On his first magic special on TV, David Blaine walked away from a crowd, stood with his back to the audience and lifted off the ground some two feet, to the amazement of the spectators. How could Blaine do this? Was it pure magic or just an illusion?
David Blaine's Levitation
To start, Blaine was not wearing any special shoes and was freely walking around and performing for spectators. Anyone who was there would have been able to examine Blaine and his shoes, and they would have found nothing. The crowd could have also examined the area where Blaine performed the levitation, both before and after, and they would have found nothing.
Blaine isn't the first magician to master the art of levitation. What he's doing is something called Balducci levitation, an optical illusion. The reason Blaine steps ten feet from his audience so that when he rises up on the toes of one foot, it will appear like he's floating because of the angle the audience is viewing him from. Wearing long pants further obstructs the view of the magician's feet which heightens the optical illusion.
Blaine can use various camera angles and tricks to make it seem like he is levitating. When Blaine is shown hovering a few feet off the ground, there are no visible audience members, which means he most likely used props to lift him which the cameras were able to hide. Showing reaction shots of an audience after the footage of him rising a few feet off the ground make it seem like an audience was present for the trick. Blaine is fun to watch, but there's more movie magic than real magic in his stunts.
Blaine intercut a shot of himself hanging from a crane, which made it appear that he was levitating some two or more feet off the ground. The crowd’s reactions were real, but what they saw was Blaine lifting up a few inches, not two feet. The illusion was nothing more than a camera trick.
While the trick played well on television, Blaine made it hard for other magicians who have long performed the traditional levitation. Now when a magician performs the levitation, crowds will often ask why the performer can’t lift up two feet like that Blaine guy.