Virtual Magician Meets Social Distancing

When COVID-19 hit, the in-person events I was so used to disappeared, seemingly overnight. I took the time off to consider how to perform in a virtual setting. Everything I do is interactive, so transitioning to a virtual platform was tricky. In chatting with other magicians in San Diego, Houston, and New York, we developed new techniques to achieve some of the effects we previously thought could only be achieved live. Constraints breed innovation. And, if I’m being honest, there are things you can do virtually that you simply can’t do live. The challenge with virtual entertainment is largely on the production side and the maintenance of a high quality experience for viewers, so it makes sense that meeting planners and event producers have started to create virtual events produced using production studio quality technology.

Essentially the event speakers/entertainers meet, socially distanced, in a large space with very few people, to film their footage on high quality cameras with professional lighting, editors, etc. I did this as early in the pandemic as June. We met in Union Station in Los Angeles (tons of space, great pre-existing design backdrop). The crew involved only three people, but they were able to create a thoroughly professional setup and maintain stylistic consistency across all the presenters.

I have another event coming up in San Diego in which I’ll be performing a socially distanced show for only 4 guests with 200 guests watching virtually. I’ll then interact with the virtual guests throughout the show, performing half of the effects for them and half of the effects for the in-person attendees. I think there’s a good chance this setup will become a norm for the foreseeable future. Being in a professional studio with a professional AV team, we will be able to create a viewing experience for those sitting at home that feels more like a real show. The in-person dynamic of a theater show that is most lacking when you see a virtual magician or other entertainer is the sense of being in an audience. To recreate that experience, viewers need to be able to see the performer and key spectator in large format *while* also seeing many of the audience members. So far, this isn’t a native function on virtual platforms.

It may sound like an oxymoron, but the socially distanced virtual shows may be the best alternative to live, in-person events.