Before I get to today's review, a few quick housekeeping notes...
First, my contest to name my new FREE magic monthly ezine is ending this month. I THINK I have one picked out that I really like, but there's still time - you could 'wow' me and win! The prize is the Infinity Deck by Jon Allen, yours FREE if your ezine name suggestion is the one I pick. (The winner will also receive a copy of my as yet unfinished magic book, but that's a bit off.)
Secondly, regarding the ezine, if you have any suggestions as to the content, I'm all ears. Q&A? Routine discussions? Performance philosophy? Funny road stories? Send suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, if you want to just sign up for the ezine, shoot me an email. It's free and always will be.
Thirdly, I've been rehearsing with Jim Kleefeld's new Sound Controller. So far, so GREAT, but tomorrow it gets the ultimate test - two school shows! check back tomorrow for my in-depth review, including some SURPRISING things I discovered when I was testing this little bugger outdoors at my house.
Now, on to today's review...
This review of Daniel Garcia's Torn DVD, an approach to the classic torn and restored card effect. The DVD is available for $34.95 at Hocus Pocus. Here's the link to the info: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=5695
EFFECT: The card is signed then torn into four pieces. Each piece is fairly shown and each piece is slowly fused back together, piece by piece. It's a great effect and very visual - way superior to any sort of instant restoration. The signature of the spectator adds a lot to the effect but also makes the handling tougher.
OVERALL THOUGHTS: First of all, I do a lot less closeup then I did in the past, but I did want to review this as I haven't done much closeup effects in this blog since I started.
This is one of those effects I saw on TV and really liked, but never felt motivated enough to develop a compelling or at least amusing presentation..I mean after all, who cares about the fate of a torn card? You can frame it as a cool souvenir, which is what I decided to do when I felt compelled to learn this when I was booked to do two three day trade shows by a Canadian paper company wanting to show off their new line of playing cards.
That's my motivation for learning this.:)
Of course, to many of us, the holy grail of torn and restored cards is Guy Hollingworth's beautiful routine as seen on TV.
As far as how it looks to the naked eye, I have to say this compares nicely. No, it's not as good but as I understand it, Guy's handling is obscenely difficult. I was able to get Torn up and running competently in about two weeks of intense rehearsal...but more on that later.
Garcia does a good job of demonstrating the effect to the camera and then he explains it very well, even including several 'over the shoulder' shots so that viewers can follow along with cards in hand, as the moves are repeated slow motion.
It's a great way to teach a routine like this, as the moves can be a little intimidating if you're not used to this sort of thing. (I'm mostly a stage guy.)
TEACHING: as I said, the teaching is terrific, with multiple camera angles, key moves repeated and much more. Interestingly, an earlier VHS version of Torn is included on this DVD so you can see Garcia teach this in a previous setting. I'm glad I did not buy the VHS version back in the day because it looked a little rough.:)
DIFFICULTY: I alluded to this being a much easier version of the torn card effect than Guy's, but it doesn't mean it's "easy." It takes a lot of practice and quite frankly, it's a fun effect to perform, so I didn't mind the practice. Nevertheless, don't think you're going to be able to do this "right out of the box," so to speak. Prepare to put some serious time in to make it look good.
I hinted at this earlier, but the challenge of this effect is not necessarily getting the physical moves into your muscle memory, but more making sure the cards are aligned properly. Since the card is openly torn yet is restored with the spectator's signature, I don't think I'm letting a big cat out of the bag when I reveal that, yes, you're really tearing a card each time. No big revelation there, but the problem is the alignment of two cards. To REALLY make this look fantastic in closeup conditions, you really need to properly tear the cards and work really hard to align everything together. even then, sharp-eyed spectators stil busted me on this at the trade show.
I had the basic moves up in two weeks and then spent a few months trying to really fine tune it so that these alignment issues were perfect, but I never got it quite to the point where I could nail it every time. Maybe you can do better than me, but I found it to not to be worth the trouble as I don't do enough closeup to "keep the effect fresh," that is, keep the handling tight so it looks crisp...I'm sure most people reading this have, after not performing an effect for quite a while, been surprised to learn that their handling was not as smooth after the long layoff.
That's my big issue with Torn - staying motivated to keep it smooth. If you're a closeup guy who is motivated, you may have more luck than me.
ANGLES: This is where Torn really crashes and burns. Let's be honest - if you've seen the video demo, it looks great. in the real world, if you perform this for one, two or even three people standing right in front of you, this will look great.
Most of my closeup work is at corporate banquets, so 50% of the time I'm performing at a cocktail gathering and people are constantly moving - I don't have people directly in front of me very often. Also, the other 50% of the time I'm performing at these banquets, people are seated, at "rounds of eight" typically. With people at a lower angle, that's going to cause problems.
With the first two pieces being restored, it's relatively easy to cover angles, but the next two pieces being restored - especially the fourth - it's a nightmare trying to adjust your angles if people are seated.
Ironically, the trade show (regarded as one of the most demanding performing venues) is where I had the most success, as most of the time, I was playing to one or two people right in front of me.
RE-SET: Another issue to consider is reset. If you're going to do this strolling or multiple times, you're going to accumulate a lot of "used gimmicks." Deciding what to do with it all is a concern if you're a restaurant worker trying to burn through 10 tables in two hours, for example. Unless you have a spare pocket devoted to ditching torn pieces and other 'expendables,' you've got a problem.
FINAL THOUGHTS: While I think this effect looks FANTASTIC when done well, (and it gets a GREAT response when done well,) I personally feel the angle problems and reset limit this effect to the "when the conditions are right" category. There's certainly nothing wrong with that kind of effect, but for me to keep up the rehearsal necessary to keep this effect smooth, I want to be able to whip it out at anytime. That's just me - you may feel differently.
I'll give this a 9 out of 10 for pure effect, but for working pros in banquet situations, restaurant gigs or other "uncontrolled" environments, I can only give it a 5 out of 10. It looks great but for me has too many limitations to work consistently, all the time, in the real world.
You may feel differently, but when I learn an effect, I prefer to devote my time to effects that play consistently well in my chosen markets.
"Your Mileage May Vary - LOL."
Tune in tomorrow (or perhaps Friday) for my review of Sound Controller by Jim Kleefeld.
As always, send any comments to: email@example.com.