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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The March 2006 entrée: Tim Ellis & Sue-Anne Webster » » Your DVDs... » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Steve Brooks
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Having worked on multiple DVD projects myself, I understand the anount of effort and planning that goes into doing these type of projects.
That said, I would be curious as to what inspired you and Sue-Anne during the initial stages, and perhaps you could tell us some of the problems you encountered and how you came about overcoming the little bumps that may have haunted you during the video shoots?
"Always be you because nobody else can" - Steve Brooks
Sue-Anne Webster
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Melbourne, Australia
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The storytelling idea came from the format of our lectures in real life. Tim and I both agree we can't do anything unless it has a bit of theatrics to it - a bit of parody. We're serious about magic and have the highest respect for it, but we love to have fun teaching it, too. It also helps people learn, and have fun learning. We also wanted to keep them awake, since we had so much material we wanted to cover - which is ALSO why there are a number of different TYPES of tricks and explanations in the lecture, too.

So, to make a DVD, we wanted it to be VERY different. The "Ellis in Wonderland" DVD has me dressed as Alice - which was an idea I suggested at the last minute of shooting to segue into the different tricks. That was the only purpose really, and to justify the parody title Smile

"24 Years of Living Next Door to Ellis" is a story told from the perspective of Tim's nosy old next door neighbour, Elly May Drudge. She's SO good at neighbourhood watch, with her incredible high tech equipment, telescopes, listening devices, etc that she's been able to learn Tim's tricks and expose them to all the nice magicians out there. Mrs Drudge was a character I played in my early drama years, in Tom Stoppard's play "The Real Inspector Hound". Back then she had a Yorkshire accent. We wanted to use that character, give her an Australian accent and chat up all the older men at the magic clubs. A lovely man in America christened her "Elly May". And yes, for those who haven't seen the live lecture, I really did dress up as Elly May Drudge and chat up the older men Smile Apparantly I reminded the guys in the US of Carol Burnett's cleaning lady character.

Money was a problem in shooting and editing the material, of course and trying to find someone who could pull off our idea on tape. Ben Whimpey, our video guy was perfect. He was starting out and gung-ho, knew Tim from WAY back (they grew up in church together, pretty much) and both he and Tim edited the whole lot together. All in three months. Not stop. Day in, day out. I forgot what Tim looked like by the end of it.
Tim Ellis
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I did a teaching video called 'Cunning Stunts' back in 1993. (A limited edition of only 50 tapes). Since then I'd been dying to do some more and Sue-Anne was keen as well, but it wasn't until after our lectures became so popular that we decided we should turn them into DVDs.

However, this was a MASSIVE project. We actually shot FOUR DVDS simultaneously: 'Ellis in Wonderland' at over 3 hours, '24 Years' at 3 hours, 'Runaround Sue' at 1 hour, and our new promo DVD at 1 hour. Just planning on what to shoot and where it was going to do was an enormous undertaking.

We determined to shoot "real life" footage of all of the tricks so viewers could see how they worked in different situations like cocktail shows, stage shows, at tables, and many other environments.

As Sue-Anne mentioned our lectures, especially '24 Years', had structure and storylines so we wanted to carry that over to our DVDs.

We believe in giving good value in our lectures, and we really crammed as much as we could onto our DVDs too.

We created BONUS FEATURES - little mini films about strolling magic, thumbtips, black art, MagicSports as well as making music videos for 'The Six Card Rap' and a thirty minute 'On The Road' feature I edited by myself on Sue-Anne's Mac with iMovie.

There was just SO MUCH TO DO it completely absorbed me and almost ground all of the other work Ben's company, Orsino Images, was doing to a complete halt. We did special titles for everything, we wrote title music on 'Garage Band', we had our composer Craig Bryant write special theme music for each DVD... except for 'Runaround Sue'... I had to track down all of the copyright owners and negotiate a fee so that I could use that particular song (that's why it's a limited edition of 1000. That's all the copies I could get permission to make!) Meanwhile our graphic designer Paul Miller was completely recreating the cover art from our lecture notes for the DVD covers.

To add to the challenge, we in Australia shoot in PAL format, USA and Japan use NTSC. So we had to shoot all of our footage first, do a rough cut, transfer that footage (almost 24 hours worth!) into NTSC, then edited it and assemble all four DVDs and all of their special menus, then take that to get mastered in NTSC and send the masters off to the USA for replication!

The last night of editing was truly memorable. We hoped to be finished by midnight as we had to get the masters to the NTSC conversion place by 9.30am the next morning or they simply wouldn't get to the USA in time for the release date. Anyway, by midnight it was obvious that we'd never finish in time so we decided to edited through the night. Sue-Anne slept on two chairs in the Orsino offices with an umbrella over her face to shade against the light while Ben and I took it in shifts to edit. He slept from 3am to 6.30am while I worked as fast as the machines would let me. He got up and had a breakfast of potato chips while he edited until 7.30am when he suddenly announced he had to go off and teach a drama class! I got back in front of the computer and continued until he returned at 9.30am and Sue-Anne and I took the masters and raced off to the NTSC conversion place.

We finally got the project completed on time and it was a HUGE relief! However, in all that rush there is ONE MISTAKE on the 'Runaround Sue' DVD menu. Just a little one, but it drives me crazy every time I see it...

Next time... we'll have plenty of editing time... Smile
Steve Brooks
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Thanks to both of you for taking the time to give us a little peek at behind the scenes as it were. Some of that stuff actually sounds familiar to me (e.g, late night working, no sleep, deadlines, etc).
As far as little mistakes, it happens sometimes - so don't sweat it! Smile
"Always be you because nobody else can" - Steve Brooks
Tim Ellis
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Melbourne, Australia
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Hopefully we might even get some words from our man at Orsino Images, Ben Whimpey himself! He's dabbled in magic from time to time in his career, even done a little clowning too, but he'll definitely be able to give you some interesting observations from the other side of the camera!
bwhimpey
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Greetings Everybody...And Hi Tim & Sue-Anne...

I am the Director of the Ellis & Webster DVD productions. I am not sure if Director is the right word as it was Tim's vision, I just helped make it possible.

To prefix this, I must say this is the first time I have ever entered a forum so I appologise to anyone if I am not up with forum courtesies.

I had a smile on my face as I read Tim's comments on the post production process of the DVDs, as I remember that night very well and it was exactly as Tim described. I actually remember a series of editing sessions with Tim as we both sorted through the footage. It was like no other project that I have worked on. Tim and I work well together and everytime I got a phone call or was needed by a staff member, Tim would jump on and work on music or title sequences.

The DVDs was a huge project and I am still impressed at the amount of stuff we got done. This being said I believe that the next DVD we produce will be bigger and better. Both Tim and I wont settle for just standard and we will continue to set the bar above us so it is challenging.

Anyway just thought I'd chime in. I am excited that people have responded well to the DVDs as it means in some way they recognise that both the content and presentation are high class. Tim is a very smart man and has a great gift in all things magic so people are wise to learn as much as they can from him.
Tim Ellis
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The next DVD Ben....????

Do you know something I don't... Smile
bwhimpey
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There must always be a sequel...

I bet even Peter Jackson has been approached to do a sequel to Lord of the Rings! He probably kindly informed the Hollywood producers that no sequel existed as J.R.R. Tolkien has been dead for years. But I'm sure at some point, in some hollywood studio someone thought of one.

Just got to find some rich benefactor wanting to see more high quality work in the marketplace...

So if you are out the Mr R Benefactor my bank account number is...
Elly May Drudge
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Tim Ellis' snoopy neighbor
Melbourne, Australia
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Well actually Mr Whimpey, I had an idea, how does this sound?


Twenty FIVE Years of Living Next Door to Ellis
IT Magic
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Australia
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Hey Elly May, got any home videos Ben could use?
Magic, Illusion and Data Management
www.stardockmagi.blogspot.com

I picture a world of love and peace, a world without war where people live together in harmony.
I also picture us attacking that world 'cause they just wouldn't expect it
Elly May Drudge
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Tim Ellis' snoopy neighbor
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I've got more than Tim realises!

I could make a pretty penny on the idea, I reckon.
bwhimpey
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In the process of working with Tim on the DVDs I have unfortunately lost some of the 'magic' as I was required to know what Tim was doing to understand how to shoot the training sequence, that and then watching as Tim explained what simply perplexed me moments ago. Whenever I catch up with Tim he shows me a trick or two, and then I try and work out how he does it (which often fails, and is often simpler than I imagine)

This also raises another point. I have developed my business from my background of being an actor. As an actor I am often very critical of magician performers I have seen and think, 'they might have good skills as a magician but they cannot hold an audience or even present a story.'

So I think more magicians should learn to 'tell a story' and not just show a trick. It is this way that Tim's shows work. He sometimes chooses simple uncomplicated tricks but works them into a narrative that makes the audience follow and crave more, and as I understand it it also means audiences can see him perform the same routine again and again similar like that of a good film.

This mention of 'Home Video' leads me to the statement that I think that the quality of Magic DVD resources is quite lacking. I understand that some of this is due to budget but it would be good to raise the standard of DVDs produced.

Tim has shown me other DVDs produced by Magicians both recent productions and older productions and I have to say that excluding the 'flicking fingers' DVD (Tim and I discussed this as being the standard)
Tim Ellis
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Ben, you've touched on a few subjects there that we've been meaning to discuss since the National Convention back in 2004 (where you gave such EXCELLENT video support I might add!)

Could I twist your arm and get you to maybe, if you have time, share your thoughts on the performance of our artform from the POV of someone who endured quite a lot of magic of varying styles and standards?


By the way, any Aussies looking to produce a magic video, I can heartily recommend ORSINO IMAGES. They're not cheap, but quality never is. Smile
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