Reviews/The Visual Encyclopedia of Contact Juggling 2 by Matt Olsen


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[edit] The Visual Encyclopaedia of Contact Juggling 2, Palm Spinning
  • By: Bob Kohler Magic
  • Directed by:
  • Produced by: Bob Kohler Magic
  • Running time: 96 mins
  • Available from: Bob Kohler Magic

[edit] Review by User:Brine_child

So we’re back with Matt Olsen for the second in his four DVD epic “The Visual Encyclopaedia of Contact Juggling” and this time the topic is palm spinning and an introduction to multiball. This DVD represents pretty good value for the multiball neophyte, it begins with a break down of the basic two ball palm spin and works up to four ball techniques, some of which are getting quite advanced and will require some rather dedicated practice.

In total the runtime clocks in at a substantial 96 minutes with 37 different moves/techniques being demonstrated, so far so groovy, it definitely represents better value than the first chapter of the Visual Encyclopaedia. What we don’t see are any extra features or bonus material however in a move in the right direction, Olsen does provide the viewer with some four ball inspiration in the form of a ‘4 ball montage” to give students a context for these techniques.

What baffles me here though is why there is only a four-ball routine shown when there are a whole range of three ball moves on the DVD which are just crying out for an introductory video.

It’s immediately apparent that this project was filmed as a continuous series (perhaps taking its cue from Lord of the Rings or Back To The Future) so if you’ve seen the first DVD (or indeed, read the review) you should expect more of the same, both pros and cons.

On the pro side Matt Olsen remains a good teacher for multiball, his advice is useful and his technique is really pretty good, here and there you may spot a wonky isolation or a clunky palmspin, but that’s just nitpicking and in general he does a good job of providing the learner with helpful, relevant advice.

As I mentioned previously this is pretty decent value for money in terms of the moves that it teaches, there are some interesting omissions such as three and four ball palmspinning showers and curl moves (Missing out curls is something of a crime in my opinion, but there’s something that annoyed me even more which I’ll get to in a moment). But at the same time there are some nice innovations such as the delightfully challenging pyramid chest-roll that should keep even experienced multiballers occupied for a good while.

Also in the pro column…well…it’s got a nice easy to navigate menu, which I suppose is useful for learning. Okay I need to be honest; otherwise I’d be making a mockery of the review system. I find it quite difficult to get enthusiastic about this DVD even though technically it’s a great resource, I’ll try and make this clearer by discussing some of the downsides.

First and most importantly there’s no dynamism, which is a major flaw. So many people have this view that multiball contact is boring to watch and thus boring to perform; in reality of course this is balderdash (that’s right I said balderdash). The problem is that when Matt Olsen spends most of the aforementioned ‘4 ball montage’ with one hand in his pocket, he’s hardly dispelling these beliefs, which is a real shame.

It’s a remark that I made about the first in the series as well, the technique is there and the technique is solid, but the performance element is missing. Continuing in my tradition of honesty I found it very difficult to watch through in one sitting, the backdrop remains the same, Matt stands in the same spot keeping every move in the same place in front of him.

In fact the whole thing feels a little limited; the moves could easily be shifted around in the performance space, Matt could change location and escape from the red drapes that hang motionless behind him, there could be comic relief in the form of an Eddie Murphy voiced dragon. I don’t know exactly what it requires to spice it up, but something is certainly missing. To be fair though this isn’t the kind of DVD that you’d be expected to put on and watch all the way through like I did. Instead you’d just watch the chapters relevant to you and leave it at that.

Finally two very specific gripes which again will probably just sound like me being a bit anally retentive on the subject of multiball. First the unforgivable faux pas of only dedicating five minutes to demonstrating a simplified version of snakes; a technique of multiball which could take up most of a DVD by itself, is condensed to a shadow of its full potential.

Second is a personal issue on my part, why the use of such small balls? Matt admits that he can spin with 3.5” balls so why the decision to use 2.75”? Using a bigger ball would have been much more visually interesting and a clearer visual representation for teaching, but anyway before I get vertigo from my soapbox I’ll climb down and sum up.

So to reiterate the techniques shown in this DVD are very good, it will take you a long time to master all the moves that are presented and it will help with your multiball, just don’t expect it to be a laugh-a-minute roller coaster ride of fun and excitement.

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