The Making of Musik Run/Stop and We Are All Connected
Written by Magic of Nah-Kolor
Hugi went behind the Commodore 64 curtains to zoom in on two magnificient demos from Datastorm 2014.
Datastorm 2014 delivered a very great Commodore 64 demo competition. This article is about the making of the winning demo of this competition called "We Are All Connected" by Fairlight, Offence and Prosonix. Also the making of Mahoney's new demo called "Musik Run Stop" is featured in this article. Hence we start with it.
Musik Run/Stop has some of the best quality samples ever on a Commodore 64. If not the best. How did the project for this demo start? And what happened during the developement process? But perhaps most interesting of all: what's there to tell about the technical side of this demo? "Well, it started with the Monophono track I did for Datastorm 2013. I had real trouble in getting the filter changes 'smooth' enough to be in the song. I had trouble in turning the filter on/off on the channels without getting some really loud clicks. But, there must be a reason for those clicks, I thought, and started reading my own SID software emulation code I wrote a year earlier - and after some measurement on a real 6581 SID chip I realised that the analog SID filters actually have an amplification factor of approximately -1. Which means, a signal of amplitude 1 into the filter will give a signal with the amplitude of -1 out of it. So, let's feed the filter with the highest signal we could come up with, which is all voices with a pulse waveform with the test bit set. An additional bonus on the 6581 chips is that the offset voltages of the voices will add up as well. And switch between routing those voices though the filter or around it. And, yes, we did get clicks, as loud as ever. After some more thinking, I realised that this could be used for something more useful than clicking. And with the help of Uwe 'THCM' Anfang, we started measuring up a couple of SID chips to try to get an overview of the subtle analog manufacturing differences, and through clever use of statistics be able to determine which combination of volume/hp/lp/bp-filter and voice 3 routing to use to get good quality samples out of the SID chip. As a coincidence, all these control bits resides in the same byte - the world famous $d418 register! So, three weeks before the Datastorm party, we did have 44.1kHz samples playing. But not much else", Mahoney tell us and continues: "But, we've got friends, and Prowler, Magnar and Veto helped us out in making graphics and audio - so we spent some long nights in getting together two disc sides of demo. And I'd say since it wasn't the first time any of us put together a large trackloading demo, things went much smoother than anticipated. And this demo was kind of designed around the music/audio."
Interesting enough, the Musik Run/Stop demo itself was put together just in a few days before Datastorm 2014. Mahoney explains: "First we did the music routines, and it wasn't until the audio was as good as we wanted it to be that we knew how much memory/loading time/etc we could spend for making the visuals. Now, compare this with any other Datastorm c64 demo from 2014 - Censor Design, Triad, Fairlight/Offence/Prosonix, all of them started with the graphics effects, and then decided how much memory and CPU time the music routine was allowed to take. Well smooth, except that we did deliver the final version of the demo some 15 minutes before it was shown on the big screen in the Datastorm demo competition."
So why was the Musik Run/Stop demo delivered so late for the compo? Mahoney told me because a lot of things went down and have been added to the demo just in the last 30 hours before the deadline. Mahoney sums up:
1. Transition from basic into the first text.
2. Transition to get the eyes on the screen.
3. Animation of the talking eyes.
4. Level adjustments on the talking eyes.
5. Removed some clicks between speech and song.
6. Added a "TURN DISC" part.
7. Fixed the transition from the turn disc part into the a cappella singing.
8. Added animation to the a cappella part.
9. Added the Datastorm logo above the a cappella singers.
10. Wrote the scrolltext.
11. Added the credits screen.
12. Made a remix of Mahoney's Monophono song, without samples but with an added third SID channel.
13. Tested the release on the compo machine and on a separate 8580 machine.
"...so it was kind of productive last hours before the deadline. And I personally think it turned out quite alright!" Mahoney concludes.
Next to all samples and music Mahoney created for the Musik Run/Stop demo also Magnar of Censor Design was credited for doing music. What did Magnar do then? What can Magnar tell us about the music in the Musik Run/Stop demo? Magnar: "Oh, that's a question for Mahoney. I just made two small sids to hide away some of the loading times I don't think anyone actually noticed the sids at all. It's all about the samples. But the samples are special because of the new techniques used for the playback."
Having focused on the music/audio part of the demo we could almost forget there are some very nice graphics in this demo as well. Next to Mahoney also Prowler of Up Rough and Veto of Oxyron are responsible. Hugi got in an exclusive talk with Veto about his graphics in the Musik Run/Stop demo. "For this demo I was initially asked by The Human Code Machine to create graphics for an a capella part. The human code machine is the guy who coded the converter for amiga mods to get them playable on a commodore 64. He was also involved in the Vicious Sid demo project and was also responsible for the digi sound routine in coma light 13. He is mainly a member of Masters Design Group", Veto explains and continues: "Right from the start there was also the idea to create somehow a hommage to the classic 'thrust concert'. So there should be a stage and four animated singers. What makes this a bit special is that tune which is used in that demo which uses sound samples only. Heavy on memory, heavy on rastertime. Practically speaking this means that bitmap graphics and sprite animations are not a good choice. So it needed to be done in charmode. Charmode is typically used in commodore 64 games as background graphics. 256 chars where abc are defined as tiny puzzle pieces. 256 chars is not quite enough to create a full screen stage, but thanks to the coder I was able to split the screen to three individual sets. Ehm... correction. The bottom set was restricted to 192 characters because this was also shared with the scrolltext. The graphics itself was pixelled with the windows tool 'pro motion', which is kind of a big sudoku thing. The commodore 64 screen is devided in a matrix 40 character columns and 25 lines. You are free to choose one individual color and between 2 resolutions for each block. 8x8 pixels with 2 colors or 4x8 pixels with 4 colors. To keep it short - the work consists of artistic part and counting colors and tiles. The cool thing about pro motion is that this tool supports animation. So it was also perfect to create animated areas for the singers. When the creation was done it was necessary to process the graphics for the coder. The screen was split in three parts including the animation frames for each character set plus a list for the animation frames sorted by the assigned music samples. Those pieces were put together by the coder who also synched the animation with the music and this is what you see in the final demo."
Download at csdb.
Musik Run/Stop on Youtube
We are all connected by Fairlight, Offence and Prosonix
The mighty threesome Fairlight, Offence and Prosonix gave birth to yet another big Commodore 64 demo. "We are all connected" won the Datastorm 2014 demo competition. Let's start with some detailed credits. Intro code, music and graphics by Kriburst. The long scroller + effects on side 1 coded by Perlex with music by Scarzix and graphics by Pal. The fadeout and greetings part on side 1 was coded by Pantaloon with music by Groms and again graphics by Pal. Everything on side 2 was coded by Pantaloon. The music was composed by Wiklund with graphics by Pal & Pantaloon. Then is there is side 3. The long scroller was coded by Perplex with graphics by Pal and music by Scarzix. The 'voxelscroller' and the 'rotating head' was coded by Pantaloon. Music score by Ole and Pal did the graphics. To conclude the game to save the Datastorm 2014 partyplace 'Truckstop Alaska'. Everything was done by Stein.
Pal's graphics in "We Are All Connected" are high resolution. The whole demo breath high resolution. What is it about this graphics mode on the Commodore 64 that makes "We Are All Connected" so special? Hugi contacted Pal of Offence to find out. Pal: "Well, I have always been a multicolour artist, double pixels are for me what the c64 is mostly. So I decided to have a go at high-res because I really did only one high-res graphic in my past on the c64 beside charsets and so on. To my surprise I really liked working in high-res mode, with only one colour and background per char, so the graphics, all graphics in we are all connected are made in plain high-res and Kristian made the fantastic tornado intro gfx himself, also high-res. It is long ago I have been so surprised about the results and I tested a lot but I had to do it my own way so I dropped what I had made and went for a more simple approach with making it almost monochromic but with my touch and stamp into it and choosing colours carefully instead of making a lot of colour ranges and showing off how nerdy good I can be to hold more colours than the next I think I just did it my way instead, very happy about that!"
The long scroller graphics on side 1 and side 3 were truely spectacular in the eyes of Hugi. We asked Pal to shine a light about the process in which he created those multi screen logos. "Well, it is maybe a strange process for some but for me it is logical. I do not set out to make it this or that... I just start making something and in the end it is what it is. It is the Holy Grail of what I do on the demos and for our demos and in all scene activities that I do... I do not want it as a job or something that can be feeling as a job. If it gets there I end up with two jobs and that I do not want. So for me it is about making creating and doing what fits me at this very moment instead of making one sketch that is so fun to do in a few days and then start to go on a job every day to finish that two days of fun..." Pal tells us and continues: "I want the whole process to be fun, free and spontaneous... that is what demo parts and these things are about for me... When you show a part to another scener they respond with yeahhh... what about borders? What about more colours? What about moving that in animation... it is all spontaneous feedbacks there and then... it is nothing planned and nothing that one can really plan, I want that in the creation process of demos. TO HAVE FUN AND TAKE IT AS THAT! It is the best to show new stuff for my friends in the forom we have instead of showing them just better pixeling this little part of something they knew about months ago... that is no fun. But at some point it gets to be about making what one do have even better of course and Stein said to me... you posted 40 versions in a week of that linge image and I do not see the difference... lol... but that is how it gets at some point."
To conclude our conversation with Pal about We Are All Connected we tried to find out in general what he had to say about other making of elements of this demo. Pal surely had some small story ready for us. Pal: "That we did the demo in superspeedway style actually, we just did hammer it together in stone like it just were meant to turn out that way no matter what. Everyone were so determent and we helped each other to make it great, of course we had the bugs in the last days and had to release a bit shortened version in gfx as we got some nastiness we could not fix with the graphics. But timeframe vice it would have been the same. It was a blast putting it together in shorter time than our Scrollwars demo even, if you look at things except some code tests and the long images. When we decide to do stuff I think there is no greater team than us on this planet, things fall in place in a magical way."
There is also alot of SID music in the We Are All Connected demo. We had a short thoughts exchange with Wiklund of Fairlight about his music on side 2. Wiklund shared some nice intel on the making of his music. Wiklund: "It was a lot of fun as always, I synced the demo while i was in the Netherlands, hehe. I used GoatTracker v2.71 by Cadaver, I remember I tried to make it to not sound so chippy. I think thats a really good 'rule' when you are makeing .SIDs. But it's always fascinating to see the development stage from start to end. I also had mixed feelings because we started on the demo quite late, but I'm very satisfied with the production."
Finally Pantaloon of Fairlight airs his thoughts on We Are All Connected and the making of this demo. "We Are All Connected started out quite odd. I was planning of making my own FairLight only demo and the Offence guys were planning to do an Offence demo for Datastorm. But both FairLight and Offence had some trouble getting going with 2 demos. So we agreed on doing yet another FairLight + Offence + Prosonix demo. It turned out quite good and it's always a pleasure working with the Offence dudes", Pantaloon explains and continues: "I had most of the effects for Side-B done but got lots of help from Pal graphics wise to complete them. The morphing credits turned out really nice, it was Scarzix who showed an idea with static heads and names, then I tought of morphing the heads and I got it working within a few hours. The trickiest part I coded for this demo was the star with the colliding physics ontop, it's all realtime and i have plans to make it even more dynamic and fun in the future."
Download at csdb.
We are all connected on Youtube