Artist: Alan Rorrison
DVD Instructions Taught by: Dan White
Retail Price: $49.95 USD
Learning Difficulty: Easy
Length of DVD: 24:29
Notes: This effect deals with the production of a smoke like substance (vapor) from your mouth. Given the nature of this effect, despite it being 100% safe and composed of natural organic components, this is NOT recommended for anyone under the age of 18.
5 Refills for Gimmick that is good for about 1,000 performances total. (200-300 per refill pending use.)
The smell of sulfur burns the noses of those around you as you strike a match, a drawn dot on your arm is explained to be a mystic portal that connects to a point on your body of your choosing. Your audience stares in wonder as the smoke from the extinguished match travels up your arm, and out your mouth. Welcome to Smoke! The effect is killer when used by itself, or in conjunction with another of your effects. A deceptive utility device that is able to amplify any performance you give by allowing you to produce a plume of smoke from your mouth anywhere you want, when you want.
Smoke is the break out effect of the summer that Theory11 has been waiting for. Imagine being able to produce smoke from your mouth anywhere you wanted, anytime you wanted, and having the versatility to apply this amazing production to anything your wild imagination can come up with. That's just what Theory11's Smoke will do for you! It's simply one of those pure and incredibly simple but deceptive ideas that will have you asking yourself “Why didn't I think of this first?!”
The DVD is simply made. Nothing fancy to it, it's got only two options: A Play All, and a Chapter Select which allows the viewer to go back and review specific chapter points which makes referencing a specific portion of the DVD easier. The effect really isn't difficult to master, and I imagine anyone within ten minutes would have a fairly good working grasp on the concepts covered in this DVD. It is to that point that I question whether the DVD is really even worth it. Sure it's nice to have a visual reference when learning new material, but Smoke is fairly self explanatory, and being a utility device first, Portal being only a suggested application for said device, I feel that the DVD falls short of a true potential. A potential that I'll outline a bit more later on in the review. As it is though now, I think the DVD accomplishes nothing that a page of printed text couldn't have achieved.
The DVD is taught by Theory11 artist Dan White, and Dan does a great job of expressing the safety concerns that come with performing something like this. Being a performer of sideshow stunts, safety when performing is always one of my biggest concerns, and I think the safety concern for the effect is probably best expressed in video format as opposed to my aforementioned instruction sheet. It's important to know that what you are exhaling isn't smoke. It's vapor. And the device that delivers it is incredibly deceptive. While the compounds involved are organic (Propylene Glycol, and Vegetable Glycerin) I still would urge caution against using this device to extreme, as it is a new effect, it is unclear what prolonged exposure to the vapor can or will do to the body. A point that Dan makes in his safety concerns for the handling of this device.
I've got to take time to mention this now. While I can't go into too much detail as it would expose the gimmick, I will say that there are other devices available on the open market that can, and will, produce a similar effect as Smoke. Being that it will allow you to exhale plumes of vapor that looks exactly like you are exhaling smoke. HOWEVER Theory11 has gone through (so the DVD says) extensive processes to produce special refill products specificity for Smoke, manufactured in such a way that you won't get any trace amounts of hazardous chemicals such as Nicotine, as you would find in other commercial products similar in nature. Thus making Smoke not only a healthier choice for accomplishing this effect, but also a wiser one as well.
Dan takes his time to break down and fully explain everything that you get with Smoke, how to set up your gimmick, how to charge your gimmick, and how to refill your gimmick when the time comes. I'm usually careful about using words like “idiot proof” but Dan's careful attention to teaching you how to set your Smoke effect really is. The gimmick will need to be charged before you can use it, and it comes with its own USB charger. The only down side to this is now I need my computer anytime I need to recharge my gimmick. I would have rather preferred a wall socket adapter over the USB charger, since I don't always want to lug my laptop around with me when I travel. The only complaint that I have is that Dan does not inform you of a few critical points of information that I think you should know. He doesn't tell you how long it takes to charge your gimmick, how long the charge in the gimmick will last, and how many performances you'll get per refill. He also explains that a bit of tape is used around the refill to hold it in place, but he doesn't say if all the refills you get with the effect have the tape on them, or what kind of tape to use (if they don't.)
Edited: Since the release of the Smoke effect Theory11 forums have lit up with feedback from both consumers and Theory11 staff. Bayme has said that the refills included with Smoke will be good for about 1,000 uses. That's about 200 to 300 performances per refill (depending on how much smoke you chose to produce.) The charge time is anywhere from twenty to thirty minutes (for a minimal charge to work) and can take up to a couple hours. The longer you let it charge, the longer the battery life will last. The battery life on a fully charged gimmick can hold through a solid week before it needs to be recharged. There is no answer on the tape that was used to date.
Dan teaches you a routine called “Portal” on the DVD. Portal is Dan's presentation he created to be used with Alan's gimmick. If you've seen the demo for this effect online, then you've seen Portal. The basic plot is pretty strait forward. You draw a dot on your hand with a sharpie, and explain that it's a portal that connects two points in your body together. You'll prove this absurd sounding claim by lighting, and extinguishing a match, allowing the smoke to be swallowed by the portal, and produced from your mouth. I liked the idea of creating a portal. As Dan suggests, it doesn't have to be something as simple as a dot. It could be something darker like a pentagram, or something comical like the old painted on tunnel a-la Wile E. Coyote / Roadrunner gag. The problem I have with it, as it is presented on the DVD is it's a one shot effect. Sharpie is called a permanent marker for a reason, and if you are planning on using Smoke for street, or walk-around magic it becomes impractical to be drawing these portals on your hand all the time, because sooner or later you're going to look like you've got a strange tattoo of black dots going for you. Which voids the purpose of using the marker to draw the portal in the first place, if one already exists. Why couldn't you just use the existing one? What I'm getting at is if you plan to use this frequently, and you plan on using Dan White's Portal presentation, you may want to do some minor reworking to make things easier for you in the long run.
Dan shows you two presentations before teaching you how to do his presentation. Both presentations are done on the streets, and it gives you a nice idea of how normal people react to this effect. Dan teaches you what props you'll need to perform Portal. Where to place these props on your body, and how to perform the effect. After he teaches the routine, he then performs it for you at home in full speed, just in case you still had any lingering questions left over from the explanation or the live presentation.
I think one of the things that makes this effect so interesting to me is the versatility of the product. You're not boxed into just performing Portal with this gimmick. You can easily develop your own routines using the product or expand upon your current effects by adding Smoke into it. Dan mentions that the two important things to keep in mind when designing your own routines is having a reason for using a marker, and having a reason to put it into your mouth. So long as you can justify those two points the sky is the limit!
Dan gives you some extra ideas for the presentation of Smoke, but they are just seeds of concepts that will need some attention, thought, and imagination to see them through to a final full blooming and fruitful presentation. With the DVD only being 24 minutes long, and a device as versatile as it is, I am kind of disappointed that this section of the DVD wasn't longer. Maybe they plan to release another DVD covering other presentation ideas for Smoke like how Ellusionist released Army of 52 to accompany their gaff decks? Perhaps it'll be a 1 on 1 download, or an E-Book? Who knows. This is an area of untapped potential, and I guess it's only a matter of time before someone jumps on it. Dan wraps up the DVD with his final thoughts on Smoke, it's safety, Theory11's disclaimer that it as a company or Dan as an individual doesn't support or condone smoking as a habit.