How to shoot your own street magic video

The popularity of street magic is still high with magicians as well as TV producers around the world. Besides the strength of magic close-up to the spectators, (pure) Street Magic content is relatively easy to set-up/ execute and it is also more cost effective than elaborate stage productions or mega illusions.

Professional production crews can be as simple as a 3-person team or a 15-person crew. Since 2004, I’ve had the good fortune to have worked on both ends of the spectrum and everything inbetween. Here is a shot of us filming for “M for Magic”. This effect will be seen in the upcoming episode.

Even if you do not have a professional production crew, you can shoot and create your own street magic video. You might want to do this to give friends, families or clients a sample of your work.

Here is what you need to shoot your own street magic video:

1) Material. This may seem like the most basic thing but a lot of thought needs to be put into selecting the effects or routines you want to present for your street magic video. Obviously, you want to present magic that is strong and you are well acquainted with.

Here are some tips:

Choose visual material. While mental effects are popular, especially among new magicians, it is the hardest genre of magic to present well and even harder to present well on TV. I suggest you skip it unless it is visual mentalism acts like metal bending or glass breaking. Visual close-up magic works best.

Perform the effect so that your hands are held up in front of your face/ body. While magicians are very used to perform close-up magic with the audience looking down on their hands, this is not the preferred style for TV. You want to adjust all your handlings or choose routines that allow you to hold the props or your hands in front of you so the camera can face you directly.

Don’t perform things you have seen other TV magicians do. Look for material that your favourite magician has NOT presented on TV. There is probably no way you could do it better and you might come off looking like a cheap copycat.

Practice and rehearse. Don’t rush it. If you are doing the street magic video for yourself, you are not on a production schedule so take your time to practise what you are doing – from the magic, patter and camera blocking.

I’ll give you an example, for the “Magic in Motion” series that we produced for SPHMBO (see link below), we shot 24 (2min) epsiodes in 2 days. That was due to the budget and client deadline. That is a ridiculously tight timeline with way too many effects in such a short time. I do not recommend it as it is very tough to ensure high quality for all the effects. I was lucky enough to get 1/3 – 1/2 of the content very good. But, bear in mind, most of the stuff I presented, I had been performing for years.

Now, I have much better creative control in what we present and am very selective in what we present on TV or video. In contrast, for the last epsiode of the upcoming “M for Magic”, we developed that routine over months and Ning & I rehearsed for weeks. But, I know for a fact that it will be strongest piece of “street magic” we have ever presented on video/ TV.

2) A location or venue – Look for an interesting place to film your street magic. A location with an interesting backdrop and character is good. You do not want a very bustling location if you are not having a microphone system for the shoot. This is because the background ambient noise will ruin your audio

3) Camera – Duh. Obviously, you need a camera. Ideally, two cameras; one to capture the magic and one to capture audience reactions. However, you do not need a fancy camera. Camera quality for consumer cameras and even mobile phones is very good nowadays. Get two friends with two cameras/ phones to help you out.

4) Microphone – Poor sound is usually what ruins a video or makes it look too amateurish. You can use the camera microphone but I suggest a separate clip on wireless mike that connects to your camera.

However, a cheaper alternative is to use a separate digital recorder. Buy a clip-on mike with a 1/8″ or mini jack to use with it. Or, most phones have voice recorders or apps for voice recorders. Plug a clip on mike into your phone’s microphone jack and place your phone into your pocket.

Simply, switch on the voice recorder before you start. Later, import the audio file over to your video editing software and layer it over/ or replace the audio picked up from your camera mike.

Here is an example of a bare bones 2-camera set-up for a street magic routine with a separate clip on mike for audio pick-up:

However, you do not need a multi-cam set-up with mikes if you just want to do something simple. Just make sure you speak clearly and loud enough for the camera mike to pick it up. Also make sure the light comes from behind the camera onto you for ideal lightly. If you have personality and a good effect, you still can achieve a great video on a budget.

Here is an example. We did a simple 1-camera set-up for Ning’s impromptu video for LG Optimus One last year. No clip on microphone was used and it was a one continous take with no editing.

The 14 young magicians for M for Magic got a taste of filming with an indepedent professional crew. The results of the epsiodes so far have been great and I think all the magicians have come up looking really good!

So, grab your cards, coins or whatever, get a couple of friends and shoot something!



About J C Sum

International Headline Entertainer, Content Creator and Investor
This entry was posted in Television and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s