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Topic: Practicing in front of a mirror vs. video recorder
Message: Posted by: scottds80 (Sep 12, 2007 03:57AM)
In my practicing and rehearsing, I've learned a few self taught lessons on the subject on how to review yourself.

I have been practicing both in front of a mirror and a video recorder. There are pro's & cons for both. In the end, I recommend using both, but a video recorder MORE.

- easy to visually check your moves AS THEY HAPPEN. You can catch yourself red handed and FEEL where the problem is coming from immediately.

- You may get too used to practicing this way, and you will begin to rely on the reflection of yourself to feel your next move. Believe me, when I eventually got a video recorder, I felt awkward because I couldn't see what I was doing as I relied on my reflection too much.

Video recorder:
- You get to see exactly what your audience would see. Mirrors are different.
- You can practice your misdirection then see if it works as you watch yourself later (pretend you are a layman)
- You can sit down, relax and watch where the problems (flashes, angles) are coming from over and over again.

- Good video cameras are expensive. Obviously it will cost you plenty of money if you don't already have a recorder. But it's well worth it. You want a good quality recorder to check your subtle moves, and plug it into a television as large as possible.
Message: Posted by: 8ofdiamonds (Sep 16, 2007 06:18PM)
I use 2 cameras, 1 in front positioned as a normal audience member would watch, and I position 1 way off to the side (wing area) where I always tend to find people lurking trying to catch what I am doing. Helps your angles in the long run and teaches you not to be a static performer.

Message: Posted by: kosmoshiva (Sep 20, 2007 05:50PM)
With both mirrors and cameras be careful of being fooled by the distance they are from you. It ain't the same distance as a spectator's face! A camera has a lens on it, rarely being 'life size', and a mirror, while being the correct size is the incorrect optical distance ... um, yeah, I think that's right.
Anyway. One of the big dangers with mirror work is pretending to be fooled by your own misdirection and doing a mental 'hiccup' when you do the move and missing it, thus thinking you're brilliant when y'ain't. You can't misdirect either a camera or a mirror, but you sure can kid yourself with a mirror.
That being said, I prefer the mirror, simply because it's so ... analog ...
Message: Posted by: MagicMichealMan (Oct 1, 2007 07:17PM)
Camara's are the way to go!!!!you can view yourself over and over again!!! in a mirror you can to but on a cam corder you can see your progress gain,

Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Oct 12, 2007 10:59PM)
A number of years ago I tried a video camera and found out that the biggest advantage was that, with the camera, I didn't have to look at myself all the time. I could also replay the thing in slow motion and look at the little details as much as I wanted.

Many years before that, I realized that, with a mirror, I was seeing a mirror image (yeah, no doo-doo, Sherlock), and not what the audience was seeing. Also, like kosmoshiva said, I could close my eyes and pretend I wasn't seeing something. :)
Message: Posted by: Philip Hilton (Nov 11, 2007 01:52PM)
Both, but what has been said concerning mirrors is very true, as its all too easy to miss something in a mirror and think you're better at a move than you really are. A camera is much better, but takes time to set up and get to later, but worth it, because you really see all your bad moves and it teaches you very quickly. When its on film its there and you have no escape. I film my routines but only after I've worked to the mirror to get the obvious moves down. It is very important though to remember that real people move and come in at odd angles. I use a tripod, but thinking about it it would be really good to get someone on a hand held shooting your rehearsals. Still what is important is that however you do it, that it works for you.
Cheers Phil
Message: Posted by: fakiir (Nov 13, 2007 12:43PM)
I guess the best way is to practice little details and moves in front of the mirror and as you put it all together (move, routine, show) you film it. Then you can have a nice overall picture of what you are doing. Normally I sit in fron of the TV with pen and paper and mark all the mistakes down. After watching back to the mirror... Kind of same point of previous writer?
Message: Posted by: Father Photius (Nov 14, 2007 12:36AM)
As TV magicians like Mark Wilson will inform you, TV offers the magician the "Best" angle. It is fixed and two dimensional. As such the angle from any camera position is more limited than the naked eye beholds from the same angle. Always when practicing with a camera move it around to several positions. You don't have to use more than one camera at the same time. Just record different practice sessions from different angles. You will be surprised at what you see.
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Nov 15, 2007 03:00PM)
Okay, so here's a weird idea...

The other day I was at the local Costco and saw a home-security system consisting of four or five very small video cameras and a monitor that could be tiled to show all the cameras at once. I wonder if this could be used for rehearsing a magic routine -- just place the cameras at different angles and shoot away.

The downside might be the size of the images, but it might be possible to record it all at once and play back each camera's take individually. If I did close-up, I'd probably get one of these systems and set it up "permanently" around my practice table.

Now, remember, if you see these camera systems sold in magic shops next week as "The Ultimate Rehearsal System," you saw it here first. :)
Message: Posted by: The Amazing Noobini (Jan 7, 2008 10:42AM)
Cameras will give you a false sense of security!

What you see on the tape/disc is only a fraction of the detail the spectator sees. This is because if you shoot indoors in regular lighting, the shutter speed will be so long that many frames of action are simply not on the tape. You won't see a flash of a coin or card because that microsecond was never recorded. The eye will see it tho.

Also a digital video camera typically reuses the same pixels if there is no great change between each frame. Some parts of the previous picture is used again for the next frame because it's simply more economical in terms of light/exposure. Small flashes and details will get lost. Long shutter speeds also produces motion blur which often completely hides flashes. Just check your tape in frame by frame slow motion. The real world doesn't look like that!

If you want to use a camera to check flashing you need to have a studio lit room and then shoot "progressive scan" which means that every pixel is reshot in each frame. This will typically produce an unnatural looking jerky effect (popularized in action movies with the arena fight scenes in Ridley Scott's Gladiator) but you will see detail more like the eye sees it.

Myself I have just done the mistake of having practiced a couple of coin retention vanishes for two months in a mirror only. Yesterday I tried actually doing them and I felt completely helpless without the mirror image. So I need to set up my camera and rework things a little.
Message: Posted by: Tanner & Company (Jan 14, 2008 03:19PM)
Havent ever thought of a video camera, maybe I should try that.
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Jan 14, 2008 08:01PM)
On 2008-01-07 11:42, The Amazing Noobini wrote:
What you see on the tape/disc is only a fraction of the detail the spectator sees. This is because if you shoot indoors in regular lighting, the shutter speed will be so long that many frames of action are simply not on the tape. You won't see a flash of a coin or card because that microsecond was never recorded. The eye will see it tho.
You're right, but remember that not everyone does close-up sleights where little things in the hand may flash. When you're doing a stand-up act or an illusion show, a camera will show you the big picture, which is really what you need.

For the intimate sleight stuff that they will see from all sides, I agree that mirrors probably work better. However, an ideal setup would be three mirrors (front and sides), but you can't watch them all at the same time.
Message: Posted by: Jake Heller (Jan 16, 2008 09:01PM)
I like video cameras a lot better. When watching myself on them I find that my patter is not as smooth as I thought it was when practicing without. It really helps get your presentation down pat.

Also if you know any magicians that are better than you or have more experience it is nice to have them critique the video with you and point out the specific places you are making errors.
Message: Posted by: The Whisperer (Apr 4, 2008 09:51AM)
I too have experimented with both, but have an alternative. Another Magician friend and I usually spend a couple of hours a week with each other practicing. We are both honest with each other and this allows for advice, ideas and creativity. If you have someone that is trustworthy, honest and willing to watch, try this out!
Message: Posted by: Gerald (Apr 26, 2008 04:38AM)
Good thoughts in these posts! Let me echo and add a few ideas:

Watching yourself in the mirror can help in the beginning stages of practice and rehearsal, but it gives you a very limited perspective. It is best to get away from the mirror as soon as possible. Bad habits can develop if you are a “slave” to a mirror.

Video clips set at different angles or even better, a video of your performance can be very enlightening. Video gives you a better picture of what people actually see and how they react. Video reveals where you need to work on your scripting, elocution, blocking, timing and pacing; problems which a mirror can not reveal.

Most important: We tend to see what we want to see both with mirrors video. In the final analysis, “one can not be one’s own director.” (I don’t know for sure whose quote that is, but it is an insightful one.) Find a qualified, experienced person (or persons) to watch and advise you. A drama coach is a good resource. (Your local high school or community theater is a good place to look.)

When you and your coach or mentor think you are ready, go out and entertain the crowd. You will gain confidence with performing experience. You’ll be surprised at the wisdom that comes from experience: IF you keep your eyes, ears and most importantly, your mind open.

Message: Posted by: jake.o (Jul 16, 2008 01:27PM)
I use a video camera because I feel that when I'm using a mirror I concentrate on seeing how it looks rather than performing to the best of my ability, so with a video camera I can perform and then watch it back several times to find out what to improve.
Message: Posted by: Juliegel (Jul 18, 2008 05:57AM)
I find that both don't work because you are seeing yourself from your own perspective,(I think Jay Sankey said the same once). If I had to choose though I would go with the mirror because that way you have to do the move to see it. Playing the tape in slow motion does nothing to help because you don't perform in slow motion. As for the "close the eyes and pretend you cant see the move", you have to work on that because working around it will lead to bigger problems like blinking at odd moments in a performance for no reason.

Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Jul 18, 2008 04:19PM)
On 2008-07-18 06:57, Juliegel wrote:
Playing the tape in slow motion does nothing to help because you don't perform in slow motion.
Sorry, but I don't agree with that. Back when I was doing the split fans (around 1970), I filmed myself on Super 8 and played it back slowly on an editing machine. Watching what it really looked like -- which was not what I thought it looked like -- helped me come up with a variation that I ended up using from that point on.
Message: Posted by: Juliegel (Jul 18, 2008 04:43PM)
Well I can see that working in that since but I feel that becoming to dependent on a camera could lead to problems like blinking.
Message: Posted by: Aaron Little (Dec 5, 2008 01:05PM)
A webcam on a notebook computer seems to be the best of both worlds. You can see your performance real time just like a mirror and it can be recorded to your harddrive just like a video camera.

My notebook actually has a webcam built in.
Message: Posted by: HusssKarson (Jan 8, 2009 12:00AM)
Use cam. You won't be looking for lens when you perform for real
Message: Posted by: ferrari (Apr 26, 2009 08:45PM)
I start out practicing a trick with a mirror first and then work with a camcorder
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jun 13, 2009 01:56PM)
Use three camcorders -- one at the front and one at each side. Back them off, and use telephoto.

Also, use a lot of light. This will help you put more info on the video.
Message: Posted by: alibaba (Mar 19, 2010 06:22PM)
I do a fair bit of mirror practice, but I've realized that angles can be a problem when you're standing at a mirror. You are, essentially, looking down at your own hands. Often when I perform, I'm standing and the specs are sitting down and from their perspective some of my moves (i.e., the DL's in the ACR) were betrayed by the angles. When I started using video, I positioned the camera at the eye-level of a seated spectator and things started getting better. I learned to lower the pack to a 30-40 degree angle. The angles issue was especially pronounced for moves such as the Tenkai palm, which are very VERY angle-sensitive.
Message: Posted by: courtmagician (Mar 31, 2010 09:45AM)
I prefer video cameras over mirrors, just picked up a new HD one, but I can also use my digital still camera for video as well if I wanted a mult-camera set-up (plus an older tape one, and I have an older digital still that takes video if I really wanted to get extreme).

The only thing I find I do is that I turn the view screen towards me so I can make sure my hands are in frame so I sometimes have a tendency to look up at it to make sure I'm still in frame. The more I do it, the less I look up though - but unlike a mirror, you don't actually have to look at anything but your hands or your "audience".

I like Aaron's idea, but the problem is that usually the quality on a webcam is low and unless you have a fast computer, it's very jerky.
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Mar 31, 2010 11:37PM)
I said this elsewhere, but I think if I were performing nowadays, I'd invest in one of those inexpensive multi-camera security systems with a split-screen monitor. Say four cameras, one in front and two on the sides, and the fourth one farther back. I would ignore the cameras when I'm "performing" and just play the recordings back after each session.
Message: Posted by: Yellowcustard (May 23, 2011 05:45AM)
I recorde and viwe back my routines just on my camera. Its good to watch with the sound down or only listen to the sound. Once I have a routine flying I recorde it and keep it. It comes in handy if I am doing a routine I have not done for a while. I feel that from mirror and camera practice I learn a lot. Yet compared to what I learn doing it for real it little.
Message: Posted by: rjones683 (Aug 25, 2011 07:31PM)
I believe that for me a camera is the way to go. But each has his/her own method. With a camera you can share the performance for others to review.
Message: Posted by: rlmiller007 (Nov 22, 2011 07:37AM)
You can buy a mirror with a hole in it that the video can be shot through. try porter's camera store.
Message: Posted by: StJohn (Nov 28, 2011 04:52AM)
Also you can live feed the camera to a monitor. Put this right next to the camera and you can see what it sees live.
Even a webcam on a laptop will do.
Message: Posted by: jnrussell (Dec 16, 2011 01:00PM)
I use a camera, especially when I'm working on a brand new trick/routine. That way, if I say something brilliant (or stupid), I can remember it later. It also provides for some hilarious outtakes for private showings! LOL
Message: Posted by: Tryllejakob (May 18, 2012 11:48AM)
I always start with mirrors,then I don't have to look over tons of bad recordings. I have a wardrobe with mirrors on, this give me a kind of mirror box so I can se front and to sides. When I'm happy with the mirror performace I tape with the web camera.
Message: Posted by: Montana76 (May 18, 2014 09:29AM)
A lot of good advice in this old thread!
What software would you use for webcam practicing?
Message: Posted by: Terrible Wizard (Oct 23, 2014 12:29AM)
Yes, good advice here.

If I could go back in time to when I first started (which wasn't that long ago, but still), I'd tell myself the importance of a good practice space.

Instead of spending money on silly tricks and not so good books/DVDs, I'd make sure I had a well lit area with table, decent close-up mat, large mirrors and a camcorder on a tripod. Would have been a better investment than some of the tat I spent money on and regretted ... Beginner magic books should have a chapter devoted to the importance of simple things like this!
Message: Posted by: bartleby (Nov 1, 2014 07:31PM)
My 9 year old is my first audience. He is still young enough to be amazed and that really helps me feel like I am performing magic. Sometimes he is the only audience I need.
Message: Posted by: somethingupmysleeve (Jan 2, 2015 10:03AM)
Interesting topic and useful advice. I have a mirror I can set opposite me on the dining room table, plus a DSLR camera with tripod for video. I sometimes find it a little awkward to watch myself back on video, but it's really useful.

I can also take a pack of cards or a gimmick on my commute into work, to practice handling (I have my own seat on a quiet train, so no risk of flashing to fellow commuters!).
Message: Posted by: SandwichMan (Jan 30, 2015 08:29PM)
I used to use the mirror A LOT.

Nowadays, I just use my parents. :) They are extremely critical...which used to hurt my feelings when I was younger, but I don't care anymore, haha.
Message: Posted by: Soniczjx (Dec 13, 2015 02:16AM)
I feel video recorder is pretty good and the downside is expensive as mentioned as above. I think we can use mirror to check the angle of certain sleights and using the video recorder to record the whole routine or performance to check the certain timing and gestures and misdirection.