor than butter.) Whether it looks natural or not the whole routine adds up to a very magical experience for the spectator....and that's the measure of a good effect.

In short; natural is good, unnatural can be bad, but often unnatural is better.
Message: Posted by: Jaxon (Apr 20, 2007 08:06PM)
I agree. There are times when things need to look natural because they would draw suspicion or hint/give away the method.

For example. When card workers fan the cards in a big circle like we do. It's not very natural. Mainly only a magician would do that but that's fine. It's not an action that's suppose to do anything but display the cards.

Now, when a card needs to be palmed your actions will have to either look like your are doing something else (Squaring the deck for instance) or it has to be done in such a way that no one sees your hands as you do it (behind your back, misdirect them at the right moment, etc...

Just some more thoughts on this.

Ron Jaxon
Message: Posted by: Wes65 (Apr 20, 2007 08:34PM)
Again....the problem is suspicion. Anything that draws unwanted suspicion is bad. Of course there are times when suspicion is needed like in sucker moves like the spider vanish or sucker tricks.
Message: Posted by: Rafael Benatar (Dec 19, 2007 04:42AM)
Hi davidpaul, Glad you liked the example
Please check the spelling of my name
Rafael Benatar