Ready to demo: Cocoon
Written by NTSC and Nytrik
A behind-the-curtains article with NTSC and Nytrik about the making of Cocoon's three latest demos.
Prologue by Magic
Cocoon is a demogroup that has been releasing quality demos since 1997 and never ever really stopped doing that. Cocoon had some small breaks but now, in 2014, Cocoon already released 3 demos in the first four months. In our previous Hugi issue from 2012 we had an article about Cocoon and their coder Guille. You can read it online here.
Now, exclusively for Hugi #38, NTSC of Cocoon tells us about the making of Stochastic Process and the Observatory demo while Nytrik of Cocoon explains about the making of Cocoon's most recent demo called Passe Ton Bac. At the end of this article you can find youtube links to all three demos (in case you have not seen one of them yet) as well as a link to the offical Cocoon website. Of course you can also download the binaries from pouet.net for a realtime experience on your own PC.
Introduction to the Cocoon demo tool
Hello, I am NTSC and I am a graphics artist in Cocoon. I neither work in the graphics industry nor with a game company. In this article I will talk about our "demotool" and about some work in progress and/or behind the scenes reagarding our demos "Stochastic Process" (second place TokyoDemoFest 2014) and "Obseratory" (first place Revision 2014).
Guille of Cocoon (the coder behind Cocoon's tool) did a really outstanding job on the tool. It is really "graphics friendly" and intuitive to use. The main interface looks like the interface of the program Adobe After Effects. All 3d assets are made in 3DS max, we have a plugin to export all data in a specific format. The tool is divided in two major parts: The scene editor and the main timeline.
The scene editor loads the exported scenes and we can change and modify lights, materials, cameras and many other parameters (like AO, HDR, fog etc). It's possible to animate each parameter with a separate timeline, add keys, noise or sound reactor. The main timeline allows to chain all scenes, add post process, 2D layers, cross fade and lot of other fun things. What can we do with all of that? Make demos of course! The first Cocoon demo created with this tool was "glamour guns" which was never entirely completed but released anyway. Of course Cocoon's two latest demos "Stochastic Process" and "Observatory" were made with this tool as well.
The Making of Stochastic Process
"Stochatic Process" was made really quickly, about 2 days in total. The idea came to me when I saw the visuals of the game "NaissanceE". This game has no textures, has some basic scenes and shadows but... looks really beautiful. I did some tests, but it was not good enough for my taste. I kept the idea of not using any textures but with a little different rendering.
Following now are two screens used for render testing and for doing some rendering research and color process:
I wanted something that starts small and becomes increasingly large with a slow move and good atmosphere. For the "worm" part I used a classic distance field tube with noise. Not being a coder I'm pretty happy with the result. The funny thing with this demo is that Guille saw the demo only a few hours before the deadline: "Hi Guille! Look, I have made a demo :)" Guille reacted : "Oh that's cool..."
Here are some screenshots of Stochastic Process without post process:
Regarding the music for Stochastic Process I spent a lot of time on bandcamp and sound cloud. And often the music gave me ideas for demos... In the case of Stochastic Process I contacted Dreissk who is the author of the music. After I explained him a little about the principles of demoscene he agreed that I could use his music. Dreissk really liked the demo once it was finished. If you want to listen to more music by Dreissk visit his soundcloud page here.
The Making of Observatory
Observatory was Cocoon's latest big demo and took the first place at the Revision 2014 PC demo competition. As usual the demo was made without a storyboard. Some scenes were made a long time ago (like the robots or the flowers) without really knowing how or where I was going to use them. I wanted to let this demo start slowly to set the mood. I found my inspiration in many motion graphics videos (thank you vimeo). Since the previous demo Guille has added some new effects. Mainly smoke effects.
The objective was to find good ideas to use Guille's new effects without the effect shown only in the middle of the screen. And it was not that easy. Looking back I think the results are pretty good but not perfect. The smoke uses a 128*128*128 grid but a larger grid quality would have been better quality-wise but turned out to be too slow. I did not want to go below 30 frames per second.
The scene with the robotarms is my favorite of the demo. The ripple sphere is a 'distance field' effect, and the reflection is a realtime cubemap of the scene. I used keys to animate x and y positions one by one. A boring job. When I play with distance field sometimes something happens I did not want it to do:
However, the end result in the demo was well worth it.
Inside the scene editor, without post process:
The 'cubemoke' for the greets part consists of lots of smoke emitters in the "smokebox", 6 big for wall and small for the other. It's possible to use sphere emitter and cube/rectangular emitter.
A lot of work has been done on the post process. Many effects are available to give a more interesting appearance, the color grading is the most important thing. There are also layers in overlay for more subtle effects, numeric noise etc. etc. Handset has good lighting, the result is often very nice.
Final words by NTSC of Cocoon
So I hope you enjoyed this small glimpse of the way Cocoon made our last two demos. We still have many things to explore. New ideas, new concepts and new effects ... The next Cocoon demo is being worked on very hard by Nytrik of Cocoon. (Next up in this article some words by Nytrik about this Cocoon demo released at the VIP party 2014 in France –ed) I am helping just a little bit on this demo. I have a lot of ideas for upcoming Cocoon demos, probably one or two other Cocoon demos this year (but smaller ones) .. I also have a big Cocoon demo project in mind the development of which will take multiple years ... Perhaps it will be a new "shad". But that's for the long run.
Finally I would really like to thank Guille for his huge work and also Nytrik, who always has some good advice on visuals. Thank you for reading. Oh, if someone wants to hire me as a graphics artist in his company he is more than welcome to do so... ;)
Observatory end scene:
The well deserved first price of the Revision 2014 PC demo competition is for Cocoon!
The making of Passe Ton Bac by Cocoon
Hi there, Nytrik here on the keyboard. As you have probably noticed Cocoon got productive again recently after a few years of silence. Guille has been busy renovating his engine and the demo tool during that period. NTSC gave it a first official try in October 2012 with Cocoon's demo Glamour gun, based on music by our beloved musician Willbe. Our tool improved quite a lot ever since. And we all started to get rather comfortable with it. After a rather positive second place at Revision 2013 PC demo competition, NTSC started to work hard on what turned into the demo Observatory. (1st place at Revision 2014.) I changed my machine in the mean time and started working on a demo for the NVscene party 2014. Without any proper experience and limited free time, the end result was way below our expectations. The decision was unanimously made to postpone the project.
Very Important Party 2014
After a week of short nights, I was rather disappointed to say the least about postponing our NVscene demo. The tool is great and I desperately wanted to drive a project from A to Z. A week before the Very Important Party 2014 NTSC of Cocoon sent me a sound cloud link to the music of the musician Polyac. I immediately fell in love with a tune call 'Glitched Bach'. The music was 1:06 long. It was Friday, meaning I could start working on something right away. I sent some e-mail to Polyac explaining what the demo scene was about, paying to get his blessing to use the tune On Saturday evening I had most of the 3D done and converted in the tool. I spent most of the Sunday trying to adjust it to the only version I had. The end product was packed and quite intense to say the least
Inside the Cocoon editor tool: work in progress of Passe Ton Bac.
Work in progress – Passe Ton Bac:
I showed the end result to my family. This is usually the ultimate test (especially with my elder kid). I did not get any bad feedback (for example 'that's ugly dad'). On Monday I received a very enthusiastic e-mail from Polyac who happened to be a Hungarian coder who attended his first party in 2012 (Function). He accepted to expend the music by 30 seconds and delivered it in the next day (thanks again). I made a first version on Monday evening and shared it with my group mates. NTCS put his know how in practice, rescaled the demo and added some of his tricks. Roque (from Plastic) also suggested some changes and added some nice things (end logo) also, Guille added some particles.
Screenshot from the finished Passe Ton Bac demo:
Last day stress
Everything was ready to roll on Thursday. However I did not manage to generate the executable. Once again NTSC an Rorque helped and the demo was delivered in time.
A few words about the tools
A few words about the tools Guille uses. The scenes were made in 3DS max and converted to a home brewed format. After that it pretty much works like after effects with some nice post process filters. Once again this demo is a quick hack and does not use the tool at its full capacity. It's now very stable and allows us to work on our side while Guille is adding new features.
The future is now (ok maybe tomorrow :))
I am currently reworking on the former NVscene demo project with the precious help of Rorque (With whom I worked with on the Amiga 1200 demo Kioea by Mad Wizards released on Revision 2012). Rorque really brings a fresh look in our visual universe using his amazing design skills. We hope to be ready soon.
Screenshot of the finished Passe Ton Bac demo: Cocoon logo and the credits at the end of the demo.
Forthcoming Cocoon Demo - A Sneak Peek
As Nytrik of Cocoon mentioned earlier above Rorque is working also with Cocoon on the forthcoming new Cocoon demo. Hugi exclusively brings you a sneak peek into one of Cocoon's future demos. Rorque: "Here is a small preview of the forthcoming Cocoon demo, we do our best as always, but with little different style"
Links related to this article
Cocoon Official Website
Stochastic Process youtube link
Observatory youtube link
Passe Ton Bac youtube link
All Cocoon releases on Pouet.net
NTSC & Nytrik