SUMMARY: Combining card magic with Instagram
Florida magician Josh Janousky knows how to make the most of modern technology and social media to advance the cause of magic. He posts a lot of quick videos on his Instagram account.
With his routine IG, presented by The Vault with Bro Gilbert, and available as a digital download, Josh shares an incredible and contemporary prediction effect that uses a spectator's phone and their own Instagram app. It's a prediction effect where you use Instagram to predict your spectator's name, a chosen playing card, and any other specific detail or information unique to your spectator on their instagram account. Josh himself uses it as a closer as all his professional gigs
The basic concept of IG is very straight forward: the spectator chooses a card from a shuffled deck. They then open their Instagram app on their phone, and see the magician's Instagram post, which was posted weeks or months earlier, and yet not only predicts their chosen card, but also includes their name and a description of what they're wearing. To add to the sense of this being truly impossible, no special apps are used, and the final revelation uses the spectator's own phone, and their own Instagram app. The Kicker of course is that all this was posted weeks or months in advance - a truly impossible prediction.
What you get for around $10 is an instant digital download of the video, which demonstrates and teaches the routine, with Josh Janousky explaining the effect. You can play the video via streaming, or download it in *.mp4 format to view on your computer with any video program. The entire video is just over 10 minutes long, and the downloaded file is about 100MB in total size.
The main explanation features Josh sitting in a chair explaining how to do the effect, but the camera work includes close-ups where necessary, including of the phone, Instagram account, and the cards. It's a good quality production that is clear and makes for pleasant viewing.
The video includes a complete live performance for a group of spectators (different than the one shown in the trailer), which lasts around two minutes. The remaining eight minutes of the video is neatly divided into different sections of about a minute or two minutes each, covering topics like the set-up, getting the required information, basic handling, advanced method, history, and tips.
Josh does a good job of explaining the effect, which admittedly is quite straight forward. He also acknowledges another magician friend (I'm not sure I have his name right, but it sounded like Bo Kramer) who was working on the same effect independently, and from whom he got some ideas.
He covers all the things necessary to perform the effect, including some preparation you'll need to do in advance, various ideas about how to get the information necessary for making your prediction, and a couple of different possibilities for making the reveal, with different ways of structuring the final phase of the routine. I especially appreciated the closing tips where he gives some good advice and ideas about getting spectators to share a picture on their own Instagram account, and ways to use this to build your own presence on social media.
This is a relatively straight forward trick that is quite easy to perform. Even the initial phase of the tricks, in which the spectator selects a card, doesn't require difficult sleights - although you can make this as difficult or as easy as you like, and there are a number of different ways to accomplish what you need to do, most of which will be very familiar to any intermediate magician. But Josh does demonstrate a technique that even a complete beginner can master with very little practice.
The second phase of the trick, in which the Instagram revelation is accomplished, requires some set-up and preparation ahead of the performance, but all of this is also quite straight forward. On a difficulty scale, this is definitely in the "Easy" category. I was somewhat surprised and especially glad to learn that the effect doesn't use any special apps or websites, which adds to its credibility and impact - it simply uses the actual Instagram app on the spectator's phone. In most cases you'll want to do the work before performing, although Josh does also cover ways to set things up on the fly if you're using your phone as part of a larger performance.
The magic behind the effect is relatively easy, and there aren't any big surprises there; many magicians may be able to figure it out fairly easy, and the method is mostly what I'd expected. Even so, layman can be blown away by it, and that's what magic is really all about: entertaining. Furthermore, the real value of the instructional video is how Josh explains various nuances and subtleties that can strengthen the effect and make it work. He also discusses one way to deal with the fact that your Instagram feed has a playing card photo in it, which would normally make your followers the most likely ones to figure out one phase of the routine if they look at this closely in the future, and how to use hashtags to endear yourself to the people paying your bills, and to speed up finding the image on Instagram.
I love the concept of this trick. It takes what is good about close-up magic, and takes the involvement of a spectator to a new level by harnessing the possibilities given with technology. Not only can this help with building your presence and brand on social media, but it's entertaining, mystifying and fun. It is a very modern card trick revelation effect that will especially speak to the younger generation, although given the growing popularity of Instagram, I don't imagine that the method will be a barrier to any age. One thing you do need to be sure of is that some of your spectators have their phones with them, and that at least one of them has an Instagram account, otherwise you can't perform the trick. But nowadays almost everyone has a smartphone in their pocket, and Instagram is one of the most popular forms of social media, so this is rarely going to be an issue.
The simplicity of the trick is also fantastic. No special apps are required, and you don't need any stooges or assistance, nor do you ever touch the spectator's phone at any point, nor will you need to do pre-show work to uncover secrets about your spectators in advance - there are ways to do it on the fly. And you will also need your own phone and Instagram account, and posting a picture ahead of the performance will be necessary. But aside from that, everything takes place as you see it - with a deck of cards, and with the spectator's Instagram app on their phone. While the method is fairly simple, the real value of this digital download lies in the tips that Josh gives about various aspects to make this work well.
People interested in growing their social media presence will especially appreciate what this piece of magic has to offer. One limitation it does have, however, is that it can't really be performed for people who are already following your Instagram - your prediction will have come up in their feed earlier - so it's best performed for people you haven't met before. For most working magicians, however, this won't be much of an issue, and there are ways of overcoming the fact that you have an apparently random image of a playing card in your Instagram feed.
There's also quite the potential to customize this to suit your own style, because you can reveal any details that you like, such as playing cards, clothing, or even events that may have happened earlier in previous routines or in a social setting. Best of all, the prediction is in an Instagram post which very definitely was posted weeks or months in advance. Another strength of the effect is that all your spectators can look up the result on their own phones as well - so you don't need to have everyone hunkering over a single phone to see the result, but they can all view your prediction at the same time.
While not a difficult trick, Josh Janousky's IG is modern, fresh, and fun. There is a small risk that clever spectators will figure out parts of the routine, but at best they will only be able to figure out one phase of the effect, so if you do the whole routine flawlessly, they will still be baffled. After all, the prediction made includes more variables than they can completely explain, because in addition to details like names and clothes, there's also a randomly selected card that they have to account for. When asked about how often people do figure out how the effect is done, Josh himself had this to say :
"I perform at a restaurant right next to one of the biggest universities in the US, so 99.9% of my audience are college students who use Instagram all the time. This has been tested literally over 1000 times in the real world. On the download I cover ways to cancel out potential methods they may consider, including the one I'm assuming you're referring to. I still get people who come back to the restaurant who talk about this to me, saying that they still can't figure out how I did it." Bro Gilbert also added this comment: "I keep getting great feedback with this effect and while obvious to us now that we know the secret I have yet to have anyone figure it out!" That's the kind of reassurance most of us like to hear!
I like the fact that Josh is using social media in a positive and fun way, and even though this video is relatively short, it will leave you eager to give this effect a whirl.
- BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame