Opticks by Harapan Ong
It’s here! Harapan’s long awaited second commercial release since Principia. Harapan has released several small, personal publications since Principia, but this is the first big project since then. I’m sure all the readers know, but Opticks is a visual project, AKA, it’s a streaming/downloadable series of videos instead of a book. As a bibliophile, I always prefer a book, but there are certainly major advantages to having a visual medium to see the effects and explanations clearly. Several of the routines on this project benefit greatly from this visual format.
So what do you get? You receive a luxurious square box/slipcase, a triangular box with slipcase which houses a beautiful deck of custom designed playing cards which are stunning to look at. You also receive a packet of gimmicked cards which allow you to perform many of the routines on the project. Every gimmicked card you’ll need is provided meaning you won't have to search around in your drawers for what you need.
Listen, when it comes to packaging, no one does it better than VanishingInc. Everything I’ve ever received from them is luxury at its finest. No dime is spared, and all of it looks great on display. These are the types of details I appreciate, and that is one of the many reasons why I believe VI is the best magic company around.
You also receive the video project right in your download section in your account on VI’s website meaning you won't have top wait to learn the material. The project is really easy to navigate with each trick being it’s own downloadable video. This makes it very easy to go back and find certain tricks if you need a refresher later. You can watch the tricks in any order you want, but you might as well go down the line to make sure you don’t miss any of the routines.
The project contains 26 outstanding routines ranging from self working to intermediate level. In many ways, this is a “best of” of all of Harapan’s material, so you can guarantee all of the routines are hard hitting, and they all have an efficiency which is wholly unique to Harapan. If you have Principia, you’ll already know many of these routines, but seeing them in action may breathe new life into them—it certainly did for me.
Four aces are produced during a series of cuts which, for lack of a better term, appear to fold out and back in.
This was originally in Principia. It is a rather simple cut to perform despite how complex it appears. It has the added benefit that it is a full deck false cut. It certainly has a unique look. It’s not something you’ll want to use for every ace production forever, but for something flashier, this is quick and easy.
An ace is produced, then it is split into two aces, then a third ace is produced. Suddenly those aces “explode” into a royal flush in spades.
This is another routine that was in Principia. It’s a very quick production of a royal flush which comes as quite a shock. It is completely unexpected in the course of the routine, and it’s sure to produce reactions.
The deck is split in half. The spectator holds one pile and the performer holds the other. The top card of each pile is turn over to reveal two cards which don’t match. The packets are switched and the top cards are turned over. Now the top cards are mates. The packets are switched again. Now the top cards are two DIFFERENT mates. Finally the spectator and magician count down to a number chosen by the spectator. The cards at that number are once again mates.
This is another routine from Principia. It is quite a strange experience for the spectator. There doesn’t appear to be any moves at all in the routine which is one of the aspects that makes this work. It’s kind of a confusing plot, but the cleanliness of the handling keeps it workable.
Followers of Christ
Four aces are quickly produced. A spectator loses them back into the deck. With no moves, the ace of clubs turns faceup in the middle of the deck. It is turned facedown, and with a snap, the next ace turns faceup in the middle of the deck. However, upon spreading to the middle of the deck, the ace of clubs is discovered face up again. Again it is turned face down. And yet again the ace of clubs turns faceup. It’s turned facedown again. This time the seven of spades turns faceup. Confused, the performer deals seven cards from the point where the seven is faceup. The seventh card is… the ace of clubs! Exasperated, the performer turns over the top card of three piles that have formed and discovers the other three aces.
This is another routine from Principia. It is such a fun routine, and it is wonderful to see it in action on this project. It has a great flow, a deceptive method, and a fun plot. The final time the ace of clubs turns up will elicit giggles every time, and the final appearance of the three aces is a great surprising climax. This is the first routine in the project that uses a couple of gimmicked cards.
This is a fun presentation about four different types of choices: choices other people make for you, conscious choices, random choices, and choices you didn’t know you were making. The spectator demonstrates each of these types of choices and ends up with four aces.
This is a self working trick that requires a bit of a set up, but the presentation is fun and perhaps makes the setup worth-while.
A card is selected and returned. The performer uses three random cards to learn some clues about the selected card. Unknown to the performer, one of the random cards is actually the selection. After deducing some comical clues from the cards, the performer sets the three clue cards aside and attempts to find the selection in the remainder of the deck. To the surprise of the spectator, the performer is able to find the selected card. The three clue cards which were set aside (one of which used to be the selection) are turned over to reveal the three mates of the selected card.
This routine can be performed FASDIU. Harapan goes over all the details of how to set this up from a shuffled deck quickly. The routine is easy to do and it contains a light hearted magician-in-trouble moment classic to the dunbury delusion. The appearance of the three mates at the end wraps the trick up nicely and makes the routine have a great finality to it.
The Famous Eight Card Mystery
A small packet is cut from the deck by the spectator and the bottom card of the pile is memorized. The cards are given a mix by moving eight cards from the top to bottom twice. After this they perform a down/under deal. The last card in their hand is an eight. They then deal eight cards onto the table and it is their selected card. For a finale, the packets on the table are turned over to reveal the other three eights.
This is a self-working trick which is extremely easy to get into FASDIU. The final result is quite surprising considering it is completely hands off and totally self working. It does have sort of the classic “self working magic” feel to it with the moving of cards and down/under deal, but in a way, I think that makes the final climax of all four eights a bigger surprise.
This is a tough one to describe. FASDIU a card is selected and lost in the deck. The deck is shuffled faceup into facedown. The deck is split in half and one half of the cards are pushed through the other half. As the half deck emerges from the other end, they are all face down. They are removed and spread to show they are truly all face down. The other half of the deck is spread to show them all faceup except for one facedown card—the selection.
As I said, this is tough to describe, but it makes sense visually. (Thank goodness this is a visual project and not a book!) This uses Paul Harris’s “Unshuffling Rebecca” principle but applied to a triumph. It’s simple to do and it is an easy addition to a triumph routine. There’s also a bonus handling taught using a full deck cull for if you want to have the cards genuinely shuffled faceup and facedown by the spectator. I like both versions and I see perks with both.
A deck is shuffled faceup into face down. Similar to the previous routine, the deck is halved and one half is pushed through the other half. This time, an ace appears on the packet that emerges. This happens twice more. After three aces have been produced, the deck is spread to show they are now all faceup except for the final ace.
This has a similar look to the previous routine. With the difference of four of a kind being produced rather than a selected card. It is quite simple to get into FASDIU, and the movements are all very economical. However, I prefer the latter routine simply because I feel this routine has a bit too much going on. I prefer the cleanliness of the separation of faceup and facedown.
The four queens are removed from the deck and placed aside. The spectator names any queen they want to use, and you proceed to do something magical with the queen they name.
This is a tough one to describe because it is a multiple out effect. The spectator has a completely free choice of which queen to name, and no matter which queen they name, you will do something magical with their queen. What exactly happens depends on which one they name. This is a unique take on multiple outs. Each outcome is very fair and clean and impossible to reconstruct. This is a fun one. This is the second routine in the project that uses a gimmicked card.
This routine originally appeared in Principia. The Aces and Kings are removed from the deck. The kings are placed into the card box while the aces are held. The performer shows four facedown aces. With a wave, the ace of spades turns faceup. At this point the spectator can choose any ace to use next. No matter which ace they name, it will turn over. Eventually, the ace they name turns facedown and the king of the same suit turns facedown in the box. When the facedown cards are revealed, the ace is found amongst the kings, and the king is found amongst the aces.
I thoroughly enjoy this one. This is another multiple out routine, but this time, the multiple outs comes in subtle shifts of method. The effect of the names ace turning over is always the same and to will always have the kicker ending of the names ace swapping places with the king. There is a bit to remember since there are multiple paths to take at multiple points in the routine, but it’s nothing overly complex. I like the freedom this routine gives you because the spectator really and truly can name any ace and you will be able to accommodate their wish. I enjoyed this one when I read it in Principia, but seeing it in this visual format definitely made me like it even more.
A card is selected and lost in the deck. Four aces are shown and turned facedown. With a wave, the two black aces turn faceup indicating the chosen card is black. With another wave, only the ace of spades is faceup indicating the chosen card is a spade. With one final wave, the aces are turned faceup and are seen to be the selected card and it’s mates.
This is Harapan’s take on the Hofzinser card problem. His issue is that he felt the previous routine had a lot going on all in one dramatic moment, and he found it to be confusing for the audience to follow. His solution is to break down the effect into separate steps so that each effect happens within its own moment before the kicker of all the aces changing to the selected four of a kind. This is a clever take on the Hofzinser effect and the dramatic build up brings a unique touch to the classic plot.
Four Jokers turn facedown one at a time. When the jokers are turned over, they are now the four Aces.
This was originally in Principia, but I’ll be the first to admit it didn’t jump out and grab my attention when reading. Seeing it in action shows how great this quick routine is. This is such a simple and direct plot with a direct method and clean twisting sequence which is bound to fool. The best part: it truly just uses four cards. No sticky stuff and no rough and smooth. In my opinion, this is far superior to the “NFW” effect that was wildly popular years ago. This is the third routine that uses gimmicked cards, but the impact they have on the routine is worth the “inconvenience” of carrying them.
Center of Attention
Four aces are displayed. With a wave, the ace of spades turns faceup within all the facedown aces. The ace is turned back facedown and instantly, it is seen to be faceup in the middle of the pile again. Finally, the ace of spades is removed from the aces and placed under the table. Suddenly, the ace of spades changes into the other three aces leaving the ace of spades where the other three were a moment ago.
This is a nice asymmetric transposition which genuinely only uses four cards. There is a gimmicked card involved, but that gimmick allows for the super clean second turn over and the super clean transposition as the finale. It is very easy to do requiring minimal sleights. My only complaint it that it is a bit generic of a routine with some random and unrelated things happening. Harapan covers this with a presentation on the ace of spades needing to be different than the rest, but I don’t particularly love presentations where we personify playing cards for no apparent reason. All of that said, the economy of movement is smooth, and the routine works well, you just may need to spend some time coming up with the “why.”
Four kings are displayed and held as a packet. They turn into the four aces one at a time. Then a fifth card appears. Unexpectedly, the cards turn into a royal flush.
This is my favorite routine on the project. It is absolutely stunning. The method is practical, economical, and incredibly deceptive. Harapan hit it out of the park with this one. Laymen won’t stand a chance. It uses a couple of gimmicked cards, but the cleanliness and additional kicker ending you receive because of those cards is just about unmatched when it comes to effectiveness. I love this one, and I have a feeling you will too.
Two red aces are placed facedown on the table. While the black aces are held in the performer’s hand. Instantly and visually, the red aces become the black aces in the process of turning them faceup.
This is another routine from Principia. It is a wonderful visual take on Dr. Daley’s last trick. My only issue with it is that it’s so quick and you need a gimmicked card for it. I have to ask myself if carrying an extra card is worth it, and with this one, I wish it were a multiple phase routine instead of just one super quick moment. Great for social media perhaps, but it’s over a little too quickly for the real world where you can’t rewind.
The two red kings are placed aside, and two cards are selected and lost in the pack. The kings are waved above the deck and the first selection appears between the kings. It is placed aside facedown. The kings are again waved over the deck and a card appears between the kings. Confusingly, the card is the first selection again. Which must mean the second selection is now facedown on the table. However, when the two selections are turned over, they visually change into the two kings leaving the two selected cards in the performer’s hand where the kings were a moment ago.
This is another favorite from the project. This uses the same visual move from the previous trick but applies it into the context of a full routine which perfectly solves the “issue” I had with the previous routine. It is a surprising and super visual take on the kickback plot, and it’s sure to leave audiences stunned when the kings visually appear. This is a keeper.
The King of Hearts is turned facedown on top of the faceup deck. The deck is spread to a random card in the middle. With a flick, the random card flies through the air, changes into the King of Hearts, and lands on the spread of cards. The top card (which was the King of Hearts) is flipped to reveal it is now the random card.
This uses a gimmicked card, a knack move, and a three card set up. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of this one. It doesn’t fit my aesthetic and I find the change to be less than impressive because it’s unclear which card is being tossed in the first place. If the card were isolated from the spread, it would seem more clean, but as is, it’s a bit too muddy for my taste.
Slap Me Silly
The Aces and Kings are removed from the deck. The spectator puts the four kings faceup into the facedown deck in various parts of the pack. The aces are placed faceup on top of the deck. With a wave of a hand, the aces instantly become the four kings all on top of the deck. The deck is spread to show the four aces are now faceup in various parts of the deck.
I’ve always been a fan of this plot. Liam Montier put out his version in a PDF years ago and I’ve been using it since I read it. This version has some significant advances—primarily that the kings are cleanly seen to be inserted in various parts of the deck. There’s also great economy in the method. I think Harapan’s biggest strength in creating is coming up with super economical solutions to plots. I haven’t decided if this will replace my current version, but I am definitely going to rehearse it and try it out.
Utterly Mental Reverse
The deck is shuffled by a spectator. Five random cards are removed and the spectator thinks of one. The five cards are shuffled and then the spectator places the five cards faceup into five different parts of the deck. Without any funny moves, the deck is spread facedown to show there is only one card faceup—the thought of card.
This is a unique plot with a simple method. It can be performed FASDIU. It features a move called the “Cull, Tap, Reverse.” This move is primarily what gives the routine its cleanliness. The move is very easy to do, but it it totally invisible; it allows you to secretly reverse a number of cards right under everyone’s noses. This move is fantastic and I’m sure other uses for it will blossom from this.
Three Degrees of Separation
The ace, two, and three of clubs is removed from the deck and placed aside. Three cards are selected from various parts of the deck and they are lost in the deck. The ace, two, and three are placed faceup on the deck and with a wave, the three cards vanish from the top. When the deck is spread, the ace, two, and three are found face up in three distinct locations in the deck. The ace is right next to the first selection, the two is two cards away from the second selection, and the three is three cards away from the third selection.
This was one of my favorite routines from Principia. It has a beautiful economy which makes it incredibly clean from beginning to end. It is easy to do, and the impact is strong because it seems so utterly impossible. There are no funny moves throughout; all appears above board and yet, all the sneaky moves are happening in the moments that seem the most mundane. This is a wonderful routine which is easy to do, and I can say from experience, it packs a strong punch.
Opposite Day Oil and Water
Three red cards and three black cards are displayed. The red cards are placed on top of the black cards, but when they are spread, the cards are alternating red/black. The cards are separated once more, but again they are seen alternating red/black. Finally, the alternating stack is left on the table for a moment, and the colors separate.
This is Harapan’s take on the classic oil and water plot. It uses only six ungimmicked cards and revolves around a presentation of it being Opposite Day so whatever you do with the cards, the opposite happens. It’s his attempt to make the oil and water routine have a bit of a through line that makes some sense instead of the confusing mixing/unmixing that many routines contain. The routine is very simple to perform, and it has some nice moments. I certainly don’t think it’s the hardest hitting oil and water routine ever, but it serves the plot well and it’s simplicity leads to a clear understanding of what is supposedly happening which makes it easy to follow for the spectator.
The four Aces are removed and placed faceup together in the center of the deck. A card is touched and looked at from the top half of the deck, and a second selection is touched and looked at from the bottom half of the deck. With no funny moves, the deck is spread to show the four Aces which were all together in the middle of the deck have separated. Now, the two black aces have gathered together in the top half of the deck trapping one card between them; the two red aces have gathered together in the bottom half of the deck trapping one card between them. These are the selections.
This is a strong plot which is very simple to follow for the spectators. Again, Harapan’s genius shines in this routine because it is so economical and the moves are completely hidden. By the time the two cards are selected, all the work is already done. Just when the spectators are ready to watch for a move, there are none to see. However, with that said, this routine is far from self-working. In my opinion, this is the toughest routine on the project. The moves aren’t necessarily difficult, but it’s a lot of cull work and hidden displacements which can be difficult to achieve smoothly. If you aren’t comfortable culling, this routine will be a big challenge. But for those of us who feel confident in our culling skills, this routine will put it to the test. With practice, the routine can soar.
Two jokers are cleanly displayed. They are turned facedown onto the deck, given a squeeze, and suddenly there is a faceup ace between them. The ace is tabled and the jokers are again displayed. They are given a squeeze, and again an ace appears between them; the ace is tabled with the first one. The jokers are shown, squeezed, and a third ace appears between them! Finally, the jokers are shown and placed on the deck. Suddenly, the entire deck appears between the two jokers leaving only one card in the performer’s hand—the final ace.
It’s routine is a combination of a fat sandwich routine by John Bannon and Bill Goodwin’s “Hold the Mayo.” This routine uses a gimmicked card, but once again, the cleanliness the card gives you is worth adding it to the deck. The handling is efficient and clean. There is a bit of a set up required which would be tough to get into in front of an audience, but if you wanted to start a performance with this, you’d be set. Harapan also teaches an ungimmicked version of the routine, and while it’s clever, you do lose out on a touch of the cleanliness. I think the additional degree of cleanliness from the gimmicked card is worth it.
The four kings are placed aside. Two cards are selected and remembered. The kings are placed faceup on the deck and suddenly one card appears between them—the first selection. The performer prepares to turn that selection into the second selection when he discovers the second spectator never put their card back in the deck. To remedy this, he waves the kings over the deck, and they are spread to show three cards interlaced amongst the kings. They are the three mates to the selected card.
Harapan described this as an imbalanced transposition combined with the collectors plot. The playfulness of forgetting to lose the second selection gives the motivation for the second half of the trick. Once again, as you would come to expect from Harapan, this is very clean thanks to a gimmicked card. After watching the performance of the routine, I thought it would be difficult to do, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the entire routine is quite simple leaving plenty of brain-space to focus on the presentation itself.
Four aces and four queens are displayed. The queens are placed into the card box. The Queen of Spades is removed from the card box and placed in the middle of the aces. Suddenly, the aces are spread to show not one, but three cards between them. They are the other three queens. There is only one card in the box, it is the Queen of Spades.
This routine is very similar to the previous one. The method is almost identical, but Harapan has eliminated the need for the selected cards and the deck. Again this uses a gimmicked card, but without it, the transposition wouldn’t be possible. Like the previous routine, it’s actually very simple to do. Oddly, I find that this plot is a little more difficult to follow versus the simplicity of the previous routine.
If you enjoyed Principia, you will love this one. VanishingInc has hit it out of the park yet again. There's a great balance of gimmicked vs. ungimmicked, impromptu vs. prepared, easy vs. difficult, and old vs. new mater. I heartily recommend it.