# Derren Brown: How To Predict The Lottery Numbers

Last night, Derren Brown did a rather excellent stunt where he appeared to have predicted the results of the National Lottery draw.

I can’t tell you how he did it, but I can tell you how I’d do it. If you don’t want to know, don’t read. Bear in mind I’ve never tried this, so I’ve not had that chance to work out the fine details.

The whole thing was shot with no audience and two cameras, which is one more camera and one fewer audience than I’d use if it was real, and one of the cameras (which I’ll call ‘camera 2′) was needlessly far away. (The camera that follows Derren into the studio I shall obviously call ‘camera 1′.)

So. Derren walks in, followed by camera 1. He gives his spiel, pointing out camera 2, strides over to the podium and TV, waves to camera 2, which gets some nice wide-shots of the setup. Then everyone breaks for tea.

Next, top-secret camera 3 is mounted on a tracking device, similar to the ones that power those ever-so-precise spotlights that spin around so impressively on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?. It films the podium of balls for 10 minutes while nothing happens. (You could reuse camera 2, but for clarity I’m invoking a third.)

At precisely the same moment, shortly before broadcast, the video of the balls camera 3 took starts rolling in the editing room, and the same sequence of moves is started on the live camera so that the two feeds perfectly match up. This means the editor can cut between the pre-recorded balls and the live feed seamlessly.

When broadcast starts, camera 1 and Derren are in the next room. He then walks in, and camera 1 follows him. You cut in a shot taken with camera 2 earlier in the day (with live sound), which falsely establishes that (a) there is a second camera at the back of the room, and (b) there are no other cameras, and no clever moving camera mounts. You can’t tell camera 2 isn’t live because it’s too brief and far away to show lip-sync in detail. Now you have to get from the live camera 1 feed to the live camera 3 feed without an obvious cut. So camera 1 is held next to the mounting device, and Derren waves to the back of the room, where camera 2 used to be. This is an excuse to cut to another pre-recorded wide-shot. Partway through the wave (nice touch) you cut ‘back’ to the live camera 3 feed. From here on, the camera rotates and zooms slightly, but never moves, and the whole thing can go out live until the draw starts.

At this point, while all eyes are fixed on Derren or the podium, Andy Nyman robs a bank. Remember that this was billed as a feat of misdirection.

Meanwhile, back in the studio, Derren moves round to the other side of the TV, so nothing is anywhere near the podium with the balls. This allows the editor to cut in the left hand side of the image from the pre-recorded footage, masking somebody quietly taking out the dummy balls and putting in the correct ones, as they’re drawn. The edge of this mask is smooth, because a crisp join is obvious even when it’s perfectly done. When the balls are in place, you quickly fade out the pre-recorded mask. (With luck, camera motion will mask this.) Once you’re back totally live, Derren triumphantly walks over to the podium, and the program on camera 3 switches to a predefined ‘zoom in on the balls’ sequence.

I’m pretty convinced this is how he did it too, because the whole broadcast plays out how I’d expect it to. But I obviously wanted to get this out there before tomorrow’s show.

On other hands, I’ve heard a theory that camera 3 was fixed and the motion is a computer effect, which is equally plausible. It’d be more robust to things going wrong but probably less convincing if they don’t. I’m told if you look carefully you can see the screen-left ball jump slightly, but I don’t think the YouTube version above shows that clearly. I’ve also heard a lot of people whine about freezes and balls with ambiguous numbers (including, at one stage, a ball 59) and so forth. I’ve even seen one person complain that the camera motion froze momentarily who believed it was a computer effect.

It’s fascinating to me that the same fallacious ‘flaws’ people imagine in the moon landing videos are also applied to this kind of thing, which genuinely is fake and is therefore by definition already plausibly fake without inventing extra reasons. You want proof it’s fake? It’s a video of a man predicting a lottery draw. If that’s not enough for you then there’s something wrong.

## 15 thoughts on “Derren Brown: How To Predict The Lottery Numbers”

1. This certainly seems to be the prevalent theory (and probably the only plausible one) but, as others have pointed out, it seems a bit cheap for Derren Brown. And why say that he’s been planning it for a whole year? If there isn’t a further twist I will be disappointed, even though it was an impressive illusion in itself.

2. Well obviously he’s going to say it took a year of preparation. That’s good showmanship.

But yes, I know, it doesn’t seem like his style. But then, nor is it usually his style to predict such random, machine-driven phenomena. He can’t actually predict the numbers, so he has to swap the balls out. I didn’t spot any opportunity to do it as a conjuring trick, especially since he’d have to find the right six of 49 balls and arrange them in order without anyone spotting it, and that only really leaves a camera trick.

3. I switched off the moment he announced that for some obscure reason he was not allowed to reveal the numbers before the draw had been held! What a let-down!! As you say, all these illusions are down to misdirection, and Paul Daniels was doing this sort of thing years ago on a weekly basis – including some truly spectacular stunts. On reflection I just said to myself: “What were you expecting anyway?” As you say again, was anyone REALLY expecting him to predict six random lottery numbers before they were drawn?

PS Some brilliant sleuth has revealed on the msn site, for the enlightenment of all, exactly how it was done. According to “Columbo” Derren Brown pre-recorded all possible combinations of six from forty nine numbers, and when the actual numbers came through the appropriate clip was broadcast! It’s just so simple – I don’t know why I didn’t see it straight away, actually!!

4. Derren Brown is a complete genius!It’s not an illusion… what would he be showing us that wasn’t really there? Maths and science. I think.

5. I can’t help but wonder why, if Derren Brown could ‘predict’ the numbers so accurately, didn’t he just keep his mouth shut and enter the Lottery draw once or twice a year for a nice fat pay cheque!

6. I’ve seen loads of jokes along these lines and I’m not convinced the conceit really works.

7. Turns out in the event that he’s going to chalk it up to the power of the unconscious mind to predict an unpredictable event.

Bull.

8. Derren is a fantastic exponent of demonstrating ‘mind reading magic’.
The secret is simple. It uses the Peppers Ghost principle with a duplicate set of balls and a holder. The balls are switched, by using the Peppers Ghost principle, before Derren writes the numbers on his pad. The magic happens when the audience do not realise. Like most of Derren’s tricks. He banned me from using his the name when I tried to sell a trick on ebay using the description ,’like a Derren Brown trick’!
If you look at the video you can see the camera wooble ages before he,Derren, writes the numbers.

I hate magic that is not for fun my magic makes people smile and laugh. I no longer have dark hair but perform magic because I love it. Recent holiday rewards include a camel ride for entertaining the locals at the pyramids and a tortilla lunch with a group of Mayan girl Indians- not once did I use a card trick. I use objects you find anywhere- sticks, coins, paper serviettes, straws etc..
Trotting on a camel, steering it and making it go down and up are fantastic when you do it unaided!

edolder now

9. Derren’s excuse for not revealing his prediction in advance was “the BBC have the legal right to announce the lottery numbers first”. Whilst the quote may be true, it is irrelevant, because Derren would not have been revealing “the lottery numbers” – merely his “prediction” of them. Being a great showman, Derren would never do a very good trick if there was a truely amazing one to do instead, so therefore this was clearly a fake, very good but not truely amazing!

10. Jack of Kent’s blog has more on that line, but again: it was clearly fake because it was a video of a magician predicting lottery balls. Any further proof is redundant.

11. Your startlingly arrogant argument makes no allowance for the remarkable possibilities of DEEP MATHS.

12. You might as well close the comments now and just append that one to every post. You won’t top it.