Like seemingly half the country last night, I was quite amazed when master illusionist Derren Brown managed to predict the National Lottery numbers live, and was wondering how he did that.
Diobach pointed out that in a particular Jonathan Creek episode, a magician was seen on stage predicting a random number, and it was pointed out that said magician could have been told the number by someone in the audience, and then the message conveyed to the magician on stage, perhaps through a series of pulses on the microphone.
The stage setup was an empty studio, where Derren’s predictions were on a series of balls to the left of the screen, and Derren Brown was on the right of the screen watching a television set was tuned into the BBC, watching the National Lottery numbers being revealed live on air. Most people flicking between Channel 4 and BBC One would have seen the same simultaneous live output.
EXCEPT: most of us are on digital TV these days, via Sky, Virgin Media or Freeview. And digital TV is on a slight delay from analogue TV – about five seconds, if memory serves. So someone backstage, behind the camera, would have known the lottery numbers at least five seconds before it popped up on the majority of most people’s TV screens. And there was at least ten seconds between the numbers being revealed on digital TV, and Derren going to his balls.
Of course, there’s then the vexed question of how anyone could get to the balls in 15 seconds, write the numbers and disappear – while the balls are in full view of the TV viewer during almost the whole programme. So I can only suggest a bit of green-screen TV camera trickery while a runner stands there, ready to put the actual numbers on the balls.
Unless, of course, you’ve got any better ideas?