Here’s a primer on IT magic. I hope the readers will find some useful information in this article.
The clothes you wear. Your clothing is the foremost background. Contrary to the general belief, solid-black clothes do not necessarily hide the IT. If you move the floating object, or if a spectator repositions himself during the performance, the IT gives off a reflection (or a glint) that is visible against a solid-black background from a certain angle.
To prevent the audience from observing this glint, wear dark clothes with busy designs instead, as opposed to solid black. Striped, polka-dotted, checkered, or clothes with similarly busy designs are ideal backgrounds. The clothes you wear don’t even have to be black. Even reddish, brownish, bluish T-shirts or polo shirts with abstract or concentric designs can also do an excellent job of camouflaging the IT.
Light-colored walls. It’s still possible to do IT work even if the walls behind you are yellow or plain white. Just move away from them. The further you are from a solid light background, the more the IT will disappear, provided you are wearing the correct clothing.
Tables and tablecloths. Most cheap restaurants are perfect for IT or even loop works, because they use checkered table cloths. However, McDonald’s and Jollibee stores, with their uncovered plain-colored tables are dangerous to perform on-the-table IT magic. I have seen an experienced magician perform a loop magic in an ideally lighted situation (inside a disco), and the loop flashed because of the light-colored table.
Now speaking of disco houses, don’t perform IT magic if there’s that lighted crystal ball whirling on the ceiling. It will shine on the IT and make it glint. If you must perform floating effects in this situation, perform behind a post, where you are out of reach of the multi-colored lights of that whirling crystal ball.
Carpets. I love performing close-up IT and floating objects in hotels. Apart from the subdued lighting, hotels have floors covered with thick carpets. Now, for me, carpets are the perfect backgrounds for IT magic. Even under the most challenging lighting conditions (as in spotlighted), as long as you don’t float objects over your head, the IT cannot be seen against a carpet.
Plants/Leaves. It is possible to perform IT outdoor in broad daylight. Just keep a little distance from the audience and perform your floating effects using plants/leaves or shrubs as your background.
A word of caution: as IT work is not normally for daylight condition, conduct visibility test first before performing (I discuss visibility testing below).
Direction of lights. Be conscious always of the direction of the light. Back-lights and direct overhead lights will trip you up. Ideally, lights should be behind the audience, not behind you. This means you perform IT magic facing the general direction of the light source.
Distance from light. Distance will affect the visibility of the IT. Be wary of places with low ceilings. Low ceilings mean you will be performing with the light sources very near to you. In this case overhead lights will be very dangerous to your performance. Jump for joy if you are performing in a hotel lobby where the ceiling is a quarter kilometer high.
Types of Light Source
Tungsten (yellow) light is friendly.
Fluorescent (white) light is dubious.
Daylight/spotlight is deadly.
Ambient light is also friendly. Any type of light (including sunlight) is considered ambient if it comes to you diffused through a filtering device. The filtering device can be natural, such as a window. Thus sunlight coming through a window that is covered with curtains or Venetian blinds is ambient light. That kind of diffused, soft lighting is good for IT work.
Other examples of ambient lights are lights coming from lampshades or lights bounced off a wall (you often see this kind of lighting in hotel corridors).
Some Other Things to Remember
Attaching the bill. Since ideally, during performance, you yourself should not see the IT, you have to do everything by feel. You need to practice the part where you attach the bill to the IT. You must be able to do it in one fluid motion, without groping for the IT, to lend your performance a better look.
Length of float. Don’t float objects too long. In most close-up situations, a five-second float would be good enough. More than that is plenty and dangerous.
Beginning IT workers, like beginning dancing cane manipulators, do it far too long. The result is that, although people could not see the IT with their eyes, their mental vision will pick up the IT through the performer’s body movements and the floating object’s behavior and allow them to arrive at the method.
This doesn’t mean you can’t perform a more extended IT magic. On stage, you surely can, but the performance should include different sequences that start with, say, animation and segue to levitation.
Minimize the rocking or swinging motion. Floating objects don’t swing. When the floating bill rocks, it is a dead giveaway that it’s attached to something.
You can’t totally eliminate the rocking movement, you can only minimize it. That’s why you have to end early the floating sequence before the bill behaves according to the law of physics, which is to swing like a pendulum.
Finger movements. Move your fingers both for aesthetic purpose and to dispel the idea that something is attached to your hand. This is the same principle used in the dancing cane performance.
Drafts. Move away from electric fans and air conditioning unit or any sources of air current (like an open window). Draft of any kind will hamper your control, not to mention that it will sway the floating object like an uncontrolled ballerina in your hands.
Once you have performed IT magic regularly, you will find that it’s second nature to read the light and determine whether it’s appropriate or not.
Once in a while, though, I must confess that I could not really tell. There are borderline lighting conditions that I find obligated to test before I could decide whether IT magic will work.
This is how I test the light and visibility of the IT: I hold a length of IT and stretch it between my hands. I then ask a magician friend or assistant to stand before me. If I am to perform close-up, he stands just about two feet away. If I am to perform on stage, he stands in the front row.
I then move the IT up and down to catch any light or reflection. The assistant then moves to my left and then to my right, looking for tell tale signs of the IT (or its reflection) as I move the IT up and down. If he says nothing can be seen, then I go ahead with performance. If he says he sees a glint from a certain angle, or if he himself is not sure, then I drop it from my program.
Light, background and length of performance—these are the three things you have to control if you need to perform a successful IT magic. Remember, if the IT breaks, you can find an out. If a spectator grabs the floating bill, you can find an out. If someone accidentally touches the IT and feels it, you can find an out. But if the IT shines, glints, or becomes visible during a performance, there is no out. That’s it! It’s GAME OVER!
So when in doubt of these three things, don’t perform the IT.