Magicians are working hard to adapt their magic to fit the constraints imposed on us by the COVID-19 crisis. After watching more than 50 hours of online magic, Adam has identified key aspects that make up a great virtual magic show. To highlight each of these, he created the "Adam Awards", honoring magicians we can learn from who Adam feels are doing a particularly fine job at solving the challenges presented by the online format.
Every online show seems to start out with an obligatory instructions session: how to work the mute/unmute button, whether to turn video on or volume off, how to provide feedback, how volunteers are to be selected, and so forth. Our winner for this category solved this problem by using a concise, carefully produced video that provided clear instructions and a detailed screen demonstration so there is no room for confusion. Bonus points were added because our magician also cleverly tied the video instructions into the show's magic later on in a surprising way.
And the award goes to... Colin Cloud, Cyber-Mentalist show
Joshua Jay, in his excellent talk on Magic by the Numbers, proved experimentally that a powerful introduction can increase audience appreciation and retention of the same act by up to 50%! For this reason, I believe every magic show should have a brief but compelling introduction, with a third party introducing the selling points of the magician. Our winner in this category opens his act with a slick promo clip that heightens the anticipation of what the audience will see, and then transitions smoothly from the intro right into his show, without losing a beat.
And the award goes to... Colin Cloud, Cyber-Mentalist show
Virtual magic shows seem to take far longer than their real-world equivalents, an effect which I attribute primarily to "frame fatigue": staring at the same talking head in the same position for 45 minutes can become tiring, no matter how entertaining the patter and magic presented. The antidote to this is to frequently break up the "look". Our winning magician does this effectively by frequently transitioning from closeup tricks to full-fledged stage illusions, moving seamlessly between two very different scenes in his show.
And the award goes to... Alex Ramon
Connecting with the audience through distance and a pane of glass is a challenge, particularly when the magician has so much to deal with: managing props, gauging audience reactions, selecting volunteers, and so forth. Frequently, the magician will be looking at their screen, not directly at the camera, and every second away from focusing on the audience weakens that all-important connection. Our winner not only peers right into the camera, he literally smiles with his eyes through the screen, imagining that he is performing for just a few close friends or loved ones within a few feet of him. The effect to the audience is stunning and palpable, you must experience this for yourself.
And the award goes to... Paul Draper
Audience members may forgive an occasionally grainy video, but clear audio is essential for an impactful performance. In addition, music can greatly enhance the emotion associated with an effect. However, with online shows, these are both huge challenges, as the video conference software often tries to be "smart" in filtering out background noise, etc. Managing consistent and clear audio levels, especially when mixed with background music, rarely seems to be done well in the online world, yet putting in extra effort in this regard can have huge payoff to making the show compelling and exciting. Our winner skillfully manages this in both closeup and stage settings, transitioning smoothly (with music) between the two.
Durng the COVID crisis, you are probably filming your magic show from your house, but it doesn't cost a lot to hide this fact from the audience. I've attended expensive virtual shows where it felt like the magician was performing from their bedroom -- no excuse! Our winner uses a very simple setup, with a background curtain to make his set feel like a theater, and an uplight to add a splash of color in a subtle yet elegant way. His camera is crystal clear, and he has the ability to step back for stage magic, and easily approach for closeup work, all the while looking directly into the camera to never lose connection with the audience.
And the award goes to... Lawrence Hass
Our runner-ups include Colin Cloud, whose set and lighting perfectly complement his "Sherlock Holmes" persona, and Kevin Blake, who performs in an actual (empty) theater, to really make it not feel like his bedroom.
One of the most disconcerting things for a magician who is used to live performances is to do a show as the only person in the room. One who used to thrive off the audience energy and feedback is now left staring at a muted screen with people silently gesticulating their appreciation. It is essential as a magician to keep up your energy, confidence and pace, as if you have just received a standing ovation in front of a stadium filled with cheering fans -- if you are not excited, how is the audience going to be? Our winner in this category never lets his enthusiasm wane, and he keeps his performance crackling with energy throughout the whole show.
And the award goes to... Robert Strong
Faced with the new constraints of an online medium, many magicians are struggling to adapt their classic material in a way that will show well for their remote audiences. However, a few magicians have truly embraced the opportunity of the situation, and have started to explore magic that would be impossible in the real world. Our winner showed that he was truly thinking out of the box when he shocked magicians with a new "perspective effect" that perfectly leveraged the virtual frame in which he was enclosed.
And the award goes to... Danny Garcia at ShareMagic
Using "special effects" is a controversial topic for magicians, but in this very virtual world we are forced to live in, I believe that camera tricks can be as amazing and fooling as "real" magic, and a nice complement if used properly. With his virtual show, our winner does not hide the fact that he sometimes uses camera tricks, and in fact he challenges the audience to determine if an effect is "real magic" or not. For pushing the boundaries of Mixed Media Magic...
the award goes to... Simon Pierro, World Wide Wonders show
When you think out of the box and target specifically the online medium, you can do things that are truly fooling (at least to me). I've spent far too many hours trying to determine how this performer is doing what he's doing, so I've decided to add a category specifically for the magician who has most gotten into my head with his for-camera-only effects.
And the award goes to... Shin Lim, "Magicians Face Off" series
Complementing a virtual show with an additional real-world component can level-up the excitement and the impact of the event. A good example is Helder Guimar„es' show "The Present", an online show where you are mailed a mystery box in advance to use during the show. Helder's show is sold out for many months coming. Our winner in this category did something even more impactful for me: I was asked a week ahead of time to choose one of my own decks of cards, shuffle them, sign a few according to a procedure, seal in a fedex envelope, and then sign the sealed envelope as I mailed it. I can't tell you how engaged I was when I saw my personal deck and my signature being used for an amazing effect on the other side of the pane of glass. The anticipation all week of what would be done with it heightened the experience considerably.
And the award goes to... Ricardo Rosenkranz
The biggest award is saved for last... I have not seen every show out there, but from my experience so far watching many shows from March-June 2020, this performer has best met the challenges of the online medium, skillfully integrating many of the aspects above that I consider to be elements of a great virtual show. I think we can all learn to improve our online events by learning from him, and from all of the Adam Award winners above.
And the award for Best Overall Online Performance goes to... Colin Cloud, Cyber-Mentalist show