Summary: Four amazing DVDs from one of the best card technicians in magic
Magic on Tap is a set of four DVD length videos, in which we get to watch German magician Denis Behr perform an entire show more than an hour long, then enjoy him explain these routines carefully with another three hours of instruction, and finally spend another hour with him in a beer hall where he performs and teaches even more effects. It's brilliant stuff, and an opportunity to see one of the finest magicians in action.
Denis Behr is a gifted magician, and has been widely applauded for his remarkable technical skill with cards. But he's not only extremely talented as a performer, but also as clever thinker. He's already produced two small books (Handcrafted Card Magic Vol 1 & 2), but Magic on Tap is easily his most impressive work yet, and is a series of four videos available as a DVD or as a digital download.
WHAT YOU GET
You get more than five hours of material here, so naturally this isn't cheap, nor should it be given the amount and the quality of what you get. You can choose to get this either as four DVDs, or as instant digital downloads in four sets of videos. I opted to go with the digital download, and found myself with almost 8GB of videos, as well as a carefully organized PDF document listing all the effects and the exact time on each video where each can be found.
There are four videos in all:
- The first video is an hour long performance featuring 11 tricks, performed in a live theatre show.
- The second and third videos are teaching sections that contain explanations of how to do most of the tricks shown in the performance.
- The fourth video shows performances and explanations of another five tricks to four spectators in a beer hall, plus another performance of three of the tricks already seen in the theatre show performance.
The video footage is outstanding. The video can be downloaded in normal resolution or high resolution, so I opted for the larger size files for optimal quality, which looked outstanding on my wide-screen monitor. Unlike large scale stage magic, close-up magic can be more difficult to film well, but the filming is of the highest calibre, with cameras showing different angles, and the best possible views of the performance and teaching, with close-ups when necessary.
The lighting is also excellent, with the performer clearly and well lit, while the audience melts into the background under appropriately more dim lighting. Interestingly Denis has chosen a somewhat unorthodox deck for most of his performances: a green Bicycle rider-back, although it looks fine against the blue table backdrop. The audience is well-dressed, polite, and provides regular and polite applause at regular intervals, which at times becomes very loud applause at the often stunning finales of his routines. The sound is clear, so that everything Denis has to say comes across very clearly.
Denis Behr is the real deal. In his book Designing Miracles, Darwin Ortiz points out that several elements are necessary to produce strong magic, including good design, good technique, and good presentation. Denis is tremendously skilled in all these areas. He also has a charming persona, and I especially appreciate how he gives good and unusual motivations for his abilities - e.g. it's pure physics that causes heavier cards to descend to the bottom, or it's a result of a clear memory from drinking beer; or it's because he is the "inventor" of a game that he has an advantage and so can't lose; or it's because he's studied how poker cheats operate; or it is pure "luck". As a result he comes across humble rather than arrogant, and you feel entertained rather than fooled. Rather than feeling like a frustrating puzzle, the presentation feels like genuine magic. People new to the craft of magic, and even some old hands, would do well to learn from Denis in this regard.
While Denis is German, and speaks with a noticeable accent, this never becomes a barrier - he speaks clearly and confidently, and is easy to understand, and he has a genuinely pleasant and warm manner that comes across as a true gentleman. I also really appreciate the variety in techniques he uses, for example, when losing a card in the deck, Denis doesn't resort to the same handling every time (which could otherwise draw attention to itself, or give away the method). But more importantly, his skills with cards are amazing, and it's a real pleasure to see a skilled card-man like him at work.
There's a lot of material here, and the teaching material alone includes 16 full routines. Note that two of 11 effects from the theatre performance video aren't taught in the explanation videos (Photographic Memory and the wonderful encore Stop It). However the teaching section does have a bonus effect called Messy, which is a stunning Triumph style routine, and there are 5 more effects taught in the beer hall video. Herbert The Trained Rubber Band is easily one of the highlights, as is the beautiful Oil & Water routine.
Each of the tricks has its own development and build-up, and is easily the kind of thing that working pros could fit into a professional show. They are all strong routines, that are well constructed, typically consisting of several phases, each more impossible than the last. They are a fine example of the principles underlying good magic construction, and illustrate what well designed magic effects should look like. They're also very strong, and the audience's reactions speak for themselves. I also appreciate the variety in effects, and there's different kinds of presentational ideas that Denis uses, which means that most performers should find something here that will suit their style.
This is not material that the beginner magician will be able to learn and perform, and many of the tricks do require very good card skills, including some use of memorized decks, and consistent faro shuffles. But that doesn't mean that this material isn't of any benefit to those who aren't yet at an advanced level with cards.
First of all, there's the sheer pleasure of watching a skilled performer at the top of his game, performing some true miracles with cards. Secondly, there are many presentational ideas that can be applied to all kinds of other tricks, and there are many valuable lessons in showmanship that can be absorbed by watching Denis perform. Thirdly, these tricks are wonderful models of good magic design, in how the phases of a routine are well connected and build up. And finally, you might just find a few tricks that you will challenge yourself to learn, although advanced magicians are the ones most likely to be able to bring some of these routines into their own repertoire.
I have no complaints here at all, although Denis does go through the material fairly quickly. Denis is a clear thinker, and it shows in how he teaches and explains his material. He also is careful to discuss the source of his ideas, and often produces the original books as part of his explanations. He makes the fair assumption that students of his video already have mastered the fundamentals of card handling, and focuses on the details of his handling and performance. Also very helpful is the attention he gives to resetting the deck at the end of many routines, making it possible to seamlessly move to a new effect that relies on a similar stack or memorized deck.
Strong magic is a combination of different elements, including good design, good technical skills, and good showmanship. Denis really excels in all aspects of the craft of magic, and it's a real pleasure to watch him at work given his expert technical skills with cards, which is accompanied with engaging patter and many moments of warm humour.
Every magician can learn something from this high quality set of videos, which feature a high class performer, and high class videography that matches the high calibre of the material we see performed and taught. Much can be gained by learning from the best, and after spending several hours with Denis Behr with the help of Magic on Tap, there's no doubt that he really is one of the best. - BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame