Never heard of demos? Well, start. Because being a polymath programmer means you need to appreciate the expertise and knowledge in making one.
In simple terms, a demo is a multimedia program, where you just watch and listen. There’s usually visual effects. There’s music, usually playing in sync with the visual effects. There might be a story or an overall message. And everything is run in real time, so you’re better off with a speedy processor and an even speedier graphics card.
Why should you watch demos? They represent the coming together of different expertise such as
- artistic direction
- software design
- music composition
- graphics work
- 3D modelling (of recent times)
- programming skills
[Adapting a quote from one of my favourite movies]
Unfortunately, no one can be told what a demo is. You have to see it for yourself.
1. The product
Also known as fr08, this piece of work was created by farb-rausch. It’s actually an intro, a class of demos where the programs have a certain file size limit. In this case, 64 kilobytes. The constraint used to be caused by the platform, but now, it’s mainly to challenge the skills of the demogroup.
This was my first introduction to the demoscene. And I was amazed by how a 64 kilobyte program could generate close to 11 minutes of visual effects and music.
This was accomplished through procedural generation, where part of the code generates the image and music data in memory. Instead of image and music data files, the code instructions for generating them were stored in the program, thus saving executable size (or total bundled zip size). A similar concept to writing code to write code.
2. Heaven 7
Perhaps you’ve seen some 3D graphics movie, like Shrek. The basic technique in a 3D render software is ray tracing, a calculation intensive process.
If you’ve play computer games, you’ll know that superb clock speed and fast graphics cards are indispensable. You might even know how game programmers cut corners so as to deliver visuals that are stunning yet run smoothly on most computers.
3. Instant Zen
Fly through scenes of space, metaballs and clouds. Follow wriggling paint worms and ephemeral ribbons over abstract landscapes and sparkling rivers. Experience instant Zen! Brought to you by Synesthetics.
4. Dream Child
The visuals in Dream Child are stunning. What impressed me more was the music. There’s a harmonious blending of human voices, computer generated sounds and electric guitars.
Conspiracy, the demogroup responsible for Beyond, invites the viewer to explore the uncharted galaxies. Starting out from behind a small comet hurtling through space, you then flew past nebulae, planets and Saturn’s rings. You’ll witness the scorching surface of a sun and cyclical movement of gases.
Near the end, it’s as if you’re dragged by the scruff of your neck and pulled backwards. You’ll then whisk outwards, away from gaseous bodies, pass more planets, out of galaxies, and finally reach … the part where you have to go download the demo and watch it to find out what happened!