World’s greatest card trick

Here’s magician Dave Cremin performing a stupendous card trick in Times Square. Don’t miss it! I have no idea how he does the trick, or make the card man, but perhaps a reader knowledgeable about magic can tell us.


  1. MK9
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    nice CGI, look at the pixelated shadow :p

  2. Lotharloo
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    I would say CGI too. Unfortunately, most of the “magic tricks” shown at TV shows these days are just lame camera tricks, or fake audience, or plants and etc.

    • Posted November 7, 2012 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      when the cards come together to form the robot..That was computer imaged on. The robot itself is real and is remote controlled by someone in the audience

  3. Posted December 11, 2011 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    Oh yeah, I read about this trick. It’s pretty clever how they pull it off. It uses the latest advances in nanotechnology and the dark arts.

  4. Posted December 11, 2011 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    I would suggest taking a look at the tags on the YouTube movie…

  5. Geoff S
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Looks cgi to me

  6. Posted December 11, 2011 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    I know how it’s done, but if I were to tell ya I’d then hafta kill ya…

    • Notagod
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      Do tell.

      My experience has been that they don’t tell because they just want to try to dominate with fear, they really don’t know, hence they won’t kill because they couldn’t tell. Shuts ’em up quick.

  7. Sili
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Same mo as David Blaine (only more fun). Get the audience reaction to an impressive but ordinary cardtrick, and then go home and cheat with computers and whatnot.

  8. Posted December 11, 2011 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    If you watch it on YouTube you can see that besides being tagged “magic” and “illusion”, other tags are, “special effects”, “VFX”, “Creature Effects”, and “Creature 3D Animation”. It’s also called “a short by Eric Wagner & Sharon Ma”. It was hard to search
    for Sharon Ma because I kept getting links
    to a town in Massachusetts called Sharon, but
    a search for Eric Wagner found this:

    Unfortunately, no one on the streets of New York ever got to see the man of cards come alive, but still, it makes for a really cool video!!!

    • Posted December 11, 2011 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      Oops! Hey Deen, I posted this before reading your suggestion at comment #4. Um….what Deen said!

  9. Posted December 11, 2011 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Explained in detail:

    Hat tip to a commenter on the Youtube video.

    • Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      To save people from going to That School of VISUAL ARTS is worth a browse ~ very interesting…

      To save people having to go to Lou’s link Eric Wagner & Sharon Ma write:

      “We created the card trick project to show off our 3D creature effects skills. From the beginning the video was designed to appear completely candid, as if someone just walked up and started recording a street magician with their cellphone. In reality, the footage was shot with two Canon 5D Mark II cameras on two separate days.

      The majority of the people seen in this video were not planted in the audience. Other than the magician, only three of the dozens of people seen in the video were working with the crew. The crowd’s real reactions to the magician’s actual tricks helped sell the believability of the impossible 3D character.

      With the use of Autodesk Match Mover we were able to create 3D animated cameras that follow the hand-held footage. This allowed the card creature to have his feet firmly planted on the ground despite the shaky camera work. This was done to further sell the idea that what you are seeing is completely candid and unplanned.

      Autodesk Maya was the program of choice for the modeling, rigging, animation, surfacing, and lighting of the card monster. We scanned an entire deck of Bicycle playing cards to insure that there weren’t any duplicates on the creature or the ground by his feet.

      The final VFX shot was the most complicated as it required the creature not only to move but also to completely come apart and fall into a pile of cards with a believable sense of weight and gravity. Though the build-up shot in the beginning of the piece worked well being hand-animated, the fall-apart shot required a series of dynamic simulations to achieve to ideal result.

      The 3D rendered footage was then brought into Adobe After Effects for composting. A laundry list of adjustments and effects were added to achieve the final look of the card creature in the environment”

      • Bender
        Posted May 18, 2012 at 10:31 am | Permalink

        I don’t believe you. I think it was magic.

  10. Posted December 11, 2011 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    While I’m not expert on magic, despite having watched all of the Potter movies, I suspect my knowledge of computers might be more relevant here. In particular, the video is tagged as ‘special effects’, ‘3d animation’ and such like.

  11. daveau
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Occam’s razor says that it’s simple magic and not complicated CGI and 3D animation…

    • Matthew Cobb
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 8:35 am | Permalink


    • David
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      Actually, simple magic is much more complicated that CGI (if it would really exist that is).

      • Kharamatha
        Posted December 12, 2011 at 8:05 am | Permalink

        Depends on what you mean by simple, and what tradition of magic you’re in. Draconic magic just fucks shit up on a whim, in terms of operation, while a proper arcanist might need a year and a day to finish his teleportation circle.

        • David
          Posted December 14, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

          What does “fuck shit up on a whim” mean? If you’re talking about a penis fucking shit on a whim, then yeah, that’s simpler than CGI.

          If you mean something that acts in a super-natural way, then it doesn’t matter if it takes a second or a year, it’s much more complicated than CGI – again, if such a thing would exist.

          But this is academic, there’s no such thing as “draconic magic” or “arcanists” creating “teleportation circles”.

      • John Frazer
        Posted December 12, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        It’s simple in the sense that it doesn’t have any parts. It’s just ONE magical spell, and not dozens of people collaborating using high tech gizmos.

        I’d like to see science explain THAT.

        • David
          Posted December 14, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

          Even “one magical spell” is composed of multiple “parts”. And the number of 1 person needed to accomplish something doesn’t make the accomplished thing a simple one.

          Other than that, there is nothing for science to explain here.

  12. sasqwatch
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    It’s done with magnets embedded in the fibers of the cards. But not just any magnets, these are “Next Generation (TM)” magnets, that take advantage of the universe’s underlying 63-fold symmetry of electron interactions. With 31 different pairs of uniquely-attracting types of polarity (plus the newly-discovered monopole that nobody’s figured out any good use for), these recent discoveries have completely revolutionized street magic, as we know it.

    • AnthonyK
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      A monopole has been used for centuries in Oxford and Cambridge as a punt propellant.

    • daveau
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      Sounds completely plausible…

      • sasqwatch
        Posted December 11, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

        It should. It’s the thirty-wonderful flavor model known the world over. Baskin and Robbins got the Nobel for it.

  13. Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Conjuring tricks in which a real audience is fooled by a clever illusion are wonderful. But this is not a conjuring trick at all, just an after-event stitch-up with a computer. Some of the comments on YouTube are saying, “What’s the difference, all conjuring tricks are fakes anyway?” But it is a different kind of fake. This one is no more impressive than a film of Superman flying. It is misleading and dishonest to represent it as a group of real people in New York being impressed by somebody who purports to be a conjurer, entertaining them at the time.

    • DV
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      The audience being fooled by the clever illusion is sitting in front of their computers.

      • whyevolutionistrue
        Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink

        Well, I was taken in! Nobody’s perfect . . .

        • Posted December 12, 2011 at 12:03 am | Permalink

          As a part-time magician I found it interesting, as although I recognized it as CGI, it got me thinking about how one could actually do something similar. It would be very difficult to do exactly what the card-creature did, but there is an actual illusion where a piece of paper appears to fold up by itself and float into the magician’s hand. The technique behind that, plus some marionette skills, could achieve a slightly less impressive effect, but good enough that I’m surprized they bothered with CGI. If I ever have any free time, I might experiment with it.

        • BillyJoe
          Posted December 12, 2011 at 3:12 am | Permalink

          I showed it individually to my four kids and they all picked it immediately as a CGI.
          I was also taken in.
          It seems only kids are perfect.

    • Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      I mostly agree with Dawkins, though I’m somewhat softer on it. It’s entertaining, and it does take talent to make the film. But it just doesn’t quite feel right.

      For those who don’t know about the David Blaine connection, what he did was go around doing a pretty cool trick called Balducci levitation for people in the streets, then went back and digitally edited it so that he appeared to levitate to heights that are not possible to fake with the Balducci technique. Kinda lame, I think…

      However, Balducci levitation is pretty cool. Look it up, understand it, try it in front of a mirror. I’ve gotten it to work as a party trick before, and I suck at magic. It’s a very easy trick to perform, and most impressive if you get it just right.

      • Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:16 am | Permalink

        Though I have to say, after reading this, I think it’s pretty cool. It’s a 3D animation technology demo, and an impressive one at that. Never meant to be a trick.

      • Brett
        Posted December 11, 2011 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        I just tried it. I can see how it works, but you’ve got to have decent balance to do it. I couldn’t do it without wobbling on the front of the “hidden” foot.

      • pdblouin
        Posted December 11, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        I lose respect for David Blaine when I see his TV show. I hope it’s his producers that want to make outrageous TV magic, and not him.

        He’s redeemed himself as a real “stunt-man”. He’s held his breath for 17 minutes , which I find completely ridiculous.

        In case my HTML code fails – someone please educate me on how to post links on here!

        • Posted December 12, 2011 at 12:08 am | Permalink

          When David had his first special, Magic Man, I found the magician community divided. There were those that thought he was great, and appreciated him generating new interest in magic by the public. Then there were those, like myself, who would grant him a few good card sleights, but were generally unimpressed, particularly by his disceptive use of camera editing (eg. as previously mentioned the audience reaction to the B. levitation, then showing a completely different levitation to the camera)

    • sasqwatch
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      I understand the distinction being made here, but at its core, ALL magic is misleading and dishonest. (the distinction being that better magic [e.g. prestidigitation] requires more practice and skill pulling it off live).

      All of it relies, in some measure, of breaking a social taboo and unashamedly and bald-facedly lying to your audience, then passing the hat around. There’s a tie-in to religion in there somewhere, I suspect.

      • sasqwatch
        Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:50 am | Permalink

        The artless magic of Criss Angel passing himself through a plate glass window.

        I had a few really, really bright scientists, truly baffled, ask me how this one was done.

        • sasqwatch
          Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:07 am | Permalink

          (and since I have especially detailed knowledge of the mechanism behind quantum tunneling, I knew the answer immediately)

        • Brett
          Posted December 11, 2011 at 11:54 am | Permalink

          My guess is that the guy in the room was a conspirator who removed a section of glass while Criss Angel was distracting the crowd with his preparations.

          It also could be that the “glass” isn’t actually glass. It feels hard on one side, but you could push through the other soft side.

          • sasqwatch
            Posted December 11, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

            Ah yes, one-way glass. Notice he only ever went through in one direction. Dead giveaway.

        • daveau
          Posted December 11, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

          It’s obviously because glass is an amorphous solid, or in layman’s terms mostly solid…

    • ColdThinker
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Being a film maker myself, I have to voice an opposing opinion. This is quite a nice and fun piece of CGI, which is pretty much a form of art in itself. This little piece of video demands a very creative use of latest innovation of this particular field of technology. 

      What is more, these CGI artists are open about this, telling all about their work on an internet page. I find them much more respectable and interesting than the live magicians who either try to sell themselves having supernatural powers, or even more honest conjurers, who selfishly keep their tricks and techniques to themselves (up to being paranoid about their secrets). In my experience, most CGI artists are very generous teachers of their secrets to others just to further the ideas and techniques. And believe me, it’s never just pushing a few buttons on a computer, it’s a lot of trial and error and creative amalgam of ideas.

      Also, unlike stage magic, which is simply fooling the audience for cheap laughs, CGI is a wonderful help to the art of cinema and storytelling. And also science, helping to visualize many scientific ideas and technological innovations from brain surgery to Mars missions.

      So don’t mock it for just being 21st century trickery instead of traditional legerdemain.

    • Sigmund
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      But if it admits to being a fictional film then is it not partly the viewers fault if they fail to realize it’s not real? It provides a test of the critical thinking (and reading!) skills of the viewers and on that level it is useful. If they went out of their way to hide the CGI aspect of the film then I would have problems but I’m not sure they’ve done that.

    • Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      Live stage (or street) magic is a beautiful art, and it was misleading to present this CGI effect as if it was a live event, although the tags left enough clues to reduce this from an aesthetic high crime to a mere misdemeanor. That said, the “magic of the movies” can also be pretty wonderful.

      Martin Scorsese’s new film “Hugo” explores the intersection of both forms of magic in a truly touching and poignant way. Part of the story involves Georges Méliès, a 19th Century stage magician, who went on to become one of the first “magicians” of the cinema. Much of the movie is *about* magic, but the finale, when seen in 3D is itself a gorgeous example of movie “magic”!

    • chance
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

      I agree, real card tricks are far more enjoyable.

      The expressions on the faces of the people in the audience don’t even match up with what is happening. If I saw a card man stand up and dance around, I wouldn’t have a passive smirk on my face.

      Jerry, I hope you weren’t sincerely impressed by this! I guess as a 27 year old who grew up in a digital age I could tell how it was done immediately.

      • chance
        Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

        I forgot to mention, the first thing I was skeptical of was the kid who took the card from the magician in the first place. This kid was a terrible actor, I could tell he was part of the gig from the beginning.

  14. Michieux
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I don’t care how it’s done; it’s a heck of a lot of fun to watch.

  15. Doc Bill
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    That’s nothing!

    I can make a pile if inanimate grey fur lying in the sun on a lazy Saturday afternoon rise up and demand to be fed tuna!

  16. Dr. I. Needtob Athe
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    David Blaine used a similar technique to make his Street Magic videos: He’d do an ordinary magic trick and film the crowd’s reaction, then fake the video to make the trick look more impressive, while keeping the crowd reactions in place to make the video seem authentic.

    For example, there are several videos on YouTube where he does his well-known levitation trick, where he wears a shoe with the sole cut out and stands sideways to the crowd while raising himself an inch or two with his foot coming through the bottom of the partially-hidden shoe. The videos don’t show that though. Instead, he appears to rise as far as twelve inches.

  17. Brett
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    I liked the video, CGI or not. Plus, as DV pointed out, the “audience” aren’t the people in the video – they’re the people watching the video on Youtube.

    I love stage magic.

  18. ChasCPeterson
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    These days, one’s skepticism needs to extend to photography and even video. I didn’t believe it for a second.

    • InfiniteImprobabilit
      Posted December 15, 2011 at 1:17 am | Permalink

      Speaking as a (very) amateur photographer, I HATE PHOTOSHOP. Admittedly Photoshop (or Gimp, which I use) can be invaluable when someone has dumped a car tyre in the foreground of the perfect scene. But, when by skill or chance someone’s got a yellow sand-dune knife-edged against a perfect blue sky; or a string of green palm-clad islets spaced out along a reef; or a sunrise-gold mountain perfectly reflected in a dead still lake – it’s demoralising when someone says ‘Photoshop’. It devalues real images, and the more striking they are, the more suspect; it turns us all into cynics.

      The same goes for CGI – for example the James Bond movies used to prize themselves on doing their stunts ‘for real’ (such as the world-record bungee jump off Verzasca Dam in ‘Goldeneye’) – and it just devalued that when they resorted to obvious CGI in later films.

      It has its uses – it would be hard to make decent sci-fi without it – but it does have its negative side-effects.

  19. Posted December 11, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Obviously, this clever video is not a reliable source of information. I need much more reliable information before I accept it as true.

  20. Physicalist
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    There is a lesson in there somewhere about what we’re willing to accept when making sense of things, and why.

    I recall going through this when trying to figure out some of Chriss Angel’s tricks (levitation, walking on water, and my favorite: when he pulls a woman in half in plain view and half of her crawls away).

    It all fell quickly in place when I saw a video in which a frisbee went off camera in one direction, and he “picked it up” from a place it couldn’t have been. Once you know that the entire audience is planted, the mysteries are gone.

    The interesting issue is when we do — and when we should — trust basic background assumptions, like the assumption that the bystanders are not conspiring to mislead us. Crazy people see conspiracies everywhere (e.g., in climate science). Sane people can miss conspiracies even when they’re real (look at belief in religious miracles, for example).

  21. MadScientist
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    I only saw a simple force; animating things requires a puppeteer and there obviously was none so I believe peoples’ claims of computer graphics.

  22. Posted December 11, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    As some of the others have said, I am 99.9% sure it is CGI. Having worked in the high-end of the VFX industry with animation as my background, you can easily tell by the type of movement and performance how it was done. It would have looked completely different if he was pulling strings(using puppetry), or if it was a real robot(extremely unlikely). The whole piece is really lame in my opinion : )

    • sasqwatch
      Posted December 12, 2011 at 12:44 am | Permalink

      What the hell do you mean 99.9% ?

      I looked at it and say a bit of telltale Jason and the Argonauts going on.

      It would have been downright scary if the individual frames had been rendered to blur out the motion, like the street shots exhibit blurring when you look at them frame by frame. I was getting a Jason and the Argonauts effect from the thing big time, which can be overcome by modelling the blur, which tricks the mind more gooder, and reduces the Jason effect a la Lord of the Rings. (and others).

      Kind of tough to do that stuff on a budget, though I wouldn’t be surprised… (if some whippersnapper downloaded it and improved it and uploaded it again).

      • sasqwatch
        Posted December 12, 2011 at 12:45 am | Permalink


  23. IW
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a better one:

    • sasqwatch
      Posted December 12, 2011 at 12:53 am | Permalink

      I want to keep it a little bit family-friendly, so interested folks might want to head to youtube and search on

      aristocrats card trick – Eric Mead performs the joke in card trick form.

  24. Torbjorn Larsson, OM
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Cgi – the light source is misplaced.

  25. Posted December 13, 2011 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Oh my god, did anyone seriously believe that was a real trick and not special effects added later? I would be stunned if someone as smart as Jerry thought that was real.

    I noticed at least one woman recording it with her phone. I’d love to see the real video of the trick. A quick Youtube search didn’t turn up anything, though.

  26. jeff
    Posted December 19, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    …. there’s your answers, sorry he is not a witch, we can not burn him at the stake.

    Good CGI though, and pretty convincing, I would give the project an A.

    • Posted December 19, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for that. The sad thing is that probably the actual card tricks he performed were probably cooler than this “trick,” because he actually did them.

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  28. Joe
    Posted May 27, 2012 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    I found this and read most of your comments and theories. I’m the father of the two boys you see in this video. I was standing right there and witnessed this. Only two cameras were rolling.One mostly on the crowd and one on the trick. My suspect is that there is a remote controled magnetic card robot being control by someone near by that we can’t see or notice. It obviously has to be some pre-built card robot and has no strings attached so that what I came up with. I saw it up close with my own two eyes!

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