These days more and more magic is showing up on our social media feeds. These are usually short 10-second clips of some magic effect without any context or presentation. It’s just a series of moments strung together to make a person think, “How’d he do that?” The playing card changed into a coin, the pen cap changed colors 8 times, or the tic-tac appears inside the empty plastic case. Because the effect is built to be shown to a camera it’s often not very practical. It may take advantage of angles and lighting. The set-up may take several minutes. In other words, it’s material that you can’t do in front of a live audience. (Your spectator will surely call you out on the 7 pen caps you dropped on the floor as you did the effect. “Yeah, but if you filmed it, they’d be out of frame” wont work on your spectator.) Also, anytime you do amazing visual magic with any prop, the next thing the spectator says is, “Let me see that.” “No.” is not going to satisfy their curiosity.
Today’s magic companies tend to sell plenty of this material to beginner magicians. These are often listed as, “highly visual and powerful and no practice needed.” When the method relies on gaffs, you can often do very visual things with no practice. Also, since you’re filming this effect for the camera, no spectators can grab anything out of your hands. No spectators can walk behind you. And, you can film the trick 50 times before getting the one that looks just right. And there’s nothing wrong with doing all of this as long as you understand that you can’t do any of this when you finally land a gig.
The purpose of your video is to promote yourself and get work. But if that’s the only kind of magic you do, you’ll realize quickly that this material doesn’t work in the real world. To become a professional performer you need countless hours in the field. You need years of experience in front of real people that will challenge you. You need to know that live performances will always throw you a curve ball. You need to learn and understand spectator management and how to be an entertainer. You’ll need to perform strong and practical magic that you can do anytime, anywhere, for people all around you with no time to set up. Live performances also teach you the importance of scripting, handling hecklers, misdirection, pacing, tempo, timing, character development and so much more. Performing for your camera teaches you none of this.
So when you’re buying material, be sure to understand what type of products you’re buying. Sure, buy something that’ll look great on social media, but also be aware you may need a number of practical effects that’ll get you through a formal or walk-around set for a big company party. Also, what happens when the guy that hires you tells the entire audience that you’re about to do that trick where the hole disappears in the playing card? “I saw him do it on his YouTube page.” (Will you excuse yourself and go to the bathroom to put on your favorite t-shirt?) Why buy a deck of cards that only does one effect? I can do 200 effects with a standard deck. I can also do a full show of non-card material if I needed to. (Yes, even me!) Why do an effect that only looks good from one angle?
I’m not saying all visual / gaffed magic is bad, I’m just saying you should ask yourself is this effect a one-hit wonder or can I get mileage out of it in a live situation. Use YouTube magic to promote your brand, but be prepared to back that up with strong and practical magic when you get the gig. Magic can and should be more than just a 10-second clip on social media.