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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Top-down or bottom-up? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

saxmangeoff
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Moscow, ID, USA
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In another thread, Whit Haydn made a comment that gives me enough "Food for thought" that I'd like to discuss it separately, rather than hijacking that thread.

The quote from Whit:
Quote:
I am not a fan of top-down design. Most of the time, I think the presentation should be drawn from the trick itself, not the trick created to fit the presentation.

A trick is like a stone to a sculpter. There are thousands of great presentations buried within it, and we have to chip away and release one. The magic itself contains its own meaning and presentation within itself. Each trick is waiting for a full expression of its meaning.


So, top-down or bottom-up. Which do you prefer? Why? What do you see as the strenghs and weaknesses of each approach?

Geoff
"You must practice your material until it becomes boring, then practice it until it becomes beautiful." -- Bill Palmer
KerryJK
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I do both, and I'd assumed that so do most other creative magicians.

Often I have a vision as to what I'd like to happen, the story I'd like to tell and try to figure out how to make it happen, but this can be as much of an intellectual exercise as much as anything else, as it neccesarily involves a long period of working out, testing and rebuilding before it yields anything resembling a finished product and may not even be something I'm practically able to realise yet anyway. As such I've only a few performable routines that fit that category and those are still being developed, but then I haven't been in magic nearly long enough to expect to do everything in my notebook.
So I will admit that my best completed routines so far have come from dressing up existing tricks in new presentations to suit my character, in which I can concentrate entirely on the theatrical aspect. But ask me again when I've been in magic long enough to finish some of the long term projects I have in my notebook and "experimental junk" cupboard and I may give a different answer.
Partizan
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I like to think of an effect that makes me go WOW!, then work out why I went WOW! and try to create this for other people.
"You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus."
- Mark Twain
Bill Hallahan
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Saxmangeoff,

I had posted the following in that topic, to which Whit responded with the quotation you posted.
Quote:
In my opinion, the greatest impediment to more rapid progress isn’t related to props or secrets, it’s related to the way magic presentations are designed using “bottom-up” design, i.e. starting with methods for effects, and then forcing those effects into a presentation. Top-down design starts with a presentation, and then the creator has to figure out how to implement the effects for that presentation.

Note, bottom-up design isn’t necessarily bad. There have been many great routines developed that way. I've use bottom up design myself and I expect most magicians have too, but top-down design will result in much more innovation.

Perhaps that's not the greatest impediment to the advancement of the art of magic, but in my opinion it is much more of an impediment than what was proposed in that topic, which was that card magic was holding other magic back!

I do both type of design too, but I start with bottom-up design much more often.

Pure bottom up design is typically over-constrained by effects. Imagine writing down a totally random list of tricks and then trying to use each one in a routine. It would likely not flow very well. First a card changes color, then I produce a coin in my hand, then I produce a dove, then I change the card to a different card, then a dog is produces from a production box. I’m sure all that could be forced into a routine, but it would be pretty contrived (Now that I’ve written that, someone will come up with a brilliant presentation with all that.)

Pure top-down design is typically over-constrained by the presentation. A presentation is created without any concern for whether the effects can be achieved. Thus it’s likely they won't be achievable.

A magicians who starts with a bottom-up design will eventually revert to top-down design so that they create a coherent routine. There is usually a bottom-up and top-down iteration many times. I believe this is the chiseling process to which Whit refers. (And of course, over time as new ideas are realized and feedback is obtained, a routine undergoes additional modifications).

Pure top-down design offers exciting challenges, but successes will be rare.
Humans make life so interesting. Do you know that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to create boredom. Quite astonishing.
- The character of ‘Death’ in the movie "Hogswatch"
Partizan
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Surely there must be an objective that needs to worked towards?
"You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus."
- Mark Twain
Bill Hallahan
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Partizan, you're right. The purpose of a "design" is to achieve a specific objective. In this case, the objective is to create something that entertains an audience using one or more seemingly magical effects.
Humans make life so interesting. Do you know that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to create boredom. Quite astonishing.
- The character of ‘Death’ in the movie "Hogswatch"
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