Magic Products Review

VCM by Eric Chien

Written by John Teo

VCM is an abbreviation for Visual Card Magic. You receive a DVD which features six highly visual card magic from Eric Chien.
Not much is known about Eric Chien, except that he is very good at sleight-of-hand magic and particpated in and won numerous magic competitions in Asia. Even in this DVD, he does not reveal his face when performing and explaining his card routines.
Your purchase of this DVD contains a password that enables you to download a bonus video, that gives you additional materials to two of his routines, as well as the credits which he did not include in the VCM DVD. Eric shot this bonus video himself using his smart phone in his hotel room when he was working in China. Here is where you get to see Eric Chien’s face.
Eric was first noticed by the magic community with his first DVD on coin magic simply entitled COIN.
True to the title of this DVD, each of his six routines is highly visual card magic. His magic is direct and beautiful to watch, however it will take a lot of hard work for you to master the various sleights with cards, that will enable you to perform each of his 6 routines. It requires intermediate to advanced card magic skills.
The DVD is well-produced, and Eric speaks and teaches well. You will not have difficulty understanding what he is saying to you. The six routines in the DVD are:
Oil & Water
3 red cards are clearly displayed and placed face up on the table. Similarly, 3 black cards are shown and placed face up on the table on top of the 3 red cards. Without any moves, the cards are spread face upwards, and the red and black cards now alternate.
3 cards are placed face downwards on the table. The other 3 cards show a black card sandwiched between 2 red cards. With a shake of the hand, the black card mysteriously moves downwards to become the last card. With another shake of the hand, this black card changes into a red card. All the 3 cards are now red. The 3 cards on the table are turned and spread face upwards – they are the 3 black cards.
You will need to learn the Double Deal where you simultaneously deal the top and bottom cards of a small packet of cards. You will also be taught the Hofzinser Spread Cull and the Spread Colour Change.
4 Card Shoot
4 Aces magically shoot out of a shuffled deck into your other hand. This is truly a visual production of 4 of a kind. In a variation of this, 3 cards shoot out of the deck. The deck is dribbled, and a fourth card is caught in the middle of the dribbling and turned over to reveal an Ace. The 3 cards that were shot out of the deck earlier are then turned over to reveal they are the other 3 Aces.
Eric uses a short card to aid him in accomplishing this beautiful 4-card production.
Collectors 1
A selected card is sandwiched face downwards between 2 red Jacks. Mysteriously, this card vanishes and reappears between 2 black Jacks held in the other hand some distance away. Once again, this selected card is returned between the 2 red cards. Again, the chosen card travels magically from between the 2 red cards to be found between the 2 black cards. Immediately, all cards can be examined.
Collectors 2
3 freely selected cards are lost in the deck. A packet of 4 Jacks are placed on top of the deck. The first Jack visually changes into an Ace. The packet is spread and the 4 Jacks have now changed to 4 Aces – trapped between the 4 Aces are the 3 selected cards.
A double-face card is used to effect a clean visual change. Although Eric does not say it, it is possible to dispense with this gimmicked card and use sleight-of-hand instead.

2 Card Transpo
2 cards are freely selected. The first selected card is placed underneath the empty card case. The second chosen card changes into the identity of the first chosen card. The card underneath the card case is then shown to be the second card.
This card is then placed inside the empty card case. The first chosen card then changes into the identity of the second card, and the card inside the case is shown to be the first chosen card.
This routine is the most difficult to accomplish, but it appears to be the most magical effect. You will be taught how to secretly “shoot” the top card so that it can magically appear underneath an object placed on the table.
Flash Ace Production
This is a stunningly visual production of 4 Aces from a deck of cards. It is most visual when performed standing up.
You will be taught Chad Nelson’s Clip-Shift as well as the Top Shot move.
Bonus
On the label of the DVD is printed a password that enables you to download a bonus video from the internet. The bonus video is like an after-thought from Eric Chien after he produced this DVD. The bonus video provides additional materials to both Oil & Water and Collectors 2.
In the case of Oil & Water, Eric teaches you a version using only 2 red and 2 black cards.
Eric has worked out a signed card version for Collectors 2. Each of the 4 Jacks are signed by the spectators. The Jacks magically change to Aces, and 3 of the signed Jacks are later found to be in different pockets of the performer. The final signed Jack is inside a locked box which the performer brings out during the routine, before the 4 Jacks discover the 3 selected cards.
The final segment of the bonus video has Eric crediting his sources for all his materials in the DVD. Apparently, he has left this important part out in the DVD.
The running time for the DVD is about 40 minutes, while the length of his bonus video is just over 20 minutes.
Apparently, Eric Chien does not mind using a gimmicked card or two just to make his magic more visual. After all, he titled this DVD – VCM (Visual Card Magic).
If you like sleight-of-hand magic with cards, and you do not mind putting in some hard work, you will find this DVD to be a real treat for you. (9/10 star rating.)

THE MATRIX PAD RELOADED by Richard Griffin

Written by Bernard Sim

Effect:
With a sharpie, Four spots are drawn on each corner of a Post-It pad. One by one, with the rub of a finger the spots are visibly moved to one corner of the pad. The top sheet with the accumulated spots, is now peeled off and given away to examine.

Product description:
The written description pretty much summarised what the spectator sees for this effect, but the video demo is not really what was seen. The demo has been edited so that all the secret and necessary “moves” are not shown. Having said that, if you were to ask a spectator what they just saw, they’ll probably describe it as what the demo has shown.

Method:
This routine is based on Al Schneider’s Coin Matrix. It’s a brilliant routine and all coin workers will have a version, or two. However, you’d need a table to perform Coin Matrix, not quite possible for most strolling magicians.

Then came The Matrix Pad. This effect is simple and easy to understand. Your spectator gets to keep the Post-It pad sheet at the end of the routine. The method is easy and you’d need twenty seconds preparation time every time you perform it. The subtleties taught are quite effective, leading to a more believable performance. The weakest point in the routine is when you need to move the last spot to the corner. With proper misdirection, this can also be taken care of, so it is not really an issue here.

Quality:
You are supplied with a prepared gimmick made with a Q-Connects pad. I am not sure if you can easily get this brand anywhere. If you want to use 3M, it is not a problem as you are supplied with another gimmick to make your own. The size of the pad is pretty standard , i.e 3” by 3” . You will need this size as the gimmick is made for such size. You can use any color pad you want.

Pricing:
At US$29.95, I think this is very reasonable as you get gimmicks for two sets. The DVD explanation is very clear, and it is easy to learning this routine.

Verdict:
This effect is easy to perform, easy to understand and the spectator gets to keep the paper as a souvenir – a most suitable form of magic for table-hopping as the pad takes up little pocket space. If you are restaurant-magician or walkaround magician, I encourage you to add this to your repertoire. For hobbyists, it’s the same, and I’m sure your spectator will enjoy it.

If you have read the original ‘The Matrix Pad’ review before, you’d know that the above review is exactly the same. It’s the same because even though this is an updated version, there is no significant difference that warrants an upgrade if you already have the previous version.

There are 3 main differences in this updated version, the gimmick is stronger, with a box for easy storage during your walk-about performances and lastly, the price of US$39.95, a difference of $10 from the original. If you don’t have this effect, you should consider it as it is rather strong.

Rating:
8/10, recommended as before.

GAG PHONE 20 by Aska Chuang

Written by John Teo

With smart phones being the main wireless communication device, magic with smart phones is topical.  There are dozens of magic applications for smart phones in the market.  What makes this effect different from other tricks with smart phone is that it is not application based.  This fact alone offers a lot of avenue for comedy.  Fancy trying to simulate an electronic effect of a smart phone by merely using mechanical means!

In effect, here is what happens.  You show a paper model of what appears to be an iPhone 4.  The audience will smile when shown a paper model of an iPhone.  To use the iPhone, one has to “unlock” the screen.  With the finger of the other hand, you swipe the screen.  Suddenly, the cover picture of the iPhone is slid out and falls away, revealing another picture of the iPhone with a picture of a face of a kitten on the screen (apparently the wall-paper) beneath it.  This gets another chuckle, as the screen is now :unlocked”.

Then you “pinch” the screen and the picture of the kitten’s face become very small!  Another chuckle from the audience!  You “unpich” and the picture returns to normal size.  If you wish to see a larger picture of the screen, an iPad is better.  As you utter these words, the iPhone visually expands to the size of an iPad!

Remove the iPad.  Show the iPhone 4 with icons on the screen.  Visually, the iPhone now becomes a little longer.  You say that “this is iPhone 5.”  Now the iPhone becomes very long such that it is not so practical to hold in your hand.  You then say “this is iPhone 10!”

You shrink the iPhone 10 back to iPhone 4.  This time, when you stretch the iphone again, it becomes very long, about 25 inchese in total length, complete with more than 110 colourful aplication icons on the elongated black screen.  Obviousy, this makes it impractical to carry around!  “This is iPhone 20!” you say.  This makes a very visual and climatic ending, and is a sure cue for applause!

You receive all the gimmicked paper iPhones.  They are very well made in laminated paper and seems to be quite durable.  The paper iPhones are stiff enough so that it makes the various handling easy.  It is not difficult to do.  You need to remember the stacking order and the patter for the various phases of the effects.  There are 4 disctict phases of the effect.  Reset is quite quick.  It can be done surrounded.  It is suitable for both close-up and parlour performances.  It comes with 2 pages of written instructions with colourful photographs.

This is a timeless piece of magic.  Even if Apple eventually develops a new model iPhone such that it no longer resembles the iPhone 4 or its derivatives, the fact that the climax is an iPhone 20 still makes it relevant!  You simple need to weave into the patter the latest iPhone model!  If you have an android smart phone, this is still a relevant trick because it involves the smart phone.

If you like comedy magic, you should not let this one by.

Highly recommended!

SWEET’N SALTY by Vernet

Written by Bernard Sim

I’m in a dilemma, is Sweet N Salty good or junk?   When I first saw the packaging in a pile of review stuff, it doesn’t stand out.  In fact, it looks cheap and I am hesitant in reviewing it as I have other stuff to review.  Look at the packaging and see if it gives you the same feeling it gave me.

NEVER judge a book by its cover!  I open it and saw what’s in it.......i was even more disappointed!  I thought it was a common gimmick which everyone had.  Upon closer inspection, it was actually different from what I thought.  When I read the instructions and saw the important part of the gimmick, I was impressed!

The written instruction is very basic, it doesn’t teach you any routine and it only explains how to use it and it includes a link to download the 150mb video instructions.  The written instruction “teaches” you how to vanish the salt but first you must buy Vernet’s Ethereal Salt.  Ha, a subtle but not so subtle pitch.  Never about the written instructions, I’m sure most of you would just download and watch the video, that’s what I did.  I downloaded the video.......5 mins later, I get this:

4 hours to download! I’m on a 100mps fibre connection and it takes 4 hours to download!  Well, I guess I can’t review now; I’ll have to wait for it to finish downloading. I’ll be back......

45 mins later....... still downloading. ….  I’m back!  Finally downloading is completed!  And it took 1 hour to download the 150mb size video.  Let me go watch the video and I’ll be back and continue with the review..

Ok, I’m back with the reviews.  A total of 10 routines in the video, while some routines are similar, they are quite practical.  Most routines are vanishing and appearing in impossible places such as a sharpie’s pen cap.  The gimmick also be used to produce salt from person’s nose, elbow, ears etc, much like a miser’s dream routine.

An interesting routine would be the combination of this and a Gypsy Thread routine.  At the end of the thread restoration, the thread is then transformed into a stream of salt.  Another strong routine is the separation of salt and pepper, this routine would work well in a restaurant and you don’t even have to prepare in advance to perform this routine.  Most of the routines are interesting and most importantly, workable.

Despite all the hiccups, I am really impressed by this utility device.  Unlike single trick releases in recent times, you are getting plenty of bang for your buck for this trick. This is like old school magic, I like old school.  Do not be put off by the simple packaging, do yourself a favour and get this.

Rating:  9/10. Highly recommended

PIERCE by Jibrizy Taylor and SansMinds

Written by Bernard Sim

Another organic effect (as stated by SansMinds) of a straw going through the cap of a water bottle, the cap then disappears and reappears and handed out for examination.

Seems like SansMinds always like to use the word “organic” when they are describing their effects.  When they talk about their effect, they are always full of energy..... as if their effect is the next best invention since sliced bread.  At times I can find it quite irritating, especially when you see many of their DVDs having the same pitching style.

Let’s talk about the effect.  The penetration of the straw through the cap is pretty easy to understand and perform.  However, somehow, I feel that the penetration doesn’t look good.  The straw seems to be going in too easily, much like passing through a big hole.  For the vanishing of the cap, it took me a while to register that they are trying to show the cap vanished.  The appearance of the cap is also not convincing for me.  Preparing the bottle is pretty easy and the reset is almost instant.   There is a performance angle you have to take note of. 

I don’t really like this effect.  This shouldn’t even be out in the market as a standalone effect.  A similar and much stronger effect would be Skycap by Luke Dancy.  At $19.95, this is a rip off.

Rating:  2/10, perhaps it’s about time SansMinds filter their magic release.  No doubt SansMinds have good releases but nowadays, it is very obvious that they are more interested in making money rather than releasing decent products.  Don’t bother about this effect.

MELT 2.0 by Matthew Johnson

Written by Derek Lee

This is a bill penetration effect with a playing card by Matthew Johnson, a UK magician based in Canada.

The magician borrows a dollar bill from the spectator.  He takes the playing card and visually under the spectator’s eyes, penetrates the card through the folded bill. 

This product is a video download from Penguin which comes with detailed instructions to construct the gimmick.  It is not difficult to get the material required to construct the gimmick (you should be able find it at home or get it from the stationery shop).  Matthew Johnson describes the handling of the gimmick and the performance in precise detail.

I like this effect very much.  It is simple, very visual and this trick can be done close-up and surrounded.  The gimmick is easy to construct.  Unlike many other effects on the market which requires more practice before you can do it.  You will be able to easily perform this effect after the gimmick is constructed.  It’s a great idea and if you are creative enough, you can even adapt this effect to other props (not just playing cards), for example business cards.  A famous magician Rick Lax adapts this effect into an envelope instead of playing card.  You can even make this a signed card effect.

My rating: 9/10