You know what separates a great magician like Chris Angel or David Blaine from an ordinary one? They take a basic magic effect and design it into a master illusion. Now you can be the next Chris Angel. All you need to understand is basic magic design.
Most people think that there are thousands of magic tricks out there. In reality there really are not that many. According to Dariel Fitzkee, author of The Trick Brain, there are only 19 basic effects which govern all magic tricks and illusions.
All nineteen of those basic effects rely on some form of magical apparatus. Sometimes the items are real but the majority of the time the items are tricked or faked to accomplish some magical effect.
It has been my experience that there are only three basics that govern how all 19 magical effects work. All magic tricks are made up of one or more of the following:
Every magic apparatus from the smallest to the biggest illusion makes use of camouflage. This is the most important fundamental in magic. Perhaps you want to produce a big item from a box. You can use camouflage to make the box look smaller so as to suggest the big item doesn't fit. Maybe a piece of apparatus has a secret pocket to make things appear and disappear, camouflage can hide the secret pocket.
2) Secret Movement
You can also make things disappear or appear or even seem to come alive with a secret movement. You see an empty box, as the magician closes the door a screen on the inside drops and when the magician opens the door again, it appears a horse, bicycle, or even an elephant has appeared. Perhaps you've also seen the recently popular trick, The Floating Card. The magician spins a playing card around his body, or perhaps he floats it between his hands. The power for this comes from a small and practically invisible thread and the movement of the performers body. The whole feat loses its mystery if the audience were to suspect the actual means by which the effect is produced.
3) Mechanical Transformation
The final of the three is the mechanical design to produce a visible transformation. Perhaps you've seen a magician take a red scarf and pass it through something and it comes out blue. Perhaps a silk that changes into a cane. Torn and Restored effects also fall into this category. Perhaps you have even seen in a comedy show a clown or other performer pull out a gun and when fired a sign comes out the end that says "BANG". Tricks like Metamorphosis that are done under cover are usually governed by some sort of secret movement and are not transformations in the true sense.
By learning the three basic concepts of design, you'll be able to create and make magical apparatus that is unique to your magic act.
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