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.)