Q’s & A’s & No Q’s w/ Christian Cagigal 

I wanted to know more about IMAG after exploring the idea for my recent post 5 Things Magicians Do That We Should Be Doing Too​. I reached out to the magic community to find an expert (apparently the only people who will do these interviews with me are magicians). Eventually I was directed to Mr. Cagigal. I found this on his Website

Christian Cagigal has been performing his trademark blend of theatre, storytelling, and magic as an Artist in Residence at EXIT Theatre, in San Francisco, since 2006, and as an Artist in Residence with Beyond the Mountain, in Montréal, since 2012. He’s been named a Finalist for the Theatre Bay Area Award for Best Solo Performer, two years in a row; recipient of a Mastermind Award by the SF Weekly; and three time winner of the Best Magician of the Bay Award by the San Francisco Bay Guardian. 
A tiny magic show, performed, live, on a big screen! Join magician Christian Cagigal, as he weaves tales, dark fables and strange happenings into an intimate evening of mystery and wonder. The entire show is performed under the watchful eye of a video camera and projected as large as can be, above Cagigal, so you can’t miss a thing.

“I am not sure I have seen a performer this at ease with himself, his space, his obvious command of what he is doing and with a NYC Village crowd…ever.”

This is what I personally know:

Autocorrect wants his last name to be either Caligula or Magical. Coincidence? I think not. Here are the five questions about IMAG and his answers. 

1.Why go through all of the extra efort to use cameras, projectors, and screens to perform close-up magic for far-away audiences?

It’s a very fair question. Generally speaking, the beauty of close up magic is that it doesn’t require large and expensive stage set ups. It’s no frills and intimate. On the other hand, with a little extra work, you can take two rubber bands and make them into a stage illusion on par with making a tiger appear. And, usually, the audience will come away talking about the rubber bands more than the tiger. Audiences know how rubber bands work, they’ve dealt with rubber bands their whole life, so the magic you do with the rubber bands is amazing to the audience. However, audiences don’t know how trick boxes and tigers work (like when was the last time you hung out with a tiger?) so, while exceedingly impressive, the tiger may not get talked about as much as the rubber bands on a screen would. And, since the audience is being allowed a close up view of the magic via the camera and screen, in a way that doesn’t normally happen with the box and the tiger, it really makes the audience feel like they’re being let in on something special. Like they might get to discover the secret… which of course they don’t. So, while it’s a lot of extra effort for something that wasn’t designed to require all that effort, it can end up being so worth the effort.

2. What are the limitations doing this?

Money. Space. Much like a stage illusion. If you don’t have the money and space, you probably can’t do it. These days the equipment needed is better, smaller, more portable, then even 7 years ago, but still it can be very expensive. 
Also, you either have to hire another person to run the camera or attach the camera to a tripod or mic stand, and then you have to deal with the prop/stage management of moving that on and off stage. 
If you’re doing this all on your own, then you have to be ready to handle all the video issues that can arise. And, if the video doesn’t work then you just lost a cool part of your show so you’ll have to have a back up plan/routine. Then again, I’ve seen some close up magic done in large theaters with no video get huge reactions. That requires a good choice of effects, and well structured routines that possibly involve an audience member, maybe one that reacts really well on stage, so the audience can experience the magic through that one person.

3. How big does an audience need to be to justify the set-up? Is it just as effective for an audience of 50 as an audience of 3,000?

It all depends on the effects chosen. I have an hour long show of close up card magic that mostly plays flat on a table. You would need to be right up at my table looking down on the cards to really appreciate the material. So, whether 50 or 3000 it just wouldn’t play well, that is unless the audience was tiered very tight and high. But, most venues aren’t made like that. Also, I deliberately designed the artistic aesthetic of my show to be seen on the camera so, whether 50 or 3000 it still works best with video.  
If I’m playing a 50 seat theater, and I only have a depressing 6 people (hello Edinburgh Fringe), then I can turn everything off, seat the 6 people on stage with me, and give them a real close up show. The show is saved, and they feel like they’re getting a really unique experience. Then again, if the venue tied all the legs of the chairs together then that won’t be an option for you (damn you Edinburgh Fringe)… 
However, one thing I don’t think works at all is when the camera is at the back of the audience, zooming in on some cups and balls or what have you. Because the result is that the image on the screen isn’t that much better than what I can see from the back row. 

 4. What equipment do you need? How expensive is it?

 Depends what your needs are. I have a decent digital camera, the HDMI cables, and fifth generation Qumi brand pocket projector, which I bought slightly used from Amazon. For small theaters, the throw on the projector is amazing. If however you want to fill mid size houses to 1000 seat venues you should probably invest in something way bigger and expensive, or better yet, find out what said venue has to work with. The tricky thing is trying to get your camera to hook up directly to their projector which may be up in the grid/ceiling. 
For the camera, one could use a nice tripod with boom arm and camera attachment. That’s what I used to have and, man, was it expensive and created a big foot print on the stage. Now, I have mic stand boom arm with a small attachment for the camera. All I need is a mic stand, which most venues have, and I attach my boom arm to it. It’s cheaper, lighter, and has much less of a foot print. And, I also have a small tripod for the pocket projector. This allows me to place the projector on the stage floor, and with a little tweak here and there, I can aim it at a screen or wall, keystone it, and I’m all set to go. You’ll have to search and price all this stuff online. But, total this can get close to $1000… or you could just buy a Zig-Zag… 
Side note: I don’t currently recommend using bluetooth from the camera to your projector or to your computer/projector set up. It’s not always consistent. And, there can be a delay that will make your “TA-DA” moment, a beat or two, off. Or, worse, it will make the audience think that they’re watching a video because your hands aren’t synced to the hands on the screen. 
In a dream world I’d still be using a good old fashion RCA yellow video jack plugged straight into a projector, because so far that’s been the most consistent video I’ve had with no perceivable delay. But, times change and I had to bring things up to the digital age.

 5. You’ve been using technology for years now. What do you wish you knew when you started that you know now? 

What do I wish I knew? Everything I just told you 😉 All of this has been school of hard knocks that I wish I knew before.

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