The glass trick
November 19, 2005 10:22 AM   Subscribe

The glass trick. (Note: includes embedded video. Soundtrack is mostly in Japanese but can be ignored.) I've been a magician for almost 40 years now and am up on the latest tech but I have very little idea of how the performer accomplishes what you see in this video.
posted by lupus_yonderboy (68 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If it's not streaming well, try a Save Link As on this:
posted by damehex at 10:31 AM on November 19, 2005

posted by scarabic at 10:32 AM on November 19, 2005

The first "transfer" seems to be a good example of palming: note how his right hand sits on his lap after and the attention is focused on his left hand. The rest of the tricks are so fantastic that it makes me question the entire spontaneity of the event, but it's still very impressive and made for a great 8 minutes.
posted by furtive at 10:39 AM on November 19, 2005

I don't think palming gets us all the way here, although palming accomplishes incredible things. I think Penn Gillette said once that Teller could palm a banana out of your hands unseen.

But, a lot of the magic is in not knowing how it is done, and not TRYING to know how it is done.

Truly entertaining. Thanks l_y/
posted by Ynoxas at 10:40 AM on November 19, 2005

Just saying "palming" doesn't quite get it. What about the salt shaker?

Even if the table is rigged, I have no idea how it's rigged.
posted by argybarg at 10:41 AM on November 19, 2005

Palming a false coin (one that folds in half) might work for the coin. But obviously it wouldn't work for the salt shaker, and it's questionable whether it would work for the trick as done by audience members.

As someone (I think on metafilter) pointed out, whenever you're confronted with an 'impossible' trick, you have to consider the obvious. In this case, either the items are not actually passing through the glass, or there is a hidden hole or split level in the glass.

As much as this clip would like us to believe that he just wandered into a random club to do the trick, I find that highly unlikely. For one thing, that's an awful well-lit place for a below-ground nightclub in Tokyo. My guess is a prepared set and prepared audience.

See this thread, particularly the entries by 'manbitesdog' for a good explanation.
posted by jedicus at 10:43 AM on November 19, 2005

(By 'good,' I'm not saying that that's the answer, just that it's plausible)
posted by jedicus at 10:45 AM on November 19, 2005

Well, of COURSE it's a trick.

But, magic is not about DOING impossible things, it is about SHOWING impossible things, and those are quite different.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:50 AM on November 19, 2005


Penn and Teller did a trick on TV where they disappeared a submarine from underwater. It wasn't that impressive but they made of a point of showing how it was done because a lot of TV magic is faked with camera tricks (or so Penn claimed). Maybe this was done with editing or CG.
posted by joegester at 11:04 AM on November 19, 2005

I am an amateur magician, but very amateur. I watched that Penn & Teller show, and I thought the scene showing how the sub vanished was itself CGI, and the actual trick is much simpler than their "solution".

As for the salt shaker, I have an idea of how it is done, and after I run it by my friend (who is a professional magician on the Vegas strip), I will email you, lupus.
posted by mischief at 11:12 AM on November 19, 2005

Does anyone know who the magician is? He was speaking in English at times. I'd like to know his story.
posted by geekhorde at 11:15 AM on November 19, 2005

I don't recognize this magician but he's clearly a skilled sleight-of-hand artist. These people do not use CG -- it would destroy your career if you were discovered.

There aren't any obvious cuts that could conceal mechanism in action. The beginnings and endings are cut off though. It seems very likely that he isn't wandering into a random restaurant, either.

That's all fair game as far as I'm concerned. Any of the people in the restaurant could be an actor -- that's fair game too.

(However, David Blaine is using random people off the street for the most part -- I even recognize two of them. Blaine is an obsessive freak -- he's my sort of guy, really -- and continuously shows his tricks to everyone around him. This is why he gets invited to the really good parties... Blaine's autobiography is an excellent read.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:17 AM on November 19, 2005

The whole point of magic is to entertain a real audience and no respected magician would simply fake an entire audience. So yes, the people in the background are the real audience he invited to watch him perform. The video is "staged" in that it's clearly an audience and set, but as for who are accomplices in on the act, it's only the people sitting at the table.

-educated guess but if right, a complete spolier, below-

The coin tricks are palming; That part's easy and uses assistants at the table. The real purpose of the two coin tricks are to establish expectations for the middle saltshaker trick that actually requires some technical trickery.

So, the saltshaker trick- It's actually a very cool variation of a basic trick you can get in most kids magic sets, where you push a pencil through two playing cards each covering one side of a glass pane. You'll notice the magician's left table side (the end of the table closest to the viewer) doesn't has a glass section like the right side does, and is covered by objects; this is to hide the fact that the table is A. not symmetrical, and B. that the middle panel slides to the left. The cigarettes and other objects are there to dispell that theory, but the way this visual was improved was that there are actually two panes. The top doesn't move but already has a hole; the poured salt covers up the thin line around the top glass layer that would reveal this. (If you are watching the first coin trick when they do a quick zoom on the coin you'll see the faint outline about two inches below the pack of cigarettes reflected by the camera lighting). When he places his hands over the pile he (or more likely an assistant at the end of the table) slides the lower glass panel to align a second hole move the shaker. Then it slides back as he puts the shaker down. He then quicky moves to a new trick at the other side of the table so no one tries to take a closer look. As everyone around the table is an assistant (including the one to his far left who, probably, did the glass sliding while everyone was starting at him) none of the actual audience members are close enough to see the thin remnants of the top-layer hole.

posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:18 AM on November 19, 2005

And, yes, watching the video a few times gives you a lot of ideas of how it might be done! But there are a half a dozen different mechanisms... I'm not sure I have all of them yet.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:19 AM on November 19, 2005

Very good, XQUZ etc... I was thinking along the same lines but assuming that the people right there were able to see what was going on and hadn't cottoned to the 'half-table' part. You explain the whole series of events very well and how he can fool most of the people in the room, too.

This darned Mac won't display the video that well, unfortunately -- I didn't see the poured salt at all.

If you like this sort of thing, check out Penguin Magic. I saw that trick "Spun" (on the front page) in a magic store about ten years ago and it blew my mind, check out the video. It's more convincing in person than in the video, even!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:28 AM on November 19, 2005

Looking at the video of "Spun" it just isn't as good as the trick itself... if you do it right you can spin the coin and have your hands nowhere near it, as in this video (about halfway through).
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:33 AM on November 19, 2005

Oh, and there's another mechanism for when the coin rises from her hand and then is suddenly separated from her hand by glass... but I guess now I've written it that way I've given away the game...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:35 AM on November 19, 2005

poster, thank you. that video is abolutely freakin awesome!
posted by freudianslipper at 11:36 AM on November 19, 2005

On the first coin trick, it's simple palming. He passes his hand over the coin before the trick begins. That swaps the coin with a fake, which is made with iron (or some ferrous metal).

The ring on his right hand is a magnet and later allows him to easilly pick up the fake coin, stash it away in his right hand, and then reveal the REAL coin in his other hand under the table. Notice when he does this trick, his hand is flat, but the ring comes down exactly on the coin.

On the second coin trick, it's the iron coin again, which he has inserted into the table structure (possibly before the event) that borders the glass all the way around. When the girls place their hands over top of one another, he uses his ring magnet to slide the coin out from the border, following the girl's arm who has her hand on the top. Obviously, the table has a double sheet of glass. There are some unfortunate edits in the film, so you can't see his every move.

The salt shaker trick is a stumper. But going back to the magnet theory. If he has some other stronger magnet palmed in his hand, he could hold the shaker in place through the glass of the table, allowing the girl to let go. The metal knob on the top of the shaker would be plenty of attraction.

The shaker could be pulled away from the camera, giving the illusion that it was pulled through. As something else - another shaker, palmed into his sleeve? A collapable copy? I don't know. Was "pulled" through the glass.

Notice the camera moves in tight at the exact moment the shaker finally leaves the underside of the table, and he also moves his arm around at that moment, seeming to cover some action under the glass. If you notice earlier in the shot, you can also see that the table is not glass to his left. It's solid. That would cover much of the view of the crowd watching him.

I'm thinking magnets, preparation of the scene (probably) and lots of masterful sleight of hand.
posted by JWright at 11:36 AM on November 19, 2005

I'm positive the helicopters-flying-submarine image was CGI and was *not at all* how they accomplished the trick.

My best guess is that they had buried bubblers under the sub and actually sank it. The outer wall of bubbles served to keep the sandstorm contained; the air rising through the sand beneath the sub would allow the sub to sink down into the sand; and when the inner bubblers turned off, the sand would resettle over top the sub.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:36 AM on November 19, 2005

I haven't read the spoliers yet, but I don't know how long I can hold out.

I noticed the English, too, and a little Googling showed that this guy is a Japanese-American called Cyril Takayama.
posted by maudlin at 11:44 AM on November 19, 2005

I'm pretty sure he's actually using black magic for fun and profit.

There is no other explanation.
posted by phylum sinter at 11:46 AM on November 19, 2005

This blog links to some more of his tricks.

Disappearing into a briefcase.

Card through window underwater.
posted by maudlin at 11:51 AM on November 19, 2005

More street magic here, including the coin through glass trick.

This guy feels like a less skeevy David Blaine.
posted by maudlin at 11:53 AM on November 19, 2005

Whoa how do you do the "spun" trick? Is it a trick coin?
posted by geoff. at 11:56 AM on November 19, 2005

As he drops the salt shaker back onto the table: is the fella in the bottom right hand corner Seal?
posted by 13twelve at 11:57 AM on November 19, 2005

If you wanna know how the Spun trick is done, buy it from Penguin Magic! (insert smileys to taste here...)

It'd take some time to learn but you could really freak your friends out when you did it IF you practiced until you get it right every time...

I don't know the whole trick anyway, it's got several parts. But it'd be a weird finish if you bent the audience member's coin -- and then kept it yourself!

"Thanks! Now, can I borrow a $20?"
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:20 PM on November 19, 2005

Well, of COURSE it's a trick.

posted by Krrrlson at 12:34 PM on November 19, 2005

I know some people think it's "not cool" to like David Blaine or whatever, but he is currently my favorite magician.

I don't care too much for the "frozen in a block of ice" and "standing on a flagpole" stuff. Where I think he excels is the close up random person-on-the-street magic.

My favorite is when he takes the person's wedding ring, and drops it down the sewer grate. Then, they "find" the ring in a beer bottle about 30 feet over in the alley.

I know there's accomplices and all that. But that doesn't take away from the sheer showmanship of it.

Also, my second favorite trick is where he just asks people to pick a card in their mind and he tells them what it is. He repeated this over and over in a crowd of people on the street. Could all of them have been actors? Maybe, but the people looked genuinely stupefied as to how he guessed their card every single time. My guess is that it is some sort of "suggestion"... by the way he instructs them to guess the card, it helps implant a card they will "see" in their head. But hell if I know.
posted by Ynoxas at 12:40 PM on November 19, 2005

Did anyone else notice a circular glare/ripple on the glass table top where the salt shaker came through around 5 1/2 minutes into the video? I saw another one on the other glass table where he had the girls set their hands for the last coin trick.
posted by idiotfactory at 12:43 PM on November 19, 2005

fff: Good catch on the helicopter CGI, however:
the air rising through the sand beneath the sub would allow the sub to sink down into the sand
Too complex (and I think you know that ;-) and my solution is far, far easier to accomplish.

A hint: misdirection, but one of the patter variety, iow an outright lie, in fact, just ONE fairly tiny outright lie. They don't do one small thing that they say they will do, and yes, it can be done with innocent divers armed with video cameras and who don't know the trick. And, no video trickery either.
posted by mischief at 12:55 PM on November 19, 2005

Oh, boy, the card through the window underwater is TOTALLY cool -- so's the disappearance into the briefcase!

He rockets into my top 10 with a bullet!

Here's another couple of dozen cool tricks.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:59 PM on November 19, 2005

The first trick with the coin was fairly basic but well-executed sleight. Just saying "palming" isn't enough. I also suspect a switch for a magnetic coin, too, and I see where he could do that. Useful for holding in place once it's under the glass... oh look! Guy has a ring...

The salt shaker thing was very cool. I suspect XQU has the right general idea although I'd worry about the hole being in the top layer. Very risky that. I'm going to watch this some more and think about it. I think there must be a little more to it.

The final trick reminds me of a much older one where you make a coin appear in someone's tightly clenched fist. That relies on the fact that a coin pressed into someone's palm will feel like you're simply pressing with your fingers if you do it right.
posted by Decani at 1:00 PM on November 19, 2005

I blame Bush! ;-)
posted by Balisong at 1:05 PM on November 19, 2005

idiotfactory, I did and couldn't figure out how that played into it. Video artifact? I'll have to watch again.
posted by moonbird at 1:40 PM on November 19, 2005

I wonder if it makes him nervous, working with all those Dark Forces.

Anyway, you guys should be careful revealing all these secrets. You don't want the Alliance of Magicians coming after you.
posted by papakwanz at 1:47 PM on November 19, 2005

Wow... does conversational Japanese really have this much English in it? They don't use their own words for "what's your name" and "salt"??!

I think I understand why the Japanese are so in love with Britain now - it speaks the English language without the emotional baggage of having nuked them.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 1:56 PM on November 19, 2005

Its a ray trace! The WHOLE THING is a ray trace! That's how they get away with it!
posted by jmccorm at 1:57 PM on November 19, 2005

"You don't want the Alliance of Magicians coming after you."

Penn & Teller gave away the secrets to a slew of tricks in their special. In a way I am glad, because these illusions are fairly old core by now, and this forces new magicians to come up with new solutions.
posted by mischief at 1:59 PM on November 19, 2005

After all, by now everyone knows how to pull multiple fish and loaves of bread out of a basket.
posted by mischief at 1:59 PM on November 19, 2005

I'm not sure what the magician's name is (Cyril?), but I've seen him on that show before. He did a taped show from Las Vegas, and it was similar: a lot of close up work in a crowd. The show had another guy come on and do some really neat close up card tricks, too. Personally, I love how we watch the trick, and we see and hear the reaction of the studio panel watching the trick. Metawatching?

As for the club, it's actually a restaurant/bar, and parts of it are pretty lit. There is also a camera crew, and I'm sure they brought lights as well. I've actually eaten there before; I sat at one of the side tables, though (the tables that were shown at the beginning of the restaurant scene).

Now, the salt shaker trick. I think it is actually a salt mill, and the metallic end is covered in the crystal thing. Even if the magnet was strong enough to hold it against the table, the other end of the mill would be dangling, and not at an angle to the glass. My thinking is that it is not a magnet thing. For the embedded coin, I'm assuming the cut is for a commercial break, and he did remove the coin. I'll have to go back to the restaurant and see if there's a table with a coin in it :)

Very neat tricks, though. My current favourite magician trick is Criss Angel and the Mindfreak show. I have his levitation episode stashed away on my Tivo...
posted by WL at 2:16 PM on November 19, 2005

I saw on (Japanese) TV last week the same kind of trick done by a Japanese magician (I forgot his name, but I want to say it was "hiro"). He reached his hand through a car door and pulled out keys that had been locked inside. It kinda blew my mind. He also managed to produce gasoline inside an empty container and refuel a car that had run out of gas.
posted by armage at 4:00 PM on November 19, 2005

There're all kinds of "foreign" words in Japanese, but after you've rendered them into katakana, they don't sound like "salt" or "watch". Someone noted above that he's Japanese-American, and he definitely sounds like it compared to the native speakers (I'm guessing he learned English first)--that would explain the fall-back to English for extemporaneous, one-word commands.

Thanks for the video, this was sweet...
posted by hototogisu at 4:18 PM on November 19, 2005

To my eye there appears to be some editing 'magic' going on as well...I detected a very subtle frame shift or 'cut' (almost seamless to the untrained eye) just as the salt mill is about to complete the second portion of its three stage transition through the table...a sort of stop motion animation in disguise if you will....I suspect expert sleight of hand in the coin portion and rather blatant video manipulation in the second portion...the slick editing, multiple camera angles etc are a give away of pretty slick production skills...I suspect it's a self promotion video...planned with story boards, scripts and shills...doesn't have the feeling or naturelness of an impromptu or candid event...those magicians... always trying to trick you....
posted by Muirwylde at 4:36 PM on November 19, 2005

posted by enamon at 5:06 PM on November 19, 2005

Nah, Muirwylde, if you look at all the two dozen videos that this guy has done, you can see that he does this all the time... I don't think there is any trick editing going on here, though I can imagine there's some setup and cleanup we just don't see.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:22 PM on November 19, 2005

Penn & Teller gave away the secrets to a slew of tricks in their special.

The one mindblowing demonstration of the true skills of magicians is Penn and Teller doing the cup-and-ball gag. They start by telling you the important things you must not do if you want the trick to work, and the last thing they tell you is that you must *not* use clear plastic cups.

They then run the gag -- with clear plastic cups. The trick is a combination of Penn's amazing patter and distract skills, and Teller's nigh on unearthly ability at manipulation. It works exactly like the cup and ball trick is supposed to, except you can see everything -- and you still understand nothing about how the trick is done -- esp. when the baseball shows up.

Anyone contemplating close-up magic needs to watch that and understand the true message behind that trick.
posted by eriko at 6:38 PM on November 19, 2005

I'm not a magician, but Hiding the Elephant was undoubtedly one of my favourite books of last year.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:40 PM on November 19, 2005

i think its very 'torendii' to use english in japan, so perhaps the random interjection of english (in a solid american accent, no less) lends him an air of coolness to his japanese audience.
posted by joeblough at 6:42 PM on November 19, 2005

I saw this on TV in Japan over the summer. His Japanese is slightly stilted, and it's obvious he's just speaking English words for effect, just to be cool and trendy. English is probably his first language and you can tell (if you're Japanese) that he's mixed-race. Most Japanese people can understand simple English phrases (they learn them in school), so he's just using that.
posted by aerify at 6:43 PM on November 19, 2005

I think everyone is tiptoeing around the obvious answer.

He sold his soul to Akuma.
posted by thanatogenous at 6:46 PM on November 19, 2005

Ynoxas is "not cool" for liking David Blaine. . . thats all i have. oh and cool video.
posted by nola at 7:18 PM on November 19, 2005

lupus_yonderboy, years ago a guy in a magic shop in San Francisco pulled that Spun trick on me and blew my mind. Never knew what it was "officially" called. Thanks for both the interesting post and the Spun info. Much appreciated.
posted by shoepal at 7:51 PM on November 19, 2005

Is this where I sulk about no one reading my posts or my links? Cause I can do that real well, you know.

(Yes, his name is Cyril, he's mixed race, and he grew up in California, thus the surfer-boy Japanese accent.)

*leaves to eat worms*
posted by maudlin at 8:36 PM on November 19, 2005


(nice, enamon...nice.)
posted by sdrawkcab at 9:42 PM on November 19, 2005

Alright you "God Warriors" settle down.
posted by Megafly at 10:44 PM on November 19, 2005

Great link -- and props to XQUZYPHYR for a working theory.
posted by cribcage at 11:26 PM on November 19, 2005

The hamburger trick is the one that originally blew me away... And here's the standard levitation bit.
posted by hypersloth at 3:17 AM on November 20, 2005

Standard levitation bit?

Except that its outside, with no backdrop, and in full sunshine.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 6:38 AM on November 20, 2005

Muirwylde, magicians of this close-up, table-hopping variety simply cannot get away with using camera tricks. Their whole act is about being able to pull great stunts right under the noses of regular folk in a bar or cabaret or restaurant. Whatever method this guy used to do the salt grinder trick you can be sure it wasn't a crass camera stunt.

Anyone who's ever studied magic at least semi-seriously knows that there are many illusions of a similarly jaw-dropping nature which can be achieved via cunning combinations of sleight, gaffed equipment and that oh-so-crucial skill of timely misdirection. A good close-up magician will genuinely seem to do something impossible right in front of you.
posted by Decani at 7:12 AM on November 20, 2005

On the English-words issue, Matt of the excellent No-sword blog (life in Japan, with much language-oriented commentary, which is why he's on my blogroll) has this to say (the "closer" refers to hototogisu's comment):
Closer, but still wrong. He's not "falling back" on anything; his Japanese is clearly at a level where he knows the words for "watch" and "salt". Come on, folks, he's a magician! Every part of his act, including his patter, is carefully pre-planned and kept under control.

The real reason he uses English at the times he does is to establish and maintain a slightly exotic, mysterious image -- only slightly, because everyone can understand "What's your name?", so he never becomes so exotic that people pull away -- and also, of course, to distract the audience with one more thing to think about.

Apparently, he's so good at this that he can even lead people who don't speak the main language of his act into misinterpreting what's going on.
posted by languagehat at 7:20 AM on November 20, 2005

Here he is again. Strange card trick.
posted by piscatorius at 9:18 AM on November 20, 2005

Oops! thanks, Maudlin, I'm looking at his site right now!!!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:37 AM on November 20, 2005

The strange card trick is excellent, too. I'm most impressed.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:42 AM on November 20, 2005

Holy moly.

Of course the possibility of it being enhanced through camera trickery or a prepared audience reduces the "magic."

Is David Blaine suspected of the same thing? I find his street magic stuff incredible, but am always questioning the legitimacy of his participants.
posted by samreich at 12:25 PM on November 20, 2005

dunno how good this is, but

David Blaine's Magic Revealed (pdf)
posted by mr.marx at 1:55 PM on November 20, 2005

Quick Question: Why doesn't anyone mention the third trick where the coing ends up INSIDE the glass?
posted by countzen at 4:36 PM on November 20, 2005

Quick Question: Why doesn't anyone mention the third trick where the coing ends up INSIDE the glass?

'cos we all know that one. :-)
posted by Decani at 10:00 PM on November 22, 2005

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