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Old July 22nd, 2005, 08:54 PM   #1
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Levitation & trick photography

I was just watching this show on A&E about street magic performed by someone named Criss Angel. He's very similar to David Blaine but doesn't seem as high when he talks. About the only thing I'm interested in with either of them is their apparent ability to levitate. All of the other illusions have obvious built in ways of hiding part of the illusion but one, levitation.

Now, to me, whenever there are multiple cameras covering one of these things, especially when it's edited footage, that's the opportunity to add in or remove what's needed to complete the illusion. I have figured out how Mr. Blaine does that levitation of 3-4 inches off the ground but Mr. Angel has me shaking my head.

As I rose up and sat on the edge of my chair trying to see how it was done, this guy proceeded to lift about 4-5 feet off of the ground in a wide open space and some covered spaces as well! One of the places he levitated was in a mall on an escalator as it carried him up. Not only did he do that, but he also leaned back in the middle of a park with his knees bent 90 degrees with no apparent support for any part of his body above his knees. The camera moved 360 degrees around him closely and I was looking hard for hair thin wires or crane shadows that could have been suspending him, etc. Then, when I thought I had it figured out by placing 90 degree braces deep in the ground and up their pant legs, he straightened out his legs while floating and did this to two other people as well! After that, I just fell back in my chair, shook my head and said to myself, how in the hell did they do that?!?! Now they did wave a cane underneath him to show that there was no support, uh, no sh!t producers! Then I thought to myself, do you want to really impress me? Why don't you wave that cane over the top of his body, or even better, a hula hoop to show that there is nothing holding him up from the top or bottom simultaneously.

I believe that there may be very thin and very strong almost transparent wires available that the camera can't see. This is probably used on green screen stages or even on location. There would still have to be something overhead to lift him up that everyone there could see. He even asked the participant of one levitation about there not being any overhead rigging and she said no. She and the whole participating audience audience must have signed an NDA that said they had to fib a little if, in fact, there was rigging.

The levitations were done primarily with one camera without cutting which further made it more valid with me. The other illusions were just cut, cut, cut which is why they don't do much for me. I even saw a jump cut in a puff of smoke where he had obviously changed places for the reveal. The only way to make it really believable, especially to a TV audience is to do it with one angle and one take. I think that anytime that there are cuts, you might as well have asked the live audience to turn around while you put rabbit in the hat.

Does anyone know how this is done such what kind of wire or rigging if any? I have just got know! Thanks.

www.aetv.com/crissangel

Last edited by James Emory; July 23rd, 2005 at 12:51 PM.
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Old July 23rd, 2005, 01:09 AM   #2
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I've been thinking about this exact thing. Saw the program and I was racking my brain to figure out how he did it.

The escalator was just unbelievable, and the volunteer levitations were very slick. All were pretty good and he did seem to lift and land much smoother than Blaine. But, where would the wire be that we didn't see his clothes move? In front, that could not work with the escalator? Could it?

I did look for shadows, but I didn't see any that suggested rigging or overhead cranes, etc.

It would have been even more impressive if he had waved a wand over the bodies or a hoop. But still very impressive.

You mentioned David Blaine, how do you think he does it?

Very interesting program A&E has there, I'm gonna look out for it again!
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Old July 23rd, 2005, 01:46 PM   #3
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When David Blaine performs the levitation illusion, I've noticed that the camera is always at a certain height and distance from him and that there is someone or something else in the frame to help distract you while he does this for 5-10 seconds. The point to notice is that you never see the toes and the heels of his feet at the same time and the camera is always directly behind him to prevent this. You can do this yourself with a vertical mirror or just set up a video camera. Stand about 5 feet from the mirror with your back to it and look over your shoulder. Then place your feet closely together. Next, slowly or slightly fast lift either foot off of the ground just a few inches while simultaneously lifting the other heel only ending up on your toes. If this is done correctly, it actually appears as though you floated for a couple of seconds. It really looks like you levitated. You may need to adjust your distance from the mirror (audience) to find the best distance to not betray your toes touching the ground the entire time. The sharpest angle will prevent them seeing the foot whose toes always touch the ground. I just thought of this as well. If you were to somehow be able to control what surface this was done on, you could then place of piece of material that matches the surface color and texture on the toe area of the shoe that always touches to remove the darker shadow that reveals the toes that are touching. The more that could be hidden, the higher you could stand on your toes and seem to levitate higher.

Criss Angel just threw all of the above out the window because he actually rose 4-5 feet a few times and others a few inches. This, in addition to the fact that the camera moved 360 degrees around the action on a few of the levitations. I know that this sounds a bit extreme, but I think at least a few of the volunteers were actors. There were just too many participants that were matter of fact about being lifted off the ground! That's a bit significant in my view. A great example of this was the woman and the card trick. Criss put a fanned deck on the floor and told her to think of a card. Well, in the meantime, he proceeded to pull a card, hands free, from the fanned stack on the floor. Then asked her what her card was. Next, the card lifted off of the ground, hands free, to a height of 4 feet into his hand! He then said is this your card? It was her card. Now the ironic thing was that this woman was more impressed that he had guessed her card than the fact that the damn thing pulled out of the deck and floated 4 feet from the floor into his hand all by itself!!!

I agree that it was also amazing that if a harness was used, there was no apparent protrusions or anything obvious where attachment points would be. Usually there is momentary swaying when an object that is supspended is lifted and there was none of that. I sure hope someone on this board can reveal how this was done. Maybe FOX will produce another Secrets Revealed show and expose the secrets!
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Old July 23rd, 2005, 05:21 PM   #4
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Several years ago, I worked on a television special for a VERY well known illusionist. The show was taped in an arena, with the audience completely surrounding the stage ("in the round") The REAL illusion was the show itself. The audience was paid to be there ($50 a person, and free food.) and most of them could see the mechanics of each illusion, and how they worked. Lots of re-takes, and resets, etc...
So... the REAL illusion was that it was a "live" show for a paying audience, that saw the show the same as the camera.

Maybe that will shed a little light on the subject ;-)
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Old July 23rd, 2005, 05:27 PM   #5
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All I really want to know is how Criss was picked up several feet off the ground with no apparent rigging like what would be evident at a stage event. The camera was really close and no support or suspension was visible no matter if the audience or participants were hired or professional actors.
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Old August 1st, 2005, 05:51 PM   #6
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The same reason you dont see the wires in the matrix, this is a taped show so they could spend as much time before the season starts to edit out the wires. I did a video for class where we had a cell phone fall into a trash can in slow mo and the actor walk away in realtime. We used SHAKE to accomplish this. I saw that same episode there were a couple of times where it looked like his loose clothing wrapped just briefly around the wires. And if you taped the show you would prolly see more notice more cuts that you prolly didnt see when you first watched it. I remember seeing a lot of cuts during the park levitation. They would circle one way then cut and circle the other way but i never saw them circle completely around him. And i think the people circling him were used to block the crane holding him up. I also saw a bunch of people in the distance kinda looking over, i mean if you truely saw someone floating without a crane wouldn't you sprint over there to see whats going on. They just sat there off in the distance almost looking as if it was nothing amazing.
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Old August 1st, 2005, 08:37 PM   #7
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Hiding wires in post has got to be expensive and I think one of the appealing things about these types shows to networks is their cheapness to produce as compared to other shows. I'm not saying that they didn't paint any wires out but I think it's unlikely. The park levitations were real aggravators to me because the camera was so close and I still couldn't see any wires! But the fact that they didn't wave that cane over the top of the person or a even a hoop speaks volumes. I agree that if people in the distance saw something like that without an evident explanation, they would come closer to see what was going on. As I said earlier, it's about time that FOX produced another Secrets Revealed to ruffle some more feathers in the magic world.

Last edited by James Emory; August 2nd, 2005 at 11:08 AM.
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Old August 2nd, 2005, 02:07 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James Emory
He's very similar to David Blaine but doesn't seem as high when he talks.
LMFAO!

:)
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Old August 3rd, 2005, 01:05 PM   #9
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Don't work too hard at this

In what seems to be a previous life, I used to own a Magic Shop. Got to know several prominent magicians and they would all agree that it is easier to fool a "rocket scientist" than it is a child.

I've always encouraged my kids/now grandkids to take up magic because it makes them look at things differently.

Don't work so hard at trying to figure it out, just enjoy the performance and the fact that he fooled you. After all we do it everyday with our video work, just a different kind of magic.
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Old August 13th, 2005, 03:29 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Bill Porter
LMFAO!

:)
Well, are it not the truth?
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Old August 14th, 2005, 10:14 AM   #11
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Has anyone considered that maybe he really can levitate???



:)
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Old August 14th, 2005, 10:31 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dylan Couper
Has anyone considered that maybe he really can levitate???



:)
Dylan, please send me an email, I have this great bridge I need to unload! :)

Short story--You never see an illusionist do the trick twice in a row in person. The trick or illusion has to be set-up a certain way and doing them twice usually gives it away.

When I was stationed at Fort Bliss in Texas, about 1972,we had an illisionist come and give a show. I don't recall the reason he was there, but afterwards we all sat around in a barracks and talked, and he did card tricks. He did this one that was so fantastic that everyone begged and pestered him to do it again. Finally he gave in and did it again. After the second time, I said, "Oh I see how you do that!" He was livid!!!! We stepped to the side and he asked me how he did it and I told him. He was so angry at himself for doing it twice! I did not tell anyone else though.

Mike
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Old August 14th, 2005, 01:58 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dylan Couper
Has anyone considered that maybe he really can levitate???



:)

No but I've considered the fact that he really might be high
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Old August 14th, 2005, 02:01 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dylan Couper
Has anyone considered that maybe he really can levitate???
:)
Yeah I did for a while, and then I said no way, I'm not falling for that after I finally found out that buffalos really don't have wings and I've been eating yard bird all this time!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Teutsch
Dylan, please send me an email, I have this great bridge I need to unload! :)
Dylan, then e-mail me for the swamp land to make it complete!
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Old August 14th, 2005, 03:42 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Teutsch
Dylan, please send me an email, I have this great bridge I need to unload! :)

Short story--You never see an illusionist do the trick twice in a row in person. The trick or illusion has to be set-up a certain way and doing them twice usually gives it away.

When I was stationed at Fort Bliss in Texas, about 1972,we had an illisionist come and give a show. I don't recall the reason he was there, but afterwards we all sat around in a barracks and talked, and he did card tricks. He did this one that was so fantastic that everyone begged and pestered him to do it again. Finally he gave in and did it again. After the second time, I said, "Oh I see how you do that!" He was livid!!!! We stepped to the side and he asked me how he did it and I told him. He was so angry at himself for doing it twice! I did not tell anyone else though.

Mike
We always said that the first time a trick is done is for entertainment. The second time is for education and we're here to entertain, not educate.
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