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  • Writer's pictureMadison Hagler

Ditto by Ellusionist

Recently released, this electronic-free pencil cup allows you to know the precise order that markers were removed from it. Ellusionist is advertising it as a cheaper, electronic-free version of Color Match by Promystic. I’ll tell you my thoughts on that at the end.

The packaging on this is very nice. It comes in a big box with a foam insert custom-made for the device and the six ungimmicked Sharpie markers that come with it. This foam insert ensures nothing moves around in shipping, and it does a great job of that. Removing the main unit was easy enough, but I found it very difficult to remove the markers. The foam is so tight that in order to get the last two markers out, I was afraid I was going to have to rip the foam out entirely. I wish they had added a ribbon you could pull to help get those final markers out, but that’s a small complaint about great packaging. Everything you need to set the trick up is contained in the base of the device, which locks onto the cup magnetically. I really like this. It is great that they thought about the storage of the extra pieces so that they don’t get lost. To be safe, Ellusionist provides two sets of the balls so that if you do lose any, you have a replacement.

The trailer on E’s website reveals exactly how this work, so you know what you’re buying. It uses gravity and little plastic balls that roll into view in the order the markers are removed. Think of it like a pool table–when the ball goes into the pocket, it rolls into view along the side of the table. A very similar thing is happening here.

I would like to start by pointing out four areas for potential problems with the device, just so you’re fully aware of the limitations.

  1. Lighting - The color of the ball can be difficult to see in the device, so you want to make sure you perform it in a well-lit area. If you’re performing on stage, you are probably going to want some form of backlight to help balance the intensity of the front light on the device. The hardest two to decipher are the black and the blue. In the tutorial, black is simply always removed first to draw the picture or demonstrate the process. I think this is the best way around the black/blue confusion. The other colors are different enough that even in low lighting, you can tell them apart. 

  1. Sound - The Ditto gimmick does make a little bit of noise. I know many people were worried that you could hear the balls rolling into place, but honestly, that’s not a problem; it’s very quiet in operation. The bigger problem is that the balls rattle if the cup is moved in any way. I think some of the rattling noise comes from the extra set of balls in the base, so perhaps removing them would help eliminate some of the sound, but there is definitely some rattling noise that comes from the balls that are loaded in position. As long as the spectator isn’t moving the cup, you should be fine.

  1. Sightlines -  When the Ditto gimmick is sitting on my countertop, I can clearly see the strange nature of the inside mechanism when I go to remove a marker. If your spectator is expecting a normal pencil cup, and they catch a glimpse of the inside of the cup, I think they will definitely peek over the edge to see all the way inside. You have to consider your sightlines when performing this. If the surface Ditto is on is too low, they WILL see inside of it. The only fix I can see for this is the sit the cup on a higher surface just below eye level or make sure the spectator is seated if the surface is lower. 

  1. Replacement - I think any routine that involves the spectator putting the marker back into the cup is doomed to fail. The nature of the cup forces you to look inside to see where the marker should go because there is a very small hole the size of a Sharpie marker that the marker must fit into. You can’t just throw the marker back into the cup; you can feel it hitting plastic. You have to look inside to see the hole, and the moment the spectator does this, it’s over. 

Those are the things you have to be aware of when selecting how you want to use Ditto. None of them are incredibly problematic, but they are considerations you should have when selecting when and where to perform it. Now let’s look at the content of the tutorial hosted by Peter Turner. It is broken down into chapters making it very easy to digest in bite-sized pieces. 

Introduction - This is a very brief intro to the history of the device. You’ll be happy to hear they received Promystic’s blessing to produce this.

Overview - This is where Peter takes us through how the device works and how to set it up. Ditto comes with a little device that helps you load the balls if you have large hands. This device makes the loading process almost automatic. Personally, I don’t have the need to use this “peashooter,” but I’m glad they included it for those that may need the help. Peter also walks us through how to use this for the basic color match routine in this overview. It should be noted that this routine involves the spectator removing the marker, showing it to everyone while the performer’s back is turned, and putting it back in the cup. As I said earlier, I think having them remove a marker and put it back in the cup is dangerous because I feel they WILL look inside the cup. If you know the cup has holes for the markers, then it’s relatively easy to get the pen back in the cup. The issue is that most pencil holder cups don’t have a specific slot for each pencil/marker. Because it’s unexpected, it will take them by surprise when they go to throw it back in the cup and feel that it isn’t just an open space inside the cup. This routine is also strange because instead of just removing the marker and using it to draw the picture (as in the original color match routine by Promystic), the spectator has to take out a marker, show it to everyone, put it back in the cup, then the performer turns around to tell them what piece of the drawing to color in, then the spectator takes the same marker back out and draws in the section the performer said. So this may not use electronics, but it adds an additional step into the routine that I find hard to justify. Peter also tells the story of electronics failing at Blackpool to justify the use of analog over electronics. 

Loading & Unloading - Here, we get a close-up of Geraint loading and unloading the Ditto gimmick where you can easily see it. This allows you to see the process in real-time.

Sneak Thief - Peter teaches how to do Larry Becker’s excellent Sneak Thief routine with Ditto. The advantage here is that you don’t have to mark the billets since you are getting the information based on what color marker they used. I would probably find a more subtle way to use this. I would put a black cap on each Sharpie so that even the people selecting markers don’t know what color they’ve got until they’ve drawn their pictures. This leaves the audience in the dark, and they can “play along.” It works, but it begs the question of if it would be cleaner just to mark the billets. I feel like the original method is the better choice.

Black Moon - This is Peter’s take on Max Maven’s Kurotsuke using Ditto. The performer names which color is the important color. Everyone picks a sharpie and holds it in their hand where the cap is hidden. They think of a drawing they would make with the color they took. The performer goes down the line and reveals details about each person’s drawing and what color they chose and ends by revealing which person is holding the “important” color. I think this is a strange mixture of routines. I think the idea of having a line of people select a marker and think of a drawing they would make with that color is nice. I think the performer revealing details about their drawings and ultimately revealing their color is nice. But I think that’s all the routine should be. Adding in an “important” color that you’re trying to find is strange. The reason Kurotsuke makes sense in the original is that you have one object that is different from the others. In that case, you are clearly trying to find the one object that is different. So if you wanted to do a true Kurotsuke, I would have five black markers and one red one. The five black markers are loaded with all of the other color balls besides red, and the red marker gets the red ball. Now you line up however many people you want (up to six) and have them step forward and select a marker one at a time. The only stipulation is one of them must choose the red marker. When you get your peek, you just have to count where the red ball is, and you know who has the red marker, and you can proceed in a typical Kurotsuke fashion. 

Visa Cabaret - One spectator hides the markers all over their body. The performer is able to tell them the location of each marker. This is a great use for this gimmick if you can justify using the Sharpies for it. I feel like using markers without them actually using the markers to write with just seems strange. What I feel would make this better is to have them remove a marker and either make little Xs on their body where it can't be seen until the reveal or draw a picture on a business card and put the business card in the pocket instead of the Sharpie or something that involves them drawing/coloring something before hiding it. I think that helps justify the use of a marker.

Swapped Caps - The spectator selects two markers, swaps their caps, and puts them back in the cup. The performer is able to find which caps have been swapped. The performer swaps the caps back, and they can play it again by switching two more caps. This, again, requires the spectator to put the markers back into the cup, which isn’t my favorite. It’s a strange premise that plays small. Peter discusses how to make it play bigger on stage, but again, it’s a strange premise that I don’t find particularly exciting. Does the idea of finding which caps have been swapped on a Sharpie really seem so dramatically moving that you want to use it on stage? It is just too trivial for me. 

Color Match Variation - Someone hides the markers all over their body. The performer has the spectator think of an image and draw it on a piece of paper. The performer then has them color in the image with the markers, and the prediction matches the image and the color choices. This is sort of a combination of Color Match and Visa Cabaret, and in my opinion, this is the better method for Color Match. The universal force is used to force the initial image, which is a nice touch because it seems like they had a choice of 5 different images they could have drawn. I think this is the strongest routine in the tutorial. It inspired the method I will use to replicate the color match routine; I will discuss my version of the color match routine in a video at the end of the review.

Dice and Numbers - This is the concept of using the six markers to represent the six numbers on a die. This allows you to perform mental die routines, or a PIN code reveal, or a birthday reveal using Ditto. I hate stuff like this. It involves writing a “key” which explains which color represents which number. Why would you EVER use six colored markers to represent numbers to make a PIN or select a number? I really dislike when performers use one thing to represent a totally different thing that has no connection. It makes the routine difficult to follow and leads to the obvious question: why? I don’t advise anyone to use this idea. If you want to reveal numbers, buy “Mental Die.” Don’t try to make markers represent numbers. Let Ditto do what it does well: allows you to reveal colors. This leads Peter to discuss how to use the “key” idea to allow them to select things besides numbers. Again, if you have to have a “key” to explain what object represents what other object, it’s probably a very bad trick.

Voice Print - The spectator chooses a color marker that represents their best friend and writes their name in a random place on a piece of paper. They use the other colors to write the names of people they don’t know. The performer is able to know the name of the best friend when looking at the paper and give a brief reading about that person. This is another good use for Ditto. It’s one that came into my mind as soon as I saw the advert. You can use this as a great way to know what someone is thinking of out of 6 things. It works with names, objects, drawings, words; you name it. With some thought, this could become a great showpiece.

Jam Session - This is a jam session between Peter and Geraint. The first idea Gerant brings is to purposefully swap the caps on a couple of pens so that the color match routine seems like it has gone wrong, but you’ve still predicted the colors correctly. Peter brings the idea of adding the liar/truth-teller plot to it in order to gather additional information that you can use later (for a star sign reveal.) Next, he shows the idea of using markers to play rock paper scissors. Again, why would you use markers to play rock paper scissors when it’s a game that is played with your hands? Don’t use that idea. Geraint then talks about being aware of the lighting and suggests taking a moment to ensure you can get adequate lighting before jumping straight into the routine. Peter brings up the idea of using phone lighting to help you see or taking a photo to be able to adjust the lighting in the worst-case scenario. I think both of these ideas are impractical. The best solution for lighting is to make sure sure you have enough backlight to allow you to see it without having to resort to using phones or flashlights. Geraint brings up a great point which is that this prop looks so normal. It looks like something that would sit on your desk in your home office without anyone being the wiser. Peter then adds the idea of using this to get free drinks from your mates. Geraint ends it by suggesting the idea of playing Among Us with six people–the performer trying to find the murderer who took the red marker. 

There are a lot of ideas given and discussed in the tutorial, and while you may not take one of these routines and use it verbatim, you may be inspired by these ideas. I think there is even more that can be found with the gimmick, such as using it for color readings, psychometry routines, reading “auras,” and more. Think about why you would want to know what color someone has and build a routine based on that. The variation on the Color Match routine certainly inspired me. Here is a full video explaining how I would use Ditto to perform a really solid variation on Color Match on stage:

I hope this review helps give you some clarity on this product. There are definitely some considerations that must be made if you’re planning on using it, but overall, it works consistently, it’s very well made, and there is a lot of food for thought in the tutorial. The best thing about this product is that Ellusiunist has been extremely clear about what you’re getting and how it works. If you were hoping this had all the flexibility of Promystic’s Color Match without the electronics, you might be disappointed by the limitations. If you like what you see and you’re able to work around the four considerations listed above, you definitely won’t be disappointed, as it works exactly as advertised.

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