The Art, Science & Business of Illusions

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Welcome to Illusion Books.com!

This website is dedicated to:

  • Elevating the art of illusion
  • Helping illusionists of all levels develop their illusion show
  • Teaching illusionists to adopt a business & marketing mindset to be successful in the current economic climate.

My name is J C Sum and I am an illusionist & designer of original illusions with extensive international experience performing for corporate & special events, luxury cruise liners, theaters, showrooms and television in a career that has spanned 20 years.

I have also written 9 critically acclaimed books on original illusion design, performance and presentation that have been read by magicians in over 60 countries.

J C Sum

This website was created as a platform to share my thoughts and experience on the Art, Science & Business of Illusions.

The site is continually being built and is a portal for:

  • Information on Illusion Performance, Design, Philosophy & Marketing
  • Online Resources for Illusionists
  • Recommended Books & DVDs for Illusionists
  • Reviews of Illusion Products
  • List of Illusion Builders & Designers
  • Best of the Web Video Illusion Resource
  • Audio Shows for Illusionists

The website also details information on all of my original illusion books, digital format illusion plans, lecture notes, DVDs and fabricated illusions.

Click on “How to Use This Website” on the menu above to get maximum value out of this website.

Click “Follow” on the right to get notified of new content by email.

Enjoy your stay!

J C Sum

Copyright 2013 – 2014. No content may be reproduced in any form without written consent from the author.

Recommended Books & DVDs for the Modern Illusionist

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Updated as of 15 Feb 2014.

This comprehensive list of books and DVDs was compiled for the modern stage magician or illusionist in mind. With that, I’m speaking of magic artistes and entertainers looking to present illusions to a modern audience and to be relevant in today’s pop culture and entertainment marketplace.

It is for magicians looking to build a strong foundation in the art of illusion so that you have relevant and quality information that you can use to present cutting edge illusions that do not look like that came from the 1980s or before (unless you are intentionally performing a period piece for a specific show/ audience!)

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all illusion books, manuscripts, booklets and DVDs for collectors or for the sake of listing every illusion resource in existence.

If I have not included a specific title in the list, it could be because of the following reasons:

1) The information is not accurate or is not written well (including bad designs, untested overly conceptual material, wrong dimensions or just not workable material)

2) Illusions/ Methods/ Techniques explained are not authorized for public domain or are detailed without permission from relevant creators

3) Information/ Illusions are too outdated and irrelevant for the modern illusionist

4) Some books have questionable material that looks good on paper but there are no working examples of the fabricated illusions or the author has no proven track record that demonstrates that his/ her conceptual designs will work

5) I have missed out a resource or am unaware of its publication

The list is based on my professional experience as an international performing illusionist, illusion designer and author for a significant number of years.

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While it is impossible to perfectly organize titles into fixed categories to cater to all tastes, I have organized the list based on applicability for the beginner, intermediate and advanced illusionist. There will be some overlaps in the intermediate and advanced books but illusionists at this level will be able to discern which book would suit their needs better.

I have given my personal comments on most titles so that you can understand my perspective when making the recommendations.

Now, onto the list…

FOR BEGINNER ILLUSIONISTS

Before you embark on learning how illusions work and how to build illusions, it is advisable to understand the performance, staging and presentation of illusions as well as be educated on standard illusions and plots. In the excitement to learn secrets, most people do it the other way around. The books under the first section “Staging, Production & Performance” should be essential reading for any illusionist.

Staging, Production & Performance

  • So You Want to Be an Illusionist – David Seebach (Must-read for All Illusionists)

seebach

David’s book gives you an overview of his decades of experience as an illusionist. He has owned and worked with many illusions built by top builders. In this spiral-bound book, he shares his experience and tips on working on these popular marketed illusions but does not reveal exact working methods or construction details. There are also nuggets of information spread out throughout the book. This is a good book for beginners but I do feel his approach, style and material may be considered a bit dated for today’s contemporary illusionist looking for mainstream relevance. But, with this caveat in mind, this book is still an invaluable resource and a fantastic introduction to popular marketed illusions.

  • On Stage with Illusions – Duane Laflin (Must-read for All Illusionists)

on stage

Duane Laflin’s “On Stage with Illusions” is a well produced, clearly written book peppered with photos of Duane performing the illusions on stage with his cast. In a nutshell, this book is filled with sound practical advice and solid information on producing, performing and managing a large-scale illusion show. From choosing an illusion, producing different types of shows to examining what makes an illusion show work, Duane leaves little information out. He also includes many miscellaneous practical considerations that do not fall into any one category but are invaluable to any working illusionist. These tips will save you time, frustration, money and effort! These include choosing assistants, how to prepare them to work on an illusion show, how to conduct rehearsals and scripting a show.

  • The Illusion Show Business – Stan Kramien

stan kramien

Stan shares his experience, routines and advise on producing and routining a full illusion show. There is much to learn and understand from this veteran professional on how he approached his work. However, bear in mind, some approaches and techniques may not be as effective in today’s market. There is some information that is a bit dated but easy enough for someone to discern and update/modify to be relevant.

jc sum event

The Event Magician Vol. 1, is a detailed guidebook on producing a stage show specially for an event setting. However, all stage craft and techniques apply to most standard performing conditions. In fact, it is my belief that if you can consistently successfully perform in challenging event conditions, you can be successful in most “show-friendly” environments. This book was also written for the modern magician in mind. It covers all aspects of performing magic at events including understanding the nature of events, choosing material, planning the show, formatting the show, designing the staging, ensuring technical support, packing & transporting the show. There is a specific chapter dedicated to the Event Illusion Show.

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Methods, Design & Building

The following 5 books offer some basic illusions with basic instructions on the construction. The prices of these books are fairly low (compared to modern illusion books) and thus, are great for first time builders or beginning illusionists looking to experiment in illusions. A lot of the designs are dated but studying the basic building plans is a good start to your illusion building education. For the modest investment, you can’t really go wrong and will have more than enough material to experiment with basic illusion performance principles like working with larger props, timing, sight-lines and teamwork.

  • Complete Course in Magic – Mark Wilson

wilson complete

  • Tarbell Course in Magic (Vol 1 – 8. Technically, Vol 1 does not contain any illusions but you might as well get the whole set as these books are a staple reference of any respectable magic library.)

tarbell

  • Victory Carton Illusions – UF Grant (Recommended for New Illusionists Looking to Spend Less than US$10)

grant victory

  • Grant’s Illusion Secrets – UF Grant (Recommended for New Illusionists Looking to Spend Less than US$10)

grants secrets

  • Modern Illusions – Tom Palmer

palmer modern

You can buy U.F. Grant’s books in the form of PDFs, as well as Stan Kramein’s ”The Illusion Show Business” from http://www.lybrary.com under the illusion category. There are several illusion ebooks/ manuscripts available in Lybrary but beware, some are not very good at all.

  • Begin to Build Your Own Illusions: Illusion Systems (Vol I – IV) – Paul Osborne

osborne build own

  • Classic Illusions (Vol 1 – 3) – Paul Osborne  (Must-read for Illusionists Looking to Build Classic Illusions in the Public Domain)

osborne classic

  • Easy Build Illusions – Paul Osborne

osborne easy

  • One Man Illusions – Paul Osborne

osborne one man

  • Professional Illusion Building for the Home Craftsman – Dick Gustafson

osborne building

Paul Osborne’s “Begin to Build Your Own Illusions: Illusion Systems” books were once the foundation texts for illusion builders. They cover many basic building techniques and illusions. But, many of the designs are now very dated in look as well as material and finish. However, the books are still a solid reference. His more recently released books have more contemporary designs and many practical illusion solutions. For new illusionists, I would recommend reading “Easy Build Illusions”, “One Man Illusions” and his “Classic Illusions” as a start. He has also several specialty books for holiday and Halloween illusions that are worthy of consideration.

  • Solo-X – Andrew Mayne
  • Illusion Book – Andrew Mayne
  • Illusion F/X – Andrew Mayne
  • Illusion Tech – Andrew Mayne  (Must-read for Beginner Illusionists)
  • The Secret Illusion Show – Andrew Mayne
  • Voodoo Box, Bisection, Sword Basket, Razorwire and other individual booklets – Andrew Mayne

mayne illusion-builder-pack

Andrew Mayne has a collection of books and booklets that are easy to read and comprehend. He offers many ideas and solutions to illusions that can be built on a budget. His first few books, “Solo X”, “Illusion F/X” and “Illusion Book”, offer more professional-level illusions although most designs do not come with building plans or dimensions. Significant prototyping is needed to build any of the illusions. His newer booklets (Sword Basket, Voodoo Box, Bisection, Razorwire etc.) offer contemporary material that is a great introduction to modern illusioneering. These booklets are modestly priced and targeted for new illusionists or illusionists on a budget. They are good way to start experimenting with larger stage effects with minimal costs, effort and time to create. While most of these illusions will not be suitable for most professional-level shows, many of his “low tech” solutions will work very well for amateur or “weekend warrior” shows.

jcsum pack flat

“Pack Flat Illusions” book is a specialty book on modern large stage effects and illusions for kids & family shows. The illusions require some basic wood-working and building skills to put together and you will be introduced to basic illusion principles applied to simplified props.

Corporate Illusions Made Easy

These are a collection of illusions for corporate entertainers and do not require prior illusion knowledge to understand, build and execute the illusions. In the first illusion book of its kind, it also includes an extensive discussion on presenting illusions for corporate events, the role of the “Corporate Illusionist”, how to go about building the illusions in the book as well as incorporating corporate messaging into the illusions.

  • Illusions In The Round – Don Arthur

illusions in the round

This is a collection of practical illusions that can be performed surrounded and are reasonably easy to build from wood. While not as dated in design as Paul Osborne’s Illusion Systems series, the illusions need to be updated in look. The illusions were designed to be performed in the circus center ring environment and feature practical methods and designs but do not have a cutting edge and modern look.

  • Darwin’s Inexpensive Illusions – Gary Darwin  (Must-read for Illusionists Interested in Black Art work)

darwin book

For Black Art work, this is a very good resource and easy to read. All illusions are based on two basic methods but Gary gives you a lot of variations and explains all the illusions with hand drawings that are easy to understand. This book is excellent for the first-time illusionist or even seasoned illusionists looking for ideas to add material to a theatre show. Note: You will need a proper proscenium, stage curtains and control over lighting to present these illusions. There is a separate DVD that compliments the book.

  • Conjuror’s Optical Secrets – S. H. Sharpe (Must-read for Serious Students of Illusion)
  • Conjuror’s Pneumatic/Hydraulic Secrets – S. H. Sharpe (Must-read for Serious Students of Illusion)
  • Conjuror’s Mechanical Secrets – S. H. Sharpe (Must-read for Serious Students of Illusion)
  • Conjurers’ Psychological Secrets – S. H. Sharpe (Not directly applicable to illusion design and performance but is part of the set of four)

sharpe

Sharpe’s series of books provide important technical information and fundamental principles that will provide an important foundation for more sophisticated illusioneering. These books may feel a bit dated in terms of the writing and presentation but the material is timeless and quite technical.

  • Magic of Robert Harbin – Robert Harbin

harbin

A classic and collectible book on illusions & large-scale stage effects from an acknowledged genius in illusion design and presentation. Among other illusions, it contains the plans and routine to Harbin’s famous “Zig Zag Girl” illusion. While hard to get, it is a good read and shows how ahead of his time Harbin was.

  • Secrets of My Magic by David Devant

devantsecretsofmymagic

This is a big book and contains many illusions with methods that are precursors of current classic illusions. Besides multiple illusions, there are also many stage routines and plots that are also the starting point of routines performed by modern magicians of today. It is currently available as an e-book from Miracle Factory for less than $10.

  • Magic On STAGE by Wally Reid

wally reid

I think this is an underrated book and not widely known. It contains a section on a few illusions that are practical, workable and fairly easy to build. Besides illusions, the rest of the book is filled with stage apparatus magic routines and props that I think fit the stage magician looking to increase the scale of his/ her show. As the book was written 30 years ago, you will need to dress up the props to look modern and contemporary.

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FOR INTERMEDIATE ILLUSIONISTS

  • Device & Illusion – Jim Steinmeyer (Must-read for All Illusionists)
  • Technique & Understanding – Jim Steinmeyer (Must-read for All Illusionists)
  • The Complete Jarrett – Guy Jarrett, Jim Steinmeyer  (Must-read for All Illusionists)
  • The Magic of Alan Wakeling – Jim Steinmeyer (Must-read for All Illusionists)
  • Conjuror’s Anthology – Jim Steinmeyer
  • Modern Art and Other Mysteries – Jim Steinmeyer

steinmeyersteinmeyer modern art

ALL of Steinmeyer’s books should be in any serious illusionist’s library. He is the undisputed most prolific illusion designer of this generation. He has created more modern illusions used by professionals worldwide than any other designer in history. His vast collection of books includes hundreds of illusion designs that will educate on all levels – design, method, psychology and presentation. His work will be most appreciated by intermediate illusionists and above. Even experienced professional illusionists learn new things each time they reread his books.

  • The Base Book – Rand Woodbury (Must-read for All Illusionists)

woodbury base book

  • Illusionworks (I, II and III) – Rand Woodbury

woodbury book

  • Diversions – Rand Woodbury

woodbury diversions

Rand filled a void of modern illusion content in the early 1990s. His designs and concealment methods are contemporary and still hold up to this date very well. His book, “The Base Book”, is a must-read introductory text on this essential tool. The rest of the books contain dozens of cutting edge illusion designs that are suitable for the intermediate to advanced illusionist. You will find many ideas to inspire your own illusions and his modern approach to aesthetic deceptive design should appeal to the modern illusionist. His Illusionworks DVD (Vol 1 & 2) compliment his books perfectly.

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“Illusionary Departures” contains 35 illusion designs & presentations and covers a wide genre of illusion effects designed for the modern beginner to intermediate illusionist. It contains full building plans, dimensions and material lists and is a good resource for illusionists looking for ideas and practical illusions, regardless of the scale of your show. Most importantly, the 2012 edition of the book contains an approach to base designing and fabrication that is different than traditional base building. The resultant prop is very deceptive, easier to construct, lightweight but extremely strong and durable.

  • Paragons and Paradoxes – Milan Forzetting

forzetting

This is the only book from Milan and it contains many innovative ideas to get you thinking. The building plans are sufficient for the intermediate illusionist to understand. Milan is a builder as well and his solutions for various mechanical devices are clever and not too complicated, such as collapsing spring-loaded panels for the sides of illusion props. He also shares his personal insight on the art and business of performing illusions which is yet another valuable perspective of being a professional illusionist.

  • The Black Book – Paul Osborne

osborne black book

  • Illusions: Evolution and the Revolution of the Magic Box – Paul Osborne

osborne illusion book

Both these books are critically acclaimed books and filled with ideas to inspire and fill shows. While not complete blueprints, there is enough information for intermediate illusionists to figure out how the illusions should be built. You will get a wealth of ideas to stimulate your own create thought or find material to add to a show for a relatively affordable building cost.

  • The Illusion Paradigm – Paul Osborne

illusion-paradigm-by-paul-osborne

This is a collection of different contributions from established professional illusion designers and builders and the book focuses on the fabrication of illusion props. As it was published in 2013, the fabrication techniques are up to date and the semi-experienced illusion builders will find value in the collected knowledge.

  • Grand Illusions by Jonathan Pendragon (CD-Rom)

pendragons cd

This CD-Rom contains a PDF file of interview transcripts on Jonathan Pendragon’s thoughts, approach methods and general tips on illusions, performance and presentation. It can be viewed as a written alternative to his DVDs and contains valuable information for the contemporary illusionist. However, if you can, get the DVD set recommended below.

  • The Great Illusions of Magic (2 -books) – Byron G. Wells

great illusions of magic

These books are a bit dated but complete with very detailed blueprints to many illusions. You will need to have some experience in building to understand and be comfortable building the illusions. I have not actually built anything based on these technical drawings so I cannot verify how accurate the dimensions are. I do think they are a great reference for many popular illusions but I personally see this set as more of a collector’s item.

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FOR ADVANCED ILLUSIONISTS

These books contain technically advanced illusion designs that will require an experienced builder to build. Most of the designs require a knowledge of fabrication with wood, metal and plexi-glass. The techniques, methods and staging are also more sophisticated and complex.

The books cover illusions of all genres including vanishes, productions, mutilations,  escapes, transpositions, teleportations and even large-scale illusions with motorcycles and cars. The material would fall under the “modern” illusions category in terms of design, aesthetic design and materials. Any one of the books will be of good value to the modern illusionist and I recommend you look at the contents of each book and read reviews to see which ones interest you.

  • 4e Illusion Design – Mark Parker

parker 4E

  • Vivify – Mark Parker

parker vivify

  • Advanced Illusion Projects – Tim Clothier

illusion projects

jcsum urban

jcsum equilateral

jcsum ultimate

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SPECIALTY ILLUSIONS

These books cover a specific genre of illusion or a specific illusion. Each book is dedicated to the method(s), designs and presentations of a specific illusion and are worthy of study if you intend to perform that genre of illusion. Due to the specific nature of the books, they are more suited for the intermediate illusionist & above.

  • Two Lectures on Theatrical Illusion – Jim Steinmeyer

twolecturesonillusion

This book combines two of Jim Steinmeyer’s titles: “Discovering Invisibility” and “The Science Behind The Ghost”. In Steinmeyer’s usual scholarly approach, he details the history and workings of two specific illusion techniques; namely, the use of mirrors in magic and “Pepper’s Ghost”. It will take you multiple reads to digest this information.

  • Walter Jeans Illusioneer by Peter Warlock – The Million $ Mystery

walter jean

This fairly thin book focuses on the history and workings of the Million Dollar Mystery. It goes into the full history and background of the effect/ principle as well as explains the workings and method. However, there are no exact building plans. The reader has to draw up plans in order for the whole apparatus to be constructed. It is a simple concept to understand, however; building the actual prop itself is very tricky and staging it is not straightforward either.

  • The Magic of Yogano Levitation Systems

yogano

Yogano shares his original levitation and suspension systems in this book translated into English. It features his famous levitations and includes construction plans of these mechanical wonders. I have not actually built anything based on these technical drawings so I cannot verify how accurate the dimensions are. I do know magicians have built some of the systems from the book but I’m unsure if the plans were from the English version of the original French version of the book. You will require an experienced builder as well as metal and electronics worker(s) to build these illusions.

  • Encyclopedia of Suspensions & Levitations – Bruce Armstrong

suspensions

As the name implies, this is a comprehensive tome on the subject with a listing of all known methods of the illusion (as of its writing in 1976). You will have a wealth of information on hand but actual detailed construction plans are not included and you will have to work it out yourself. In most cases, you will need a good metal worker to fabricate the parts/ apparatus needed. To make the “encyclopedia” complete, S.H. Sharpe covers the history of the levitation. A valuable resource on the subject.

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GENERAL READING

The books in this section are for general reading on the subject of illusions and/ or illusionists. No exact methods are detailed as they are not explanation books but are enjoyable reads that will give you insight into the history and personalities of the illusion genre. Many were written for the general public and not just for the magic community.

  • The Master Illusionists – Mark Walker
  • Magic Of Lee Gabriel – O. Mcgill
  • Art and Artifice – Jim Steinmeyer
  • The Glorious Deception – Jim Steinmeyer
  • Hiding the Elephant – Jim Steinmeyer
  • The Last Greatest Magician in the World – Jim Steinmeyer
  • Ralph Adams A Lifetime in Magic (Book and video)

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DVDs/ VIDEOs

There has been very limited information shared on DVD when it comes to grand illusion. For every one thousand DVDs on close-up magic, there is probably only one DVD on grand illusions. One reason is the cost of filming and editing a meaningful illusion DVD. With close-up, you could film a DVD in a small studio with some footage on the streets. To film an illusion, especially in a live setting, you would need a full stage set-up with a live audience and all the technical requirements that go with an illusion show.

Furthermore, the barriers to entry into the professional illusion market is much higher than all other genres of magic. The high investment cost is why many illusionists are less compelled to share their knowledge, expertise and experience. So, it is understandable why illusion DVDs are hard to come by.

I have organized illusion DVDs into three categories.

Performance, Presentation & Approach

In my opinion, any serious student of illusions must watch the DVDs in this section and get a good understanding and appreciation of illusion performing, routining, presenting and thinking from the experiences of different performing professionals. They augment the information in the books recommended in “Staging, Production & Performance”.

  • The Magic of the Pendragons (4-Vol Set) – The Pendragons (Must-watch for All Illusionists)

pendragons

At their peak, The Pendragons was the top illusion team in the world. In the 1980s and 1990s, their approach to illusions was fresh, modern, physical and enthralling. This DVD set, released in 2009, gives you an insider’s view of their incredible body of work with detailed explanations to their “Broom Suspension”, “Sword Basket” and famous “Metamorphosis” illusions. Considering these are staple illusions for many starting-out professional illusionists, this information is already worth five times the price of the DVDs. While the mechanics are not explained in full, they also give insight and history on “Clearly Impossible”, “The Levitation”, “Blammo”, “Impaled”, “Shadow Box” and “Interlude”. Throughout the explanations, they shared nuggets of information that can only be earned through years of professional performing.

  • Behind the Illusions (2-Vol Set) – J C Sum & ‘Magic Babe’ Ning (Must-watch for All Illusionists)

jcsum behind

As the name implies, this DVD explores approaches in design, presentation, performance and routing of modern illusions. It uses ten stage illusions as examples to highlight different teachings and covers all aspects of performing illusions. The material is contemporary and the presentation/ feel is modern so it is highly relevant to the current performing illusionist. As a big bonus, you are taken behind the scenes to a live mega illusion stunt. Note: No detailed secrets or building plans are included in the DVD as that is not the focus or objective of the DVD. Look for reviews on the DVD set as there are many available online.

  • Enigma Tech (2-Vol Set) – Franz Harary (Must-watch for All Illusionists)

harary enigma

Franz has one of the biggest illusion shows in the world and is also one of an elite group of illusionists who only perform their original illusions. The first DVD of this set is a conglomeration of different content from Franz’s Magic Planet series. But, it includes a commentary where he gives some back-story and basic philosophy behind some of his designs and productions. Vol 2 is the valuable education as it is basically an entire live show performed in sequence as opposed to chopped up segmented edited performances. This allows you to see how the show was produced and flows. Any illusionist, new or experienced, will learn a lot from watching this alone and listening to his commentary  You will get ideas to see how you can improve your show production or avoid some elements which you think will not fit your style.

  • Rand LIVE Celebration Tour ’91 – Rand Woodbury

woodbury live

This is a great video to see Rand Woodbury in front of a real crowd performing both illusions and some stand-up material. I am always interested to see if magic authors practice what they preach and in Rand’s case, he does. He is the consummate entertainer and this shines through in his live performance  You will see some illusions detailed in his first “Illusionworks” book. He also films some “to-camera” segments sharing his approach, dealing with situations on stage and general performing of illusions. As in the case of any video that shows world class professionals at work, it is always an education to see what helps make them successful. Even though the footage is from almost 25 years ago, the illusion designs still hold up although, naturally, the music and costuming will feel dated.

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Illusion Plans/ Building/ Method

  • Illusion Works (4-Vol Set)  – Rand Woodbury  (Vol 1 & 2 are Must-watch for All Illusionists)

woodbury dvd

Illusionworks is probably the first ever video series on modern illusion design and is an education for any serious illusion student. Volume 1 & 2 especially are a must-watch as Rand actually goes through the building process of steps and bases and then the performance of the illusion utilities applied to actual illusions. However, take note that dimensions given are not accurate and it is always advisable to make a mock-up out of cardboard or waste plywood first. When the videos first came out, it was the first time innovative cutting edge illusion secrets were revealed and the techniques are still relevant today. The information on these DVDs is invaluable and you will learn a lot.

  • Building Your Own Illusions, The Complete Video Course – Gerry Frenette (6 DVD Set) (Must-watch for All Illusionists)

gerry building

This is a great set of DVDs and the only instructional video of its kind that teaches you everything from handling tools, materials, building techniques and painting. A must-have if you are new to illusion fabrication. Even if you do not build the illusions yourself,  educating yourself on building techniques will help you supervise builders who you may commission to build for you. This is especially if you are not having a professional illusion builder build an illusion but a cabinet maker, carpenter or prop maker.

  • Illusion EFX – Andrew Mayne. (Recommended for Beginner Illusionists)

mayne efx

In typical Andrew Mayne style, this DVD offers many illusions for the new illusionist with economical illusion designs and ideas that you can experiment with. Most illusions can be built within a day and there is enough variety to build a mini show out of the material shared. If you like Andrew’s style of simplistic illusion design, you can also look at his assorted DVDs on individual effects such as Bisection, Levitator and Shrinker among others.

  • Inexpensive Illusions – Gary Darwin

darwin inexpensive

This DVD is a compliment to Gary’s book recommended above.

  • Mark Wilson on Illusions (3-Vol Set) (Highly Recommended for Beginner Illusionists)

wilson illusions

Mark Wilson is the founding father of magic on television and he presented a tremendous amount of magic in his television series in the 1960s. On these 3 DVDs, he shares the techniques for many of the illusions including suspensions and levitations. The first DVD features illusions that can be made from cardboard or plastic corrugated board as Grant’s Victory Cartons-style illusions. He also shows the application of illusions for the television camera. While these are not camera tricks per say, they use the fixed perspective and size of the camera frame to create remarkable results with “easy” illusions. As all the material shown is from Mark’s illustrious professional career, you will need to apply your own creativity to update the illusions to look modern and fresh for today’s audience.

  • Doll House…Plus! – Dennis Loomis

doll-house...plus-

I have to admit that I have not watched this DVD before but I have read and heard only good things about it. It gives you comprehensive explanations and plans to the “Doll House” illusion as well as the “Sword Temple” (also known as the “Temple of Benares”). The Sword Temple is an excellent first illusion for a new illusionist, as I highlight in my essay here; so that alone is worth looking into the DVD. The “Doll House” split-load method is also a standard hiding position in magic that is used in many illusions. Understanding the dimensions and how the “Doll House” is built to be deceptive is a good introductory education to the application of other illusions as well.

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Performance Only

While the DVDs in this section do not explain any illusions or methods, I think they are an excellent education for all serious students of illusion. Many of the DVDs include commentaries or interviews with insight or background information on the illusions/ shows. One route of learning is through observation and modeling after excellence (as well as not modelling mistakes), so these DVDs make good references.

  • Magic Planet (Vol 1 – 6) – Franz Harary

harary magic planet

  • Live in China – Franz Harary

harary china

  • Theater of Illusion – The Spencers

spencers

  • Magic Circus (Vol 1 – 6) – Mark Wilson

wilson magic circus

  • Illusion – David Copperfield (with commentary)

copperfield

  • The Lee Grabel Archival Project (4 DVD Set)

Lee Grabel

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If you have a recommendation to make or would like your book/ DVD to be included in the list, please email me at jcsum(a)conceptmagic.biz. However, I reserve the right to include/ exclude any publication based on my personal subjective criteria for the list.

Buy some of the books/ DVDs highlighted above HERE and use this Promo Code “5OFF2014” upon Checkout to receive a 5% discount off all books, sets, DVD, plans & downloads.

FAQ on my Illusion Books

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I wrote this FAQ to help you make a better informed decision on which of my books to get.

You have quite a few different books? Which one should I get?

Here is a run-down of the books. Each book or type of book was written for a specific illusion genre:

PROFESSIONAL ILLUSIONS

The professional level illusion books are:

  • “Illusionary Departures 2012”
  • “Equilateral 3”
  • “Urban Illusions”.

The “Ultimate Illusion Collection: The Vault Edition” is a compilation of these three books + 25% new material + “Illusionism”.

SPECIALTY ILLUSIONS

“Pack Flat Illusions for Kids & Family Shows” is a collection of material that is highly practical for the working performer and especially the new or part-time illusionist.

“Corporate Illusions Made Easy” features 10 original illusion designs for product & corporate logo reveals, VIP appearances and motivational illusions. This book was written for the working corporate magician or illusionist.

“Simple Showstoppers” is a book of easy illusion projects for magicians. Best of all, each illusion can be built for under $500. It is an excellent introduction to modern grand illusions but also contains inexpensive illusion ideas for experienced illusionists.

“Illusionism” is a specialty e-book on illusions with a mentalism plot currently only available at Lybrary.com. It is also included in the “Ultimate Illusion Collection: The Vault Edition”

GENERAL

“The Event Magician Vol 1 & 2” is not an illusion design book but has been highly regarded as the best book on the subject of building and marketing a stage magic show to the special events industry.

“Beyond the Stage 2012” is a set of lecture notes that does not teach illusion designs but is full of valuable information for the aspiring performer and commercial magician. It is a great introduction to my magic thinking and will benefit magicians of all levels.

BOOK SETS

As of Nov 2013, there will be a number of combo book sets available:

The Event Magician Set – This set includes both volumes of “The Event Magician”

Specialty Illusions Set – This is a three-in-one book comprising of my specialty illusion books, “Pack Flat Illusions for Kids & Family Shows”, “Corporate Illusions Made Easy” and “Simple Showstoppers”!

The Event Illusionist Set – This is a combo set of books for the stage magician or illusionist who performs for special events. This set comprises of three books:

  • The Event Magician Volume 1
  • The Event Magician Volume 2
  • “Corporate Illusions Made Easy”

The Complete Illusion Library – This set of books includes my entire library of publshed works. This book set comprise of 8 books:

  • Ultimate Illusion Collection: The Vault Edition (2-Volume Set)
  • The Event Magician Volume 1
  • The Event Magician Volume 2
  • Specialty Illusions (3 books in 1)
  • Beyond the Stage Lecture Notes

If you are looking to buy just one book to see if my material, approach and illusion philosophy is to your liking, I would recommend “Illusionary Departures 2012”. It is the best first book of mine to get if you are undecided. For one, it is my biggest book with 35 illusions & routines for stage thus is the best value for money. It also has a wide variety of illusions, stage acts and presentations that will appeal to a wide group of magicians of all levels. This will be a solid introduction to my brand of illusion thinking.

Which is the most value-for-money book?

The “Ultimate Illusion Collection: The Vault Edition” will be the most value for money in terms of price as it is a compilation of all three of my professional illusion design books into one + 25% new material as well as the “Illusionism” book. It also contains a discussion on creating a mega stunt and my method for the “Impossible 50-storey in 5 seconds” teleportation that I performed live in front of 9,000 people.

In addition, the entire collection has been organized by illusion effect/ genre, making it very easy to find illusions that you want. The books come in two volumes and costs much less than if you buy all the different publications separately.

Are the illusions difficult to build?

The books which contain the easiest to build illusions are “Simple Showstoppers”, “Corporate Illusions Made Easy” and “Pack Flat Illusions for Kids & Family Show”.

“Illusionary Departures 2012” are generally easy to intermediate builds.

Most of the illusions in “Equilateral”, “Urban Illusions” and “Ultimate Illusion Collection: The Vault Edition” require an experienced builder who is familiar working with wood and metal.

I’m new to illusions. Which book bests suits me?

I would recommend my “Simple Showstoppers”. These illusions are easy to understand and build. While inexpensive to build, they are presentable even for professional shows. The illusions detailed are also a great introduction to illusion techniques and methods.

You can then consider “Illusionary Departures 2012” as it contains many different kinds of illusions, stage routines and presentations that are also not highly complex. It contains my Approach to Base Work that details my design, philosophy and original building techniques to a modern base. There are also a number of inexpensive illusions that are easy to build.

I’m still undecided which books I want as different ones in different books seem to appeal to me.

You can then consider just ordering the digital plans for the illusions that you want specifically. This would be the most cost effective way, especially, if you know which ones you want. Alternatively, you can opt for a custom illusion plan where I assemble a set based on your specific needs. A custom illusion plan set starts from US$50 and includes 4 – 5 illusions

Buy my books/ DVDs highlighted above HERE and use this Promo Code “5OFF2014” upon Checkout to receive a 5% discount off all books, sets, DVDs, plans & downloads.

Working with Female Partners by ‘Magic Babe’ Ning

Featured

Here is a great article by Ning that has been published in a few international magic magazines. It is an insightful and modern look at male performers working with female assistants, partners or co-performers from a female’s perspective. It is a worthy read for all performers looking to expand from a solo act to a show that incorporates other female performers. Here is the article in Ning’s own words:

Ning Revollusion

Stage magicians and illusionists will at some point, seriously consider having an assistant or performing partner be part of their show. This could be an effort to increase the scale of the show, making things look bigger and more lavish, or to be able to employ magic methods and techniques that utilize one more person.

Besides my solo show, I also perform in an equal partnership role with a male magician. JC Sum & I work with assistants (male and female) as well as female dancers. In this article, I will be sharing my perspective as both a female stage performer & an objective audience member watching male magicians work with their female partners and dancer/ assistants.

Define the Role of Your Female Partner/ Assistant to the Audience

So how do we first begin? Well, the very first thing to do when working with a female partner is to be extremely clear what role she plays in the show.

Clearly define: Is she your stage equal? Is she a stage assistant or stage hand?

If she is your stage equal, she must hold an equal role and not just be billed as an equal. It is essential that she have an equal time being the protagonist on stage and hold the stage as strong as you would. Her costuming must be as loud or attractive as yours so that both of you shine as brightly as stars, together.

If she is an assistant, however, her principle role is to support the show and not pull focus from the show and you, the magician. Her position on stage should always be a step behind you and her actions must compliment yours. Her costume must not be too loud so that it pulls focus away from you every time she steps on stage, because you are the star.

Now, if her role is that of being your stage hand, she must be invisible to the audience. Ideally, the audience should not even realize that she is on stage, so her movements and dressing must be completely understated so that she performs the role of supporting your show discreetly. Think professional kabuki performers or stealth ninjas *wink*

Recruiting your female partner/ assistant

If you are lucky enough to have a supportive wife/ girlfriend/ sister who is willing to be part of your show – congratulations! You are a very lucky guy :) But FYI, this can be the best thing or worst thing for your show because it has the potential to go both ways.

As your partner off stage, they will be dedicated to your show and want to make you look as awesome as possible. But! It is also important that they know what they are doing and are properly trained to partner or assist you in a professional way.

If they have any kind of onstage role, they must look appropriate for stage, be it physical appearance or dressing. They must know how to move on stage and must physically and theatrically compliment you when performing together. In other words, have them go for lessons to be stage ready. They need not be professional dancers but the ladies should at least know how to stand, pose and move on stage.

In case you aren’t aware, your wife/ girlfriend/ sister may not be completely crazy about what they are doing on stage but are doing it because of you. If this is the case, for the sake of your show and reputation as a magician, it may be better to consider another alternative. Seriously, not only does it not help your show in the long run, it will also ultimately sour your offstage relationship.

If you are looking for a professional female partner/ assistant, I’d suggest working with a trained dancer; someone with performing experience and training will know how to pose, present, move and look their best for you and your show, on stage. With communication and over time, they will also know how to react if something goes wrong on stage and can assist to misdirect as you recover.

magic babe ning on stage

Play on Your Female Partner’s/ Assistant’s Strengths

The next important step is working out and identifying your female partner’s/ assistant’s strengths so that you (both) can design specific roles that best suit her strengthens. If your female assistant is not a flexible petite lady, PLEASE do not try to force her in small boxes. Contrary to popular belief we aren’t compressible like doves *shifty eyes*

Now, if your female assistant is good in understanding magic psychology and knows how to perform deceptive moves like loads and steals (believe it some of us have the natural knack for these things), do take advantage of that. If she is a good actor/ dancer, incorporate that into your show or act to give emotive texture to the performance.

On a related note, appropriate dressing an costuming is essential. Don’t make her wear “the usual” stage costumes just because you see other women wearing them on stage. Choose outfits that flatter her figure and dress her to compliment your show and not just like the typical cookie cutter showgirl. Allow what she wears to holler her unique character and personality.

Use your Female Assistant Only As Necessary

Some guys don’t realize this and I’ve noticed this happening more often than it should :(If your lady’s role is not that of your equal stage partner but she is just your assistant, please do not overuse her for every small thing. She is a utility and should be used only as necessary. This is where she can be most effective as a deceptive magic tool. Also, if you use her for every small task, it makes you look like an old school chauvinistic performer and that does not sit well in today’s forward thinking society. Food for thought.

If you perform larger stage acts and illusions, my sincere suggestion would be… Please don’t do that cheesy cliche dance thingy at the end if it is not crucial to your act or adds zero value to the performance. The dancing and posing before and after an illusion is a dated (1980s… That’s like 30 years old) piece of choreography and looks especially unflattering if you don’t know how to dance well or move pose gracefully like a dancer.

magic babe ning jc sum

Listen to Your Partner/ Assistant

Gramps used to tell me there’s a reason why God gave us two ears and only one mouth. When I just started University (way before I turned professional), I did a one off illusion show with a local aspiring magician (let’s call him Mr X). Two other guy friends, also magicians, helped out as stage hands for this big event. Sadly, it was a tragically unpleasant experience because Mr X would not listen to our suggestions for show content, choreography or the presentation of the acts.

Though Mr X was uncertain (he was watching VCDs of World’s Greatest Magic) and had no prior experience of how certain things should be done or presented, his ego permitted him from listening, discussing or opening himself to potential ideas. His own acts were under-rehearsed and under-researched and the three of us realized Mr X really thought himself as the star instead of team effort as it was supposed to have been.  One example of being unprepared was his part of the execution of the classic sword basket illusion. Mr X did not rehearse his part well enough and I was the girl in the basket. When I got into the basket in position, I suddenly felt the cold metal blade of a sword roughly shoved down the back of my pants (and panties). Being nervous, he had been clumsy and just stabbed the blade in against my bare bottom skin!

But that’s not it… Mr X’s show opener, a customized torn & restored act, was also a disaster because the clipped pack of papers with the client’s key messages fell from his jacket the moment he ran up on stage. He had refused my suggestion of getting the words professionally silk-screened on cloth, despite the backing of the other guys. His reason? Cost. So he hand-wrote everything with a marker on cheap sheets of paper. Well it certainly cost him the show because the client never touched base again. It cost him our friendship too, because no one wanted to work with him after this horrible experience, more so when Mr X kept a thousand for himself and everyone else got a few hundred bucks, when the contact wasn’t even directly his. Sigh. For obvious reasons Mr X isn’t doing magic anymore.

Anyway. It’s important that when you work with a partner/ assistant, you should listen to hear their perspectives (be they male or female) unless you have worked out with 100% certainty what is to be done exactly. As the magician, you are the chief executive officer and must provide leadership and direction. If you can’t, you need to be willing to see your partner/ assistant as a collaborator. Quite too often, magicians have tragically let their ego rule their judgment instead of a clear logical head.

Having a stage partner or assistant with the same chemistry as you can add tremendous value and production value to your show. However, you have to work well and seamlessly well with them to maximize their value. Treat her well and you will be rewarded with a team member that ultimately benefits your show. Best of luck with that :)

Wishing you all the best with this exciting journey!

 

How Many Illusions in a Show?

First, the general accepted trade definition of an illusion is a large scale magic effect.

General expectations that come with an illusion performance are a physical illusion prop, scale and production value. The general expectation of an illusion show (that distinguishes it from a stage magic show) is that the show features a number of illusions.

There are no rules to the maximum number of illusions in a show as you will ultimately be limited by your own illusion repertoire, stage size, backstage size and availability of crew. However, depending on the duration of the show, you probably need at least 2 illusions for the show to be considered an illusion show. In a 30-minute show, 3 or 4 illusions is a good number.

Crystal Metamorphosis

Most of my shows are between 30min – 75min. I have never done a show with more than 10 illusions in a single show. Here is an indicative guide of what I think will fit most illusionists:

  • 30 min Show: 3 – 4 Illusions
  • 45 min Show: 4 – 5 illusions
  • 60 min Show: 6 – 7 illusions
  • 75 min Show: 7 – 8 illusions

The general formula for an illusion show is to alternate between an illusion with a stand-up or silent stage piece. This creates variety in the show and is also a practical structure as it allows the crew to set the stage for each illusion number.

Most illusion shows will open with an illusion or an impressive silent stage magic act that leads to an illusion. Many times, the silent stage act is performed first because of the loads and pre-sets needed.

Most illusion shows also close with an illusion, although it is also common to close with a sentimental stage piece to end on an emotional high, as opposed to a visual spectacle. I have used both types of performances to end an illusion show.

How many illusions do you have in your show?


If you enjoyed this article, you can check out my original books/ plans/ DVDs 
HERE and use this Promo Code “5OFF2014″ upon Checkout to receive a 5% discount off all books, sets, DVDs, plans & downloads.

David Seebach Illusion Articles

Through Abbotts Magic, David Seebach’s articles on illusions that first appeared in The New TOPS Magazine have been republished online for a new generation to read. There are a total of 104 articles that appeared from 1970 thru 2011.

This is a fantastic free illusion resource that you should check out!

His book “So You Want to Be an Illusionist” is a “must-read” title in my Recommended Books for Modern Illusionists.

seebach

David’s book gives you an overview of his decades of experience as an illusionist. He has owned and worked with many illusions built by top builders. In this spiral-bound book, he shares his experience and tips on working on these popular marketed illusions but does not reveal exact working methods or construction details. There are also nuggets of information spread out throughout the book. This is a good book for beginners but I do feel his approach, style and material may be considered a bit dated for today’s contemporary illusionist looking for mainstream relevance. But, with this caveat in mind, this book is still an invaluable resource and a fantastic introduction to popular marketed illusions.

Professional Stage Illusion Sale

I have a select number of used professional illusions at GREAT prices (and most economical shipping rates). These illusions are going at a fraction of their selling prices and include:

  • The Aerial Exit
  • Shadow Vision
  • Platform Levitation
  • Full Throttle Motorcycle Production
  • Blammo
  • 12-Girl Cabinet
  • Light & Space
  • Revollusion

illusions for sale

Sales are made on a first confirm basis!

More of my original illusions are also now available through Thomas Clark including “Crystal Metamorphosis”“Visual Displacement”“Blade Pyramid” and “Benchmark”.

I’m really pleased to have Thomas build my illusion designs through his company Magic Sax. He has the exceptional skill to build a high quality prop at an incredibly reasonable price.

“Benchmark” is now available at the low introductory price of US$1800. This price will only be offered to the first few orders so take advantage of it. Here are some pics of Thomas’ “Benchmark”:

Benchmarkpolished2Benchmark

Check out www.magicboutique.sg under the STAGE/ ILLUSIONS for photos, info, videos and shipping info!

Happy New Year!

“Corporate Illusions Made Easy” Book Coming Soon!

I have a new book about to be released in Nov 2013 written specifically for the working Corporate Magician – “Corporate Illusions Made Easy”!

This book will be available from all major magic shops worldwide. However, if you purchase from me direct, you will get free shipping and a free exclusive corporate illusion digital plan as well!Corporate Illusions Made Easy

From making corporate executives appear, producing new products, launching corporate logos and staging motivational stunts, the illusions in the book are simple to build, effective in design and practical to stage in non-traditional performance environments.

All illusions are professional level effects and take into account realistic budgets, size, logistics, venue and staging constraints typical of corporate events. Best of all, no prior illusion knowledge is necessary to understand, build and execute the illusions.

New illusionists will be introduced to known as well as original illusion methods and ideas that they can execute with confidence. Experienced illusionists will find original practical solutions for common requests from corporate clients that they can use immediately.

In the first illusion book of its kind, it also includes an extensive discussion on presenting illusions for corporate events, the role of the “Corporate Illusionist”, adapting standard stage props for corporate magic, how to go about building the illusions in the book as well as incorporating corporate messaging into the illusions.

If you book a launch, conference, awards dinner or tradeshow with just one idea from this book, you will recoup your investment in the book many times over with a single engagement.

Contents include:

Examining Illusions for Corporate Events

  • The Role of the Corporate Magician/ Illusionist
  • Adapting Standard Stage Props for Corporate Events
  • Different Types of Corporate Events & Venues
  • How to Build the Illusions in this Book

The Arrival
A Self-Contained Surrounded VIP Appearance

Showcase
An Elegant Production of a Product in a Clear Display Case

Rising Identity
A Unique Way to Introduce a new Corporate Identity or Logo

Corporate Restraint
A Motivational Escape Illusion Performed by a VIP

Global Crossing
The Teleportation of a VIP

Corporate Restructuring
A Magical Transformation of Corporate Executives

The Sword Box Metaphor
Incorporating Corporate Messaging with an Illusion

Jeweled Revelation
Big Effect for a Small Item Production

The Conference
The Appearance of a Committee of People on Stage

A Big Reveal
The Magical Production or Transformation of a Large Inanimate Product

“Corporate Illusions Made Easy” features 80 pages of detailed illusion construction plans, full illusion presentations and corporate messaging & customization.

US$60.

No orders will be taken yet. Stay tuned for details!