• Putting on a Zoom Magic Show

  • March 17, 2021

  • So you want to put on your own show.

    That’s awesome. So proud of you.

    The thing is, and this isn’t a statement against you, but you’re going to need to update and improve your set up.

    Unless you love computer games and have some insane top of the line gaming computer, you’ll probably need to upgrade.

    Don’t panic! You don’t need to invest in a new super expensive piece of hardware. I mean, you need to invest in some hardware.

    But first, let me explain how I do things before giving you some thoughts and ideas for what you could do.

    My Set-Up

    I perform sitting down at the same desk that I do all of my work at. This suits me as I can keep everything to hand, and I don’t have enough space to create a standing performance space with a suitable backdrop.

    That, combined with the state of the world, has led to the majority of my clients being people learning magic, and I find that this set up works best for me to teach and perform in equal measure without too much “faff” if I need to switch between them!

    So, I have my laptop (yup, no fancy gaming computer here!) in front of me, resting on a raised laptop holder. I have my “fancy” webcam attached to the top of my laptop, where the inbuilt camera would normally rest.

    I have a second monitor to one side that sits in front of my overhead camera, which points at my close-up pads. I have two pads as one is a big black one to provide framing of the other light blue pad.

    My overhead camera is an old phone that I use as an additional webcam using an app called “DroidCamX”. Well worth the investment, and I have yet to find something better.

    That is where I do the teaching and sleight of hand effects for my audiences.

    I have a Blue Yeti microphone overhead attached to my desk on a pivoting arm so I can adjust it as needed and a pop filter over the top of it to help enhance the quality of the sound.

    Then the final piece of the puzzle is the green screen and frame. That sits behind my desk and provides a better backdrop than the rest of my office!

    Alternative Set-Ups

    I have seen quite a few variations in set up by a variety of magicians. Which one will work for you will take some experimentation.

    Some have chosen to go for a fixed camera in front of themselves and perform a stage show style performance.

    Others have gone for just using their laptop and making the whole performance conversational.

    I have also seen people who have set up entire “parlour” rooms for their shows.

    Each of these possibilities has advantages and disadvantages.

    As I mentioned, I like having the two camera angles and find performing sitting down is very comfortable. Especially since I’m now performing so often, my fee mightn’t be able to take it if I did everything standing!

    What will matter to you, though, is what magic you want to perform.

    However, the thing to remember is that while this type of show is similar to all other types of magic, it is also unlike any of them.

    Zoom magic is unique, and we as magicians must do everything we can to create magic for our audience. Otherwise, they may as well just watch some YouTube videos.

    But anyway, on to where to get the things I mentioned!

    Shopping List

    Here are some of the basics you’re going to need: (fair warning, the links are tied to my amazon affiliate account, appreciate it if you use them, but understand if you don’t!)

    HD Webcam: 

    Amazon Link

    This was the most affordable webcam that had a noticeable improvement in quality. Further down the line, I will look into more expensive options. For now, though, this is a great camera that provides a nice sharp image and works well with my computer.

    Ring Light:

    Amazon Link

    Any ring light would probably do the job. The main thing you need to think about it that you want the light higher than your head and at a 45-degree angle. This provides the best lighting and shadows.

    Second Camera:

    I don’t have a link for this one because, as I mentioned, I use my old phone. Phones have a great quality camera, and if you use android and PC, this is the app for you:

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.dev47apps.droidcamx&hl=en_GB&gl=US

    If you use a Mac, you will have to look into alternatives; I’m afraid I won't be able to help. However, a friend recommended this app:

    https://reincubate.com/camo/

    Have a look and test for yourself. I can’t comment on its quality, though, so apologies.

    Phone Holder:

    Amazon Link

    This is what holds my extra camera (phone) in the right position. DO NOT get one of those “flexible” soft arm hone holders. They seem like a good idea, but I have never come across a decent one. Go for something rigid like this one does a much better job.

    Microphone:

    Amazon Link

    This microphone is a marvel. Seamlessly integrated via a USB. Super high-quality arm and beautiful sound quality. Highly, highly recommend.

    Green Screen and Frame:

    Amazon Link

    Easy to use, big enough for the size I needed and easy to pack away. There are loads to choose from, and the one thing I could recommend is to get one bigger than you think you need if you can. With my original webcam, my green screen had to be literally right behind me to stay “in-shot” so my office didn’t show!

    Close Up Pad(s):

    If you’re going to go with the overhead camera angle like I have, getting a suitable table cloth for the whole table is a great idea, but I opted for a cover like this:

    Amazon Link

    to frame the more traditionally sized pad:

    Amazon Link

    (though I got one in blue, which I can’t find, again apologies!)

    Performance Notes

    Now, telling you which magic tricks to perform is not something I can do.

    Not because I don’t want to give away the effects I do, that doesn’t bother me at all, but because you need to take the time and think about your performance from your own point of view.

    What I mean is, there is no sense just copying another person’s magic tricks. Look to them for ideas, and rather than watching the effects, consider why they chose that effect. Could it be done better? How does it fit the narrative of the show? Does one effect lead nicely into another, or are they all isolated performances?

    There is so much to think about when it comes to performing that it is a whole process in and of itself (See here). So I’ll avoid repeating myself and suggest that you get to work!

    I wish you the best of luck!  

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