Saturday, October 31, 2015

The #CosplayCover and the #LEGO #Sigfig #Cosplay #Cover

I didn't want to be a guitarist on the Internet with a camera pointed at his crotch.

When I tested my initial "one man band" setup last year, I decided to perform cover songs, and upload 15-second clips on Instagram. To combat the guitarist crotch shot phenomenon, I made sure these one-take, live performances had multiple video cameras, sometimes including a camera that clips onto the headstock of my guitar -- none of which would be pointed at my nether regions, theoretically.

To actually get people to see these clips, I knew I had to use some specific hashtags. I'd like to think that I'm an "ethical" hashtag user, not spamming keywords but actually using terms that are relevant to the content of my photos and videos. For instance, if I wanted to appeal to the Doctor Who fandom with my unrelated cover song performance, and use fandom-related hashtags, I'd have to dress up like the Doctor.

And so the "cosplay cover" was born. In late summer and early autumn of 2014, I dressed up as all incarnations of the Doctor from Doctor Who and performed mostly unrelated songs (except for the Doctor Who theme song).

During that stretch of time, I also cosplayed Crowley from Supernatural, while covering the relevant "Carry On Wayward Son." During the three day period of Devil's Night, Halloween, and All Saints' Day, I covered three songs from The Crow soundtrack, dressed as the heroic revenant Eric Draven.

These multi-camera cosplay covers turned into a relatively big production for one person to handle, so I stopped producing them.

In early summer of 2015, I upgraded my one man band setup with A Little Thunder for the bass parts, a Boss VE-2 for vocal harmonies, and a DIY LED light show pedal board to give my performances something cool to look at -- all completely portable because all the components are battery-operated. This full-band live sound became immediate, fantastic, and did not require the overall hassle of maintaining an actual full band.

I was still hesitant to start producing cosplay covers again. The process contained too much setup -- lights, cameras, and costumes. The editing process (choosing camera angles) was a bit of a hassle, and video footage from multiple angles tends to use up lots and lots of hard drive space. I really don't like wasting hard drive space. On the other hand, I wanted to share the sound of my upgraded one man band setup on social media.

As a pat-my-own-back-clever compromise, I decided that my LEGO sigfig (and variations thereof) would stand in for yours truly -- sometimes in cosplay. When the current Doctor Who series (season) began in early autumn, I was sure to have my sigfig cosplay as The Doctor, while I recorded one-take cover songs.

Footage from a multi-camera, (increasingly obsolete thanks to 4K video) high definition live performance would probably use up several hundred megabytes, if not a couple of gigabytes per song. The initial edited project, for a 15-second clip, is usually a couple hundred megabytes in size. The super-compressed "finished" project, for a 15-second clip, is usually a couple megabytes in size, like two megabytes or three megabytes.

I only take a few photos when I produce a LEGO cosplay cover. I shoot with JPEGs, I don't bother with RAW format for this situation, and I usually let the "Ken Burns" zooming effect do some magic in Final Cut Pro X. The unedited "footage" is typically only dozens of megabytes in size, total. The LEGO sigfig cosplay cover is definitely a (virtual) space saver.

Like the proper video process above, the initial edited project, for a 15-second clip, is usually a couple hundred megabytes in size. The super-compressed "finished" project, for a 15-second clip, is usually a couple megabytes in size, like two megabytes or three megabytes.

Like last year, I have been able to "cosplay" to try to appeal to the Doctor Who fandom ("Whovians"), as well as the Supernatural fandom, again. For Halloween, I have been able to revisit last year's The Crow cosplay, with little, cutesy, plastic people.

A video posted by Ryan DeRamos (@ryan_deramos) on

I have also been able to celebrate, a bit late, the 20th anniversary of the double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, by the Smashing Pumpkins. That particular 15-second clip consists of five, three-second clips, representing the five music videos from that album. Yes, I only used five photos in the production of that, well, production. Here's a photo that tries to mimic the "Tonight, Tonight" video, with my sigfig cosplaying as Billy Corgan, James Iha, and D'arcy -- and my anthropomorphic drum machine cosplaying as Jimmy Chamberlin.

Having little plastic dudes cosplay as the Pumpkins was a smashing idea! On that note, I hope you all have a Happy Halloween and a smashing pumpkin-spice everything season!


Friday, October 30, 2015

#LEGO #Sigfig Photo: #Unselfie or #UltimateSelfie?

My Instagram profile -- and by extension, my Facebook profile, my Twitter profile, and my Tumblr blog -- has become a repository of photos depicting my LEGO signature minifigure, or sigfig, in random places.

A sigfig is essentially a miniature, plastic avatar of a person, usually either resembling the individual in some way, or a plastic LEGO version of that person's favorite fictional character (or historical figure). Personally, I cobbled together a minifigure that kinda-sorta resembles me. My sigfig's hair is usually a black plastic "wig," with the length roughly corresponding to my actual hair at the time of the photograph, unless my sigfig is "cosplaying" as someone else. (It gets a little complicated sometimes.)

My sigfig's face comes from a Jurassic World character named Simon Masrani, or at least the LEGO minifigure version of the character. I haven't seen the movie yet, so I have no idea who Simon Masrani is supposed to be. Perhaps he gets eaten by a dinosaur. All I know is that that particular head is made of "medium dark flesh" plastic, and the printed face has facial hair. The head actually has two facial expressions on either side:  A snarky, sardonic smile and a shocked, scared gaping mouth. I use the smile for most photos; I use the open mouth for more humorous photos, as well as a "singing" face for my lazily-produced music videos.

My sigfig is cosplaying Doc Brown, with some flux and a capacitor.
The typical sigfig usually "wears" the same thing everyday, like a superhero costume. In contrast, the torso and legs of my sigfig will usually correspond to the "outfit" I am actually wearing that day, which begs the question: Do these minifigure parts dictate my fashion choices, or do my fashion choices dictate how I assemble my sigfig? We'll never know.

My sigfig's hands usually are medium dark flesh in color, and that's how you make my LEGO sigfig. To summarize, my sigfig consists of an approximation of my current hairstyle, Simon Masrani's minifigure head, the outfit-of-the-day torso, the outfit-of-the-day legs, and medium dark flesh hands.

The frequency of these sigfig photos on my social media profiles has got me thinking about why I take these sort of photos, and why I post these photos on the Web. I could easily take frequent selfies, just like almost everyone else, but I'd rather not do that. Do I take sigfig photos to appear less "narcissistic"? Is the sigfig photo an "unselfie"?

On the other hand, nothing can me more "narcissistic" than cobbling together an avatar that kinda-sorta resembles oneself. It's basically like chiseling a gigantic marble statue of oneself, but as a tiny, plastic, cutesy thing. Do I take sigfig photos to appear satirically and/or exaggeratedly egomaniacal? Is the sigfig photo the "ultimate selfie"?

We'll never know. Okay, I think I'm trying to go for "satirical narcissism," at least I hope I am.

What I do know is that the sigfig photo has one advantage over the selfie: I get to be behind the camera to compose a shot, like a proper photographer. With a selfie, the person is also the subject of the snapshot, so his/her eyes will usually look into the camera's lens, and not at the framing and composition of the shot, at the moment of the shutter. With a sigfig photo, I get to control the shot as much as possible, and I get to place my avatar into unusual, amusing situations.

Also, food photos are exponentially more interesting with a sigfig in the foreground, holding tiny plastic versions of the actual food (in the background).

We're having second breakfast at a car dealership's service department.

This Star Wars torso is the closest I can get to the dark grey Oswald the Lucky Rabbit T-shirt I wore that day.
It's like the LEGO version of Inception -- LEGOception? Foodception?

In any case, the sigfig photo is a fun way to express my own fluctuatingly healthy and unhealthy sense of self. It's a parody ... in which I am fantastic and self-effacing at the same time.

My real denim jacket isn't the same shade of blue as my sigfig, but the dark red V-neck jumper is spot-on.

May everything be awesome in flesh-and-bone, as it is in plastic-and-ink.