TRICK REVIEW - Insta Square by Martin Lewis
Updated: May 14
Here is my in-depth review of Insta Square by Martin Lewis.
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WHAT YOU GET?
You will get a notepad with a built-in gimmick and 20 sheets of paper with magic square grids. And there is a refill pack included which has 30 pages of paper.
An ungimmicked pen is also provided for writing.
There is also a 2 sheets (4 pages) of written explanation, and a link for the online video explanation (Vimeo, downloadable)
QUALITY OF THE GIMMICK
The notepad’s dimension is about 8cm x 14cm. It can be held comfortably with a single hand.
The notepad’s design is minimal. The cover has a very subtle leather pattern. The grid is printed with a 1mm dark line, so it is quite visible from distance. The notepad is designed in a way that the souvenir page is separated from the rest of the papers so that there will be no fumbling when you handle it.
The spiral of the notepad is easy to detach for refilling papers. However, opening (but not closing) the notepad will shift it away from its original position a little, thus you need to reposition the spiral after opening the notepad a few times.
As for the gimmick, it is constructed with heavy stock paper. It looks durable but I am not sure how many performances it can hold. The gimmick works flawlessly but again, its speed may drop after prolonged use. Maintenance seems to be very difficult if not impossible. Therefore, I have some questions marks for the gimmick durability in long run.
QUALITY OF THE TUTORIAL
The explanation comes in two formats: written instruction & online tutorial.
The written instruction is very clear but only explains the method and routine. The content is somehow similar to the video but there is no section on refiling the pad and hints. At the last page, there is a link to the video instruction.
The effect is well explained in a 27 minutes and 55 seconds long video. The explanation is hosted by Martin Lewis (in this house probably).
Length (in minutes) of the main parts (I literally counted):
Introduction - 1:00
Live Performance - 1:36
Preparation - 3:33
Set-Up And Handling - 5:03
Easy Method - 3:42
The Number Selection - 2:20
Refiling the Pad - 1:59
Hints and tips - 7:07
In ‘Method’, Mr. Lewis shows the working of gimmick. It’s clear and to the point. The mechanism of how the paper can be passed as souvenir is also touched.
In ‘Preparation’. Mr. Lewis goes through the one-time preparation for the gimmick in details. The preparation takes less than 5 minutes and it’s very easy. It’s basically customizing your own gimmick with your own handwriting. And the best part is, even if the preparation is messed up, the writing can be erased. Therefore, do not worry about writing on your gimmick as it is risk-free.
In ’Set-Up And Handling’, the full routine is explained deliberately. Mr. Lewis takes good care of explaining how to get the gimmick ready, how to execute the change, lighting, even how to flip the notepad’s pages smoothly. Learners will have no issue understanding the procedures.
Mr. Lewis then explains the crucial part of the routine: the working of the magic square and the methodology to make the trick work on the selected number. The method is very direct and there is a bit of calculation involved. But no worry, it’s unbelievably easy. Psychological subtlety to make the trick convincing is also discussed.
In 'Number Selection’, Mr. Lewis talks about his way of refining the number choice. Though his method is too direct and some viewers will be probably not too satisfied with the approach, he has taught an approach by another performer. That approach is very good and devilishly clever. You may adopt that presentation if you don’t want to refine the number selection too directly.
In 'Hints and Tips’, a memorization skill is taught to ease off pressure on your brain during live performance. And there is a reference to a method which allows you to perform the trick with totally different magic square for 2 people. This tips is crucial because as a performer, you don’t want to perform the effect twice or more in a venue, then people can compare the magic square souvenir and find that they look similar. So, to perform this effect, think about how to add variety to it. This is particularly important if this effect is the main piece in your repertoire.
Overall, Mr. Lewis gives tons of information about the effect, and it will make your confident to perform the effect. However, it’s disappointing that Mr. Lewis has not discussed the maintenance of gimmick at all, not to mention how long the gimmick will last. This may be a concern to some performers who may plan to use this effect heavily.
No sleigh-of-hand is required. The only technique is to complete the magic square with the selected number. That part needs certain degree of audience management but the presentation offered by Mr. Lewis covers that nicely. Even beginners should have no issue.
The notepad is not examinable but it won’t be the focus of audience. It is the souvenir sheet that spectators are interested, and that is totally examinable.
It takes about 10 seconds to reset.
There are number of moments you want to watch your angles. When you display the blank magic square, you want to avoid direct light on the notepad. And when you are filing the date for the spectator, you may want to avoid spectators watching from your back.
No special clothing is needed.
ANALYSIS OF THE EFFECT
I will include my analysis of the effect in my product review. In this analysis, I will present my view on the strength and weakness of the effect. And will also go deeper with magic theory in mind.
Magic Square has been performed for decades, but it always suffer from an issue: it doesn’t look magical. It’s always seen as demonstration of super human power rather than a pure piece of magic. When the performer is filling in the magic square, the audience are watching the event unfolded with a possible explanation in their minds. That’s not magic, but just something hard to believe.
Mr. Lewis’s thinking on magic square has added something significant. The sudden appear of completed magic square takes away the explanation in spectator’s minds. And the nature that it is a magic square with the selected number adds another layer of deception.
Besides, let’s take a look at another aspect of the meaning of the magic square in this effect. With magic square, the number is not at once obvious. It adds suspension of belief to the effect, and slowly unfolds the impossibility in a magical way instead of a super human way. In addition, unlike other magic square effects, there is magic happened before the first calculation is shown. Each revelation will emphasize how magically impossible the effect is. Thus the nature of magic square in Insta Square is different from traditional magic square effects.
PROS ABOUT THE PRODUCT
The effect is easy and very impressive to lay audience at the same time.
Tutorial covers everything nicely.
The effect adds much magical meaning to traditional magic square effects.
CONS ABOUT THE PRODUCT
It is unclear how long the gimmick will last.
Maintenance is not discussed in tutorial at all.
Magic square is very hard to do well, not because it’s difficult to do, but because presentation is tricky.
With Insta Square, Martin Lewis has totally transformed magic square into a magical effect, making it non-mathematic in nature.
With the well built gimmick and nicely printed material, you can also perform magic square without worrying too much about presentation (though it is very important!).
This close-up (or parlour) version is very ideal because you are no longer performing it as ’super human’ demonstration, the selected number in this effect is personal and the fact that you give away the magic square as souvenir strengthen that emotional connection.
At US$60, Instasquare has my highest recommendation. If done right, it may become one of your signature effects.
Video Quality: 7/10
Effectiveness of Tricks: 10/10
Cost Performance: 10/10
Final Score: 9/10
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