Sunday, September 13, 2009

How Derren Brown Did It

On Wednesday night much of Britain was enthralled by "mentalist" Derren Brown predicting the winning numbers in the National Lottery. If he had really done that it would have been amazing. I am a bit of an amateur magician and its been driving me crazy that this "prediction" seems to have baffled so many people in the UK. Derren Brown is not a member of the British magic circle and this trick was a cheat anyway so I don't mind revealing how he did it. However, if you don't want to know please don't read any more of this blog post.
Still with me? Ok. What Derren Brown actually did on Wednesday night was tell us what the winning lottery numbers were 12 seconds after the numbers had been drawn. We all could have done that. Ah but what about the balls to the left of the screen which we saw while the live feed was coming through the TV, weren't they there the whole time? No, they weren't. What we were actually looking at was a split screen, running down the left hand third of the screen. While the draw was taking place one of Brown's assistants was placing the correct balls on the real stand while we watched the split screen. At 2:01 on the YouTube video you can see Brown look across to his assistant to check that the final ball has been placed, a camera wobble then occurs at 2:04 which covers the transition from the split image to the live image. Brown then walks over and uncovers the balls that his assistant placed on the stand.
I'm sorry if this wrecks your belief in number theory, or mass hypnosis, the predictive power of crowds or a conspiracy with the lottery company; this wasn't any of those things. This illusion required almost no skill at all from Brown, it was patter mixed with a David Copperfield style camera trick, the kind of magic that I loathe. This was beneath DB who is very good at proper magic and doesn't need to cheat. Brown's explanation on Friday night that he used "deep maths" is what we amateur magicians call "misdirection" and what everyone else calls "total bollocks."