How to make a demo?

Written by EP

To make anything you must know what is it. So what is a demo? A demo is a short for demonstration. Demonstration of what? A demonstration of the skills of those involved in the making. Demos are about beating the supposed limits of the machine they are made to run on. Supposed limits? Every computer is a hardware device made with well defined specifications according to standards. So making a demo is making something which goes beyond the standards. As a matter of fact, art can't exist in a society where everything is limited / defined by rules, demos are then by definition artwork. Art is all about expressing what your imagination has created in your mind and imagination has no limits. Demos are about pushing the limits of what is possible to do in computer arts.

The fact nowadays a lot of sceners get bored on many forums and lose or have lost their motivation is due to simple reasons: Loss of focus, loss of aim and when you get bored, you consume, you compare and you make your shopping. Consuming is the opposite of creating, if you consume, you don't think, basically you're passive, whereas if you create you're active. Loss of focus occurs in a society when there are both too many things to do and nothing really attracting enough to give you the energy, the fun you get when you make something you love and enjoy. This loss of focus is in direct relationship with what nowadays the Internet enables: direct access to anything digital, infinite and endless communication. If you want to create, you need to cut your addiction to the net from time to time and use the net as a way to speed up the process of making, nothing else or you'll get lost. Creating is what brings the fun back into your life: this is also why sceners were prompt to brag a lot in their demos because they make. Making makes you free and proud: the rewards of experience. Demomaking is being the equal of a god because you create artificial life into computer memory. Animation is what makes life interesting and by animation I mean "change of state", change of shapes. But a demo isn't just displaying frame after frame of complicated real time generated pictures under 1/60th of second or less. No! A demo is a real teamwork: this technical coding quality is the main aspect of a demo for the coder and just for him.

A demo is a true mix of skills coming from a talented graphician, musician, coder, designer and more: you set a virtual theater and make the play excellent to watch, it's a computer theater play, nothing else. Basically all skills involved - visual, acoustic, advertisement, literary arts - are to be used in a demo: dance, style, fascination, mystery, mnemonic, rhythm, immersion, illusion, psychology, emotion, story telling, ... A demo is all these things mixed together and linked perfectly to make a whole thanks to the coder's numeracy and maths skills. Of course jerkiness is banned from the demo or at least used as a style effect but never acceptable as a result of slow code. Because a demo is also a demonstration of the skills of the coder and he must bannish any sort of jerkiness of what he is displaying real time: this is his main constraint.

A demo, more than that, must set the brain of the viewer into another world: a demo plays with the emotions and with the psychology of the audience, it tricks our conceptions, see Birds of Prey by Spaceballs. A demo in essence is magic, it's a real magician trick: it must hypnotise us and let us believe things which indeed aren't real nor conceivable, it breaks our beliefs, it's a vehicle to open our mind. This is where the surrealist part of a demo is showing: it's a travel into the imagination of its makers, not the reality as you know it, it's totally good as it sets us free for its duration.

A demo can't be like your other programs which ask for a graphic or sound resolution: we want the best possible for our own hardware, it's self evident, no need to ask. These kind of requests simply kill any mystery, any romantism: a demo is like a play, have you seen the backstage of a theater? No! Because this is where the mystery, the fascination are. A demo like a play, appeals to our curiosity, it's like an advertisement: it's attractive, seductive, it gives envy of spending more time with the show.

A demo takes over the system, it doesn't show it uses it: getting the desktop resolution as default demo resolution and making a screenshot in memory then modify it via your code is giving this illusion. This is where you show you've taken control of the system: it brings a tension which means "the demo has taken power of my computer, what will happen?". A demo can't display a mere white bar to let the audience know a decrunching, texture generation is taking place: it's supposed to be realtime and breaking the rhythm by introducing a pause from start kills the emotion. I've never seen any demo on the Amiga / ST with such things: there were loader effects at the time, a mere sinuscroll with a soundchip or anything visual and acoustic to let the audience wait for the big show. Anybody got to a big gig recently? A gig is like a demo: the big groups usually don't come on stage straightaway, there is a warm up, this is what the loader is, on the backstage the stars prepare themselves in silence.

A demo isn't a mere technical trick because a demo isn't an effect, it's a whole made of effects, a whole. A demo is like a watch: made of tons of gears, it's all the gears working at the same time, not one plus one plus one. It's extremly interwined elements, but it's considered by the subconsciousness of the audience as a whole, something living. "A whole" means: all effects / scene are linked one after one with music, transitions and design in between. Again, at a gig, groups don't play songs after songs, there is a staging: this is what makes the whole show organic and interesting to watch from start to end.