Theory 3 – Wiggling balls

September 10, 2009

It was all a camera trick with a still in place and then at the right point it is cut to a live version where the balls had been set up. You can see the balls wiggle in the footage and they aren’t lined up at one point.



  1. I agree with this.

  2. Taken from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QG-5qebwflA a short animation of two frames from the Derren Brown Lottery prediction. First frame is poorer quality from approx. 1.06 where Derren is introducing the event and all the balls are in a neat line. I have had to crop and zoom this more, and the angle is off to the side slightly, but I have lined this up with a frame from 5.51 where the left hand ball (the highest and last number, also nearer to the off camera edge of the screen) is noticeably higher. There is a fade between 5.37 and 5.43 where the left hand ball appears to rise up as the one image swaps for the other

  3. I think this is the most believable possibility from re-watching the show. One of the balls definitely looks like it changes position.

  4. Well, the camera was definitely doing a strange jumping throughout – firstly it seemed like shoddy camera work (lol) but I’m sure it’s more than that. However, I felt it was done on purpose to show that it WASN’T a split screen….

  5. After seeing the Youtube footage, I’m leaning towards not just wiggling, but perhaps even a little jiggling involved…

  6. i think this or something similar os a more likely option. I wondered why a hand held camera/steadicam was used opposed to a mounted camera for a pretty static shot. The camera appeared to move (a lot) in quite an unnatural way, maybe this was the point to divert the audience from thinking it was camera trickery.

  7. This is my pet theory (involving a motion control rig, so the camera movements match up). I hope the real method was something else, though. Something really left field. But all the “computer wizardry” used in the ads makes me think the stunt itself relied on effects as well. 🙂

  8. I go along with camera trickery. The height of the balls do seem to change very slighty before Derren walks over and rotates them towards the camera. Regardless of how he pulled it off, as with all of his work, it was superb.

  9. I belive this to be the most plausable explaination for the effect. Why would he need to write the numbers down on the board to work out the chronological order, the presenter on the BBC does that for us… he’s just buying time. In any case I don’t belive that Brown will disclose the trick on Friday, he’ll give us something plausable and clever, but I don’t belive this elfish trickster for one second!

  10. I’m going for this or something like it as the most likely option.

    I’m not bothered much by the wiggling ball but the camera motion does seem quite unnatural and the lack of an audience (even a few tocken people to check everything is as it appears on the TV) is odd.

    The other digital trickery option is that th enumbers are superimposed.

    However DB did mention a lot “misdirection” quite a lot in the build-up which makes one think it might be a more traditional trick.

  11. Yes this is the one I’m going for. HOWEVER, I do think/hope DB is much more clever than this, and using camera tricks is a bit Blaine/Copperfield? Why not just use camera tricks for everything in the shows after that? And it would make for a short show on Friday when he shows how to do it.

  12. This sounds vaguely plausible, but I’m damned if I can see how it would work. The camera’s moving too much – it would be somewhere between incredibly difficult and impossible to get exactly the same movements on the still shot and the live feed without heavy editing – which isn’t possible, since the live feed is live.

  13. This could be split screen technique, although the moving ‘hand-held’ camera somewhat complicates this. However it would still be possible using:

    a) A carefully motion controlled camera. or
    b) A static camera filming it and then adding the ‘wobble’ as a post processing ‘effect’

    Something else that slightly points in this direction: The left most ball (which slightly moves upwards just after the point that the numbers have been announced) doesn’t do so with a jerk from one frame to the next, more as if two images are slowly being blended together (as you might do with a split frame technique).

    Also note the lack of audience, which implies that it is down to either camera trickery – or a perspective trick that only works from the camera’s angle.

  14. This theory is very un-Derren-esq, so I am hoping that there is much more to it than camera trickery. As well as the 39 ball appearing out of line suddenly, if you listen carefully when the voice of the balls ‘Alan Dedicoat’ is reading them in ascending order, him announcing 39 is just about cut out. As if a new feed has just been cut too. I am hoping this is all part of Derren’s misdirection. Right, best be off, I have an urge to go and perform a casino heist.

  15. It could be a double camera rig – two parallel cameras simultaneously filming the derren set and a duplicate set off to the left. This would explain the cutaway at the beginning of the film where he waves to the back of the room.

  16. Wiggling balls? I don’t mind to be taught how to wiggle his…Oh Derren! to avoid that prefer the theory 4! Hahahaahaa…couldn’t resist…like playing words.

  17. I think this one is the most likely. Why cut to the camera at the back of the room at the start, but then it not be used for the rest of the piece? Also, look at the main-camera motion – I don’t know too much about film, but at no point does the camera rotate off the horizontal or change in height, only angle: why not? If it was hand-held then it probably would, whereas the motion we see can be replicated using a tripod (side to side and up and down). So if the cutaway to camera 2 (at the back) is to show the main camera is handheld, and then supposing that that footage is pre-recorded along with the walking entrance footage, perhaps the main camera is actually on a tripod, and the only live filming starts from when Derren is waving. Is it on the tripod to utilise some sort of digital effect to blank off half of the footage, for which I’m assuming you would need a steady shot? I’m most curious about the few seconds lack of any camera motion when Derren is re-reading the results in numerical order, roughly when he says “28…35” (around 05:55 on 4oD footage). I don’t think the whole left side of the screen is a still, but I think half the shot is frozen just long enough for a glamorous assistant of Derren’s own to switch the stand to one with the right set of balls.
    Either way, if it is manipulated, then its obviously for a reason 🙂

  18. Yeah, I’m going to have to go with this one too. On re-watching it the first thing that really stood out was the shaky camera.

  19. My theory has vanished! Spooky

  20. Probably the most believable of the theories. The adverts for “The Events” series have already show two seemingly incompatible things going on at once (things going forwards and backwards in the same shot).

    Just not Derren’s usual “style” though. He seems to like doing tricks without resorting to “cheats” like camera trickery when it’s more impressive if you can do it without.

  21. I don’t think that kinda thing would take a year to prepare. Maybe a weekend writing numbers on balls.

  22. My theory has vanished too! Probably because it included a link to another website (but this was purely because my theory consists of crappy line drawings).

  23. Why is there no option 11 of it’s all done with mirrors?

    Darren stands on one side of the screen with the tv. Apparently the other side has the balls and stand in full view. While we’re busy being distracted by the tv and Darren looking moody and interesting a mirror (or perhaps a small scale model of the stand) slides down over the left hand side of the screen and from that moment on the ball stand you’re seeing is not to the left of the tv but is way over to the right in front of an exact copy of the wall and which through clever lighting make it appear to be actually there. This mirror is at a 45 degree angle and hides what is really happening behind it.

    The wobbly camera effect is to put you off the trail because you think it’s filmed by the cameraman we saw, but isn’t, and you would think the reflection of the dummy wall would move while Darren and the tv don’t. It doesn’t because they are all on the same gantry. The camera, the mirror and the bit of wall are all on the same moving stage. The camera moves and then the mirror and the wall moves in perfect harmony. The effect to the viewer is nothing moves.

    This carries on until the numbers are all known. Then, to give the glamorous Debbie McGee enough time to sneak behind the mirror Darren writes slowly on the card. Then, when the balls are in place on the ball stand that we can’t see because it is behind the mirror, Debbie scurries away. Then the mirror has to be removed. It just has to be slid upwards smoothly, or perhaps in this day and age depolarized by Debbie #2 thus removing the reflected image and revealing the stand that was always there.

    And hey presto, it’s magic… or something like that!

  24. In the lottery specific promo trailer DB juggles the balls in one hand quite suspiciously. Is this a nod towards the real trick and camera tricks were used for both the live event and the promo trailer.

  25. Okay SeansFallOutBoy – we get your theory – you can stop posting it dozens of times on every thread now. 🙂

    I initially thought it must be some sort of split-screen thing, though that seems a bit pedestrian for Derren. But then the real trick in his work is often making you *think* you’re seeing how it’s done when really he’s playing an even bigger trick, so I’m looking forward to Friday a whole lot…

  26. Yup, this is the right explanation. Better called: split screen.

  27. I’m thinking it’s a camera trick too. All of Derren’s patter sets you up to think it’s not a certainty and he might fluff it. During the event itself he looks very nervous and the tension draws your eye.

    I think the left hand side of the screen was a different pre-recorded feed – the camera jog seems a little forced (to make you think it’s a live feed.) I’m even thinking the yellow strips on the back ledge of the studio were used to match up the two feeds.

    So, a clever way to use visual and audio cues to set up your expectations and make convincing ‘live’ TV.

  28. Definitely agree that at least the two shots from the back of the room are pre-recorded, hence the very obvious and unnecessary wave to ‘camera 2’ to give an impression of continuity, but i suspect camera 2 probably wasnt there on the night. Cut-in pre-recorded footage would not only give an impression of an empty studio, a hand held camera and 1 set of balls (when in reality there could have been all manner of elaborate tripods, rigs or an identical stand with extra balls, what ever you prefer!) Cut away would also allow for placing camera 1 on tripod if it wasnt already on one in the first place. isn’t this fun? x

  29. who had the idea of a still?, doesn’t need to be still, still a split screen

  30. do have link to the lotto ad where he juggles the balls can’t find it

    you think they’d practice so they would realise the balls don’t quite fit in the holder…

  31. No way Derren would ever do this. If he used a camera trick, he would spoil absolutely all his future tricks, because people will say “oh, he used a split screen on the lottery trick, he’d do the same now”. Camera tricks or high-tech-stuff is just too simple. I rather agree with someone who suggested a mirror kind of trick.

    He’s more clever than we think, but OF COURSE, it IS some kind of a trick. He didn’t know the numbers before they were drawn. I can’t believe someone thinks he guessed or even was able to calculate the numbers!

    I am curious to see the explanation, but I seriously don’t think he will reveal what he really did! He wouldn’t be Derren Brown if he wasn’t some kind of a mystery!

  32. It’s a split screen.

    The opening handheld shot was pre-recorded right up to the point where he waves to the 2nd camera, when they cut back the shot is on a live locked-off rig with the right hand side up to the edge of the TV live and the left hand side a freeze-frame of the lectern. They then employed digital camera shake to give the impression that the shot was still handheld. I’ve done a few of those ‘tape to live’ cuts and they are extremely tricky to get right, especially when, as with last night, there was no pause in his delivery. If you rehearsed the bollocks out of it you could probably do it but it’s extremely risky, especially if the whole show depends you selling the cut.

    There seems no other reason to have the second camera other than to allow them to switch from the pre-record handheld back to a live lock-off and I thought the camera shake looked a little artificial.

    What makes it really clever is when they cut back DB walks across the whole frame and passed both in front of, and behind the lectern. This means that they would have had to grab the freeze frame of the left hand side of the image and cut to the split after he had returned to his ‘camera right’ position. This is not as difficult as it sounds because the camera is actually ‘locked-off’, the shake is artificial.

    All they need to do now is have someone place the correct balls in the rack and then clear the shot before they cut back off the split and DB returns to the lectern. There’s quite a bit of camera shake at that point which could help to mask the cut.

    After DB positions himself behind the lectern the camera appears to become much free’r, which leads me to believe the whole rig was either a remote ped or motion controlled.

    If any of the above is true it’s absolutely fraught with potential fuck-ups and you’d have to have balls of steel to try it on live television.

    However, that’s how I reckon they did it.

  33. The ball could have moved slightly because all the balls were warmed up for some reason, and expanded slightly.

    When Derren shows us the numbered balls, he presses one down and another pops up slightly, suggesting they fit very snugly into the Perspex holder.

    Alternatively, the Perspex ball holder could have shrunk for some reason (an openable door being closed too firmly might change its shape), so making one of the balls “pop up” a little bit.

    The camera is clearly not hand-held since it only “shakes” in pitch and yaw and none of the other ways, and pans very artificially as Derren walks to the balls at the end, but rather it is fixed to a tripod. If camera trickery is involved, then, it would be easiest here to have the camera fixed and motionless with a fairly wide view of Derren, the TV and balls, and to only show the viewer a shaky, hand-held-effect small section of this (imagine cropping a photo).

    I can’t work out what this all amounts to, of course, other than making the disappointing solution of camera trickery seem rather more probable.

  34. The 23 ball does move oddly into the air when he touches the 02 ball, and then the 39 ball sticks up into the air. However I think this is entirely consistent with 6 very lightweight balls wedged into a space that is not quite big enough.
    A weak theory that doesn’t really explain anything.

  35. Anyone who thinks it’s difficult to simulate the moving camera effect – it isn’t. There’s a video on Youtube of someone recreating the trick in their house this morning, with moving camera and all. Search youtube for “derren brown’s lottery trick possible solution”.

  36. Click on my name for the the secret to this trick!!

  37. Here’s how it was done.

    Prior to broadcast, a computer-controlled camera with a very precise preset ‘hand held’ movement pattern programmed into it records the studio set, complete with brick wall, balls, tv and other props – the only thing missing is Derren.

    The live show is then synchronised exactly with this prerecorded footage. This means the computer controlled camera movements during the live show occur precisely in synch with the pre-recorded footage of the set which was filmed earlier.

    So that you don’t suspect anything, Derren begins by walking onto the set whilst being filmed by a hand-held camera. He then waves to a camera at the back of the room. This is misdirection, the footage you see from the back of the room is a short pre-recorded insert to increase the viewers perception that Derren is being filmed by a hand-held camera. Note that the view from the camera at the back of the room is not seen again.

    However, when we return to the close up shot of Derren, we are now watching the view of the computer controlled camera, complete with preset ‘handheld’ movement sequence. Here’s the giveaway – if you look closely, just before the cut to the back of the room the camera view is quite close to Derren. When it cuts back to him it is slightly further away, yet the cameraman (who is fully visible during the insert from the back of the room) does not step back. Once back with Derren, notice the unusual pattern of movement of the computer controlled camera as it moves through it’s preprogrammed sequence. There are times when it holds perfectly still for two or three seconds at a time, something which would be impossible for a human cameraman to achieve.

    The illusion is now in full swing. When Derren moves across to the TV at the right of the screen, the programme vision mixer discreetly fades in the prerecorded footage of the set to cover the left-hand side of the screen. Because it’s exactly in synch, and includes the exact same camera movements, this is absolutely unnoticable to viewers.

    However, behind the cover of the pre-recorded footage which is fully covering the left hand side of the screen, an assistant can now simply walk onto the set and – once the lotto draw is made – quickly but carefully replace the balls in the holder with ones which are correctly numbered. If required, Derren can add verbal ‘patter’ to ensure that the assistant has time to complete his task and get out of the way.

    The split screen is then faded out discreetly. Watch closely – as many people have observed, this is when the left hand ball (which the assistant hasn’t quite been placed in exactly the same position) seems to rise slightly.

    Derren then simply walks across to the balls and confidently reveal that his prediction is correct!

    Full marks to Derren for creating this extremely clever illusion using extremely hi tech computer-controlled camera equipment. It’s a shame that the balls weren’t placed in exactly right position as this would have made the technique used pretty much undetectable!

  38. anyone notice there are 2 points in the footage where the camera suddenly STOPS shaking for about .5 sec?

    the first moments before the draw, the second after the draw as DB is mid-way thru writing on the card.

    the rest of the time the camera is moving constantly…

  39. 2 observations – On the pro side, to me it was quite noticeable the camera wobble stopped abruptly just as Derren turned the TV off which suggests the movement was only needed up to that point to cover / distract.
    On the con side – If you were going to do split screen etc, would you not choose a more plain and less complex background? Or does the pattern on the bricks etc make it less easy to see the ‘join’ so to speak?

  40. Hmmm maybe. I will give you that is what happened in this advert on You tube, here’s the link if you want to see it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXz4RKqVMhI , but I’m not so sure about on the night.

  41. It does seem like the camera is shaky. A steadicam can stabilise the image much better than it does.

    When he enters the studio, he says he brought 2 cameras. The camera at the back is shown as a wide shot. Then it jumps back to the near shot. Who says that this is the same near camera as before? It could be a fixed camera, with computer shaking. I am tempted to use some video algorithms to see the movement vectors, to see whether the shaking is computer generated or real.

    The youtube video does not show enough detail and aliasing made it look like the balls jump. I ruled out the idea of the balls moving/jumping during the video.

  42. This seems the most likely to me. There was way too much jiggling of the camera going on – like they were trying to prove it wasn’t a split screen.

    I don’t think he’ll really tell us how it was done on Friday – he’ll talk at great length about some formula which uses mathmatical probability, and then have a bit of a giggle when the whole nation uses it on their next lottery ticket.

    I’m a massive Derren fan, but usually don’t believe a word he says 🙂

  43. I have a couple of theories (both wrong no doubt) but I don’t think the lottery event wasn’t about the lottery. I think Derren has already told us how he did the trick. The advert after the show with Derren ‘juggling his balls’ was a camera trick and though it is convincing, it is clearly a trick. I think this the most likely explaination and will be shown to be thus. It was more likely that the year-long planning was to do with the script and extra things dropped in which will pay off later.

  44. I have to disagree with people criticising the idea of a split screen as lazy or not Derren. I think if it has been done this way its an innovative way to bring live illusions into the digital arena. And it would not be easy to create this illusion with zero hitches live in front of millions, it takes preparation and planning. Although the trick is essentially “A guy writes some numbers onto some balls while we can’t see” prediction trick, the method is quite clever and original, and at the end of the day, its the result that matters. Were millions tricked into believing something through illusion, misdirection and trickery? Yes they were. So mission accomplished.

    Though on a negative point, I worry that some of his more recent “Specials” have been border line David Blaine- if he ends up stood on top of a plinth for 36 hours I will be disappointed.

  45. On the basis of reading Jim Steinmeyer – Hiding the Elephant, and unless Derren wants to make things un-necessarily complex, Ian Parnham is right. As it’s 2009, I would go with depolarising rather than moving the mirror, but there’s really no need for computer wizardry or camera tricks when this is a fairly easy trick that could have been accomplished at any time in the last 150 years. Full marks for presentation though.

  46. Actually watching it again, the camera wooble looks quite digital (i.e. up a bit, left a bit, right a bit, down a bit) rather than analog where it would be more diagonal movement (what you would expect if someone were holding the camera). This could either be a post-production effect or a robotically induced wobble to assure the frozen shot and live shot are syncronos. I would go for the post-production effect as it is much easier to do, particularly LIVE.
    Rather ironically I will not be able to watch the ‘revealing’ live tonight and will have to wait to see it on 4od or alike.

  47. Hey Guys!

    This is most definately the explination. Usually the simplest answer is the correct one. We would all love to believe he really pulled it off but as many have said, he would have shown the numbers before the draw.

    Anyways, I think it is simpler than some have said…There is two complete freezes in the camera movement. The first, i think was on purpose to throw the audience off and the second was where the switch happened…While the numbers are being called, someone directly off to the camera’s left is putting the lotto numbers on a new tray. Just as they are finished being drawn, they have them all ready to go and get ready for the switch…

    You will notice the whole camera locks off when Derren re-reads the numbers and is saying “28” (5:09) It stays locked down for a good 2 seconds and is the perfect time for someone to switch out the balls and then when it starts moving again is when they turn off the split screen.

    Everything is shot live…the handheld cam has the ability to lock down(maybe a hidden tripod) and only needs to stay still for a few seconds…

    So, the final sequence would look like this:

    camera shakes and then is held still…Split screen is brought up on left side to hide assistant replacing balls…after 2 seconds the split screen freeze is removed and camera resumes moving.

    Of course Derren won’t tell this secret…he’ll make up a big long story about how he spent a year figuring out the numbers and brainwashed the lotto machine to pick the ones he wanted. All that aside, he is brilliant and I hope there is another explination


  48. It has to be this one, as everything else seems to have too many pitfalls.

    Also, if you watch the video back in better quality that those available on Youtube (I Sky+’ed it!), you’ll notice that when the first ball comes out, the shaking of the camera stops and the balls look really focused for a second or two, before reverting to the camera movement again.

    Also, the balls do move, in particular the ball on the right seems to raise up towards the end of the draw – due to the ‘split-screen’ camera tricky reverting back to the actual live image?

    Whatever it is, it was pulled off perfectly and I really can’t wait until the big reveal tonight, or for his other ‘Events’! 🙂


  49. I guess the still moment at the end was when the digital shake got turned off a moment too soon, before the cameraman unlocked the tripod to zoom in on the holder.

    Derren’s gone a whole career without using camera tricks – and THAT is the real misdirection.

  50. Camera based technollogy con. Again.
    Split screen switching is the way he did it. No doubt. 100%.

    Tech is how he does a lot of his stuff like little cameras embedded in marker pens, mini speakers in his cuff links…

    Will someone who goes on stage to draw a dead stripy cat or whatever please take and use their own pen.
    “No thanks Darren, Ill be using my own pen Tonight..”

    Remains to be seen what he says Friday and I am guessing he will misdirect the public to believe something completely different.

  51. I think we’re definitely seeing footage from a fixed camera pretending to be a moving camera throughout the bit where the results are being watched on the television. The way it wobbles seems quite mechanical, unlike the way the camera moves before and after this sequence. The perspective doesn’t seem to alter, despite the camera apparently moving. The way it stops moving for a couple of seconds, followed by the end ball jumping seems to mark the change from fixed camera back to handheld camera. Without that end ball moving, I don’t think anyone would have spotted a change.

    Assuming that’s right, I’m now wondering what the reason is for needing the camera to be fixed? It must be hiding something that’s happening. The popular theory of an overlay of the balls on the stand covering half the screen while someone switches the balls ‘behind’ it seems to make sense, but doesn’t sound like the sort of thing Derren would do. I’m wondering if there’s a bit more to it – some sort of optical illusion going on using either mirrors or perspective? Something looks odd about what we’re looking at. I’m thinking of something along the lines of those C4 idents where elements of a scene line up to look like the 4 logo. Not sure exactly what’s being done here, but I think I’m thinking in the right area!

  52. Anyone want to bet that Derren will show the footage from the other camera on tonight’s show? Even if it’s been re-recorded, I reckon he’ll put it in just to throw people off the scent.

  53. @Bobo – but this is Derren Brown, so you’d choose the pattern precisely *because* it’s more difficult that way.

    Is it a ‘camera trick’ if you’re doing it live? After all, you’re still working frantically behind the scenes to present an illusion to the audience; it’s just a different sort of scene, and a different sort of illusion.

    As the poster above commented, you’d have to have balls of steel to attempt that live.

  54. A crucial factor in favour of this theory is that Derren, being the fastidious character that he is, would not have begun without all the balls being neatly aligned and flush. The rogue 39 ball that appeared to be a couple of millimetres proud of the others before he touched the ball stand betrays the high likelihood that the balls were interfered (and a bit hastily) in the moments after the draw was made. Not that I’d call Derren anal or anything.

  55. The shaking camera is misdirection. I think Jezza is exactly right, except for the fact that the camera did not move at all. All of the “shaking” effect was added in digitally. (So was the “zooming” effect.)

    For this trick to be effective it was crucial that the camera remain absolutely motionless, so the split screen transitions would be seamless. Therefore, any apparent motion was faked in a computer. If you look carefully you can see that it’s too smooth and controlled even for a crane. It also never moves laterally or changes in height.

    Once the split screen is gone and the effect is over, the camera is free to move. Only at this point does it actually rotate and zoom in (a much closer zoom than the digital effect allowed). But notice the camera doesn’t actually change, suggesting that it’s anchored on some kind of tripod. I’m convinced that this is the actual explanation, but I highly doubt it’s the one that Derren will give tonight. Expect more misdirection and a marvelously convincing lie.

  56. Oops, in my last paragraph, “the camera doesn’t actually change” should say “the camera POSITION doesn’t actually change.”

  57. To all of the people who say “Derren would never use such a cheap camera trick,” that’s what makes this so effective. His entire shtick of avoiding this sort of thing is what makes it so unbelievable when he finally does decide to use it one day. He’s spent so much time building up credibility to separate himself from David Blaine and Criss Angel, that when he does borrow from their bag of lame tricks, everyone refuses to believe it. You’ve just played right into his hand.

    Derren is, and always has been, a very entertaining professional liar. If you think you can trust him for anything, you’re a gullible sap. Sorry, but it’s true.

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