How Derren Brown Revealed The Lottery Numbers- A Likely Explanation

On September the 9th 2009, an English illusionist, Derren Brown predicted what numbers would be drawn in the ‘National Lottery.’ This event was broadcast live on channel 4 while BBC One broadcast the ‘National Lotttery.’ A video showing the simultaneous broadcastings can be found here:

On first viewing, this feat of predicting the lottery numbers may seem highly remarkable and genuine. I will set out a likely explanation of how Derren Brown predicted the lottery numbers based on subtle clues that I have picked up from viewing the clip.

How Derren Brown Revealed The Lottery Numbers- A Likely Explanation.

The Second Camera

As Derren Brown walks into the studio he refers to the second and distant camera that is also filming him. A few quick cuts to this camera show that from the second camera point-of-view, only Brown and another cameraman are in the studio. The second camera then cuts back to the original camera.

What really happened?

This footage up to 1.11 minutes is all pre-recorded. Both the initial close-up camera 1 footage and also the distant camera 2 footage. Once Camera 2 cuts back to camera 1 at 1.11 minutes, we see Derren Brown for the first time live on the night. This technique means we actually have no idea who or what is behind the now fixed camera. It also means that the camera used for the rest of the footage can be on a tripod or other form of machinery and not necessarily held on a cameraman’s shoulder.

Brown made the error of only using the distant camera for 2 shots lasting only a matter of 2 or 3 seconds in total from camera 2. This seems rather superfluous and would have been more convincing if camera 2 was more involved to hide the change from a moving camera to a stationary camera. This of course could not happen as it would give away the use of the split screen.

The Split Screen

At 1.11 minutes, Brown uses only the close up stationary camera to film him. At 1.55 minutes, he moves away from the rack holding the ‘predicted numbers’ to the far side of the television. From this time to 6.16 minutes, he stays on the far side of the television, well to the right of the screen. Any vertical line could be used as a cut off between the left (from our point of view) edge of the television to the right (from our point of view) edge of the rack. Brown does not cross this area from 1.55 minutes to 6.16 minutes. At any stage within this time frame, the left part of the screen was changed to a pre-recorded footage of the rack and indeed left part of the screen. This is technologically quite simple to do and the technical workers at channel 4 have more than the appropriate technology to employ the use of a split screen. On the set, during this period, someone could stand in front of the rack and we would not be able to see them. We would instead be viewing the pre-recorded footage of the rack by itself.

As the numbers were being revealed on the BBC One coverage of the lottery, Brown’s assistant was placing the correct numbers into the rack and removing the other white balls. At around 6 minutes when Brown is talking about not needing the bonus 7th ball, the split screen function is taken off and we see what is actually in front of the camera. Brown then walks over to the rack and turns it around to reveal the correct numbers that had been placed by his assistant.

 The leftmost ball

It is reasonable to think that the split screen function was taken off at approximately 6 minutes, due to the left most ball in the rack (number 39) being raised. If you look at the leftmost ball before 5.50 minutes and after 6 minutes, you will notice this. This can be seen at

The reason that number 39 is now higher is that Brown’s assistant failed to put the ball in correctly and when the split screen function was taken off it thus appeared higher. The close up shot towards the end of the clip also shows how ball 39 is raised higher than the other balls.

 The shaking camera

Something of note throughout the entire footage is the shakiness of the camerawork. Originally, the shakiness of the camerawork seems to debunk the split screen theory. This is in fact not the case and the shaking camerawork makes a stronger case for the split screen theory. There are two methods that Brown could have used to still make the split screen technique possible with the camera shakiness. The first of these methods is having the stationary camera filming as normal on a tripod (as mentioned above) and then adding in the wobbling effect afterwards. This would mean that one of the channel 4 computer/technical workers simply added this effect as a computer program. They would have filmed the left part of the screen containing the rack with a stationary camera. The technicians would have essentially combined the two halves filmed stationary and added the wobbly effect afterwards. This would make the screen appear to viewers to shake.

The second method to explain the shaking camera is less likely however still plausible if the first method wasn’t used for some reason. This second method involves the camera actually shaking due to some sort of mechanical contraption. The left part of the screen would have also been filmed using the shaking mechanical contraption and as long as both the left and right parts of the screen had the same calibration of the shakiness, they could be joined together using the split screen method to make it appear that the entire screen was shaking in sync.

It must be asked why Brown and his team would go to so much trouble to employ one of the above  wobbly camerawork techniques. To find this answer it is worth considering what the ‘predicting lottery’ video would look like with just normal stationary camerawork. The video would appear to be so obviously using split screen. The shakiness camerawork technique is intended to throw off those split screen theorists.

Further Split Screen Clues

Brown stands on the other side of the screen from the rack for over 5 minutes. It looks quite aesthetically strange to have Brown strand as far away as possible from the rack. This was used so the split screen technique could be employed.

If an illusionist insists on having an empty studio, with no audience, one should immediately suspect either camera trickery or some sort of angle tricky. Brown explains his empty studio on the following reasons: “For security reasons and so that nobody else benefits from what I am doing here.” Let us consider this quote in two ways, if his predicting of lottery numbers was genuine and if it was an illusion. Firstly if it was genuine, then being psychic hardly involves security reasons as hundreds of people who claim to be psychic all perform in front of an audience. Assuming he did have the lottery numbers, no-one would benefit from them as they were revealed after the draw. Also sales of this specific lottery ticket closed over 2 hours before the draw took place.

Let us now consider this quote assuming he is an illusionist. “For security reasons and so that nobody else benefits from what I am doing here.” It becomes evident that these are merely cover up reasons to avoid the questions of why the audience is empty. The audience is indeed empty so the split screen technique can be used.

After the draw, Brown spends quite a significant amount of time using rhetoric and writing the numbers down on his white board. These techniques were used to maximize the time for his assistant to place the correct numbers in the rack, obscured by the split screen. It was unnecessary to have this delay. Brown could have written the numbers down as the draw was happening or could have referred to them on the television next to him, i.e. paused it. The reason that he made the unnecessary and rather drawn out rhetoric and copying of numbers was to allow his assistant maximum time to place the correct lottery numbers in the rack.

Further Interesting happenings

Brown uses the general illusionist techniques of misdirection and rhetoric throughout the video. These keep the audience entertained, avoid the home-viewer audience asking questions, convince the audience of the validity of what he is doing and provide a pseudo-mechanism for the ‘predicting lottery number’ technique.

Brown says “I am being told there is about 30 seconds before we can turn the television on,” at another stage “I think, we are out of time, I think we have got to go, thank you” and at another time “We can turn the TV on, we can turn the TV on.” These quotes imply that there is a stage manager directing the telecast from behind the camera. Earlier in the video he claims that only Brown himself and the two cameramen are in the studio. He is also not wearing an earpiece. One must therefore conclude that either the cameramen are highly skilled and able to film and manage all the times of the broadcast and lottery draw or a stage manager is present.

When Brown turns the TV on, there is a 9 second gap from him pressing the ‘on’ button on the TV to the TV turning on. He exclaims, “It will come on in a second….It will warm up in a second.” This 9 second delay seems to indicate that one of the behind the scenes technicians remotely turned the TV on, however not on Brown’s cue.  


The above reasons all make it highly likely that Derren Brown used the split screen technique while filming the Lottery Predictions show. The technicians at channel 4 used software that made it appear that the camera was shaking. Brown therefore lacks any psychic powers or advanced levels of ‘deep mathematics’ as he claims. In fact when the lottery jackpot was presented on screen, Brown said “There’s the lottery jackpot there two thousand, two million rather, four hundred thousand pounds.” I think the only jackpot featured in the broadcast was Brown himself.


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