I made a new demo last week (specifically, the last two days of last week).
The great thing for me about making large demos which take ages, like Frameranger, is that they generate a lot of new material. So much stuff got tried out over the course of making it. Some of those things never made it in, some did but only as a small cameo performance. The bad thing about doing large demos which take ages is that they take ages, they’re a lot of hard work and stress, and ultimately don’t give a very good return on the time and effort invested – so much material doesn’t get used or barely gets noticed, and you’d make approximately one demo every year, which isn’t good for the release status of most demo parties. Also you tend to lose your way and change direction a few times over the course of development, which just leads to more wasted material.
That’s where doing small demos comes in. Doing something small and fun in a few days, with a single concept and small amount of material. You start it, make it, finish it and release it before you have a chance to change your mind or lose your way. Such was the development of this demo. It’s like comparing a holiday fling to a long term relationship – a nice mix of both gives you a well rounded life..
This demo started out as an effect in Frameranger that didn’t get used too well. I wanted to work on it some more and add to it – solve some problems that showed up during development. Then I started looking around the internet for ideas about how a modern particle effect should look. It’s a common process for me for realtime graphics development – first doing a search to see what the state of the art is in offline rendering, then trying to get as close to it as possible in the constraints of realtime. I found some really interesting sources related to the offline particle renderer for 3ds Max – Krakatoa. The main thing I picked out was the really nice looking shadows and lighting, and the fluid dynamics movement, so I tried to do something similar. I’ll follow this post up soon with the technical details.
My test started to develop into something that could actually be a demo in it’s own right. On the monday I looked around on my hard drive to see if there was a suitable piece of music I could use, and remembered a great tune by Bliss which I had my eye on using for a while. Bliss is an old friend – he actually did the soundtrack for my very first demo years and years ago. He doesn’t do much for the demoscene anymore but we still keep in touch now and again. I sent him a message to ask if I could use it and he said yes. The music is in my opinion totally beautiful – give that man a record deal!
The next couple of days were spent developing the effect code for the demo – adding text attractors and suitable emitters to the particle system – and then finally building the piece in the demo tool. The piece is much shorter than usual at only 2 minutes long, and it only features one effect, so it’s incredibly simple compared to most of the demos I’ve done before. That meant that it had to be more polished. Even though it’s only one effect for the duration I tried to give it a “story arc” – changing colours, emission rates, synced hits and using text attractors in the right place so it remained interesting over the timeline. It was done in good time to enter in the demo competition at Main, and placed 2nd. Not bad for a couple of days work.
I should point out in case it wasn’t already obvious – the concept isn’t exactly original. Here are some of the main sources of inspiration, although there are plenty out there:
youtube; youtube: these gave me the basic idea for the effect – the movement, rendering, and also the idea to decay the colours on an arc over time moving through several different colours over the life of the particle, which really helped shape the look. These, particularly the second one, really formed the effect – thanks to the author!
youtube: A beautiful piece. Some of the presentation ideas leaked into mine – e.g. the concept of a side scroll and the use of a spot light. It’s also a great example of how to turn one effect into a whole piece and give it a “story arc”. The particles and movement aren’t as nice as the Krakatoa ones though – I believe this used Trapcode Particular for aftereffects.
link: this helped form the smoke idea. Amazing piece – I aspired to get anywhere close to it.