Counterstatement: "MP3 - An Unwanted Intruder?"
Written by Bam
This is my reaction to an article by Soohy of Interror and Loaf of Brain in Hugi #16 called "MP3 - AN UNWANTED INTRUDER?". Disclaimer: This article only deals with MP3s in demos, not the MP3 technology in general.
Soohy or anyone else, would you please name these "advantages and disadvantages" of modules and MP3 and the conclusions we demo coders can draw from them? No? So I will do this:
Modules are small and easy to do and the quality of the music can be amazing, if the composer is good. That's the reason why modules have established themselves in the demo scene and in the games industry (Unreal, Jazz Jack Rabbit,...). Machines are fast enough today to play modules in high quality, even if a demo with complex effects is running at the same time, and downsampling to 8bit is only necessary for those who have some sucking PCI Soundblaster crap and demos using Midas Digital Audio Fuckage under DOS!
MP3s are big (always bigger than modules), their size depends directly on the length of the song (an 8 minute demo with an 8 minute soundtrack means 8MB of music in full quality or less in sucking quality). No one can "rip" your samples and see how your music is done. You can compress everything as MP3 (including ripped music that no one knows is ripped) and put it in your demo. You cannot jump between patterns and re-use them. All in all, MP3 is a terrible waste of memory.
If MP3 sucks so much, there must be a reason why it has been invented. Of course there is one: It allows you to use any equipment for creating the music (well, if you have the equipment) and replay it on every computer without any complex software. And of course it is smaller than uncompressed audio. For these reasons, MP3 is the ideal format for spreading stolen music tracks (yes, MP3 was made for ripping!), but in size and quality (because size and quality is always a trade-off) it can't compete with modules when size is important (I think the size of a demo is important!)
Conclusion? MP3 is not a new state of the art technology that we must start using or we'll be obsolete; for us it's a step backwards! The game industry knows why they don't use MP3 music so why should we?
As for the argument "Modules compressed to MP3 would sound much better in demos because they don't need to be re-sampled to 8bit," I can only grin. It's quite funny to see what sticking to DOS coding leads us to...
And the term "classic module" I regard as an offence! Modules are the better technology for demos. Why should we be content with less?
Further, Soohy writes: "On the other hand using MP3 is good solution when you want to put, for example heavy metal songs with tons of guitar riffs and full of lyrics." I can just advice you to get Walk Away by Stargazer/Sonic or GITRIF.XM by Keith303 and then think about your statement again. Also, you're talking about riffs here, right? This means a lot of repetition. The best way to deal with riffs is sample them and store them once in your module. It will be smaller than the same in MP3 because your MP3 stores a riff which is repeated ten times ten times. If you're smart you can find a balance between sampled and tracked guitar sequences and your module will have reasonable size and good quality. (Don't ask me about details 'cause I've never worked with guitars in a module. But there are great guitar modules out there!)
Once Soohy and his friend Amol stored a short heavy metal song as MP3, which took about 2-3 mbytes. Well, and when your demo is longer than three minutes, say five minutes, you will need 5MB or you must reduce the quality, as most demos do (all MP3 soundtracks in demos I've ever heard sound shit).
Soohy thinks that "a special MP3-compo apart from the classic music competition is a very good idea". Yes. I once had the idea of a "wild music compo" where everything is allowed and music must either be delivered as MP3 or the composer(s) must bring their equipment with them. Same rules as in the wild demo compo, as you can see. How about it?
The article concludes with the statement: "So, for few last sentences. I'm not against using MP3s in demos - sometimes it really can save much valuable space and give better quality to the music."
Well, as we are talking about demos, I wonder why people who need more quality in their music don't code better players. Why don't you, for example, add filters or a 303 synthesizer to your player if you need them? It's a demo, so no one tells you how you should replay your music. I think people who complain that trackers are not suitable for them are often just too lazy to do something better by themselves. MP3 allows them to use software which is already written (or music that is already written). Good composers don't complain about the tracker. Just listen to Scorpik's songs in Ambrozia. Would you believe they were made with FastTracker 2 if you didn't know it? Would you need professional software and equipment and an MP3 compressor to do that?