Draven Reviews: What The Fork? By Michael Dardant

approved Title: What The Fork?
Artist: Michael Dardant
Producers: System 6
Retail Price: $29.95
Learning Difficulty:  Medium to Difficult
Length of DVD: 59 Minutes
Notes: This is a full explanation behind Michael’s full close up act.  Some additional props maybe required to learn, practice, and execute this routine.

 
Features:
•    Play All
•    Chapters

What The Fork is what happens when you take a comedy magician, put him in front of a camera, and have him perform, reset, and then explain the methodology that goes into the how and why his act works the way it does.  It’s an unprecedented look into the mind of an award winning artist.

I think a lot of magicians are going to buy this DVD thinking to themselves “Oh boy!  I’m gonna learn me how to do an award winning close up act!”  When in reality that’s not the point of this DVD.  Sure Michael does teach you how he executes all his moves but what is being taught here isn’t exactly the magic per say.  It’s the methodology that goes behind Michaels motivations that is being taught.  The real gold mine is in seeing the creative process an award winning comedy magician goes through in order to create a full close up show.  Sure you can go out and buy all the extra little things he uses and create a clone of his act but really… if that’s what you bought this DVD for then you’ve completely missed the bus on what’s being taught.

Since the purpose of this DVD is more about the psychology and methodology behind executing Michaels gold medal close up act, than the individual tricks that go into it I’m not going to focus on all the tricks he does.  It was an absolute treat to be able to see how someone sets up, and resets, for their close up show that is so heavy with item production.  I loved Michaels attention to call backs, as themes he introduces throughout his routine keep coming back over and over again.  He’s a charming and funny entertainer.

I’m not sure how to really classify this DVD.  This isn’t really designed to be a tutorial on how to do specific magic tricks, and it’s not strait out theory.  It’s more of a secret back door into a magicians mind as you get to see the on stage and behind the stage look at a full act.  There is a lot to be learned here, but the lessons aren’t as direct as, say, instructions to do a French Drop.  I really enjoyed this DVD and I think it’s important for any serious practitioner of close up magic to watch.  It’s important to understand what goes into making a prize winning routine worthy of a gold medal, and Michael does a pretty good job showing that to you.  If you’re only looking to learn new magic tricks then I’d pass on this DVD.  The most important things it has to teach you will be wasted.  But if you’re looking to see how a pro approaches putting together a full show then this maybe something that is right up your alley.

When I give my product scores below I am measuring them on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 Being absolute the worst score possible, and 10 being the absolute best, making a score of five average. The four points that I grade upon is Product Quality, Teaching Quality, Sound & Video Quality and Overall Quality.

Product Quality:  7
I’d gladly pay $30 bucks just to see him perform.  Now consider you get to see him reset and explain everything as well?  Sign me up.

Teaching Quality: 7
You get to learn some methods to how he does his tricks, but you also get to see the method to his madness.

Video & Sound Quality: 8
The sound and video are both great.

Overall Quality: 7
Michael is charming, and I found this DVD to be educational.  I think it’s well worth picking up.

Have a product you want reviewed?  Want to see if it will stand up to the Draven Seal of Approval?  Contact me directly at draven@williamdraven.com to find out how your product could be on the next Draven Reviews!

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Draven Reviews: The Evolution of Card Manipulation

not approved Title: The Evolution of Card Manipulation
Artist: Lee Ang Hsuan
Producers: Magic Soul
Retail Price: $35.00 USD
Learning Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Notes: The DVD stops after each section causing you to restart it.  Comes in 3 language options, English being the only one I can read.

 

 
Features:
•    Trailer-1
•    Trailer-2
•    Manipulation Cards
•    Set Up
•    Basic Technique
◦    Single Card Vanish
◦    Cardini Single Card Production
◦    Single Card Production
◦    Split Fan Production
•    Moderate Technique
◦    Twirling Card Production
◦    Serial Single Card Vanish
◦    Perfect Dual Production
◦    Tenkai Dual Production
•    Advanced Technique
◦    Japanese Fan
◦    Cross Fan Production
◦    Absolute Vanish
◦    The QUAD
◦    Example of Routine
◦    About the Staff

The Evolution of Card Manipulation is a DVD on just that… card manipulation.  But it comes at a time where other DVD’s are available on the market that could arguably do a better job at teaching this subject.

The material on the DVD for the most part isn’t new.  You’re looking at some basic entry level moves such as the single card production from a back palmed position, and split fans.  Some of the more advanced stuff like the Japanese Fan doesn’t look any different than the split fans in my opinion.  Maybe there’s some minor detail that I’ve missed, but I can’t really tell.  The QUAD production is unique and original to the young artist in the video, but even then it’s not something ground breaking.  It’s a neat flourish and that’s about it.

The Example of Routine section is an interesting display of how you can combine some of the moves taught on the DVD, with some other classical manipulation items like silks and disappearing candles, into a short stage routine.  However it comes pre-built for you with no explanation to the theory of how it was put together, or how to put together your own routines.  No explanation of what elements work together and what doesn’t, etc.

To do some of the productions in this DVD you’ll have to make some special cards that take advantage of black art.  And while Lee will mime what you are suppose to do against a finished product, you never see him actually build the prop.

The nice thing about manipulation is that a lot of it can be learned from just watching someone do the moves and you mirror along with them at home.  The problem we run into is that this DVD uses English subtitles to briefly explain the general idea that they need to convey when pantomime isn’t enough.  This means you lose out on a lot of learning potential on subjects on card preparation, fanning powder, steals, body loads, etc.  All of this I would say is critical information to be included on a project with an ambitious title such as “The Evolution of Card Manipulation” and none of them made it into the DVD.

Speaking of the title of the DVD I’ve got to say… I expected a lot more from something called “The Evolution of Card Manipulation”.  I thought I’d see something… like… Oh I don’t know… an example of how card manipulation has evolved over the years and how this artist was taking it “to the next level”.  Instead I get pretty much a cut and dry equivalent of an entry level “how to do street magic” book that we see in secular book stores all over the place that teaches you stuff like the Balduchi levitation, and a four piles of seven type card tricks.  I wouldn’t really even consider this a beginners DVD.  It’s a clip show really.  It shows you some moves but it doesn’t discuss the why’s or the how’s.  Other DVD’s on the subject like Jeff McBride’s “Manipulation without Tears”, or his “Art of Manipulation” series, or Dan Sperry’s Theory11 instant download on card manipulation are better resources than this DVD.

This DVD also suffers from a horrible formatting flaw.  There is no play all option and after every single section the DVD stops itself causing you to have to restart it.  The restarting gets real annoying real fast when you’re trying to review a single move over and over to learn it.  No one wants to stop practicing, get up, walk to the DVD player, Press play, select the chapter all over again, and hit play.  By the time you get into really focusing on what you’re doing you have to repeat this process all over again.

Overall I can tell that Lee has tried to put a lot of effort into making this DVD.  He’s a very talented kid, with a bright future in manipulation ahead of him.  I can assure you that we’ll be hearing his name again in the near future.  Hell he’ll probably even become a FISM champion before too long.  However as talented as he is, and skilled in the subject he is trying to teach, this DVD suffers from too many flaws to be something I’d recommend over what is already available on the market.  This isn’t an Evolution of Card Manipulation.  It’s more like a de-evolution.  Pass on this product folks.  You’re not missing much.

When I give my product scores below I am measuring them on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 Being absolute the worst score possible, and 10 being the absolute best, making a score of five average. The four points that I grade upon is Product Quality, Teaching Quality, Sound & Video Quality and Overall Quality.

Product Quality: 4
The artist is talented in the subject being taught but 35$ for a DVD that barely scratches the surface of the subject of card manipulation yet claims such an ambitious title of “Evolution of Card Manipulation” is just a joke.

Teaching Quality: 2
Between the subtitles, and the under explanations on important subjects relevant to this material this could have been a much better DVD.  Having to restart the DVD after each chapter plays through though makes this an utter failure. The only thing saving this from a score of 1 is Lee is actually skillful in the subject he’s trying to teach.  At least he knows what he’s doing and is trying his best to teach you how to do it.

Video & Sound Quality: 4
Subtitles, and a backbeat that plays over and over throughout the DVD.  Video is clear though.  Good definition.

Overall Quality: 3
This is a product that does the same thing a lot of other DVD’s on the subject matter do.  It just doesn’t do it as well as the rest.  On top of that the formatting of the DVD makes it useless to try and learn from.

Have a product you want reviewed?  Want to see if it will stand up to the Draven Seal of Approval?  Contact me directly at draven@williamdraven.com to find out how your product could be on the next Draven Reviews!

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Draven Reviews: Transparency Template by Dr. Jonathan Royale

not approved Title: Transparency Template
Artist: Dr. Jonathan Royle
Producers: Magick Enterprises & Jonathan Royle
Retail Price: $135 USD
Learning Difficulty: Medium to Difficult
Length of DVD: 16+ hours of video, 8+ hours of audio, and many other printed forms of information
Notes: 5 Disk DVD-Rom set.

 

 
Features Disk 1:
•    Play All
•    Scene Selection

Features Disk 2:
•    Play All
•    Scene Selection

Features Disk 3:
•    Play All
•    Scene Selection

Features Disk 4:
•    Play All
•    Scene Selection

Features Disk 5:
•    Bonus Disk with PDF, Word Documents, Audio Files, and Photographs

When I took on the self appointed assignment of doing a review on a new Hypnotism DVD set called Transparency Template I didn’t know much about two things.  Hypnotism, and who Dr. Jonathan Royal is.  They say curiosity killed the cat for a reason.  Man did I ever bite off more than I can chew with this DVD, and no doubt the amount of attention I’m going to receive because of it.

Jonathan Royale, a performer who has been known by many names, has put together a home study course on Hypnotism that he’s billing as being the first, last, and only material you’ll ever need to purchase to learn how to perform Hypnotism legally, ethically, and safely anywhere in the world.  This product he’s calling the “Transparency Template” covers just about every facet of hypnosis you could ever want to know about.  Et Nasium.

The four DVD set has over 16 hours of video tutorial covering theory, safety, performance, hecklers, licensing, induction techniques, insurance, legality, and just about every other bit of information you could want to know.  If that isn’t enough there’s over eight additional hours of audio instructions, and a crap load of PDF, word document, and audio files on the bonus disk.

The problem I had with all the extra information is that it’s just all thrown in together making it rather daunting to know where to begin, and what order to reference things in.  The bonus disk has a folder labeled “Look Inside  And Read This First Please.”  This is a long word document, letter, thanking you for purchasing the DVD set.  This letter makes bold statements that you’ll never need to buy another source on hypnotism again, and even warns you against going to review other sources. This warning reaffirms that everything you need to know is somewhere in this package.  Somewhere being the operative word.

I’ll be honest with you.  I haven’t read through or listened to everything on the bonus disk.  After having spent nearly 12 hours reviewing the four main disks I just haven’t had the desire to go through all the bonus material with a fine tooth comb.

I am a person who doesn’t know a thing about Hypnotism.  I’m never put someone under before, and I’m a complete virgin when it comes to the material being discussed on these DVD’s.  In all practical sense I’m the exact person this DVD set is designed for, a person who wants to learn the ins and outs of Hypnotism.  As a first time student I’ve found myself lost and overwhelmed with the extra bonuses provided on the fifth disk.

One of the curious things I found in the bonus disk is a folder stocked full of different diplomas and certificates on a range of hypnotism subjects from past life regression, corporate stress, PDA Instructor certification, phobias, and pain control to name a few.  I raise a cautionary flag on this because it gives someone the ability to print false documents for things that they’ve not been awarded for by merit or study.

There are a lot of photos included too on the bonus disk that are of props that Jonathan uses, or of him doing stuff for TV shows and the like.  None of these images are really important to you learning how to hypnotize someone, and most of them aren’t high quality, or if they are they are not full sized photos.  I think these were included more so Jonathan can say “Look at all I’ve done” and less “this is how you do it.”

The bonus disk also contains a PDF with links to additional training videos that you can either view or download online.  I didn’t watch all of them.  I did click through some though just to make sure the links still worked.  The bulk of the links are to an online training seminar called “The Holy Grail of Hypnosis.”   This online video series suffers from many of the same flaws that I’ll discuss later once I get into the details on the actual four disk set in Transparency Template.  The video is a static single camera shot, the quality is grainy, and the sound isn’t the best.  There is a lead in where nothing happens for a minute or two while we wait for the class to be let into the room.  Why this wasn’t edited out in post I’ll never know.

I could probably spend another ten pages going over each and every single nuance about the bonus disk but I’ll not put you through that.  Suffice it to say there’s a lot of information there, and you could spend hours on that bonus disk alone going through it all.  Now let’s take a look at the main attraction.  The four disk Transparency Template DVD set.

Transparency Template is a multi day seminar on Hypnosis that was hosted and taught by Jonathan Royal and a few of his guests and or friends.  You are going to sit through at home a 12 hour, roughly three hours per disk, lecture on hypnosis.  I highly recommend watching this with something to take notes on.  The material presented, especially in the first disk and some of the second, can get very dry as its all legal related topics.

So what all information does this DVD set cover?  Well the short answer is everything.  Disk one covers all legal related subjects, risk assessments, etc.  Disk two covers still more legal, and then gets into suggestibility tests, and preshow conditioning.  Disk three discusses pre talk, volunteers, entrances and exits, music, props, costumes, and what to do if no one is responsive or goes under.  Disk four discusses hecklers and a lot of what if situations like: Tech fault, lose props, an emergency occurs, there’s an accident, no chairs on stage, other hypnotists show up in your audience, and then goes into about 30 or so different inductions.

The product as a whole suffers from a couple of problems.  For starters the way the information is presented.  There’s no gradient in learning.  There’s no you’re new so let’s start this off with the easy stuff first.  Nope!  It’s strait into the deep end with you, and by the way look out for the sharks.  The entire first four hours or so is nothing but dry, boring material that is only made vaguely interesting by the use of a British accent.   The camera work is jerky, and is plagued by constant auto-focus issues, and the video quality is amateur level at best.  The sound leaves a lot to be desired for as well.  At some points in the video there’s a lot of loud back ground noises, like glasses being moved around, that is very distracting to the learning process.  Thankfully the presenters have all been micd but the sound levels vary greatly throughout the DVD.

I’ve never watched a magic video before that opens with so much legal concerns, loop holes, and information as to how to get through or around legal concerns.  That’s kind of off putting for me.  There’s a lot that goes into doing hypnotism, so this has got to be something you’re willing to dedicate yourself to.  This isn’t something you learn because you want to do it at your next company holiday party.

Another thing that I found concerning is the amount of, for lack of a better word, drama that follows around the artist in this video set.  Dr. Jonathan Royale’s reputation in the magic world isn’t the best.  In fact one of the online bonus extra’s included is a link to a very long winded explanation why the accusations levied against him are wrong.  I didn’t know who he was when I ordered my DVD and since then I’ve read more than a few pages online dedicated to outing him as someone with questionable ethics to say the least.  I think I even recall reading an article that calls into question his doctorates.  I’m not here to pass judgment.  I don’t know Jonathan Royale personally, and I’m not one to be motivated by what I hear about someone sight unseen.  But I will say that I feel there should be a certain amount of full disclosure involved while you are making your purchasing decision to support this artist. This is certainly one you should do your research on for yourself, weigh the evidence, and go from there.

So overall what did I think of this DVD set?  To sum up a very long review I’ll just say it like this.  Nice and short, and sweet:  I found the entire DVD set to be long winded and full of information regarding the subject at hand.  The information is presented in a way that makes it not very user friendly.  Even the bonus disk is a hodge-podge collection of things thrown at you with no real sense of order in how to view them.  The DVD set is plagued by low resolution video cameras, uneven sound levels, auto focusing problems, and no real clear separation or organization of the things being presented.  If you didn’t watch it already then you would have no idea what Disk 1 talks about compared to what Disk 3 talks about.

Is this the definitive Holy Grail of Hypnotism?  Is this going to be the only source of material you will ever need?  I doubt it.  I find that statement to be rather egotistical.  The industry is forever changing, growing, and evolving.  I doubt very much that this is the only information on hypnotism that you should learn from.  Is it full of information?  Yes it is.  And I don’t want to down play that.  Every subject you’d want to discuss about putting together and executing a stage hypnosis show is covered in this DVD set, but I would encourage you, especially in a field so rich for legal litigation, to always be willing to review new information as it becomes available.

So would I recommend this to someone who wants to learn hypnotism?  At $130 dollars a hit I’m not sure I’d recommend this as the first thing they should look at.  Yeah, sure I’d say look into it eventually, if you feel you need to.  I’m just not sure this should be your first experience in learning hypnotism.  I’m not sure what other sources are available on the subject, but I’d certainly encourage anyone interested in learning hypnotism to do their research and look around.  I know there are even schools that teach this stuff, which may not be a bad way to go.  I’m not saying there isn’t a lot of information here in this DVD set, but it’s just not presented in a way that’s attractive to a new student.  You’re on your own on this one kids.  I’ve sat through over 12 hours of tutorial to write this review and I don’t think I’m any closer to being able to hypnotize someone than when I started.  But at least the presenters have a British accent right?  I mean that always makes things sound better when you listen to it with a British accent.  So there’s that.

When I give my product scores below I am measuring them on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 Being absolute the worst score possible, and 10 being the absolute best, making a score of five average. The four points that I grade upon is Product Quality, Teaching Quality, Sound & Video Quality and Overall Quality.

Product Quality:  6
There’s a lot of information on this disk.  You’ll spend days if not weeks trying to sort through it all.

Teaching Quality: 5
Slow, sluggish, and hard to get through in places.

Video & Sound Quality: 1
Poor camera work, auto focus issues, sound level issues, this video may have good information in it, but the production quality is that of a high school AV club.

Overall Quality: 4
I’ve sat writing this review for a good three hours, and I’ve probably socked another 12 into watching these videos and I’m still on the fence with it.  I can say one thing for sure.  Exposure to this product has cemented my decision that I will NOT be using hypnotism in my stage act at all.  This isn’t a product for someone who is curious.  Even for the dedicated student I’m not sure there aren’t other sources that are easier to learn from.  It is full of information though.  I will say it is complete in that way.  Probably has too much information really and maybe that’s what makes it not so user friendly.

Have a product you want reviewed?  Want to see if it will stand up to the Draven Seal of Approval?  Contact me directly at draven@williamdraven.com to find out how your product could be on the next Draven Reviews!

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Draven Reviews: Cody’s Comedy Book Test

approved Title: Cody’s Comedy Book Test
Artist: Cody Fisher
Producers: The Magic Estate
Retail Price: $64.95
Learning Difficulty: Easy
Length of DVD: 52 minutes
Notes: You’ll need to spend about another $50 bucks or so to get everything else you’ll need to perform this routine that isn’t a gimmicked magic prop.

 
Includes:
•    Instructional DVD
•    Gimmicked Book

Features:
•    Play All
•    Scene Selection

Cody Fisher’s comedy book test has been audience tested and magician approved!  Imagine going onto stage and handing out a couple of different books for the audience to look through.  Three people participate, and all three times you read their mind to what word they are thinking of and the entire time the audience is rolling with laughter at the comedic byplay that you’re engaging in on stage.  This is a hilarious, customizable, stage or parlor perfect routine for anyone who wants to add an extra little comedic punch to their lineup.

The main prop that you get with this product is a gimmicked book that allows you to force a couple of different things on your audience members.  Since you know what it is that you are forcing the books that you use for the test can actually be anything.  In the DVD the books used are “The Notebook”, and “50 Shades of Grey”.  These are used to maximum comical impact, but if you were say doing a kids show it wouldn’t be hard at all to substitute out for different books and change the patter up a little to make it work.  So I’m a huge fan of the customization that you can do with this book test.

The book you receive is a small paperback joke book.  With proper care you can get a lot of use and long life out of it.  If you use the two books seen in the DVD, along with the marker, the card stock you’ll write your revelations on, and the gimmicked joke book you’ll be happy to know that the entire act will fit and travel nicely inside a simple brief case.  Minimal amount of props, packs small, plays huge, and with the right amount of interacting with your audience you’ll get a fun act that you can milk for five to ten minutes and not feel guilty about it.

The DVD is about an hour long.  Cody explains to you how to use the book, and how to set up the routine.  He pretty much hands you his script, and as I’ve said it’s a hilarious one.  With some cleaver word play, you’ll be able to keep your audience in stitches from start to stop.  The video starts off with a live performance of him doing the routine for a comedy club.  It’s helpful to see how he improvs where he needs to and where he’s just running off script.

Since you can use any book that you want for this book test you could in theory just use something off your shelf.  If you don’t already have “The Note Book”, and “50 Shades of Grey”, and you don’t want to use anything else you own, then you’ll be pleased to know that you can pick up a pocket dictionary, both books used in the video, and some card stock for about $50 bucks.  Amazon is your friend.

I loved this book test, and it will be one I’ll use in my own shows.  It’s easy to perform, with minimal sleight of hand required. You’ll need some audience management skills but nothing that should be too hard to master, if you haven’t already.  It’s a highly practical routine to perform, looks great in person, and it plays well for camera too.  I highly recommend you get this book test if you like comedy, magic, and mentalism all rolled into one!

When I give my product scores below I am measuring them on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 Being absolute the worst score possible, and 10 being the absolute best, making a score of five average. The four points that I grade upon is Product Quality, Teaching Quality, Sound & Video Quality and Overall Quality.

Product Quality: 7
The price on the product isn’t that bad, but you could be in to spend more money depending on what books you want to use and what you already have at your disposal.

Teaching Quality: 9
Cody is funny, entertaining, and easy to listen to.  It’s fun to re-watch the DVD just to see him perform for a live audience.

Video & Sound Quality:9
Great video and sound.

Overall Quality: 8
This is a great book test.  It’s funny, practical, packs small and plays big.  It’s versatile in performance and how much time you can get out of it.  This is a great product!

Have a product you want reviewed?  Want to see if it will stand up to the Draven Seal of Approval?  Contact me directly at draven@williamdraven.com to find out how your product could be on the next Draven Reviews!

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Draven Reviews: Stand Up Magic by Tom Wright

approved Title: Stand Up Magic
Artist: Tom Wright
Producers: World Magic Shop
Retail Price: $48.80 USD
Learning Difficulty: Medium
Length of DVD:  Disk 1: 57 minutes    Disk 2: about 2 hour 10 minutes
Notes: This DVD is for the working professional.  Hobbyists will not find this as useful.

 
Features Disk 1:
•    Play All
•    Full Live Performances
•    Studio Performances
◦    Bottle Production
◦    Card In Mouth
◦    Chop Cup
◦    Bottle Thru Table
◦    Ring On Rope

Features Disk 2:
•    Play All
•    Introduction and Benefits
◦    Cards Out of Mouth
◦    Bottle Production
◦    Bottle Thru Table
◦    Card In Mouth
◦    Chop Cup
◦    Ring on Rope
◦    Final words

Every so often something comes down the pipeline in magic that is so unexpected that after you’ve seen or read whatever it is it changes your world.  Stand Up Magic by Tom Wright is exactly one of those somethings.

Stand Up Magic is more than just a two disk DVD set that explains how to do some strolling magic tricks that are idea for dinner parties, corporate gigs, weddings, banquits, etc.  It’s an entire lesson in performance theory behind Tom’s amazing concept of what “Stand Up” magic really is.

Tom’s concept for Stand Up magic is one of those things that after you hear him explain it you smack yourself in the forehead and wonder why you didn’t think of it first because it makes so much sense.  It is something that not only works, but does so because it’s so psychologically motivated.  I can guarantee you that if you apply the concepts that Tom teaches to your strolling shows not only will you get better reactions from the tables you perform for, but you’ll see more re-bookings and better client testimonials.  This stuff is quite profound.

All that being said this DVD really is more for the working professional than the weekend warrior.  Hobbyists, collectors, and amateurs will enjoy the tricks that are taught in the second half of disk two, and their performances will benefit from Tom’s concepts but really to get the full benefit from the information in this DVD you need to be in a position to be doing shows in a walk around or table hopping venue.  Hey restaurant workers… THIS IS FOR YOU!

The tricks Tom teaches you how to do are nothing that hasn’t been around before.  The bottle production, ring on rope, card from mouth, bottle thru table, card IN mouth, and chop cup routine are all staples of magic.  What is worth taking note though is his presentations.  He’s got such a command over his audience.  They really seem to enjoy his work.  I personally loved the Chop Cup game show kind of idea.

The first disk in the set is all live and studio performances.  I would actually recommend watching the first disk second after you’ve had a chance to learn about Tom’s Stand Up magic concept.  Because once you know what’s going on in his head, watching the live performances is a whole different experience.

The entire two disk set is nothing but a gem mine rich with ideas and routines that could really enhance your career if you pay attention to what Tom has to say.  Audience tested, and material that has been actually performed out there in the trenches this DVD is nothing but practical real world magic that works.  You’re going to get standing ovations, you’re going to better reactions, and you’re going to use what Tom teaches every single time you go out to do a gig.  I highly recommend you pick up Stand Up Magic by Tom Wright, because… wait for it…  if it’s Wright… it can’t be wrong!
.

When I give my product scores below I am measuring them on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 Being absolute the worst score possible, and 10 being the absolute best, making a score of five average. The four points that I grade upon is Product Quality, Teaching Quality, Sound & Video Quality and Overall Quality.

Product Quality: 9
Two DVD’s for less than $50 bucks, and it’s solid working material too.  You can’t go wrong.

Teaching Quality: 9
Bang on solid.  Tom’s funny to watch and easy to learn from.

Video & Sound Quality: 7
The sound had a couple of level issues in both disks and the live performances in disk 1 weren’t the best in video quality, but I don’t think you really lose anything for it.  You can still enjoy and learn from the DVD’s.

Overall Quality: 9
You need this DVD.  You won’t be sorry.  I highly recommend Stand Up Magic!

Have a product you want reviewed?  Want to see if it will stand up to the Draven Seal of Approval?  Contact me directly at draven@williamdraven.com to find out how your product could be on the next Draven Reviews!

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Draven Reviews: Ahead Of The Game by Jonathan Levit

approvedTitle: Jonathan Levit Ahead of the Game
Artist: Jonathan Levit
Producers: Masi Media
Retail Price: $39.99 USD
Learning Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Length of DVD: Disk 1: 1 hour 33 minutes  Disk 2: 2 Hours 35 Minutes
Notes: Two Disk Set
Features Disk 1:
•    Main Stage Performance 1
◦    Play With Commentary
•    Main Stage Performance 2
◦    Play With Commentary
•    Interview With Jonathan Levit
•    Black Rabbit Series Trailers

Features Disk 2:
•    Discussions
◦    Connecting With an Audience
◦    The Person I Wish I Could Be
◦    Jonathan’s Show Structure
•    Explanations
◦    Quadrorevelation
◦    Everything Changes (Includes “Levit Triumph”)
◦    Draw A Blank (Jonathan’s “ACAAN”)
◦    The Un-Matrix (Overview/ History/ Tips)
•    Extra
◦    The Levit Wand
◦    C4 Trailer
◦    Thank You’s & Credits

Normally I like to open up my reviews by doing a little quick plug on what the trick is or what it is suppose to look like.  I really can’t do that for this DVD because it’s not just a single trick.  It’s a lot more than that.  It’s a full on study of performance theory, set structure, with a few tricks tossed in for good measure and all from the perspective of master entertainer Jonathan Levit.  A Head Of The Game is Jonathan’s secret to crafting his amazing magic shows.  It’s his secret weapon and he’s tipping it to you with this informative two disk DVD set.

In the first DVD you get to see not one but two of Jonathan’s full close up shows as filmed at the Magic Castle in Hollywood.  This will be valuable later on as you start to learn the methods behind his madness to how he creates such powerfully entertaining shows in the second DVD.  It’s a great reference guide to have so you can look back on his performances and say to yourself “Oooh… THAT’s what he’s talking about!”  And to make this learning process even sweeter Jonathan includes a special commentary track that you can play over the performance so you can get into his head and know what he’s thinking as he is performing; step by step, move by move.

The second DVD is where we really get into the meat and potatoes of the material Jonathan covers.  You basically get three lessons in performance theory taught by Jonathan himself, and then he shows you his takes on four classic, but powerful, close up plots.   The extra section is just an area to plug different products such as Jonathan’s own brand of magic wands which are beautiful looking accessories made by a skilled craftsman (his father).

The magic taught on this DVD isn’t anything new.  These tricks have been around for quite a while, and many magicians have contributed their own handlings to these effects.  Jonathan’s handlings, ideas, and notes though are worth paying attention to.  He’s quite skilled at figuring out where the magic moments are and how to maximize them for his audiences.  Even if you already have your own preferred methods for doing things like A.C.A.A.N, or Triumph, it’s well worth looking into Jonathan’s versions.  I especially loved his Everything Changes routine which is a blue-red card color change with a devastating ending.

The real power in this product doesn’t come from the tricks that are being taught, but the gold mine of information Jonathan shares with you on how to create a successful act.  There’s a lot of DVD’s on the market that will show you how to do a magic trick, but Ahead Of The Game is one of the very few that will show you how to be a magician.  I am so grateful that I picked this DVD up.  This was a rare find and a real score.  I can’t recommend this DVD enough!  Well done Mr. Levit.  Well done indeed!

When I give my product scores below I am measuring them on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 Being absolute the worst score possible, and 10 being the absolute best, making a score of five average. The four points that I grade upon is Product Quality, Teaching Quality, Sound & Video Quality and Overall Quality.

Product Quality: 9
Honestly I would have probably gladly paid more than the  retail price for this DVD had I known in advance what was all on it.  It’s worth every penny.

Teaching Quality: 8
Welcome to class students.  Your professor today is Jonathan Levit, and the teacher is in!

Video & Sound Quality: 9
Excellent Video and Sound.

Overall Quality: 9
Seriously, you need to own this DVD.  Now!  I highly recommend it.

Have a product you want reviewed?  Want to see if it will stand up to the Draven Seal of Approval?  Contact me directly at draven@williamdraven.com to find out how your product could be on the next Draven Reviews!

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Draven Reviews: FIVE by Xeon Steel

approved Title: Five
Artist: Steve Choi
Producers: Xeon Steel
Retail Price: $29.95 USD
Learning Difficulty: Easy
Length of DVD: 2 Hours 16 minutes
Notes: Some Assembly Required

 

 

 
Includes:
•    DVD
•    Gimmick
•    Classic Vernet T.T.

Features:
•    Play All
◦    Intro & Gimmick Construction
◦    Handling Gimmick
◦    $50 to $100 Change
◦    Borrowed Bill
◦    Origami Intro
◦    Constructing Origami Swan
◦    Origami Change
◦    Closer Look for Origami Change
◦    Credits
◦    Quick Bloopers

Xeon Steel A.K.A. Steve Choi has come out with quite an impressive bill change DVD.  That’s saying something considering there’s no shortage of bill change effects on the market, and I should know… I’ve reviewed many of them and probably own the rest.

So what makes Xeon’s Five so unique among so many bill changes?  Well the title of the DVD is a huge hint:  You can change a bill denomination not once, not twice, but up to five different times.  Borrow a single from someone and then turn it into a five, then a ten, then a twenty, then a fifty, and finish with a hundred.  The handling is pretty open and the changes are visual and instantaneous.  This is one of the most impressive bill change routines I’ve seen in a while.

The DVD is a monster of a DVD with content considering it weighs in at over two and quarter hours in length.  Considering the power and versatility in handlings of this effect you could easily build an entire twenty minute money routine using this effect as the back bone for it.  Everyone has money, and everyone wants more of it.  Every single motivation for doing the magic with Five is there and it’s just low hanging fruit for the picking.  The only downside to the effect, for one, is you’ll have to invest $186 dollars into the creation of the gimmick.  Of course you could use monopoly or fake money provided it’s the same size as US currency, hell for that matter you could use any currency so long as it’s the same size as US bills, but I think using real money hits harder in presentation.  The other downside is you’re going to have to construct your own gimmick.  If you’ve read my reviews you know I’m not an art school major.  I really shouldn’t be trusted with anything sharp like knives or scissors for that matter.  The gimmick I found to be easy enough to make, but you’ve got to be careful with the special “*thing” that is included.  I think I broke a couple before everything was said and done.  They are kind of fragile for what they are.  I think it took me about 20 minutes to assemble everything and get it ready to perform.

The DVD is edited in such a way that it is one continuous video.  That means no chapter headings, and no root menu to select chapter sections from.  This has got to be the single most annoying feature of this product, and that alone is enough to make it a nightmare to go back through and review it if you need to work on some nuance that you missed.  The only option you have is to use the fast forward or rewind buttons to try and skip through things as quickly as you can.  If you want to see something in the last half of the second hour of the DVD… you’re going to be sitting there for a few minutes while you skip through it all to get there.  Freaking annoying as hell!  There is some good material in this DVD but it’s a pain in the rear to try and get to it in any expedient fashion.

Performing this routine you can borrow a bill from someone and then switch it out for your gimmick, which I like better than not borrowing a bill.  I agree with Xeon that this method really is much stronger in performance.  Your angles are pretty good for almost any performance situation.  The exception being that you cannot work in the round.  Five is weak from angles that exceed 180 degrees or completely exposed from behind.  The kicker ending with an X appearing on the $100 dollar bill in the same place that you draw it on the last bill just melts the spectator’s minds.  My biggest issue is getting over my magicians guilt due to the thickness of the gimmick.  I can’t help but think “this has got to be freaking obvious to these spectators” and it never is.  No one has ever called me out on it in the few times that I’ve done this change so far.

There is an additional bonus move taught on the DVD called the Origami change.  You basically fold a bill up like you’d do any normal bill change, but at the end you produce a origami paper crane folded out of the bill.  You can give this away to the spectator too, at the cost of a dollar each time you do it, if you wish.  I thought the Origami change was a nice addition, and would make for a good follow up to performing Five, but I don’t see this as something I’d use every time.  Remember that arts and crafts comment earlier?  Yeah, I’m not good at origami either.

There’s a lot of bill change magic that is out there.  And there are a lot of visual single bill changes too, but I’ve never seen a routine like Five before that allows you to change a single bill into just about every form of major currency denomination that we have in the US in such a visual and open way.  The DVD is a nightmare to review after you’ve gone through it start to stop once, but I’m not sure that’s enough to fail this product overall.  After all ours is the business of entertainment and making memories with magic, and when performed Five certainly does that.

*My apologies for any vagueness, but I can’t really explain what these “things” are without exposing the gaff.

When I give my product scores below I am measuring them on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 Being absolute the worst score possible, and 10 being the absolute best, making a score of five average. The four points that I grade upon is Product Quality, Teaching Quality, Sound & Video Quality and Overall Quality.

Product Quality:
This is a wonderful trick, and the price of the DVD isn’t bad.  But you’re going to be investing over $200 dollars into it by the time it’s all said and done to do it proper.  So this may not be a trick for everyone.

Teaching Quality: 1
The tutorial is very thorough, but damn is it a pain to navigate through.  One single continues video format on a two + hour DVD with no chapters, or the ability to skip through sections?  What the bloody hell were you thinking?!

Video & Sound Quality: 8
The sound and video were both of good quality.

Overall Quality: 5
Let me explain the overall score because it’s going to be confusing.  The ONLY reason why this didn’t fail a Draven Reviews is because the magic in it is not only really good, but commercial as well.  I absolutely hated the formatting in this DVD, and given the length of it, made it impossible to re-watch with ease.  I’d want to give the product as a whole a grade of a 2 for overall quality, but I can’t out right justify that because the magic is so good.  I’d give the magic a grade of an 8 for overall quality, so I’m just going to split the difference and just pass it with a grade of 5 and highly recommend you get this DVD if you like magic with bills, and bill changes.

Have a product you want reviewed?  Want to see if it will stand up to the Draven Seal of Approval?  Contact me directly at draven@williamdraven.com to find out how your product could be on the next Draven Reviews!

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