Thursday, 10 September 2009

So, Derren Brown’s Lottery Prediction Thing

So, Darren “Stop Calling Me Darren” Brown’s lottery prediction stunt passed over without a hitch – he actually did successfully predict the numbers before they were drawn. Well, something like that anyway. Luckily, because we’re astonishingly farsighted*, we recorded both the More4 and BBC One transmissions between 10.34pm and 10.41pm in our Topfield Freeview box’s picture-in-picture mode.

(*Well, because TV’s Steve Berry** tweeted a comment at us mentioning the idea at 10.29pm, leading to us scrabbling around like berks trying to remember how Super PiP works, but you get the gist.)

(** Are you famous? Unlikely, as you’re reading BrokenTV instead of eating a cocaine in That London, but anyway. If you are, why not contribute to Steve Berry’s charity Doctor Who book? Go on, it’s for a good cause.)

We’ve even uploaded it to YouTube. Here’s the video. Try to ignore the fact it isn’t in proper widescreen mode because our DVD recorder isn’t very good. In fact, we’re willing to be ‘sponsored’ by any companies willing to send us a free Blu-ray recorder.

So there it is (yes, we know there’s a “Config mode: ON” banner there). How did he do that, then, eh? Here are three of our potential explanations:

1) The far side of the balls were covered in an E-ink surface, which could be controlled remotely by a crew member. E-ink is a real thing, by the way, not something we’ve made up. However, while it’s relatively flexible, we’re not sure you can coast a ball with it like that.

2) Some kind of remote controlled Etch-a-sketch type pen inside each of the balls, again, remotely controlled by an unseen crew member. After all, we reckon the first time Etch-a-sketch was unveiled it would have been regarded as tantamount to witchcraft.

3) Brown had simply used an invisible man, or possibly a ghost, to hide inside the draw machine on the Lottery Draw set, and simply place the designated balls inside the tube at the correct moment. The simplest explanations are often the right ones.

Frippery aside, there’s some clever misdirection from the mouth of Brown on tonight’s live feature. The mentioned legal reasons for not screening more than a snippet of the live BBC One show on Channel Four was surely true enough, but his claim that “after a meeting with Camelot […] I can’t show you the numbers until just after the result of the draw has been announced” is likely to be misdirection - he could easily have countered "What? I'm just stating my prediction of the numbers, you're the ones announcing them? I'm not even going to claim I'll get all six correct". His claim that “we don’t know exactly what time the draw will be shown on BBC One, we just hope it’s while this ten minute show is live” is certainly misdirection, as the timing of the lottery draw is assuredly fixed (apart from during exceptional circumstances – if a huge breaking story had kicked off at 10.20pm things would have been derailed) – especially as the Thunderball draw was going on at the exact moment Brown was saying those words. He even says “we are hoping it will happen at some point in the next ten minutes” as the Thunderball draw is finishing.

Also, he states that “tonight, I’m going to try and predict at least five of the six lottery numbers”. Clearly, the chances of doing so are still as close to astronomical as dammit given the surrounding hype, but then that’s merely akin to an old car salesman’s trick of saying “is that more than you’d hoped to spend?”, with the aim of Johnny Carbuyer feeling compelled to prove he does have that extra few hundred quid to splurge on a motor after all, thank you very-bloody-much. In this case, Brown slightly lowers the bar for success, knowing that when he clears it comfortably after all, his feat seems more impressive.

You’ll note his repeated claims (both in recent press for the show, and in the show itself) that it had taken him “a year or preparation” for the live Lotto stunt. If that really were the case, and if the “prediction was made earlier on today” (as he claims), why weren’t the numbers displayed as a great big fuck-off painted mural on brickwork behind a silk curtain, instead of “on some ping-pong balls”? Because, quite clearly, the numbers were added to the balls after the draw was made.

All that said, it’s still great to see things like this going on. We especially like the way Brown makes out he’s so excited and uncertain about the events as they unfold, as if it were the first time he’s done something like this. It’ll be interesting the ‘reveal’ on Friday, just as long as he doesn’t go along the made-up “well, I felt that we were due to get number 39, because I’m magic” route. By definition, all “TV magic” is merely distraction and/or illusion, but for everyone over the age of ten, the fun really comes from working out how the frigging chuff they actually did the thing they’ve just done. On Friday night, hopefully, we shall see.


9 .:

trendthrift said...

The guy is a master showman. Did you catch his tweets during the week claiming that Chanel 4 wouldn't allow him to buy a lottery ticket and that he planned to fight them all the way?

Mark X said...

Indeed. If he was alive in the 1920s, he's have been a mid-west snake oil salesman. And good luck to him, frankly. Despite my general cynicism, I'll happily admit I loved the Paul Daniels Magic Show as a kid, and it's good to see that sort of thing still going strong today.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic bit of telly

I reckon the jiggling camera is the give-away. It disguised and distracted the nifty vision mixing going on on the left hand side of the screen

JM said...

Also to note: What was the purpose of showing us the presence of the hard camera from the back of the studio, given that the only shot used throughout was from the handheld camera into which he spoke?

JM said...

OK, you can actually see the join if you look carefully. The camera shot is constantly moving during the draw, apart from the final moment when Derren starts to walk over to the balls with the card. Then the picture is weirdly static.. that is the moment when the pre-recorded overlay of the rack of balls is replaced with the live shot of the ones with the numbers on. Watch a high quality vid and you can spot it clearly.

I'm kind of let down now.

Devil's Picturebook said...

What happened? Remember way-back when Derren used to be really, really good?

Not this soggy underwhelming bit of old bollocks. As noted the cack-handed misdirection of the 'pointless' cut-away shot, from pre-recorded intro, to locked down shot. Bit of split-screen, ladle-on the artificial jiggle (spray-on faux-autheticity so beloved of viral-video marketing ponces), and all for naught as the unseen assistant makes a right cunt of it, and the last ping-pong ball not put back properly so it jiggles slightly upwards on the fade-back.

It doesn't even really stand-up as a knock-you on your arse trick, the whole proposition was kinda weak from the outset, the tortured clumsiness of show some numbers after watching some numbers.
Genius-class misdirection is the fun bit of magic, when you have to rely on something as silly as "we can't show the prediction because it's against the law", you know you are fucked, so why bother? Start again and try to think of a different angle.

So it was always going to be fairly 'meh' - and that was all before the shoddy mechanics, and the awkward climax, standing there looking just a bit silly with 6 tiny little ping-pong balls and a bit of scratchy old card finally did for it.

Poor old Derren, of course it's not easy, we know, but still, c'mon, put a little bit of beef into it.

I guess the only crumbs of entertainment value was watching the besotted fans of the Cult of Brown, spending the morning twisting in denial, insisting that what we saw "was actually something".

chascomm. said...

Its the numbers that interested me.
No servant can serve 2 masters.The attitude of getting tabulations reminds me of the recent book byHodges from OxonONE TO NINE.He applied theory for a social game but he was aware of higher logic.
Anistrpy for instance has a real number game. How many numbers are there between 1 to 16 and 1 to 23 for instance?Which way do you want to go? I darent say much more but in the end I BELIEVE is still a good idea. The only thing is there are more Chinese than us testing the principle at the moment.

chascomm. said...

Another thing I remember was how to transfer a written down thing(as magician)and find it on something else. Its an old Elisdon trick I paid for as a youth. Sorry fellas;its not free. Moren one way to kill a fish u know?

chascomm. said...

DIDnt I SAY I BELIEVE RE THIS IN PREV.COMMENT?? I gave nuffink away mysel to argue a bit of the higher schools. Its great to find another man like Hodges of Oxon makin money for the social side of logical extremes. Hallelula me ole bucko!

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