Tech for Magicians
Conjurer's Coffee Break - Episode 024
- Hello, and welcome back. I recently updated my tech equipment and I so I wanted to make a quick episode to talk about some of the choices I made. I have also made a blogpost to go along with that, and of course, I will link to that in the notes that goes along with this episode.
- Of course, this is an episode mainly focused on stage magic, so it a good follow on from last week. It's a type of magic that I am very interested in, but if you only do close up walkaround magic, then you might not need much or any tech of your own. I would recommend sticking around to listen to this episode though as there may come a time when you are asked to provide a larger performance.
- First off it's worth saying that I think having an understanding of the technical requirements of putting on a show is important even if you're going to be asking the client to provide all of the equipment. I guess that is obvious as you need to ask for the right stuff, and also know if the wrong equipment is provided, and how you'll adjust if that is the case.
- It's also worth saying upfront that only you will know what you need for your show, but hopefully this episode helps you to start thinking about that.
- I'm going to talk very briefly about three aspects of tech, and those are microphones, speakers and amps.
- Let's jump straight into it.
- There are three main types of microphones, handheld which you obviously hold, a headset which is worn over the ear, they can be black and bulky like a fitness instructor or discrete like someone in the theatre, and a lavalier or lapel microphone, which you pin to your clothing and as such is very discrete.
- Obviously, you need to have your hands free to perform your tricks, so a headset is the best option in my opinion. My recommendation would be to get a discrete headset, plus a handheld as a back up. I often have this placed just off stage, in case I need to grab it mid show.
- Of course, it's important that you practice working your routines with a handheld microphone. You don't want your first time doing them like that to be in front of an important client. Be prepared. It's also a great idea as handhelds are cheap, can be run wired or wireless, they are super quick to set up, and they are very common. Many venues have one.
- However, while I've found lots of venues have a handheld microphone, but they must be used for people giving speeches or presentations, because they often don't have mic stands! So my top microphone tip alongside knowing how you will adjust your routines for performance behind a handheld mic, is get your own mic stand. They are £10 / $10, and you can just keep them in your car all the time.
- Lavalier microphones are great but there is a difference between the ones used for audio capture and the ones designed for live performance. The live performance ones are very expensive. If you're interested in something like this then check out DPA Microphones.
- Ok, next let's talk about speakers and amplifiers. These are split into active or passive, which are also known as powered and unpowered. My recommendation if you are going to be taking your equipment to a venue, such as for a children's or family magic show is to get an active aka. a powered speaker. I'll tell you why.
- Well a passive speaker needs a separate amplifier, which is great for upgrading - it means you can just change the amp later, plus it means you can customise a specific set up, but it also means you have multiple things to carry. If you own or a using a static venue, then maybe you want to look at a separate system with multiple passive speakers, a mixing desk and a separate amp, but for my use, and I guess the use of the majority of magicians, an all in one active speaker and PA system is the best choice.
- From there you can look at the portable line array systems, which many magicians like, the BOSE L1 seems to be a popular choice. However I prefer a more traditional two top, or point source speaker. As I understand it, and I will link to some videos for more information in the blog post for this episode, but a line array gives a very focussed sound in one area, whereas a two top sprays the sound around. I went for the two top, as it's smaller, lighter and it's quicker to set up. I just place it down and it's ready to go. Also, at the end of the day, I don't need to fill a huge stadium.
- That's actually one of the most important things to consider when choosing your equipment - what do you need it for? I like to have a system that can play for up to 100 people inside.
- If it's slightly more than that, I would mount the speaker on a stand in order to throw the sound a bit further, but if it's much more than that then the client really should be providing the PA system.
- I went for an Electrovoice Everse 8, which also has the benefit of being battery powered, so that I don't have to be near a wall in order to use it. That's another factor that speeds up the set up and pack down.
- I also have a small consumer bluetooth speaker. I think it's made by Anker. It's about the size of a pencil case. I use that for very small parties at people's homes, like a family party or a parlour show where I want to play some music for a trick.
- Again, think through what you will use the tech for. Sound wise, yes, it's fun to have a huge sound system that can blow people's heads off, but is it needed? OK, and also in terms of it's portability, set up, toughness - will you be slinging it in the car? That's no good if it's a delicate thing designed to be used in one location and never moved? Do you want to play music via bluetooth? How many input channels will you need, etc?
- As one of my mentors often said, it's not the answers that are difficult, but asking the right questions? So ask the right questions to store staff, on forums and to other professionals before purchasing.
- These are often one of the largest purchases we make in our business, so it's important to get it right.
- As mentioned, there's also a blog post that talks about this in a bit more detail, plus information on wired vs wireless systems, cables, staging and lighting. I'll link to that in the notes for this episode and as ever you can find all the episodes at edsumner.com/magicians
- Thanks for listening, don't forget to subscribe and share, and come back next week for another episode.
- I'll see you then.
Additional Show Notes
- As mentioned there is a blog post that goes into more detail. You can find that here: Tech For Magicians
- Another thing I wanted to mention was Bluetooth Interference. There are a lot of Bluetooth products on the market these days and it is certainly a fantastic technology, however for high level professional shows you will find that they still use UHF radio waves. That's because Bluetooth becomes less reliable when there are lots of connections within the vicinity. Imagine that you have a Bluetooth microphone, music player, speakers, a magic thing, plus numerous people in the audience with Bluetooth on too! Now, it might be OK for smaller shows, and for the majority of magicians, performing in homes and private venues, that's fine, but it's worth reading up about. Here's just one article to get started with: https://techfeatured.com/14856/bluetooth-interference-what-is-it-and-how-do-i-fix-it
- Finally, I mentioned asking your advice to a tech expert. I have found the staff at Thomann to be very knowledgeable and quick to respond. https://www.thomann.de/gb/equipment_for_pa.html
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