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Topic: IPhone magic in the Washington Post . . .
Message: Posted by: Greg Rostami (Jul 18, 2011 08:08PM)
Hello friends,

Our fellow Café Member, Michael Rosenwald, wrote a great article about iPhone magic in the Sunday edition of The Washington Post.


I would love to know what you think about some of the points he brings up.
Greg Rostami
Message: Posted by: jlibby (Jul 19, 2011 08:15PM)
Very interesting article. I don't know that there's any point in debating whether or not we should use technology in our magic acts. IPhone apps, like our other props, are only a tool; it's up to us to make the trick entertaining whether we use an app or not. With all due respect to Vick Gisin, quoted in the article, I contend that with proper presentation, there can indeed be an emotional attachment when using a magic app.

It's all about entertainment.

Joe Libby
San Antonio, TX
Message: Posted by: Vick (Sep 1, 2011 11:53PM)
Joe Libby "With all due respect to Vick Gisin," is insulting, I'm due no respect ;-)

A few things for consideration
From an email I sent to Michael Rosenwald after he contacted me (we also spent about 25 minutes speaking on the phone......
"One of the keys to presenting good magic is to keep it from becoming a simple "trick" or puzzle and to keep it entertaining (why much of what I present is in narrative from that the audience can relate to) and make it an encompassing experience. Presenting a puzzle which many I-phone type aps or other magic aps do is a lose-lose situation for a magician.

If it seems like a puzzle the audience feels a challenge to figure it out. If the audience figures it out or feels they did that's not really magic. If they don't figure it out and still feel it is a puzzle the audience feels they deserve an answer, their focus becomes "how did you do it" as opposed to being entertained by the experience. Sort of like looking at the answers for a crossword puzzle when you can't find the right word.

If you show the audience a performance of magical entertainment that they become emotionally invested in, that stays with them. If you show them a tech trick it's just passing eye candy. They take nothing away from that experience.

Technology can also remove the human factor in performing entertaining magic (the audience has to like or at the very least have some emotional investment in the character performing, think about a movie, if you don't feel about the characters in some form the movie doesn't work), it can too easily become a "look at this, isn't it really cool" presentation as opposed to a human interaction that is amazing.

That all being said there are performers like Marco Tempest (who bills himself as a techoillusionist) who are doing amazing things, but he is an exception. The usual having a ghost or card show up on an I-Phone is too much like a "trick" or puzzle and not enough like an entertainment experience.

The focus while performing should be on the entertainer and not a piece of electronic equipment. If I'm showing a "trick" on my phone, who is doing the magic? The performer or the phone? Who's show is it? The magic has to have a source.

Kind of do we want to present Shakespeare or do we want to play a video game? Both have their place as entertainment but it's too easy to slide into simple tricks with a lot of technology instead of a real, emotionally moving (and I include humor in emotional investment) human to human entertainment experience. I want the audience to be moved or invested emotionally in some way. Doing it with technology can make it even more challenging and if not handled well adds another barrier to reaching that goal. Can you really decide to "like" a piece of equipment? "

From an email to Greg Rostami after he called and left a message for me

Brutally honest, my opinion shouldn't matter to your work. That being said when I see new work I wonder "where's the magic"? What story and emotions are being created and exchanged? How can I engage the audience to have them think and feel and share a magical experience? How can I touch an audience where they think and feel? To give them something they take away emotionally, mentally or best of all both. For me the mark of art is does it make you think and feel? Does it create something that the audience takes with them, something they remember in the future and have to tell their friends about, drag them over to see? Honestly I'm not getting that in the short You Tube presentations you were doing, as you said that was quick on the spot demos.

Am thinking you've read Henning Nelms "Magic and Showmanship" multiple times? If not it's the best $15 investment you'll ever make. I can't even begin to quote all the great and pertinent information Nelms writes, plus he gives great examples with effects.

How challenging would it be for a lay person to pick up your aps and use them? That's great if you are looking for mass sales (and why shouldn't you)? Then it is a simple little puzzle, not bad if you can move 10,000+ units. Who is going to walk away from $30,000+ (minus overhead, ads, processing and such) per release?

I haven't had the opportunity to look over your body of work but if you haven't done it I can't help but think there would be a market for an astrology ap. A cold reading sort of ap. While I don't believe in astrology as you know everyone loves to hear about themselves, it's their favorite subject, the one they know the most about and are the most interested in. The challenge may lie in how to incorporate the reading from the phone, maybe they hold it or pass over it, some type of interaction. Personal as can be done with a phone. The phone picks up their vibrations or whatever but that is back to the phone doing the "magic".

Since you created it I imagine you have ways of making the 3 effects I saw into personal experiences, to get some type of emotional investment from the audience.

I checked out your "Cosmos" and am thinking it's your improvement on the "Even Money Proposition" in Fulves self-working mental magic, I may be dead wrong and you have a different method. Either way well done. That would leave an impression on anyone. I saw your many credits for it and if it works as you have written you may have come up with the cleanest and easiest version to date.

Sincerely impressed with the fact you created the first all digital transfer process for Disney and changed the way Disney was looking at distribution. I'm a huge Disney fan, they have always been great story tellers. After all isn't that a bit of what we do?" Share stories and experiences through our magic?

Guess what I am not getting personally in your work that I am currently watching is the why? Why are you presenting the effect? What does it achieve beyond a simple few minutes diversion. Yes I understand I am looking at demo videos and it's for each artist (or magician) to interpret the work and apply it as it best fits their character. I always try to think if I had actual magic powers what would I do? (certainly not shows for audiences but I shove that out of my mind, a personal suspension of disbelief).

For example I just watched Flash Appear on your site, clean and pretty as anyone could dream of, extremely well done!!! But no why. I'm quickly thinking ladies who had to hide their money (maybe "working girls" or travelers in India, Hong Kong, New Orleans or somewhere) where taught this method to keep their money safe from would be robbers. Maybe they were taught this method to bring their money back to the king (or whomever) safely. Maybe before the Templar Knights made "banking" of a sort available for travelers going on a holy pilgrimage this is how some were taught to carry their money safety. Maybe it's what the Templar Knights did.

Just watched Houdini, nice effect. Simple but captivating story that makes sense.

Again it comes to mind that perhaps you are leaving the presentation story part out with some effects so no one uses your presentations or you are encouraging end users to be creative, or getting hobbyist who aren't on the level of thinking of plots and presentation an opportunity to purchase new effects regularly.

I checked out stuck and while your actual work is beautiful, your chops are great. For me I can't find a reason to do it, it's sort of a hit and run piece that is great for the Penguin or Ellusionist crowd (the download once a week buyers). I'll admit, any time I see "YOU will be performing STUCK! in less then an hour after clicking the "Buy Now" button. " I'm a bit skeptical.

Also I'm not really your target market <-- my gift for the obvious shines through.

While I may seen a bit opposed to tech in magic I truly admire some of the work Marco Tempest has done.

I don't know if that is what you called to discuss but I threw a few things out. Looks like you are well positioned in the marketplace to sell your products (maybe a bigger distribution network/channel but I don't know what you have in place) and they look to be solid products, at least the "traditional" magic.

Don't know what your magic network is like but if you ever want someone to bounce an idea off I'm here and don't have a problem with N.D.A.'s . Perhaps if I have an inspiration for a electronic based product I can shoot it over to you ..... or not. "

Long story short ... the audience has to like or at least have some emotion for the performer (they can hate you as long as they care, apathy is the enemy of art), how many want to be performers will hide behind smart phone aps? How many laypeople will grab one

Tell me a story, direct me in one way , then pull the rug out. Make me think and feel


or give me death
Message: Posted by: jlibby (Sep 3, 2011 01:37PM)
Hi Vick. I apologize for respecting you. ;-)

Seriously, I absolutely agree with you on this point: a lot of iPhone apps look like apps instead of looking "organic." Those are the ones that are at greater risk of being presented like puzzles. But the apps are just tools like anything else we use in our performances.

I appreciate your feedback!
Joe L.