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.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Adventures in #Knitting

I am behind on my self-imposed quota of five or six blog posts per month, so I'd like to quickly blog about knitting.

It's occurred to me that almost everything can be understood at a basic level; in other words, everything should initially be easy for everyone. Perhaps that's a confusing overstatement, but it seems that society wants to give the impression that various skills are hard to acquire, discouraging doing things yourself, so that you end up buying crap you don't need: "People who buy things are suckers."

My overall thesis is that entry-level, yet useful, knowledge should be -- and is -- easy. Novice electrical work -- basic wiring -- is easy. Beginning metalwork is easy. Introductions to woodworking, music, dance, math, science, writing, computers, etc. -- easy. I'm not saying the mastery of various disciplines is easy; I'm saying that the beginning of understanding and simple production in everything should be -- and is -- easy. Maybe "easy" isn't the right word. The simplest wiring jobs can get tedious. The simplest metalwork projects might take a lot of muscle and sweat.

The simplest knitting project might be both tedious and take more muscle than expected (either that, or I am woefully out of shape to have felt sore after knitting).

That being said, let's talk about knitting. Understanding and attempting the overall process of knitting is easy, just like wiring, metalwork, etc. Mastering knitting takes time, patience, and experience, just like any field of interest. If you are a serial dabbler like yours truly, then take some time to gain some working knowledge of various things, like knitting. Read a book to familiarize yourself with the terms and processes, and watch some videos on YouTube to actually see and copy how to actually knit. 

Here's the gist of knitting, as far as I understand it, in about seven uneven steps:

1. Gather your materials. Bamboo needles are less slippery than metal needles. Use a crochet hook to fix some dropped stitches. Use stitch markers to save your work in-progress. Use a yarn needle and scissors to finish your work. Pay attention to the lot numbers of your yarn, to make sure each color is consistent from skein to skein. I've read that a row counter is useful for pattern-work, but I haven't gotten that experienced yet.

2. Turn a skein of yarn into a ball of yarn, to prevent tangles.

3. Learn how to make a proper slipknot. The video below is extremely useful, except a proper slipknot is not used at the beginning.

4. Cast-on the initial width of your project. (Watch the video above.) There are several techniques and forms for casting on yarn onto a knitting needle.

5. Knit. I currently only kinda-sorta know the knit stitch. I've read about and watched other stitches in action, like the purl stitch. These various stitch techniques are used to create patterns and textures. Scarves, hats, sweaters, etc., all have their own patterns and techniques to successfully create each thing.

6. Cast-off the project, when you are finished. (Watch the video above.) Cut the project from the ball of yarn, leaving extra slack.

7. Use a yarn needle to weave-in any loose ends, to prevent your project from unraveling.

I've so far only knitted a couple of small, messy, dishcloth-type items. I really have no idea what I actually created. All I know is that (1) it took a long time to make such small things, (2) my right arm was sore because I was probably tensed-up while knitting, and (3) I kinda-sorta understand how to knit, so I now have the opportunity to pursue it further, gain more experience, and perhaps knit something useful ...

... in the far future.

#LEGO Speed Champions = LEGO #TopGear? Maybe, Maybe Not.

I am a fan of the BBC show Top Gear. Okay, I was a fan of Top Gear, before the ever-popular presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May left the show, due to the BBC suspending or firing Clarkson for a violent incident with a show producer. Perhaps I'm still a fan of the show, as long as they have classic episodes available on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.

I cannot wait for the still-untitled Amazon Prime motoring show, starring Mssrs. Clarkson, Hammond, and May -- or Jezza, Hamster, and Captain Slow, if you're in the know. In the final two series of their BBC run, each presenter test-drove one of the three so-called hypercars: The McLaren P1 for Jezza, the Porsche 918 Spyder for Hamster, and the Ferrari LaFerrari for Captain Slow. I don't think they ever got around to racing/testing the three hypercars, side by side (by side). If their official social media accounts are to be believed, then their new Amazon Prime show might feature the big hypercar race that many have been anticipating.

The show is still untitled, with rumors of names like Gear Knobs and whatnot being constantly debunked by Clarkson, Hammond, and May.  Perhaps the title should be a play on their last name initials of C, H, and M, like the show CHiPs was a play on the abbreviation CHP (California Highway Patrol). CHuMs, maybe? No? How about CHuMps? Or CHaMps? CHiMps? CHoMps? Okay, this was a wasted paragraph.

I have to work on making my blog post introductions brief, but the actual intent of this post might be relatively short. I hypothesize that one of LEGO's current line of toys, Speed Champions, was supposed to be a fully-licensed Top Gear theme. This "conspiracy theory" is light on any evidence, like many conspiracy theories, but it's fun to speculate with the following two or three points:

1. LEGO released an officially-licensed minifigure keychain of The Stig. (If you don't know already, The Stig is the mysteriously anonymous professional race car driver/mascot of Top Gear.) Apparently, this keychain was released in 2012 as a limited edition of 10,000 units. On the other hand, the parts to make a minifigure of The Stig are so straightforward that anyone can make one: White helmet, black visor, white minifigure head (like Voldemort or a skull) or really any minifigure head, white torso with white arms and white hands, and white legs.

2. In early 2015, Top Gear produced a computer-animated promo for the now-final Clarkson/Hammond/May series, featuring the presenters as LEGO minifigures. The car models used in the animation were the then-soon-to-be-released LEGO versions of the P1, 918, and LaFerrari.

I received these LEGO hypercars for my birthday ... because I am all of 8 1/2 years old, apparently. They're good fun and awesome toys for anyone at any age -- is what I keep telling myself.

3. LEGO Speed Champions currently features officially-licensed, plastic brick renditions of Ferrari, Porsche, and McLaren (and McLaren Mercedes) race cars, supercars, and hypercars. Perhaps other automobile makers will join LEGO in the future. In any case, Speed Champions is basically Top Gear in all but name. Perhaps the Speed Champions line really was supposed to be Top Gear, but the deal fell through along the way -- which is okay because the prices for these officially-licensed toys are pretty fair (about $15 per hypercar at the LEGO Store), and adding a BBC product license might have increased the prices dramatically.

Other than waxing poetic about Top Gear and LEGO, I have nothing else to write on this post, not even a snappy, quasi-moralizing conclusion. Here's a photo of my LEGO sigfig (signature minifigure) posing with a LEGO MOC (my own creation) that my brother built of a Mercedes-Benz CLA, next to an actual Mercedes-Benz CLA, or at least the front of it:

I only post this to see the picture whenever I google* "LEGO Mercedes-Benz CLA" or "LEGO CLA" or "LEGO CLA250" or some search term like that. No one else has posted a LEGO CLA MOC on the Internet, as far as I know, so my brother's approximation of a CLA just might be the first! (*It's interesting that lower-case g google is a correctly-spelled verb in Firefox.)

Happy motoring!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fast Food Burger / Fries / Soft Drink Shoot-Out (Sort of)!

To make matters worse better, the #Pizzapocalypse has also become the #Burgerpocalypse. In this blog entry, I will arbitrarily rank various fast-food burger joints on the following criteria: Burgers, fries, drinks, and -- this is the criterion with the most weight -- how I currently feel about the fast food restaurant's brand.

In other words, the number ranking of each restaurant is basically meaningless, but I will try to be brutally honest in my opinion of various things on the menu.

1. In-N-Out. Indeed, that's what a hamburger's all about. With various Dollar Menus going the way of the dinosaur, due to inflation and overall food prices rising, In-N-Out's hamburger and cheeseburger are the best-tasting bang for your (couple of) bucks. You can't go wrong with a cheeseburger with chopped, grilled onions. Or a hamburger with raw, chopped onions. Et cetera. As far as the secret menu items go, I'm not a fan of the mustard-fried "Animal Style" stuff. The standard stuff is already brilliant.

On the other hand, In-N-Out's fries are kind of awful, relative to the heavyweights on this blog list. They are sliced too thin, and are subsequently either under-cooked or overcooked. They have the usual selection of soft drinks. Their shakes are decent, but somehow with all the grease involved with the burgers and fries, I'm left with a sticky feeling after drinking an In-N-Out milkshake.

In-N-Out is on the top of my list because their brand is awesome. They apparently treat their employees well. While this corporation stealthily adds Bible references to various food packaging, the owners aren't douchey about their religious beliefs, unlike some other fast food big wigs.

2. The Hat. This pastrami sandwich place is on the burger list because they apparently also serve a hamburger with pastrami added to it. I've never had it. Other than the Pastrami Dip sandwich, which I've had many times, the main draw of this place would be the over-sized (and relatively inexpensive) chili cheese fries. It can't be beat.

On the drink-front, they have been known to carry two of my favorite flavors of soft drink: Cherry soda and Piña Colada Bang! Cherry Fanta (which was probably a different brand years ago) is usually a given at any given The Hat, but the Piña Colada Bang! is in the Bang!/Olé! machine only at select locations.

3. Home-cooked. Get some fatty ground beef, make some patties, and grill 'em up. Slice some potatoes and fry 'em twice. Chop 'n spread your favorite fillings and condiments. Choose your favorite bread. Open some bottles of cold beer. Or root beer.

Home-cooked food isn't at the top of the list because it's technically not fast food.

4. (The Local Burger Joint). Whenever you get the chance, support your local small businesses, especially the ones that serve excellent food.

5. Burger King. It's the mystery of the Whopper. The Whopper and the Whopper Jr. are the only burger build that's better without cheese. A slice of American cheese makes the Whopper so much worse than the hamburger version, which is pitch perfect, as far as Burger King burgers go. The regular-sized Whopper was big when I was a kid, and it still seems big to this day.

When I was a kid, several decades ago, Burger King's fries tried to copy McDonald's exactly -- and they were wonderful. Perhaps a lawsuit was involved, I don't know, but one day, BK changed the recipe of their fries for the worse. Then they changed it again ... still sub-par. They must have tweaked their fries a handful of times over the years, but I'm not entirely sure.

Then there's the current, seasonal, gimmicky Whopper: The A1 Halloween Whopper. For a Whopper with cheese, it's okay. The A1 sauce in the burger is a bit weird at first, but the sore-thumb flavor blends in eventually. The food dye in the bread turns one's stool green, temporarily.

6. Tie: Carl's Jr. and Jack in the Box. Due to learning errors in my childhood, possibly synapses misfiring at times, I usually get confused with a handful of concepts. Sometimes I get Germany's Porsche mixed up with Italy's Ferrari. I know they are two different actresses with different faces, but I cannot come up with the names Glenn Close and Meryl Streep without either thinking long and hard, or Googling for clues.

Sometimes I get confused between Carl's Jr. and Jack in the Box. Their burgers taste about the same -- fries, too. OK, Carl's has the fried zucchini and Jack has the Ultimate Cheeseburger, that much I can differentiate. I think both of them serve decent jalapeño poppers.

Unless that was just Jack. Or Carl's. I'm guessing both. Which place has the Oreo Shake?

7. Wendy's. The founder of Wendy's might be the same person as the founder of Carl's Jr., and the Jr. of Carl might be a daughter named Wendy. The quality of food at Wendy's is about the same as the food at Carl's and at Jack, except for one major detail: Square hamburger patties.

Their square hamburger patties taste decent, but the concept of the square patty freaks me out. This is not a serious psychological condition, but rather a running joke, when I get to be a cartoon character who basically loses it when faced with the reality of the square hamburger patty.

It's not a very funny running joke, but it makes me feel good to play at being freaked out by square burgers.

8. McDonald's. The mighty have fallen. Mickey D's was once a place for reliably cheap food. For some reason, and perhaps it's my increasingly poor math skills, McDonald's has become more expensive than In-N-Out for the same amount of food -- or at least it seems that way. Furthermore, the cheap-tasting hamburger patty is a bit inconsistent from franchisee to franchisee. Some restaurants' patties taste like McDonald's; other restaurants' patties are just salty and nasty. It's a crap shoot.

A video posted by Ryan DeRamos (@ryan_deramos) on
Also, the Big Mac was never a large sandwich, by any stretch of the imagination. Ever. When I was a kid, a Big Mac was still relatively small, compared to the Whopper.

That being said, the French fries at McDonald's are second to none, and the fries alone deserve to be at the top of this list. McDonald's fries pair perfectly with an In-N-Out Double Double, by the way.

The $1 for any size drink deal is a stroke of genius. Each serving from the soda machine merely cost a couple of pennies, anyway -- or so I've been told, years ago.

9. Five Guys. The two varieties of fries at Five Guys are The Hat-level good. It's the freedom of choice when it comes to burger "toppings" -- fillings? -- that ruin Five Guys for me. Yes, people praise the awesomeness of Five Guys' burgers, and I've come to the conclusion that they know which combinations of ingredients work best with the Five Guys hamburger patty and buns.

These winning combinations elude me to this day, and I am doomed to order nasty, soggy Five Guys burgers for eternity, in all likelihood.

10. Everywhere Else I've Forgotten, Never Been to (Yet), and Non-Fast Food Burger Places. That just about covers it. If the restaurant is able to fry an egg on top of the burger patty, then that restaurant is a keeper.

We who are about to chili cheese fry, salute you!

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Winds of Winter, Jon Snow Info? Nope, Not Here. #lego #got #gameofthrones

I suppose I was supposed to write "Nope, Not Here," in the body of the article, and not in the title of the article. Darn. I ruined my own attempt at clickbait.

Sometimes, honesty is the worst policy, if one is dealing in a dishonest field.

In any case, this particular blog post continues the theme of Game of Thrones spoilers, rendered in LEGO. We covered the first half of the first season here and the second half of the first season here. Now, we are in the show's second season, rendering specific -- and often spoilery -- shots in LEGO bricks and LEGO minifigures. I initially post these photos on my Instagram profile, and since the first season of LEGO GoT, Instagram has allowed for wider photos, in addition to the traditional Instagram cropped square photo. With that context, the second season of LEGO GoT is now in "widescreen."

Here are the first five episodes of the second season -- SPOILERS!

The first episode is "The North Remembers." Here we have the priestess of R'hllor, Melissandre, and a contender for Joffrey's Iron Throne, his uncle Stannis Baratheon. They are on the beach in Dragonstone, burning down the statues of the seven-in-one god of the Faith of the Seven.

The second episode is "The Night Lands." We finally introduce a Jon Snow minifigure, as well as a Samwell Tarly minifigure. With Jon as a minifigure, I have yet to create minifigures for two Starks: Robb (King in the North) and Rickon. In any case, these members of the Night's Watch are Beyond the Wall, at Craster's Keep.

The third episode is "What Is Dead May Never Die." Not seen in this shot is Tyrion Lannister, but he is ever-present in the reason for this photograph. Here, Tyrion basically ordered his buddy/bodyguard/mercenary Bronn to cut off Grandmaester Pycell's beard. This bedchamber is probably the most intricate set I've built for LEGO GoT, but I tried my best to keep it simple, knowing that backgrounds are usually not the focus of the photograph.

The fourth episode is "Garden of Bones." A very "nude" Melissandre has just given birth to a shadow assassin that resembles Stannis Baratheon. Ser Davos witnesses this magic in sheer horror, or as much emotion as that particular minifigure face can portray. This cave was made out of "big ugly rock pieces" (BURPs), and I made sure to shine some light on Davos' torch, to create the illusion that the LEGO flame piece is illuminating the cave.

The fifth episode is "The Ghost of Harrenhal." Jaqen H'ghar has just killed The Tickler, fulfilling the first assassination wish (of three) on Arya Stark's list. The hairpiece on the official Narcissa Malfoy (Draco's mother in Harry Potter) minifigure was a perfect match for Jaqen's hair.

I kind of arbitrarily give flesh-colored (from lightest to darkest: glow-in-the-dark, white, light flesh, flesh, medium dark flesh, dark flesh, reddish brown, brown, dark brown, etc.) heads to these characters. The First Men ethnic group tends to get yellow heads, as do characters of Andal descent. Most Dothraki minifigures receive yellow heads, as well. I'm planning to give the Rhoynars of Dorne flesh heads, but who knows? Jaqen, above, is said to be from Lorath in Essos, so that's the primary reason why I gave him a flesh-colored head over a yellow one. I try to give featured characters from Essos a flesh-colored head. Targaryens are ethnically Valyrian from Essos (plus or minus their Westeros-mixed "genes"), so I give them -- as well as rumored Targaryens -- flesh-colored heads.

In any case, ideally, I would depict any character with my limited selection of flesh-colored heads, unless there's a yellow head that really captures the character, in a humorous way. So, yes, it's basically an arbitrary decision whether to use a standard yellow LEGO minifigure head or one of the many shades of flesh-colored heads.

Monochromatic LEGO walls are often boring set pieces, which can be a problem if they are in the foreground. There are various ways to remedy this. You can use different colors, but that runs the danger of getting too "busy." You can use bricks with different shapes and angles, but that might take too much time and planning, if you're in a hurry. In the photo above, I tried to make a brick-like pattern for the pillar in the foreground. I also used two slightly different shades of dark grey, if your eyes can detect it. One shade is the yellowish, pre-2003 (?) dark grey, and the other shade is the modern dark bluish-grey. It's these little details that make otherwise boring foreground walls into something a bit visually interesting, without going overboard with LEGO technique or becoming a busy-looking distraction.

After all, the main focus of the shot is meant to be the minifigure -- or as Jaqen might put it, a minifigure is the main focus of the photograph.