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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » F/X » » Hollywood FX in a magic show (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Geoff Weber
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In the movies, when you see a wizard cast a spell, glowing light starts to emanate from his hands, and he projects it like a particle beam towards his target, causing the item to appear in a puff of smoke etc.. I have been wanting to take this and bring it to a live show. There a couple of options I have been considering. Video projection and peppers ghost. Neither one is particularly appealing to me at the moment.

I have seen both methods used in live shows at amusement parks to varying degrees of success. Video Project was used in a show at Bush Gardens in Williamsburg called "The Enchanted Laboratory", for an effect where the actor supposed shrinks himself and has to climb out of a bottle. Also to create the magic particles that float around the laboratory and turn a suit of iron into gold. In both instances the projection is against the back wall and it works because of the relative distance between the audience and the stage, and also, the actor doesn't not really have to interact with the projection.

The Peppers ghost, we have of course seen in Disney's Haunted Mansion, but in an application more like what I am talking about in the Ghostbusters show at Universal studios, Actors perform on a stage behind a giant piece of glass, and interact with peppers ghost illusions which for the ghosts and the particle accelerator beams from their proton packs. The interaction between the actors and the illusions was not exactly flawless, but it got the point across. This is not particularly practical for me, because I don't intend to have a permanent theatre built, so I have no way to get a giant piece of glass installed at the correct angle. I would prefer something that is portable/temporary.

I have thought about putting some smoke/fog onto the stage and projecting onto that, but that would eliminate the possibility of projecting anything in focus, and also you would see the beam of light leading back to the projector as the smoke drifted out to the audience.

Another possibility, perhaps the best option, would be to have multiple smaller solutions for each individual effect rather than one catch-all solution, but that would again, require an intricate system of lights, all properly aimed and rigged onto a control board, with the timing computer controlled.

Perhaps this is an impossible dream to have outside of theatre dedicated to that specific show.

But I would like to open this up to feedback. It could be general or solutions to specific aspects.
Jeff Haas
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Geoff, this sounds very cool!

But let me start by asking some basic questions: Is your show designed to tour so you can set it up in a couple of hours, or are you planning on selling it into a venue like an amusement park so you can set things up longer term?

Amusement park shows, while they're usually pretty corny, at least give you an idea of what's practical in a venue you perform in every day. But if you're like most of us here, you're going to have to arrive, set up, do the show, and tear down, all on the same day. And you won't have much control over where the audience sits, and at what angle they view the show.

So my thinking is to brainstorm about what effects can work under those conditions, and WITHOUT pyrotechnics. That still leaves hidden lights that can flash at the right moment, compressed air devices, maybe dry ice fog, and of course rigged props that can fall apart or jump up in the air when triggered.

I think maybe the first thing to look at is if there's some kind of light you can hide in your costume or up your sleeve to get the "glow from hands" effect. That, timed correctly with a prop that "blows up" could be a start.

Also, is this a one-man show, or will you have assistants? They can always trigger props by pulling strings, just like in the old days when your hidden assistant made the cards rise.

And this sounds like a job for show control software! Imagine a computer that controls your sound, lighting, and triggers the "blow up" props running the show for you.

Let me know if I can point you toward more info, it's in the other discussions but can be hard to find.

Jeff
Geoff Weber
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Thanks for your feedback jeff. I had considered something like hiding lights up my sleeves. That ultimately might be the most practical solution. I want the show to completely transportable. I have no assistants at the moment, but I wouldn't rule out the possibility of getting one in the future.

My original vision for this piece, was to create a computer graphic animation of the swirling light patterns, and project it onto the wall, which I would stand very close to and interact with. However, the depth of field would make it obvious that the project was against a wall and not floating "out in space", and also, even if I was projecting black for everything but the effects, I would still cast a shadow.
Jeff Haas
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Geoff, I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier. Have you ever seen Sylvester the Jester do his act live? It shows what you can accomplish as a one-man show with a lot of special effects.

Jeff
Geoff Weber
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Yeah. I love Sylvester's act. He does a lot of prop based effects. It definitely would help to make my props wired to do as much of the work as possible. But still, the challenge to create the ethereal quality of magical energy that you see in the movies is hard to replicate live.
Daniel Faith
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I have thought about doing the same thing.
It really would be a tough thing to do but not impossible.

Picture the magician doing a self-levitation and then suddenly everything on the stage becomes weightless and starts floating and moving around the stage. Then the magician returns to the floor and everything else just drops in a dead fall to the floor.

The intricacies involved would make it difficult to travel with a show like that unless you have an entire road crew.
Daniel Faith
George Ledo
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Just thinking out loud... here's a couple of things we use in the theater world that might be of use.

First is fiber optics, thin flexible tubes made up of glass fibers that transmit light from one end to the other. This is used all the time in "star drops" and similar effects, but, with the proper diameter bundle, you can transmit quite a bit more light. Using fiber optics, you can have a reasonably powerful light source somewhere in your costume and run the bundle down your sleeve and right to your wrist, aimed at your hands.

Second, there's a type of cosmetic powder, used by the ladies, that contains glitter. I've see it at balls and other dress-up events, and is usually used around the shoulders and upper body. Maybe using this on your hands, and a diffusion lens at the end of the fiber optic bundle, might be a start at the "glowing hands" idea. If you have two fiber optic bundles, you can set it up so each one is actually aimed at the other hand when the hands come together, which would avoid the "up the sleeve" image.

Fiber optics are available from lots of sounces. Try theatrical suppliers and disc jockey equipment vendors. I would guess the glitter powder would be available at cosmetics counters.

Hope this helps a bit.
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glodmagic
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georgefl38 just beat me to the punch.

I used smoke2K with fiber optics to do this before.
I used the cheap fiber optic wand that has twinklelights. I think I got it at Spencer gifts.
First a puff of fog from the right sleeve then the twinkles behind sewn in a hanging left sleeve (open right palm appeared to have floating twinkling stars).

This was for a special Harry Potter show I did for Blockbuster. It was ruined by the drycleaners but intend to rebuild.
I think I have a video of it. If I can locate it I will post.
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MikeJRogers
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Geoff,

I've done quiet alot of work in theatre that incorporates magic, I think I have any workable solution to add to those already discussed.

If you haven't already heard of it you can buy theatre material called sharktooth scrim. It's really just a sheet of material woven in a criss-cross pattern that has little tiny holes in it. It's usually used like a backdrop. If the light source is from behind the scrim is invisible, if from the front the section of the scrim that is lit becomes a solid. Scrim usually comes in white but you can also get it in black. You could always paint a white one though.

Anyways back to your 'Hollywood Effect' If you were to take an area of black scrim, say 5ft wide by 10/15ft long and hang it from the flies, with the right lighting you would be able to create the effect your after by projecting your images/video onto the scrim. It would appear as though the effect is floating in 'space' right next to you because, well, it is. The scrim will be invisible at all times and can be raised up into the flies when your done. You can be pretty close to the audience too, so theres no need to stand at the back of a wall. The only requirements would be that your images/video must have a black background and you would need a black backdrop hanging at the back of the stage, those two things shouldn't be too much trouble though.

What do you think? It would actually be very easy to do. I did a simliar effect where an open book flew around the stage, if the video footage you are projecting is of good quality and has varying depths then it's hard to tell the difference between what's real and what's an illusion.

I hope this helps. If you have any questions about it don't hesitate to ask.

Good luck!

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers Illusion Design - Australia - http://www.mikerogers.com.au
"Nothings impossible, the impossible just takes longer" - Dan Brown novel
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Geoff Weber
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Guys, thanks for the suggestions! I will definitely look into them.
Sid Mayer
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Geoff Weber wrote "and also, even if I was projecting black for everything but the effects, I would still cast a shadow" (Bold emphasis added)

Sorry, Geoff. It is a common belief that it is possible to project black. How, pray tell, could one project the absence of light?

The laws of physics are what they are. We can make them work for us but we can't alter them to suit our ands.

You might want to investigate holograms and virtual images in space although I am inclined to doubt that you will come up with anything that suits the conditions you specify.

I'd love it if you prove me wrong.

Sid
All the world's a stage ... and everybody on it is overacting.
glodmagic
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I am assuming that Geoff is referring to an image projector such as a LCD/DLP. In that case the "muted" video is not black but is a projected representation of it.
If the projection is devoid of image it still shows a square of muted light representing black and would cast a shadow. He is obviosly a smart dude to think through such obstacles.
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Geoff Weber
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Video intensity is measured in IRE units. For component video, the useful picture content of the video signal is measured as a percentage, where 0% represents black and 100% is white. With VHS, broadcast and the composite video output of consumer electronics, the black level is elevated to 7.5% IRE.
glodmagic
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Nerd Alert!
:)
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Daniel Faith
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Thanks for the warning Walter!
Go gettem Geoff.
Daniel Faith
Son of a Beat
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I also dreamed about those "Lord of The Rings" type of effects for years. I recommand a visit to http://www.4dart.com Those performers are the top in those visual effects. Their shows are absolutely stunning but they don't want to share their secrets. They improved the Pepper's Ghost effect with the modern video technologies and they do it very well. Copperfield tried to buy the concept but they refused. See by yourself. Not magic but so so close to the real thing...

S.O.A.B.
gsidhe
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I have a bit of experience in projected interactive images...(I actually worked at Bush Gardens and shared a dressing room with the actors that did the Lab). You could not cast a shadow over the illusion, because it is projected from behind. Basically the same as projecting against the back of a black scrim with the desired "object" against a black background.
It seemed to work pretty well...
Gwyd.
Paul Arthur
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We just saw "KA" in Vegas the other night.... they were using a fantastic system to project video images onto black scrim mixed with live action behind the scrim. It looked beautiful!
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