Friday, February 26, 2010

Velocity by Scott Alexander

Hello again, loyal readers!

Before today's review, a few quick notes...

You've probably noticed that this is my second review this week. I'm going to try to review at least two products each week. Because I pride myself on being so thorough, my reviews tend to be rather lengthy, so I can't promise more than one review per week, but I will try my best.

Also, my contest is still ongoing - come up with a catchy title you'd like for a magic ezine and send your suggestions to: The prize will be a copy of my forthcoming book as well as a "special magic surprise..."

OK, forget the surprise! It's going to be the Infinity Deck by Jon Allen. It normally retails for $22.95, but you can get my copy, never used, FREE if you win the contest!

On to this week's second review: It's Velocity, by Scott Alexander. It retails for $795 and is available at Hocus Pocus. Here's the link:

THE PLOT: This is an extremely SAFE version of the classic bullet catch! Instead of a signed bullet, the magician catches a signed-by-the-spectator paintball in his teeth, fired by the spectator!

WHAT YOU GET: You receive the specially gimmicked paintball gun or "marker" as it's called by paintball fans. You also receive a generous supply of paintballs, a 'target ring,' replacement paper for the target ring (the paintball bursts through the paper each performance), a strong, high quality canvas-type carrying case, replacement/maintenence parts, an instructional DVD and safety goggles.

DURABILITY: I've been performing this for a few years now and this will hold up if you take care of it. The gun is not a toy, but a tool designed to be used by adults playing paintball, so it will last if taken care of. I've flown all over the country with it and it's held up perfectly.

ANGLES: The angles are very forgiving with this effect. Scott provides several different handling options that will enable users to choose the one that suits him/her the best. Happily, all of the angles in all of the handlings are workable in nearly all situations. This is not a close-up effect (it's a gun trick, after all) so it's not like people will be right up next to you looking over your shoulder...although I do need to pat myself on the back and point out that I actually performed this in a living room once for a high-dollar private party!

MARKET: If you even think about performing this for small children, you're an idiot. Sorry to be so crass, but I know of magicians who have done razor blade magic and other inappropriate things for young children's birthday parties.

This effect plays fantastically well for adult (corporate or otherwise) events as well as colleges. I admit that while it would go over great for a high school event, I have NOT done so as I can't imagine a high school administration being too thrilled with you doing a "gun trick" in the wake of Colombine.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: I admit it - I'm a huge Bob Kohler fan. I have a great deal of his stuff and I love it all. His stuff is made for working pros and priced accordingly - this is a bit pricey for hobbyists, but really, as long as you don't perform it for inappropriate audiences, I think this is really cool.

Let's face it: how many magicians have been dying to do a bullet catch, especially after seeing the Penn & Teller version? I admit it: I was captivated and was delighted with Scott Alexander's product release through Bob Kohler.

First of all, this method is safe. By the time you hand the gun to the spectator, the gun is completely safe - there is no way at all you can get hit by a projectile shot from the gun. Totally safe.

Now, just because it's the safest bullet catch-type effect I've ever seen, it doesn't mean it's self-working. It's not: you will have to practice. Let me repeat: you will have to practice.

This is one of those effects where once you learn the secret, you'll say to yourself, "Oh, this is a snap. I can have this ready to show my family tomorrow night." No way.

While the handling is quite simple on the technical level, this is once of those effects where you truly need to put in the rehearsal so that the technical moves blow right past the spectators. While many moves in magic are done because they look cool, it doesn't mean they're the most natural. Consider the back palm - even if done perfectly, no normal human holds their hand in that position, so that in and of itself would call attention to it.

With all that in mind, this routine needs practice so it simply appears as though you are doing nothing: You ask a spectator to sign a paintball, then THEY drop it in the gun, then THEY hold the gun and fire it at you then you catch the paintball in your teeth and freely and openly show that the paintball you caught was the same one signed. If done properly, that's all the audience should perceive.

Additionally, there is no switch of the paintball, so that's good news. It's easy from a technical end but it requires practice to look natural.

Scott's instruction is incredible. After watching this DVD, you'll not only be armed with several handling options, but you'll also have detailed knowledge of exactly how the paintball gun (even a non-gimmicked one) functions. Scott teaches you how to take apart the gun for cleaning, maintenance or trouble-shooting and he offers several routine options to get the most bang for your buck. (Pun definitely intended.)

Now a few words about Scott's routine. First of all, you get to see a live performance of Scott performing this on a cruise ship in front of several hundred people. The routine, as Scott presents it, plays about six minutes in length and is loaded with (in my opinion) great comedy lines. I sat down and counted the different jokes in Scott's routine and there were plenty.

I also liked Scott's routine because he didn't try to overly stress the danger aspect of the trick - high drama is not what most of my own corporate holiday party gigs are looking for. They want to laugh, and if you want to try Scott's routine, rest assured it is very funny. That's not to say you couldn't play it dramatically. The effect is so pure and easily understood that it's easy to say this effect is like a blank canvas: writing your own routine is a way to make a classic of magic like this unique to your own character.

THE CO2 CANISTERS: A quick note on the CO2 canisters necessary for the effect. Due to shipping regulations, you do not receive any with your kit, but as Scott reveals, you can pick these up from any Wal-Mart. I typically pickup a large box of 20 or so canisters for use during gigs I can drive myself to, but if I'm flying to a gig, once I get off the plane and get my rental car, I set my Garmin GPS to find the nearest Wal-Mart...and since Wal-Marts are popping up like friggin' locusts, you'll have no problem finding CO2 cartridges for your gun. Happily, the CO2 cartridges come in different packages and the little 5-packs are just five bucks, so if you're flying to a gig, for an extra $5 expense, you can do this classic of magic anywhere where there's a friggin' Wal-Mart. (Sorry, I hate Wal-Mart.LOL)

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: I've gone on record as saying that I feel that Bob Kohler produces the very best in instructional magic DVDs and this release proudly holds up that tradition. The camera angles, lighting, editing and menu selection make this a joy to watch.

The instruction, as I've alluded to earlier, in intense: I believe this DVD runs in excess of two hours. Simply phenomenol. It's like taking a college course on one effect!

CUSTOMER SERVICE: After I had been performing this effect for a while (maybe 20 performances) I decided to take the gun apart for some maintenance. When I put it back together, the trigger on the gun "stuck" and was quite unreliable. I called Bob Kohler on the phone and expected to wait a few days to hear back. I was surprised when he called me back in 20 minutes! After speaking to him on the phone, he explained to me how to fix this very minor issue with the gun. There was actually no malfunction, but merely an odd little idiosyncrasy about the gun (even in its ungimmicked state) that I, a paintball "virgin," was unaware of.

In short, GREAT customer service.

OVERALL REVIEW: A perfect 10 out of 10. Great reactions, plus it's safe and packs small and plays HUGE. I know this effect has been out a while, but it was simply next on my randomly generated list of goodies I own from Hocus Pocus.

On a personal note, this is so good that it's one of the effects that I thought, "Gee, do I REALLY want to tell anyone how good this is?" :)

As always, I welcome all comments, questions and feedback. Send any thoughts to:

Until next time...


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