Michael Bellar

One of the things I cherish most about photography are the friends I make over time.  One friendship that has grown over the years is the love and admiration I have for Michael Bellar.  I met him years ago when his AS/IS Ensemble played at Studio 99 for the first time.  Even through Studio 99 is no more, and Michael lives in New York City, we still keep in touch through phone calls and emails, and, occasionally, for work.

Over the summer, Michael contacted me about doing some video for some new solo songs he was working on.  Mike packed up a rental car full of his old synths and amps and all the other vintage stuff he's passionate about, trekked up to Nashua and we spent two days getting footage for two songs.  The video above is the final cut of one of the songs.

Watching him work over the course of two days was really eye opening.  For those of  you who haven't seen him perform, he's very laid back and relaxed but when he plays he's very intense.  There is an element of improvisation, but in that improv there is extreme control.  To be that loose when playing, you have to be very very tight.  It's also very much about "feeling" when he plays.  Watching him almost scat out the notes with his voice as he plays, you can see the creative brain speak to his fingers as he's playing.  It sucks you in and you become part of the process of creating music.  Again, it's very intense.

My good friend Dave helped with recording, and we did three setups per "take".  One medium static shot, which Dave worked camera on, and then we had a camera up over Michael aimed downwards to capture him playing on two keyboards at the same time.  I drifted around shooting handheld with gave me the chance to focus on close-up things; his fingers, his face, his feet, etc.  Michael too the footage back to NYC and his friend Marie Le Claire edited the video.

One really fantastic thing to watch was him working with what I started calling his "Porch Box".  It is a foot rhythm box he created to give the sound of playing live on someones front porch.  Michael is a southern boy, so this "home-style" element fits him perfectly, and adds a very personal feel to his work.  His other foot stomps on a cigar box that acts as a deep bass drum sound.  It's very impressive; watching both is legs work to different rhythm elements while his hands operate two keyboards.  Again, it's intense.  I'm in constant admiration of musicians.

So, check out the video above.  Dig it.  Head over to his website, and if you are in NYC or close by, hit up one of his shows.  Tell him I sent you.

He's an incredible, passionate, caring human being and damn incredible musician.  And he's become a friend who I trust completely.

Finding Vivian Maier

I missed the documentary "Finding Vivian Maier" when it had very limited theatrical release.  It just came out a while ago on DVD, and I anxiously snapped it up off Amazon.

It's so good.  Watching someone discover the negatives of an unknown photographer and then what seems like overnight turning this photographer into a world renowned street photographer is amazing.  People are on both sides as to wether Vivian would have wanted this kind of attention, but her images are incredible.  Her story is crazy to watch unfold, and I for one and glad that her work was presented to the world.  A beautiful, crazy, detective-like documentary about a seclusive photographer and her amazing body of work.  Definitely check it out.  Pick it up on Amazon (woah!  for only $14!! what a steal!) Highly recommended.

Trailer below.

Ian Ethan • The Comforter

It excites me greatly to unveil the new music video for Ian Ethan's new song, "The Comforter" from his upcoming double-disc album.

Please do yourself a favor and watch this in 1080p high definition - the best and  only way to really enjoy it (along with your speakers turned up!)

After filming Ian's last video last summer at Studio101A, Ian contacted me about the idea of a new video for a new composition that would be on his forthcoming album.  Where the previous video was an example of his overall prowess with double-neck, fretless bass and looping ability, this new song was a bare bones double-neck composition and he wanted to showcase that.  When I first heard "The Comforter" a while back at one of his concerts, I absolutely fell in love with the melody and the gentleness of the song.  It's beautiful.  I immediately had some ideas on what we could do to help make a video for him.

We decided to film the video here at my studio.  After rearranging the studio a while back, we had the perfect spot for him to setup and play in.  I knew that I wanted the video to be shot in black and white.  It fit the theme and the feel of the song.  Color would be to distracting and visually take away from getting enveloped by the warm melody.  I wanted something light and airy and in monotone so that you could really just focus on the song.

I think it was a hard sell to Ian at first.  He had brought some colored LED lights, and he was really happy with the look of the last video, "Infinite Race", and he was seeing basically the same style of video.  I massaged him a little about feeling it should be in black & white, and then really started to push on him that monotone was the way to go.  I was convinced it was necessary and that color would really detract from the song.  I filmed a few takes in color, but there rest of the 11 takes I filmed in black and white.  I was committed.  I knew when Ian saw the rough footage he'd agree with me.

And, sure enough, when Ian looked at the rough footage once he got home, he was in love with the monotone look.  He was ecstatic.

We took about 11 takes that day of "The Comforter" and then we did another song with as many takes.  "The Comforter" clocks in at about 9 and 1/2 minutes, and the second song was longer, so we spent an entire day and evening filming and getting raw footage.

The next step was for Ian to master the recording.  Ian is meticulous when it comes to his compositions and sound.  He took those 11 takes and assembled one master take from all of those - adding one section here, another section there, and so on and so forth until he had the best version of the song assembled from all 11 takes.  It's very laborious and time consuming, but Ian is a perfectionist which is one of the reasons why I enjoy being around him.  He takes immeasurable pride in his craft and wants nothing but the absolute best.

After taking a few months to assemble the track, Ian finally contacted me a few weeks ago so we could start editing the video.  We blocked off a few Tuesdays and met at Studio 101A in Amherst NH.  Tom, owner of Studio 101A was more than happy to let us use the mastering room and his equipment to cut the video.  Thanks, Tom.

It took us two full Tuesdays to edit the song.  Ian had his master track of the song and had it color coded into sections.  Each section of the song matched up with one of our takes.  This helped give us a starting point for editing.  We would take a look at the coded audio, match it up with the corresponding numbered video footage and start from there.  If it was something we liked visually we'd use it.  If it wasn't we then started culling other takes.  I think we figured out it took on average about 1  to 1 & 1/2 hours to get a minute of cut footage.

Allow me to say right now what an absolute pain in the ass Final Cut Pro is when it comes to adding text to projects.  It took us longer to find out how to change a font color and add the titles than it did to edit clips together for this project.  Totally unintuitive.

We finished the edit of the video yesterday.  It was a fantastic co-editingexperience with Ian; we were able to bounce ideas and thoughts with no issues at all.  Plus, it's great to just be able to talk with him about music.  He has the perspective of a composer who speaks with audio.  I have the perspective of a craftsmen who speaks with visuals.  Perfect marriage, and I'm very happy to not only be working with him, but to also personally consider him a good friend.

I hope you enjoy the video.  Watch it full high def resolution at 1080p and make sure you have some good speakers hooked up to get the beautiful range of sounds coming from his song.  We're both pretty darn proud and excited by this project, and aside from a few novice learning steps (um, hello sensor dust on the camera.  Ack!!!) we both think it's a really beautiful project.

Please give Ian your love.  Check out his website and please see him live if you ever get the chance.  His unique style of composing and performing needs to be supported and championed.

The Comforter

Composed and Performed by Ian Ethan

Filmed by Sid Ceaser

Edited by Ian Ethan & Sid Ceaser

Edited at Studio101A, Amherst NH

Copyright 2014 Ian Ethan & Sid Ceaser Photography

Because it's part of who I am.

"Big Noise" - 1989

The act of creating images and moving pictures has been with me for an excessively long time.  It's interesting to weave back through history and revisit things that I did as a child and to see how they tie in to where I am at my current stage in life.

In my early teens, I was introduced to the PXL2000 - a cool little fisher price plastic black and white video camera that recorded on high bias magnetic audio tapes.  My buddy Mike had it, showed me what it could do, and then he let me borrow it for a long time.  The moment I captured my first grainy, black and white video on it, I was hooked.  Over the year that I had it I started recording everything around me.  One summer day, I picked up Fred, a frog puppet that I had won at a local fair, and had him sing to the radio.  It was fate.  I was instantly hooked on what I was doing - making a frog into Billy Joel, Elton John and Phil Collins.

That summer, I made music videos, I made fight scenes with my action figures.  I carried that camera with me to school; recorded recess, and classes, and bus rides home.  When I was home I'd plug it in and make more music videos.

Then one Christmas my parents gifted me a floor model VHS-C camera.  My videos became color.  I have countless hours of me at school, at lunch, outside, riding ATV's, off-roading, making mini-movies, making jokes, fake fighting scenes.  On and on and on.  Back then I wasn't worried about composition or anything like that - I was recording my childhood and my fun.

Then real-life got in the way and I graduated high school.  The video camera broke.  Things stopped being recorded.  Suddenly, 10 years had gone by and I hadn't made any videos.  But the desire was always there.  Soon.  Soon.

Years ago, I picked up a Flip HD pocket camera so I could record behind-the-scenes stuff for my Photography business.  Having the Flip let me attach it to my scooter.  To my Jeep.  More playing.  More experimenting.  More documenting.

Then, when it came to doing one of the most important things in my life - proposing to my girlfriend Sara, I combined the love of video with the love of puppets.  I think you might recall how that turned out.

In this video above, you can see the seeds being planted.  You can see the history that exists that led me to the moment of making the "Muppet Proposal" a few years ago.  I made that because I made this, decades before.  Because I love doing it.  Because it's part of me.  Better or worse.

I've recently been converting dozens and dozens of old VHS tapes with all this stuff to the computer.  Retracing my history.  Amazed that these things are still part of my fabric.

It's a part of me that makes me who I am.

Ian Ethan • The Infinite Race • video

I'm happy to share this new video that Ian Ethan, Studio101A and I created together to help promote Ian and show what his looping music sounds and looks like.

We spent the day doing multiple live takes of this looped composition (almost 15 minutes!) and it was a great exercise for me to shooting HD footage.   Ian will be using this video on his forthcoming new website as something he can show record labels and concert venues for booking arrangements.

Thanks to Tom at Studio101A in Amherst who I always enjoy seeing and working with, and I'm enjoying the small "team" that is forming with Ian, Tom and myself.

Grab a cold one and hunker down for the next 14 minutes and immerse yourself in the sounds of Ian Ethan.  It's really great stuff.  He's got a very unique sound and it's exciting to see him grow over the years.  His next album is going to be amazing.