Derren Brown’s Lottery Slips

12 09 2009

It was the TV PR event of the year, accurately predicting the lottery on Wednesday night and then two days later, telling the nation how he’d done it.  Well he didn’t; either predict the result or tell us how it was done.

It was a split screen camera trick that has been very well explained here, though there have been some laughable theories in the national press even suggesting he might have had something up his sleeve.  The screen on the left hand side showing the balls was frozen during the result and on the right Derren and the TV were live.  A digital effect was used to make the fixed camera position appear to wobble as if it were a hand held camera (it is nigh on impossible to use split screen tricks without a fixed camera position).

An assistant put the balls in place whilst the screen was frozen.  The screen was unfrozen just before Darren walked across to reveal the numbers on the balls.  So how did he give the game away?

  • SILENCE IS GOLDEN – Derren says nothing during the draw.  That is because the studio mike was switched off to allow the accomplice to do the job without the mike picking up sounds of his movement.
  • VITAL SIGNS – Brown gives the signal for the screen to be frozen and unfrozen.  He drops his arm holding the card on which he will write the numbers to give the first sign for the left part of the screen to be frozen.  It is at 4:36 on the Yotube video of the stunt (below).  He uses the card again, this time switching hands (5:31) to give the signal for the screen to be unfrozen.  A few seconds earlier you can see him suppress a chuckle when his assistant moves out of the camera line, ready for the left side of the picture to go live with the balls now in place.
  • BALLS UP – It is actually a few seconds later that the screen unfreezes.  You can tell because the ball on the far left appears to move fractionally up on its own. This is because the assistant has placed it differently from the original blank ball.  You need a big screen high quality recording to see this happen but you can see that the ball is raised (far right now that we are looking at the numbers) from 5:56 on the Youtube clip.
  • AND FINALLY – You would think that if Derren knew the numbers they would be fixed in his head – he’d be unlikely to forget…unless of course he had only heard the result seconds before like the rest of us.  At the end of the recording (6:13) he struggles momentarily to remember the final ball, number 39.

Great PR stunt but there’s many a slip…

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