“Make failure your friend, your best friend.” -David Blaine #DavidBlaine
— Chris Ramsay (@chrisramsay52) July 3, 2018
Whatever you may think of YouTube magician, Chris Ramsay, he and his crew know their way around a camera. That skill is in full display in the clip above, in which Ramsay takes some footage of the always amazing David Blaine and gives it a bit of the old YouTube pzazz.
The clip was part of a larger video, or a “vlog” as I’m told by several people who should know better, detailing Ramsay’s trip to see Blaine perform in Montreal. The first few minutes of footage are the usual YouTube-filler: Lots of quick cuts, rampant consumerism, and undersatured holiday footage accompanied by that weird elevator-music-for-cool-kids you hear all over the internet now DMCA take-downs are a thing. The big man himself pops up at 4:30, and that’s where things get interesting. Watching Blaine perform is a pleasure as usual, but it’s really cool to see his work shot with the same rough intensity as modern street magicians, rather than in the tepid style of a early morning talk show.
Blane even drops a little nugget of wisdom for aspiring magicians near the end of the video: “make failure your friend, your best friend.”
Chris Ramsay may no longer be doing straight-up magic tutorials, but he’s still putting out some very useful guides to promoting oneself in the age of social media. His guide to getting good promotional photographs should be mandatory viewing for everyone in the industry (and I mean everyone; you cannot imagine how many top tier magicians hit us up with promo shots that look like they’re extracts from an FBI watchlist). In his latest video, he and magician and photographer Alex Pandrea wander around yet another island paradise, doling out solid advice on how to take good shots of playing cards.
This guide contains far more practical advice than his promo shot one, and while it’s likely nothing new to anyone who’s taken a photography class at some point in their life, the quick summaries of composition, lighting, and colour-theory will definitely improve your card snaps. Considering every magician and their mum has their own branded cardistry decks vying for cash on Kickstarter these days, it’s very useful guide indeed.
Here at GeniiOnline I work with promotional photographs of magicians every day, and can say with absolute authority that huge swathes of them are absolutely terrible (as are the websites I find them on). YouTube magician Chris Ramsay has also noticed this, and lists several of the most obvious issues with sub par promo shots in the video above. In a perfect world, it’d be mandatory viewing for every magician with an internet connection.
Money isn’t the issue. Photography studios can cost a pretty penny, yes, but professional photographers are like rats: You’re never more than six feet away from one and they mostly eat garbage. You can definitely find a photographer who can put out professional grade work on a budget if you look hard enough. Note: A tight budget isn’t an excuse to try and squeeze free, or insultingly cheap, work out of professional (or student) photographers. Please do not be that guy.
“If you’re going to do a professional photo shoot, put the time in, put the money in, put the effort in,” Ramsay says in the beginning of the video, “because that’s your image and it’s staying online as long as you choose.”
He’s actually slightly off there. The image isn’t staying online, “as long as you choose.” It’s staying online forever. Long after you’ve departed this mortal coil and your bones have turned to dust, that horrible photo of you with frosted-tips and sunglasses clutching a cle will still be lurking inside some ancient Google server, ready to slither out into the sunlight whenever someone searches for your name. Any promotional material you put online is nigh-permanently attached to you and your brand, so think before you upload.
While we’re on the subject, here’s a few tips and tricks for promotional photos straight from your friends at Genii Online:
If you do end up with bad promo shots, it’s not the end of your career. Get famous enough and even the worst photographs end up being kind of endearing.
NYC MEET UP!
Yo! This Saturday, I’m taking over Fantasma Magic shop in NYC from 1pm-5pm with @xspade1 !
FREE Entry, contests, prizes, Q&A and filming some videos! All ages allowed, no skill level required, just come hang out with us! I would love to meet you guys! ♥️ pic.twitter.com/XT4LCLgc8C
— Chris Ramsay (@chrisramsay52) April 24, 2018
The meet-up will run from 1pm to 5pm and boasts free entry, contests, prizes, and a high chance of appearing in one of Ramsay’s future videos.
Fantasma Magic Shop is at 213 W 35th Street, Suite 401, NYC 10001. While you’re there, you should check out The Houdini Museum of New York, conveniently located inside the store, which showcases a collection of the iconic escape artist’s locks, keys and picks, as well as illusions, archival footage, posters, journals and other collectables.
YouTube magician Chris Ramsay isn’t doing magic tutorials any more after accidentally plagiarizing another performer’s trick, among other reasons. The move has been met with some consternation from Ramsay’s subscribers, many of whom initially followed him for the tutorials.
In the spirit of teaching a man to fish, Ramsay has begun this new chapter of his channel with a video about creating your own tricks. The advice isn’t ground-breaking by any means – association is the oldest creative trick in the book – but it’s interesting to see how principles developed mostly for writing can be applied to something as physical as performance magic.
Chris Ramsay was in hot water recently, when a tutorial video he uploaded featured a trick created by another magician without credit or permission. While he’s since deleted the offending video, apologized for the oversight, and has decided to stop doing magic tutorial videos at all, it’s re-opened discussion on an important debate: are YouTube magic tutorials good for the community, or are they giving away everyone’s secrets?
Mahdi Gilbert recently weighed in on the controversy in his email newsletter:
I am generally against [sharing secrets on YouTube]. I feel like it’s prostituting the art of magic in order to get views. I understand the appeal, I understand the efficiency, I get it. People love magic and they want to know the secret, so it make sense that if you want to get a lot of people to watch something you perform a trick and then promise to reveal the secret. This is nothing new in magic. Some people used to sell magic shows that came in two parts. The first part was the show and then they had to pay for the second show in which the secrets were revealed. It was a great business model. A lot of people bought tickets. However, artistically it’s bankrupt. Just because something is effective doesn’t mean that it’s worth using.
So what’s the solution? People want to learn magic, and YouTube can be an excellent tool for broadening the audience for anyone with some cards, a decent video, and the resolve to learn something to become a magician. But there’s a responsibility for the magician to make sure they aren’t revealing too many secrets to anyone who can click a link or, heaven forbid, reveal someone else’s secrets.
For Mahdi, the solution is to teach everything around the act of magic, but not the secret itself. He’s posted a few videos recently that attempt to do just that. Like this one, where he teaches how to shuffle from hand to hand (without any hands):
Or this one, where he teaches how to perform a ribbon spread with a deck of cards:
Mahdi’s email continues:
I believe it is possible to make tutorials in a way that does not reveal secrets online. Do a cursory search and you will find that many of the most popular tutorials related to playing cards do not have to do with magic. You can easily teach card manipulations & classic or original card flourishes without becoming an expose artist. Instead of revealing long guarded magic secrets you can easily teach useful skills that anyone who handles cards would love to learn And let’s be real here, those tutorials that you guys are making on top changes, palms, false deals and false shuffles, what percentage of your viewers are actually going to pursue learning it and becoming good at it? Probably very, very low because it’s extremely hard to master those techniques and if they were serious enough to pursue it they would most likely be seeking professional sources (in many great books & videos produced by the world’s greatest masters of sleight of hand technique).
He closes with rather sobering take:
Magic on the internet is mostly depressing. Fake audiences, fake magic, fake magicians, fake everything. We don’t need to stoop low in order to make it through to the end, to achieve or goals or anything else.
How do you feel about magic tutorials on YouTube? Are they helping the magic community grow or are they needlessly exposing secrets to a larger audience?
In a rather candid video, Chris Ramsay has recently announced he’s no longer going to be creating magic tutorials on his YouTube channel.
The move seems to be in response to some recent criticism on social media from illusionist R. Paul Wilson, who alleges that a recent YouTube tutorial video made by Ramsay featured a move of Wilson’s creation without permission, and that he used it to sell his own deck of cards.
Hey @chrisramsay52 – What gives you the right to share my move (and a Bernard Bilis sleight) in a public video while pitching your new cards? Some of us had to create our own ideas to share and sell and would prefer if you didn’t pick our pockets without the decency to credit.
— RPW (@SWEshift) April 5, 2018
Ramsay used the video to apologize both to Wilson and Bernard Bilis (who Wilson also mentioned in the above tweet), and to explain that he never meant to teach his specific move. According to the video, he’d attempted to source the trick, and asked a number of his friends where the trick came from, but the only response he could find was that it was “old”, so he went ahead with filming. (As an aside, this is not uncommon in magic – Ellusionist recently pulled its F.U. Deck from retail mere days after release over a similar concern). Ramsay has since removed the offending video from his channel.
“It’s tough,” he said in the video, “to make tutorial after tutorial without stepping on any toes. That’s one of the things you can’t do on [YouTube], you can’t just freely teach things every single week because eventually it will be someone’s creation, it will be someone’s pocket you’re dipping into. Whether that’s intentional or unintentional, that’s bound to happen.”
This was one of several reasons why he’s decided not to post tutorial videos any more. He also cites general burnout with having to come up with things to teach every single week, despite that not being what draws him to magic. This happened to be the final straw for him.
He will still feature tutorials on performance and overall magic theory, so there will still be plenty for Ramsay to talk about, but he will no longer post videos detailing specific sleight of hand method. And he’s still going to teach cardistry, and will allow other creators to come onto his YouTube channel to teach their own original creations.
“I preach a lot about ethics,” Ramsay said. “I preach a lot about morality, and I preach a lot about history or research. It sucks for me to have to admit that, ‘Yeah, ok, that was his, dammit’…I don’t want to be part of the drama, and I don’t want to be the cause for drama.”
Chris Ramsay’s 1st playing cards are finally finished and will be making their way into punters’ hands in the coming month, but is the deck worth the wait? Yes, according to Chris Ramsay, who, I am reliably informed, is completely trustworthy and unbiased.
It’s quite amazing that Ramsay has managed to create a deck that is completely without flaws* and manages to be bold, subtle and boldly subtle*. It looks great, fans incredibly well, and has at least three different parts that Ramsay refers to as his “favourite.”
In fact, Chris Ramsay’s 1st Playing Cards appear to be Chris Ramsay’s favourite playing cards, an amazing feat given that this is Chris Ramsay’s first solo foray into deck design.
For what my non-Ramsayian opinion is worth. I think 1st looks great. There’s contrast between the muted back design and the splash of gold foil. The comparison to Louis Vuitton’s famous monogram pattern is spot on, and there’s been just enough work done on those royals to assuage my usual give-me-custom-or-give-me-death orneriness. It’s a shame there’s only one run of these beauties, though Ramsay did imply a marked version might be in the cards, so to speak.
* One out of one Chris Ramsays agree.
Chris Ramsay has a new video up, but the real star of the show is Alex Pandrea, who drops by to pinch hit with a tutorial. It’s an original riff on the card to pocket idea. Pandrea walks you through how to make a chosen card seem to vanish from the deck then reappear pretty much anyplace else. His version doesn’t take any purchased gimmicks or even any sleight of hand. All you need is a sharpie. It’s pretty darn clever.
Chris Ramsay’s recent trip to Exuma in the Bahamas was supposed to be a holiday, but it seems like he couldn’t resist filming a little street magic while he was there. In between swimming with pigs, feeding iguanas, and knocking back Bahama Breezes, the popular YouTuber found time to impress the natives with some card tricks.
At the end of the video, Ramsay, seemingly exhausted by his time on that beautiful island paradise, gave viewers an update on his ‘1st’ playing cards. The deck, Ramsay’s first foray into independent card production, was delayed late last year, but should be reaching customers April according to this latest update.
If you’re just getting started with Ramsay’s channel, his hilarious retelling of an evening with David Blaine is a great place to start