Saturday, January 28, 2012

So much is coming you will not believe it.

We are firing on all cylinders and are gonna pop up any day now with more wonderful goodies for your musical enjoyment pleasure.  Project x is going to be particularly tasty.  Project x  you ask?  Oh yeah, we used to use that terminology at Sony Music Studios for those special projects that were SOOO cool - we kept a lid on them.  Kinda like we are doing now - our project x is not Sony Music big but you get the idea, big deal for a small plant - it's a wonderful musical performance from one of our  local musicians for the public library in a neighboring town, we will let them announce it.  Our part was providing a second camera to capture the performance.  The library requested that we edit the show, and were hoping to do so, but were not able to fit it in so we have donated our camera's footage to the library.  The performance was amazing and we will post the link when the library gets it online.  With our Canon Vixia, there were two cameras shooting.  Our new friends at ALP Productions were there to provide a higher quality "camera 1" for the library as well.

Sony Music Studios is now gone, they tore it down to build condos.  It was on 54th street and 10th avenue and had the largest sound stage in Manhattan - "The Main Stage".  So sad, it really was an amazing place.  I was the Director of Editorial Services and the Senior Editor for almost three years and had the time of my life.  Probably should have never left.  I have some great stories - but those are all coming in the parallel blog - "Stories From My Illustrious Career".  And to mention the stories from a three year stint at Sony Music Studios before talking about the nine years working for Lorne Michael's "Broadway Video" - you KNOW those stories are gonna be good...  LOL.

Yeah, I have been very blessed - again this is why I want to give back.

Speaking of parallels, we are planning a parallel stucture to the movie about the local music scene we are hoping to do in the future as a project - using all the footage we are collecting.  Wish us luck! you ask?  Kickstarter is a group funding site for creative projects.  Check it out and fund YOUR creative project!  We will be announcing our first, smaller kickstarter project soon in an effort to help fund -- and grow -- the flymusicman project.

As we do our projects we are going to also share all our workflows on yet another blog using our Steadicam Pilot (oops, did I just let the cat out of the bag?), Cameras, Autodesk Smoke on Mac, Autodesk Flame Premium, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Creative Suite, Mocha and Mocha Pro and so much more.  Still working on the name for that blog.  We will link to all sorts of production and post visual fx training resources and user groups that you can connect with.  We are giving it all away baby!

Tell your friends and stay tuned.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

More about this blog - and how miracles started happening.

So as you know by now I started this blog to talk about my quest to find a way to give back to the local music scene and the incredible musicians we all enjoy NIGHTLY(!) here in Westchester, New York.   Seriously, seven nights a week you can find incredible live music all over the place.   An aspiring musician myself, I had been casually shooting "video" of live music for the past few years with a variety of small cameras and a LG cell phone and the like for my own enjoyment - but recently was inspired by on of my non-local musical heros, the legendary Jason Mraz when I saw him on "The Music Edition" of "Your Business" on MSNBC.  I dare you to watch this segment on not be inspired.  I would even dare to say it might even change your life - like it did for me.  Here's the story.   

Jason's music had kept me going through the hard times of the recent economic downturn -- as any of the ex-employees and clients from the now-defunct SoundHound on 45th street in NYC can tell you, Jason's toe-tapping happy sound was in heavy rotation at the plant during those dark days.  (FLYfx was subletting a vfx suite from SoundHound as the bad economy proceeded to crush us.)  Now, several years later and on this quest - and, incidentally after our best year ever(!) - I happened upon Jason's inspiring message on the MSNBC show - in this segment he speaks about Passion, respect, practicing gratitude and being inspired and inspiring others - well that was all it took, I ordered my first HD camera that same hour.  A light bulb had gone on above my head.  I suddenly had a plan.

Thanks Jason, you've done it again bro.

So there I was, I had upped the anti with a fairly serious semi-professionl Hi Def camera and some lights - and had, in a flash decided I was going to bring my 25 years of television production and post production experience to the local musicians that inspire so many of us in my home town area.  After all, it was related to my business and I realized as Jason spoke, that this could EASILY work to help me generate business for FLYfx - the passion I had for the local musicians alone would generate good vibes all around, and I believe that good vibes equals good business.  Not that I am not a "miracle guy" by any means, but the funny thing is, actual miracles have been happening - literally one a day, at least, ever since I started really going for it - just a few short weeks ago.  So now I have decided to call this whole effort "helping yourself by helping others".

The first night out with my camera:  I just showed up at a bar called Katie Mac's in Mt. Kisco - where I knew "Chris Fox and Mojo Monde" were performing - to ask if I could shoot some video.  I had an LED camera light, my brand new Canon VIXIA HFG10 and an Opteka X-Grip to mount and fly them on - all hand held - and really just to test the gear and see if I even felt comfortable intruding on these world class performers - I will literally never forget how nice it was to get a warm greeting from Jon Cobert  when he looked up and said "Hey there's Ralph".  I had "friended" Jon on FaceBook after meeting him and getting my mind absolutely blown by his incredible talent over the past months - so he knew who I was.  Jon made me feel "comfortable enough" to go for it - I knew we were all in for a real treat.  Denny McDermott was on the drums and Tony Tino on bass - they were incredible, Chris with his usual dazzling array of uber-tasty guitar licks and incredible singing and Jon Cobert destroying his Nord Electro3 all the while singing perfect harmonies.

And there I was, struggling to keep my shots from going haywire with my new gear.  I really was not a worthy cameraman by any means.  Not with this rig anyway.

I shot a few songs as best I could - my framing was pretty awesome, cause I AM a tv pro, but the steadiness left much to be desired.  I could really use a better way to stabilize this puppy or at least a second camera to cut out the really bad parts.  Jon invited me to come shoot the next night when his band, "Cobert Operations" was scheduled to rock Lucy's Lounge in Pleasantville(!), a few towns over.  I excitedly agreed but knew I had to improve my game.

Some tech notes:  I chose the Canon VIXIA HFG10 because of its ability to natively capture at a framerate of 23.98, a professionals choice for that organic steppy film vibe so when I went to grab my GoPro2 to use as a second camera I was faced with a cam that could only capture 30 fps in full HD - there is an option to shoot at 48 fps at a lower res but I decided instead to ask my friend to shoot with his iPhone 4 - hopefully at 24fps.  I later learned that his footage framerate would vary with the level of light - something I could fix with the FLYfx arsenal of high end post gear at my disposal but the average consumer might not be so lucky.  A great little iPhone app called FILMic Pro would later fix our frame rate issues on future shoots as well as offer some other nifty options to the iPhones incredible little camera, I highly recommend it.  $2.99 at the App Store.  LOL!!!

The second night out with the camera:  "Cobert Operations" has the famous Peter Calo on guitar, Jon on keys, world renown bassist Stu Woods and Rob Wallis on drums plus several amazing guest performers made it a magical night.

There was also one very special guest floating around in the audience - a man with an iPhone, also shooting video.  As it turns out, this second iPhone cameraman was a world class Director of Photography (day two - miracle number two) who is friends with the  guitarist, Peter Calo.  I chased Alan down after the show and begged him for access to his footage for the edit - he liked my enthusiasm and determination a lot apparently.  Cool.  We spoke several times on the phone after that and he volunteered to come to the next shoot(!) and bring a camera or two...

Third night out with the camera:  Man was "Chris Fox and Mojo Monde" gonna be surprised when I show up with this guy.  I did not make any announcement because it was snowing heavily that day but Alan showed up anyway -- with two cameras AND an assistant.  The cameras?  Oh just a Sony Ex1 and an EX3 - HOLY SMOKING HI DEF, BATMAN!

This night, Chris Fox and Mojo Monde had Mike Bram on the drums - who was recently the drummer and musical director for JASON MRAZ.  WHAT THE EFF?!?!?  

I gotta call this, third night, third miracle.  You people getting this?  I HAD CHILLS Y'ALL!!!  And speaking of chill, MIKE WAS AWESOME!!!!  He lit up the room and was such a joy to listen to and watch I seriously have not stopped smiling.  My wife thinks I have lost my mind.  I cannot tell you how excited I am that we are cutting a few of these songs - soon to be released by the band with Mike in the back blowing minds along with Tony Tino and of course, Jon Cobert and Chris Fox.  

Y'all ain't ready for this, that's all I have to say.    

Alan, had told me during the week that he got a kick out of me balancing my X-Grip mounted VIXIA with a wooden spoon I took from my kitchen drawer as my preferred stabilizing techniques to help fly my little camera around the room.  Imagine how silly I felt.  More on stabilizing my cam coming soon.  In this pic you can see our second camera man, my good friend Rich.

I should have realized Alan wasn't fooling around, even his iPhone camera had a telephoto lens on it.  How cool is that?

I consider these local musicians "my people".  In my most enthusiastic moments I can imagine this concept spreading like a "pay it forward" kind of thing.  So with this blog and my other activities I hope to encourage others to help those who they consider "their people" - in ways that ultimately help themselves.  It's simple - TRY IT!!!  Think of someone you identify with - then think of a way you can help them with YOUR unique skill.  Because it's YOUR skill your will easily find creative ways to benefit, not to mention the positive energy generated - it's like exercising your entrepreneurial muscles with steroids. 

Really, Try it.  Then tell me how your creativity starts to flow.  Let me know how you feel lighter and more motivated.  If you are like me, people will sense that you are onto something, everything around you will seem to change and bend to help you as you help others.  Really, let me know - I am curious to know if you find the universe handing daily miracles to you too.

Passion.  Respect. Gratitude. Be inspired and inspire others.

Thanks again Jason.

(Some photos taken by John Apicelli with his permission.) 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Same bar, different night.

Tuesday nights there is an awesome "jam" at Lucy's in Pleasantville.  Will Van Sise hosts the gathering with his band "The Wolf Pack"  I can't even begin to tell you how much talent gets up on that stage every week to jam.  Three songs and off they go - then the next stage full of people comes up and does three songs, and on it goes until the wee hours.  It's almost funny but the entire bar is full of musicians.  Pure heaven for the flymusicman.

This is a picture taken with a GoPro2 camera.  On stage with Will is Anthony Candullo, an amazing musician and photographer and Gary Schwartz, world class drummer who's weekly email blast of jams is a must read for any of our local area musicians looking to find out where to go get their jam on.  I am hoping to get Lucy's and other local jam scenes to webcast the fun - wish me luck, then you rock out with us wherever you are!  Stay tuned for updates. YEAH BABY!!!

For more info on these cats and the rest of the local talent showcase, visit

For more on the GoPro2 and other cameras, check out my camera blog, I will be sharing all sorts of info on cameras, including interviews with local photographers and a few surprises.  Oh, and a little beer talk too.

: )

Friday, January 13, 2012

Cobert Operations' Mission at Lucy's - our first video contribution!

Big news!  Here is our first video!  We are gonna open a bottle of champagne to celebrate.  Jon Cobert, Peter Calo, Stu Woods and Rob Wallis rocked our worlds that night - not to mention all the special guests.  Please visit for more info and where to catch the band's next performance, you will not be sorry - these guys seriously rock.


We are going to update this clip with more finessed cut soon.  A few of the shots could use a little "stabilization" help.  Perfect for our Autodesk Flame Premium suite.  This footage was shot with a Canon VIXIA HFG10 and an iPhone 4.  We shot at 23.98 fps on the VIXIA in full HD and the iPhone was running at 24 fps at its highest resolution and was up-res'd to HD.

Visit for more info on what we do.

: )

A little something from the plant.

We are moving right along, very exciting!  Here is an animated logo from FLYfx for Chris Fox and Mojo Monde - one of our favorite local bands.  We will be using this on upcoming projects from the band.

These guys are SERIOUSLY amazing musicians and we can't wait to showcase some of their talent here on our blog - but in the meantime, please check them out on youtube.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

This message will self destruct.

One of the amazing local music spots here in Westchester New York is Lucy's in Pleasantville and one of the AMAZING bands I have seen there is Cobert Operations.  

Then name of the band is a play on words using the amazing Jon Cobert's last name instead of the word "Covert" - so of course the band uses a lot of "Mission Impossible speak" in their social media and during their show.  Look at the logo and you will get it.

  I love the gag.  I LOVE THESE GUYS!!!  Anywho, I recently shot some footage of Cobert Operations to see what I could do with it to support the band, have some fun and hopefully generate some buzz for FLYfx in the process - my VFX company.  I also shot Jon Cobert with Chris Fox the night before and their band Mojo Monde during their performance at Katie Mac's in Mt. Kisco.  These two shoots were a test run -- but I hope to be posting videos from both bands in the future. I am looking forward to having some fun and spoiling these guys rotten, and a few other bands too if they'll let us.  We really have the potential to do some cool effin stuff here at the plant -- and the ideas are flowing thanks to the inspiring talent of these amazing musicians.  

As a teaser I posted some stills from these first shoots on our facebook page.  These pics are actually half-res frame grabs from the HD footage we shot with our Canon VIXIA HF G10.  Not bad for a test run.

Stay tuned.

This message will self destruct in ten seconds.  Just kidding.

Monday, January 9, 2012

So anyway, the vacation was awesome...

...I got myself up off that dock that night, barely.  Crawled practically.  This muscle spasm thing was bad.  But the next morning, with nothing to do but wait for the anti-inflamatories to do their thing - while my SERIOUSLY pimped out fridge waited for me to jump in - I did get my blog on - and that's a good thing 'cause HERE WE ARE!  I am sure the blog would have otherwise wound up on my list - you know that "other list" of the stuff you ain't never gonna do?  It rhymes with bucket-list.  (I stole that.)

Anyway, so now I am finally getting back to "blogging it up" and I HAVE SO MUCH TO TELL YOU.  :)  I stayed away on that island, all alone, until I was fully recovered, I had to, my stuff had to get back home.  I alternated between resting, writing that silly long first blog post you may have endured - and practicing piano.  I recorded a bunch of my "playing" into my trusty H4N Digital Recorder using the busted old piano they had in the house - which sounded good enough for the likes of me. Good enough to want to record it even, (there's no accounting for judgement here).  But I actually love listening to the recordings because I am talking to myself the whole time, which is hilarious.  (Probably just to me.)  Maybe I will release the bootleg.  The fridge full o' booze didn't hurt either - of course, I waited to partake until I was off the anti-inflamatories because I read labels - as should you.  'Nuff said.

After healing and finally putting down the old wooden cane I found in the house that first night - I had a great last few days partying like a rock star and I realized I wasn't alone, there were birds of a hundred varieties and dock spiders and ducks and fish - including an enormous carp species swimming in schools around the dock from time-to-time, deer in the fields, squirrels, snakes, turtles, minks, a porcupine and me - having the time of my life.  But all good things must come to an end and soon me and my stuff where homeward bound.  

I decided to keep the party going the day after I got home with my "it's five o'clock somewhere" routine, cracking a left-over vacation beer a little too early that day - and of course, one beer leads to another... - which eventually resulted in me wanting to finally try my hands at performing at the open mic in the next town over.  Alcohol will make you do stupid things for sure but if I was ever gonna do it, now was the time.

But before I talk about that disaster - here's a little about me and my motivation to write this blog, I play a little piano, blues mostly, some pop tunes, some rock tunes, nothing special - I love to see live music and would love to be HALF as talented as the local musicians I can't seem to get enough of. There is an INCREDIBLE local music scene here in Westchester, NY and in my opinion there's nothing as fun as seeing live music in these small venues where you can hang out with the rock stars that just melted your face.  I love these people, they are my people.  

My motivation on writing this blog:  So a while back, before my vaca, I decided to try and do something to promote and support this awesome local music scene - and anyone, anywhere who does this kind of thing --- so a million ideas later I decided to start this blog.  Why a blog?  What can a blog do?  Read the book that got me stoked and u will understand:  "Arianna Huffington's Guide to Blogging".

Hey check it out, I made the pic into a link that will take you to Amazon so you can buy the book - and if you DO buy it, I will make like three cents off of your purchase(!) - see, this is working out already.  You can do this too by becoming an Amazon Associate, the link building is really simple too.  This pic was taken with my GoPro2 camera.  For more info on the GoPro, check out my other blog, The Fly Camera Dude.

So this blog is about me, a frustrated wanna-be rock star, pushing 50, wanting to share all kinds of silly ideas about music and what might be possible using today's technology, the web, cell phones, video, tweeting, blogging and anything else that relates even vaguely to musicians like me - and musicians not like me - in an attempt to give back and possibly help my fellow musicians and friends.  I will be bouncing between this and my other blogs and everything will hopefully relate in some logical way for anyone bothering to come aboard.  More on that later.

ALSO:  I am going to ask all sorts of people to join me.  I am suggesting all my friends and colleagues to read "Arianna Huffington's guide to Blogging" as a starting point and, afterwards, see if they feel as empowered as I do - and, if so, join me in the quest to give something back - in some small way - to whoever THEY call "their people".  You might just find that by helping others you will help yourself.

: )