How is this trick -- I mean illusion -- done?
August 11, 2017 4:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm a big fan of close-up magic; the large Copperfield productions... not so much. I usually don't even care how they're done, but this video of James Galea's trick for Australian TV has me really curious. How was it done? [Video contains one bad swear]
posted by Room 641-A to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I would put money on this being entirely scripted.

That lady is a plant, this is a stunt. A good one, with talented dancers and enough budget or whatever to get Rove to make a guest appearance.

But it's a cute video anyway :)
posted by ananci at 4:27 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


100% she's a plant.
posted by phunniemee at 4:29 PM on August 11


Unfortunately these tricks are usually setups involving planted actors that are in on the act. Especially when it's edited video for TV like this.

I'm not really buying the lady's acting. Usually when you surprise someone with a flashmob like that or a camera crew they're usually a lot more sheepish and awkward. She's also way too comfortable on camera and camera aware. Note how she's very aware of the dual camera shooting and shows the cards to both cameras.

They've rehearsed this. It flows all too easily.

Magic acts on video are never to be trusted as far as being an actual trick or illusion at all. This is especially true for anything that's heavily edited and multicam.
posted by loquacious at 4:33 PM on August 11


Well that's stupid, he's got a magic show on TV. Cheating isn't magic.

Thanks, I was afraid of that.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:33 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Alternatively, forcing the 3 of Diamonds isn't hard. He never said the number, only the dancers did, and they could have just spied on her (the camera got to see her picks) and had plenty of numbered shirts ready to go. For the celebrity they could have just profiled the older lady demographic and had the two or three most likely candidates on stand-by.

(But yeah, I agree plant is most likely.)
posted by jeffamaphone at 4:43 PM on August 11


I disagree that the lady needs to be a plant.
The ensemble could have been ready for any card or number. And the Rove guy even mentioned that he was in a van with Hugh Jackman and some other guy. So they could have had a few of the most common celebs lined up.

Finally, there's no magic by using a plant. Using a plant would seem to be cheating for any professional musician.
posted by forforf at 4:51 PM on August 11


Guessing the card isn't impressive. I don't think he ever showed any of the other cards, so he could have used a deck full of identical cards. That's easy: just buy a lot of decks at the store.

But there's no way the singing and dancing troupe didn't know the number from 0 to a million in advance. They're singing a fast melody in perfect unison, and the melody has clearly been composed in advance to fit the exact number of syllables of the number she chose. Even assuming that anyone would pick a number in the thousands because the magician made a big point of setting the maximum at a million instead of a thousand, that would still leave a possible range of 3 syllables (e.g. "nine thousand") to 20 syllables ("777,777"). The troupe was obviously prepared to sing the 10-syllable number she chose. So even if the magician had some way to sneak a peak at the number and surreptitiously convey it to the troupe right before they showed up, that wouldn't be good enough — they would've needed time to practice the right melody beforehand. That's impossible unless the cameras were stopped to let that happen (after all, there were a lot of edits in the video) — but that would be equivalent to using a plant rather than a real illusion.
posted by John Cohen at 5:03 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


The ensemble could have been ready for any card or number

They did have that printed banner. It's what got me thinking it was real.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:04 PM on August 11


The numbers could have been applied to the banner, but I don't have a good answer for incorporating the number into the song.
posted by forforf at 5:56 PM on August 11


forforf: "I don't have a good answer for incorporating the number into the song."

To my ear, the song as heard in the video is dubbed in and not recording the natural sound (e.g.: aside from the musical accompaniment, listen to the "to be or not to be" part, no way did they pick that up on the street). And I don't think the video captured the singers' mouths closely enough during the number part to see if they actually matched the song. The singers could have been singing something completely generic (e.g.: "this is your number, look at your number") on the street and then had the number-specific lyrics added in post-production.
posted by mhum at 6:08 PM on August 11


I disagree that the lady needs to be a plant.
The ensemble could have been ready for any card or number. And the Rove guy even mentioned that he was in a van with Hugh Jackman and some other guy. So they could have had a few of the most common celebs lined up.


Well, he tricked you! He said that Hugh Jackman was waiting in the van in order throw you off the scent of how they really did all of this. That makes it seem like they're sort of giving away how the trick was done: through an elaborate sequence of guesswork ("Gee, let's pick a woman … and guess that a woman would probably want a male celebrity to bring her flowers … and bring along a whole vanful of male celebrities in the hopes that she picks one of them!").

The magician used the same type of trick when he explained, early on, that it's easy to guess that someone asked to pick a number from 1 to 10 will pick 7. That again makes it seem like guesswork. He then speaks of increasing the maximum number, not to 100, not even to 1,000, but to 1 million — by mentioning these increasing limits which he could have chosen, he primes you to expect the final version of the trick to be similar to the 1-10 trick … just much, much harder. Wow, what a feat!

Another example of a similar ploy is that, as I mentioned, guessing the card is easy because he could have made all the cards identical. That would be a different type of trick, but it still wouldn't require the woman to be in on it. So if you as an audience member think of this rather basic illusion, you expect that the 1 million trick was probably done in a similar way — again, throwing you off from how it was all really done.

In short, they distract you with all these various suggestions of how the trick could have been done with an unsuspecting person randomly chosen from the street. The more of those things they do, the less you expect the trick to be: Hey, everyone knows in advance what she'll write, because it's all scripted!
posted by John Cohen at 6:50 PM on August 11


They did have that printed banner. It's what got me thinking it was real.

Here's the thing: that video is likely heavily edited, and there's no real way to know how long he had to get a printed banner. Like, the video is edited to make you think that the whole thing was done in 4 and a half minutes, and how the hell do you get a banner in 4 and a half minutes, yes? But what if there was a whole lot more time that he spent bullshitting with that lady between when she shows the number to the camera (AKA the magician's assistants) and the time the banner first arrives? Like, what if he really hammed it up and there's like 20 minutes of him schmoozing with the lady where his assistants have 20 minutes to make a banner. If they had some sort of banner making machine right around the corner, what's the minimum amount of time they'd need to make a banner?

Like, I'm not so sure it has to be a plant just because a plant is easier than what it requires to pull of this trick. I mean, it's easier to just have a plant pretend to randomly select the three of diamonds, but forcing a card is a skill that magicians learn, even though they could just get a plant who picks the three of diamonds on purpose. So that part could be pre-prepped. And I think lots of other parts of the trick could be pre-prepped too.

I think a big part of the trick is just exactly what the guy says at the beginning: Most people are predictable. He knew she was going to pick 7 because most people pick 7. I can think of several online examples where a friend has been all "Omg, try this thing and tell me what you got" and like 70% of people all have the same answer, like "orange rectangle", even there was nothing that really forced that answer, it was just the one that most people will pick.

I think when you ask someone to pick a number between 1 and 1,000,000, most people will pick a number that uses 5 or 6 digits. Like, they'll pick it because it seems more random, or harder to pick, or whatever, but I think that most people will not pick something like 4 when asked to pick a number between 1 and 1,000,000, they'll pick a number like 32,279 or 425,825. Which helps when writing song/songs where the singers have to be prepared for multiple numbers. So it does seem kind of amazing that the exact number of syllables fit this song, but who's to say how many songs there were pre-prepped? What if there were multiple different parts for that section of the song, so that they could be prepared for most 5 digit numbers with one section, and most 6 digit numbers with a completely different section (one that we didn't hear, but would have heard if she chose a larger number). Just like most people are going to pick 7 when they pick a number from 1 - 10, I bet most numbers chosen from 1 to 1,000,000 fall within a certain range of syllables. Most people won't choose 777,777 so they don't really need to be prepared for all possibilities of number syllable-length.

The part where the lyrics rhyme with the number choice could similarly be pre-prepped: write as many sets of lyrics as needed so that you can sing a word that rhymes with every possible number. But the lady picked the exact right Australian celebrity, right? This, too, seems like it could be prepared for: I bet for most white Australian women her age, there is a very popular answer to the question "Choose an Australian celebrity you would want to bring you flowers", and I'm not from Australia, so I'm just guessing that Rove is among the most super obvious answers for her to write on that card. The magician is subtly guiding the answer so that the celebrity chosen is going to be young (but not toooo young), good-looking and male. Now, if you consider that there's likely lots of time that's been edited out of this trick, then there might have been extra dialogue where the magician gets the woman thinking about talk show hosts or otherwise making her more likely to be thinking about Rove when he asks her to write a celebrity's name on the card.

tl, dr: I think this is what happened: The magician chooses a woman that is likely to think Rove is dreamy. The magician is good at talking and guides the conversation so that the woman is thinking of Rove when he asks for a celebrity. There is lots of edited-out time between when the selected number and celebrity are shown to the camera, and when the singers come out, and the edited-out time was used to do the following: record vocals for a certain section of song after learning her specific number, and printing out a banner after learning her specific number. When the song and banner come out, the assistants have had lots of extra time to make those things happen. When Rove comes out at the end, he was the only celebrity they had ready, but he was they only one they needed ready because the edited-out-conversation made the woman veryveryvery likely to choose Rove.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:39 PM on August 11


And if they are doing the trick legitimately to some or all extent, there's no telling how many failed attempts we dont see recorded and broadcast. Seeing is believing, but there are tons of ways to manipulate what we see on TV
posted by Jacen at 9:03 PM on August 11


Sorry to be a jerk, but asking "How did they do this magic trick I saw on TV?" is exactly like asking "How did they make the Enterprise fly through space on that TV show?" The answer is, they didn't. It's all fakery. The crux of a magic trick is that the magician distracts your attention from what he doesn't want you to see. If he has the ability to leave what he doesn't want you to see on the editing bay floor, there's no reason for you to believe any part of what you're being shown.
posted by ejs at 9:51 PM on August 11


Ok, I'll bite. If it was real, this is how I would do it.

For the card - you notice that he only shows her half the deck to start and it looks like it is a well-mixed deck. But then when he gives her the chance to choose a card, he spreads out the deck offering her the second half of the deck. This second half is all 3 of diamonds.

For the number, they had a stack of numbers in a pile pre-written out (notice the sign was pieced together?) so when she showed the number to the camera, there was someone watching the video pasting together the sign and then told the dancers what number to sing. (Come to think of it, this could have been the case with the card too).

Last for the fancy actor? I'd go with the power of suggestion. Maybe there was a big billboard of him right behind her?

The magic of recording it for TV is if it doesn't work out - hey, pick someone else and try again?

So, trickery of course - but to whom? The TV audience alone, or the nice lady sitting on the street corner too?
posted by Toddles at 10:22 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Oops, I see now the sign wasn't pieced together, but the shirts were. So - I don't know how I'd do the sign. Regarding how I'd get her to choose a number in the thousands? Again, power of suggestion - by asking her to choose a number between 1-10, 1-100 and then 1-1000, that probably gets her to think in the thousands...

As for the rhyming? There may be one of those things where people are more likely to choose a number ending in a 9 or 2 or 7, so you could wing it based on a likely outcome.

Just guessing, but I bet you could do it.
posted by Toddles at 10:36 PM on August 11


Sorry to be a jerk, but

Any time you find yourself typing that, you should just stop.

asking "How did they do this magic trick I saw on TV?" is exactly like asking "How did they make the Enterprise fly through space on that TV show?" The answer is, they didn't. It's all fakery.


It's nothing like that. The Enterprise is not a real thing. Magicians are doing real things. A magician uses, for example, a real deck of cards, or a real metal ring, or a real person's mind, and they did actually force a card, or the ring is flexible and has a split, or they were able to make a person think something had been predicted when it hadn't. 'The methods used to achieve this result do not necessarily align with the magician's patter about what was happening' is not at all the same as 'it's fakery', and the point of the question is to understand the former.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:29 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Again, power of suggestion - by asking her to choose a number between 1-10, 1-100 and then 1-1000, that probably gets her to think in the thousands...

But that leaves about 999,000 possibilities. Even if you think she'd avoid anything that's just 4 digits, that still leaves 990,000 possibilities. They'd need to narrow it down way more than that!
posted by John Cohen at 9:20 PM on August 15


They'd need to narrow it down way more than that!

Why does it matter how many possible 5 or 6 digit numbers there are?
posted by 23skidoo at 2:59 PM on August 16


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