"The Ribbon": Eric's Chien's masterpiece close-up magic set

I just ran across this 6-minute wordless magic set, “The Ribbon.” It’s lovely, and tells a story about a guy finding a magic ribbon.

I have some ideas about what’s going on here, and would be interested in a spoiler-filled conversation. For example, it looks to me like he’s got some sort of device in his right hand that he’s using to disappear cards. But I also have no real idea what I’m talking about at all.

What do y’all see going on in this set?

Link to the actual video, so you don’t have to go through all of Gizmodo’s contentless clutter.

I’m not a magician, and I can’t come close to figuring out all of it, but I can say a few things:

First, whenever he does “the same trick” repeatedly, don’t assume that it’s always the same method. It’s common for magicians to use multiple techniques to produce the same effect. That way, the audience will say “Well, it can’t have been method A, because the first time, X happened, and it can’t be method B, because the second time, Y happened”, when it was actually method B the first time and method A the second time.

Second, whenever his hands go out of sight, even for a moment (like when he’s lifting up the bottom end of the ribbon), there’s a reason for that. It’s safe to assume that at every one of those times, he’s either palming something, getting rid of something he’d previously palmed, or (more likely) both.

Third, there’s a reason why the tabletop is matte black cloth. There’s an edge there, to slide things underneath one side of the surface.

Fifth, don’t make assumptions about when things happen. If he shows the back of a card, and it’s red, then flips it face-up, then flips it back again and now the back is blue, the swap could have happened at any time in between the two times we saw the back. If it’s even a swap: Maybe, for instance, he has a card with two faces, and another card with two backs, so when he holds them together to look like one card, they can look like different cards.

Clearly, it’s magic. Like, legit magic. The guy is magic.

That’s a stellar routine. There are a few times where I could see his hands drop under the table to drop some cards he’d palmed, but the execution was flawless. The vest, the cut card, the appearing/disappearing boxes - all excellent. I loved it - thanks for sharing.

Part of what I love is how well he sells the routine. His double-takes and his expressions of astonished glee are so infectious. I teach my students in magic club that their trick needs to tell a plausible, impossible story; and without words, this guy establishes an entirely new, comprehensible physics involving the ribbon.

His technical skills are great, but it’s so well devised (written? choreographed?) and acted that it really feels magical, in the best possible way.

Oh, right, the technical skills. A lot of it probably is just as simple as “he’s palming things”. But “simple” doesn’t mean the same thing as “easy”, and he’s just really, really good at it.

I saw it the other day and loved it.

They only hold this competition every three years, so you can imagine the amount of competition that builds up in that time. He did a lot of great tricks and mastered his presentation so well.

“Steal” and “ditch”, if Penn & Teller are to be believed. Which they aren’t. Ever.

The table itself is a gimmick, I think. The first bit, where he makes the rectangles appear: are they springloaded ribbons flipping up from the table? Looking in the middle of each rectangle, I think I see a seam.

Also, there’s a spot under the ribbon that may also be gimmicked: when he passes his arm over the coins and cards appear there, it’s precisely the same spot that he does several other tricks. I’m wondering what sort of table gimmick could enable these tricks.

Even at 1/4 speed, some of what he does is impossible to see. I can definitely see him dealing off the bottom of the deck for the blue cards, but most of the rest of it is just seamless.

He’s a witch!

There’s a type of fine cloth that is semitransparent. When lit from “our” side it looks opaque. When lit from a different angle, you see through it to what’s lit.

Take the rectangles magically appearing on the cloth. They are under the cloth but not lit up. Turn on the hidden lights and presto they appear.

The changing colors of the vest are similar. Black semitransparent over red/blue translucent over a diffuser over internal lights. Looks black, turn on the lights the colors appear.

Take the trick with the partially vanishing card under the ribbon. Palm the cut segment of the card. Pick up the whole card. Appear to put that card down (more on this latter) but it actually disappears. Turn on the light for the card under the cloth. You think that’s the card that was put down. It’s a new card. Put the cut card down on top of it. Move the ribbon. As the ribbon moves, move a more solid piece of cloth over the card. Turn off the light on the undercard. Pick up the cut card.

There are no doubt several cuts in the cloth, extra pieces of darker cloth, etc. so you can slide cards and such out of sight under them. He uses the traditional slide-off-the-edge-of-the-table bit a lot, but these other methods are also used.

Similar to ftg’s response…I work with many thin films like polarized films, diffraction films, etc. I imagine there are countless ways that you could do surface color changes of the cards or tables with combinations of lights and moving films. For example, by sliding a film on the back of a playing card slightly, or holding it at a certain angle, it could easily change from blue to red.

Awesome, y’all! I certainly know about palming and ditching bottom-dealing and momentary sticking hands under the table and all that, and I know he was using a lot of that; but a lot of what he was doing is obviously more than just palming and ditching. When he disappears the cards he deals, there’s no way he’s just palming ordinary cards over an ordinary table, which is part of why the trick is so amazing.

The idea of different films or cloth makes a lot of sense.

I’ve watched it a few times now on a huge screen, and can definitely see a small rectangular spot near the center of the table where he positions cards and coins several times before making them appear/disappear/transform. If that rectangle is a cloth or film, that’d make a lot of sense, especially if it’s over a hole in the table where he can load/unload materials.

Taken some more time to review it.

Note that several things just “happen” between frames. Jogging back and forth just shows nothing and them something with no in between movement.

Man, does this guy deal off the bottom of the deck a lot. Plus the sliding things off the edge of the table. I think most of the coins being slid into the box are dropping off the table instead. Almost all the coins shown in the box latter are fake and therefore easier to disappear.

There’s so much stuff being pushed into or out of slots in the cloth, I wonder if there is a confederate underneath setting things up.

There’s one main spotlight that seems to be the key to hiding things until the right time. Note how when he moves the ribbon across the card in either direction he’s blocking the spotlight with his hand.

One thing that’s stumping me: Starting at 4:54 he puts a coin on the left square. He doesn’t go near it the rest of the act until he reaches towards both squares (5:42). They all disappear. The squares are just light tricks. The coin? Is he sliding it under the cloth when he puts it down and it “disappears” when the light for the squares is shut off? I don’t see a move for that.

Maybe he is disappearing the coin in his hand and when he presses down on the coin that’s a newly lit up coin under the cloth. But the geometry doesn’t seem to work. I can see the square briefly pushed down as he starts to lay the coin on it. So it’s a fairly soft thing.

At 1:54 his vest changes from black to blue. He pulls a black cover off with his left hand.

Something is going on under his fist when he grabs for the coin. It took getting my nose pretty much right up to the screen, but there is definitely some movement of the cloth at that moment, which makes me think he’s covering the coin or pushing it into a slot or something. Black fabric and the proper lighting can hide a lot.

I do agree, though, this guy is really good.

You can see him pull the colored vest off when he changes back to black. That was the only thing I caught in real time.

Heck, look at the disappear/appear at 0:34 using single frame (pause, then use “,” and “.”, which are “lowercase” “<” and “>”). The card frame in his right hand disappears without blur, and a few frames later the two card frames appear at the front of the table without blur.