Speed cards - Derren Brown: Do you think it's possible?

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#1 22 May, 2013 - 06:56
Joined: 4 years 11 months ago

Speed cards - Derren Brown: Do you think it's possible?

I was watching this the other day, and wondered if you guys think this is possible utilising only memory/memory techniques, rather than mentalist trickery?

22 May, 2013 - 14:35
Joined: 2 years 3 months ago

I think it's impossible. He had to have swapped the deck for a pre-memorized one at some point. The camera probably wasn't on him at that point and he used sleight of hand to trick the woman.

It's a good trick that could be used by someone who wanted to combine memory and magic... :)

22 May, 2013 - 21:05
Joined: 4 years 11 months ago

Yeah, I thought it was pretty groovy, and given that it was probably pre-memorised, he "faked" his not-quite-perfect memorisation of the card faces quite well. It did seem a little improbably that someone would be able to see and memorise the faces that quick, given also that he said "the key is to slow down time" :P

23 May, 2013 - 01:34
Joined: 4 years 2 months ago

A great pick up by you guys. He would have 'lapped' the deck replacing it for his own pre memorized deck. Lets not take away from Mr Brown he's got to be the best 'mentalist magician' out there. If you've not seen him I would recomend checking some of his other performances.

23 May, 2013 - 04:59
Joined: 4 years 2 months ago

I'm pretty sure he did it with a well memorised starting deck and the knowledge that she has 'average' card skills.
Her shuffle cut the deck 4 or 5 times, then 3 times, 4 times then twice. An 'average' shuffle produces sequences of cards.
I just shuffled a new deck in a similar fashion to what was shown in the video.
My starting deck was ordered Ace to King for each of the suits.
My shuffled deck was ordered
4d 5d 6d 7d 8d
2h 3h 4h
2d 3d
9c Tc Jc Qc Kc
Ac 2c 3c 4c 5c 6c
9d Td Jd Qd Kd
6s 7s 8s 9s Ts Js Qs Ks
5h 6h 7h 8h 9h Th Jh Qh Kh
As 2s 3s 4s 5s

When you know how bad an average shuffle is, you can understand why he did not recall the enitre deck. He recalled 12 cards then skipped to "somewhere in the middle" and recalled another 11 before exclaiming "thats enough of that"
When he riffled the cards, he only needed to identify a new starting point and a few loci that skipped to different loci along his well remembered journey.

23 May, 2013 - 13:20
Joined: 2 years 3 months ago

That's a possibility too. It's difficult to know whether he dropped the deck below the table or did some other sleight of hand because of the way it was edited...

I don't think that the sleight of hand takes away from anything -- he is a brilliant mentalist. With those skills he could have taken a different route with it, but he openly admits that he uses magic.

26 May, 2013 - 10:22
Joined: 4 years 5 months ago

Though the deck of cards is constantly visible. You don't lose the deck out of sight.
Besides, the Queen of spades was on the bottom with both decks making it that it would be hard to change the decks and have the same card at the bottom.

27 May, 2013 - 00:32
Joined: 2 years 3 months ago

Wessells wrote:

Besides, the Queen of spades was on the bottom with both decks making it that it would be hard to change the decks and have the same card at the bottom.

I don't know exactly what he did, but it looks like a numbered clubs card on the bottom when it leaves her hands and a Queen of Spades when he starts "memorizing" it. Check out the screenshots below. She is pulling those cards off the bottom and placing them on the top.

There could be another explanation, there could be some frames edited out, or my screenshot could be at the wrong point, but I think he might be using sleight of hand. :)

It's also possible that he just did take a chance that she wouldn't shuffle the deck well, but that would run a high risk of at least one error when doing the trick. Hard to tell, since there could have been more than one take, and the clip is edited.

27 May, 2013 - 18:59
Joined: 4 years 11 months ago

Definitely a great mentalist and performer - I have watched everything of his available :P Whilst I agree with Josh that the route taken would most likely have been a sleight of hand, I certainly think the "chance" option is quite valid - consider the fact that most people would be in awe if you memorised a sequence of a few cards, let alone in a "flash", if he did in fact take the chance, and happened to forget one, the fact that he remembered most would be the sticking point in her mind (and the audience's too, for that matter), so I think it would be a risk well-worth taking (if he didn't use sleight of hand).

18 July, 2013 - 10:46
Joined: 5 years 3 months ago

He is a terrific performer. As always, it's in the presentation.
One of the comments in the list was "What happened at 3:55?" which is where there is a jump in the video.
At that point anything could have happened. I'm sure it would have passed muster to anyone watching but it would have added time that did not move the effect along.

Though he did a Dia Vernon effect at the end I don't think memory displays were part of Vernon's toolkit.


3 November, 2014 - 05:34
Joined: 5 years 11 months ago

I counted about five seconds to flip through the deck the first time, slightly less the next. Let's say about 10-15 cards per second. Taking into consideration the possibility of pre-memorised starting deck and a sloppy shuffle, maybe five seconds was enough to identify how the sequence was spliced, then perhaps create stray paths between loci by improvising linking mnemonics. Discontinuation points would be far fewer than 52.

I wouldn't totally rule out the possibility of committing a deck to short-term memory at that speed, but I think the person would have to have an exceptional nervous system to say the least. If it takes 20-40 ms for a visual stimulus to reach the brain, at the speed of 66-100 ms of visual exposure per card the brain has 26-80 ms to decide where to store the next card - i.e. create some kind of context - before the next stimulus starts its 20-40 ms journey into the brain. Free association would probably be too slow and the brain would need to maintain some kind of ephemeral image of the sequence that might only be possible to emerge from heightened sensory perception and internal experience, to allow delayed organizing and submitting of the information into STP or LTP memory retroactively, instead of submitting it as individual information snippets in real-time as would normally be done when using memory techniques. Even if somebody experienced strong eidetic imagery I would still be extremely impressed if they were able to pull this off, and I understand eidetics usually process slowly but profoundly, so I don't know if they would shine in such a task or if the image would become an impressionistic blur.

3 November, 2014 - 18:13
Joined: 4 years 6 months ago

Possible? Yeah, I actually think so. I won't hesitate to add that I'm only leaning in that direction and wouldn't be the least bit surprised if I were wrong. Did Derren Brown do it? No, there's absolutely no chance that he did. Remember that we're talking about a professional liar.

The first manuscript I read from Derren Brown was about 15 years ago when he was just another mentalist, and not Derren Brown yet. And it was the same treatment of mentalist effects that you would get in a book from any other magician anywhere. It was just step-by-step instruction on the most convincing way to pull off a couple of specific lies for the sake of entertainment.

The explanations of these effects are rarely plausible, and wouldn't you wonder that rather than the researchers all around the world, the entertainer named Derren Brown is the one who keeps discovering and mastering the usage of these remarkable mental phenomena? It's one of the most interesting things about magic and mentalism. We know we're being lied to. We know we're being lied to, but we try to tell ourselves that we aren't, because if we aren't, the situation is incomparably fascinating.

18 July, 2015 - 03:27
Joined: 2 years 6 hours ago

Aw... come on... All of your points will be taken out if that dealer is a pro kardist, I'd read a lot of mentalism trick books, and in a perspective of a kardist, mentalist tricks would looks so funny.
1) Kardist doesn't have to use pre-ordered deck.
2) Kardist can do the most convenient classic pass
3) Kardist control is super sleight
4) Kardist can do palming, without anyone noticing
5) Kardist can fool people by false shuffles
Oh, yeah I saw Derren Brown do a Sybil Cut, and I think he knew a lot about Cardistry since Sybil Cut is a pretty advanced shuffle.

6 January, 2016 - 16:28
Joined: 1 year 5 months ago

Hi Suncover,

I'm a professional magician and have been for many years, there are several way that trick can be done and none of them involves mesmerizing the "whole deck". I suspect he palmed a number of remembered cards to the deck then the other are marked in way that can be revealed through touch. One thing a lot of magician dislike about Derren Brown there’s a lot of camera editing and camera angles that you don't get with old time tv magicians like Paul Daniels. Where what you saw was what the audience did, there was one continues camera shot. A lot of the newer magicians although Derren Brown been on the tv for over 10 years, magic seems to rely on the magic of the editing room.


Peeta Raven

6 January, 2016 - 16:42
Joined: 2 years 1 month ago

I can relate to that Peeta,

Recently I talked to someone who was truely convinced that all tricks done by magician Dynamo were really stunning and real. She even said that he really walked on water... When looking at his tricks though, all is just a hired audience and the right camera angles.

6 January, 2016 - 16:56
Joined: 4 years 2 months ago


A lot of the newer magicians although Derren Brown been on the tv for over 10 years, magic seems to rely on the magic of the editing room.

Rely on? I think that's a stretch.

The man is a fantastic performer, as well as a good magician. He's also a very naughty boy.

6 January, 2016 - 16:57
Joined: 4 years 2 months ago


I can't abide Dynamo and Troy. Gimmick after gimmick after gimmick. The only time I've seen Dynamo ever do genuine conjuring, it was an incredibly basic trick.

15 January, 2016 - 19:36
Joined: 1 year 5 months ago

Hi Graham,

Trust me on this one, magicians like Derren Brown, Dynamo, Troy, etc... Their tv programs are recorded in the style of music video, multiple camera cuts, fancy transition, voice overs and I'm sorry to say contrary to some of these magicians claims stooges, although individuals like Derren Brown will play the semantic card when it comes down to stooges.

Old style TV magicians like Paul Daniels you had one continuous camera shot with no cutaway. when you compare that to Derren Brown, when you see him on Tv there is constant cutaways to different camera angles like in a music video, fancy transitions coupled with some smug voice-over.

I just watched his "The Push" no magic but a show supposedly based around social compliance , which in a nutshell was careful crafted to pedal his anti-religious platform.

And of course he proved how he could push people in to murder therefore we need to be careful of ideologies. YET... the one guy that was genuinely a unknowing participant and whom the show was based mainly around. At the end did not push some old man of the roof so a humungous fail. But, he showed three shorted down other attempts where two women and a man did. It would be a big WOW if it was not the fact those three where stooges, which is why they where presented at the end in quick snippets. The dodgy acting was a giveaway they certainly where no students of method acting.

And this the problem with the likes of Derren Brown he palms of magical effects as having some bases in psychology with a good helping of psychobabble and hyperbole often to peddle agenda.

When hes remembers a pack of card in seconds faster than any memory man, hes not using NLP (another pseudoscience) lesser known psychological effects or advance mnemonics, its a bloody card trick involving a gimmick deck slight of hand enhanced with camera editing.

I might just reproduce the trick and shove it up on youtube for a laugh.


Peeta Raven

16 January, 2016 - 07:53
Joined: 4 years 2 months ago

I'm not doubting that camera edits are used, Peeta. I'm suggesting that I think it's a stretch to say that Derren Brown relies on them. He uses them to good effect, especially when dealing with probabilities, but he'd be just as impressive without them (in my opinion).

Incidentally, I'm not sure the show was a 'humungous fail'. I'm pretty sure it achieved the desired goal, relying on a well-known principle from mentalism. An 'almost' is often more impressive than a perfect score.

16 January, 2016 - 16:47
Joined: 1 year 5 months ago

Hi Graham,

I've meet him several times over the years and I find without a team of professional behind him, his magic is just FINE and what are these,


I'm pretty sure it achieved the desired goal, relying on a well-known principle from mentalism

Stage magic and all its subgroups, rely on nothing more than staged deception, fantasy.

There are no well-known techniques that allow a magician/mentalist, to accurately read minds, hypnotize someone with a word and a mere gesture or rapidly learn a book verbatim in seconds or a set of shuffled cards. Although I believe I did see Derren Brown once disappear in a toilet with a puff, could be wrong thou, as I may have been a victim of one of those well-known techniques mentalists use to control peoples minds.

In Derren Brown case his TV magic is heavily reliant on the deception mainly produced by camera editing not camera tricky but careful editing in the studio. And with editing you can make anyone look good or bad, its the equivalent of airbrushing a model.


Peeta Raven

2 March, 2016 - 23:14
Joined: 1 year 3 months ago

It is possible, albeit not from traditional memory methods:

Japanese Methods: Schichida

Indian Methods: Heguru

American Methods: Glen Doman

How does it work: Flashing pictures and words at high rates of speed using the the still growing brain of a child to strain the right hemisphere of the brain for high speeds of information processing.

For the rest of us at older ages: Paul Scheal Photo Reading 3rd edition

Keep in mind Darren is a hypnotist. Right brain methods perform at low brain waves. Hypnotism performs at low brain waves such as Alpha. He may have combined hypnotism with traditional memory techniques for an even more robust approach. I have yet to master the photo reading but I have done my research. Best way to learn anything... Find a real human that can do it. Convince them to teach you.

3 March, 2016 - 06:33
Joined: 2 years 10 months ago

The magician needs the simplest most repeatable method that works. If film editing creates the appropriate suspension of disbelief then so be it.

While mechanics appreciate a continuous unobstructed view this almost certainly won't be the most entertaining way to present the piece. Magic is entertainment. In most cases it still follows rather constrained vaudevillian patterns that audiences have learned to engage with. Artistic magicians have been few and far between, ala Doug Henning, and for the most part not well received.

Table magic at stagettes and children's shows still exist and Vegas has a small space but the days of the amazing Kreskin have come and gone. Modern audiences see impossible acts on a daily basis and many cannot differentiate them.

5 March, 2016 - 23:53
Joined: 2 years 3 months ago


Paul Scheal Photo Reading 3rd edition

If you're thinking about photoreading, check out the photoreading and mental photography discussion.

6 March, 2016 - 02:04
Joined: 4 years 2 months ago


I have yet to master the photo reading but I have done my research. Best way to learn anything... Find a real human that can do it. Convince them to teach you.

Regarding Photo Reading, I suspect you'll have trouble finding many people who can do it. But I'm sure you'll find plenty willing to teach you!

Regarding hypnosis, I'm afraid that the majority of the latest research would question your assertion. It has very little to do with brainwaves.

2 April, 2017 - 02:18
Joined: 2 months 3 weeks ago

Is photo reading real?

A hot decade ago during my third year of Computer Science after a solid 4 days of not sleeping I discovered that I got my hand-in dates wrong and I had just 23 hours to write my dissertation instead of another 3 months.

I went to the library and pulled out 29 books related to my topic, which was pedagogy. At that point all I knew was that I was going to study how people learned and I had a rough idea of a hypothesis.

I'd never heard of photoreading. I had read about speed reading from some website I visited around 2000, but I was a fairly slow reader.

So I have these 29 books.

There's no way I could read them because I only had 23 hours (well 21 by the time I got to the library) so I just flicked through all of the books hoping to find anything corresponding to my hypothesis.

Sometimes I'd be scanning one book and my brain would identify a page number from another book with an idea that linked to what I was scanning, and each time it was right.

I tend to find it easier to learn concepts than facts when I read.

And let's just say that by the end of the 23 hours I had a dissertation that linked learning, perception / cognition, communication and teaching together with quotes linking the ideas together.

I think that's pretty close to what they say is possible with photoreading.

I've only done this once in my life, but I do think our brains perform a lot of useful processing instantly, which I suspect is quickly discarded because there is no use for it based on my experience.

My hypothetical model for this is based on a lo-fi processing. So to the lo-fi brain it is happy to mistake add for odd and edd, and "add new comment" creates 3 items of memory in the form of "add/edd new/naw/nem/nam comment/camment/cawwent/etc."

"Add/edd" is really a single word (it can't distinguish a from e in lo-fi).

Evidence for lo-fi processing
When the brain has been sleep deprived, fMRI showed that parts of the brain go into a sort of sleep state, leaving a smaller lo-fi alternative processing unit to carry out tasks. Subjects are completely unaware this is happening, but when it does their competency in affected tasks is significantly reduced.

My suspicion is that that lo-fi processing goes hand in hand with low resolution image processing where the brain can more quickly encode images into lo-fi lexemes and then pass that onto your conscious mind in the form of intuition or transcribe to memory.

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