Sneak Preview: Mindcandy 3

Hugi takes an exclusive look at the forthcoming 3th volume of Mindcandy.

Written by Magic of Nah-Kolor
Featuring Trixter & Dan Wright
Photos made by Trixter
Preview of Mindcandy 3 booklet given exclusively for this article by Dan Wright

Prologue - The origin of Mindcandy

Perhaps you can remember the first sneak preview article published in Hugi? We took a sneak peak at the book Freax #2 in Hugi issue 34. Unfortunately this book hasn't been released till now. Not so long ago I tried to reach Tomcat, the maker of this book, in order to ask him about the status of this project but unfortunately no reply. Now I made a new 'Sneak Preview' article. When this article about Mindcandy 3 was written at the end of January 2010 I was assured that Mindcandy 3 would be released soon! Trixter: "We are TRYING to get it out by April but I don't think we have enough time. I'm thinking June is more realistic. You can do an article on it at any time, it's not like Mindcandy 3 is a year away." To know where you are going you need to understand the past. Thus my first question towards Trixter is about the origin of Mindcandy. All those years ago, qhere did the very first idea come from to make a dvd with demos on it and how did you guys come up with the name Mindcandy? Trixter explains: "I've been working with desktop video on the PC since the days of the MPC level 1 spec (more info at Wikipedia), captured using a Media Vision capture card (160x120, 15fps). This was around 1992. In 1996, I'd toyed with the idea of trying to preserve demos as they look on the actual hardware, and did some experiments with one of the first PCI video cards that supported video output, and made a few experiments. If you're curious to see what they looked like, I have those files at On February 25, 2000, I finally got my thoughts together and emailed the other Hornet members with: 'Greetings fellow hornets. I'm giving serious thought to producing a Video CD (VHS-quality MPEGs) of demos; maybe a two-volume set. What do you think of this idea?' Thankfully Dan 'Pallbearer' Wright quickly talked me out of the idea of doing a VideoCD set and said we should shoot straight for DVD, which was very new back then. Consumer burners are $18 today, but in 2001 there was only one, the Pioneer DVR-A02, for nearly $1000. I didn't even own a DVD player at the time, but I bought one to check out what Dan was talking about. A few DVD viewings later and it was pretty clear that was the direction to go in. As for the name, it came down to 4 possibilities in Sept 2001 (our vote tallies are included, lowest number wins): 8 Mindcandy, 10 Creative Visions, 11 Digital Art, 11 Digital Brainstorm . As you can tell, we had trouble coming up with a decent name :-)"

The Making of Mindcandy 3

Making Mindcandy 1 and 2 they gained a lot of experience and expertise. So how did they start planning this third edition of Mindcandy? I confronted Trixter with this statement and asked Trixter about how the Mindcandy 3 project started. "We were so pleased with the scene's response to MC2 that we wanted to do another classic platform and get commentary for every single demo, and we chose the C64. But by the time our personal schedules allowed enough time to start working on the project, there were several very good C64 DVD sets already out there, both commercial and free. While many of them were emulator dumps or bad captures, one of them (name escapes me, sorry) had truly excellent video quality -- it was captured and processed exactly as I would have done, even fakemodes were properly preserved. We didn't think we could have topped that -- the 'market' was saturated", Trixter tell us and continues: "So we tossed around a lot of ideas: Wild compo entries only, 'best of 8-bit platforms', 'one demo from every platform', etc. While these are great ideas, we didn't think any of them would truly excel as a 'product' -- nothing truly special about it. The one untapped area remaining was HD, so that's where we decided to go, and the only demoscene HD material out there are PC demos, and we had always wanted to do an update for PC, so it all made sense."

Personally I think the cool thing about Mindcandy is that there is audio commentary of each demo by the makers themselves or a guest. This will also be the case for Mindcandy 3. So is it hard to get the commentary you guys want for Mindcandy 3? Trixter: "No, thankfully! I think two things helped: The first was the success of MindCandy 2 itself, where it was clear by watching and listening to the commentary that we really cared deeply about the Amiga scene and the Amiga as a platform (I still have five Amigas in my closet from the making of the project, and my A1200 from back in 1993). The other was meeting many of our scene idols at NVScene in 2008 -- Chaos, IQ, Navis, to name a few, and having some great times with them. So far, it's looking like at least 70% of the disc will be author commentary, with the rest provided by other sceners. I will not be filling in the commentary 'gaps' for Mindcandy 3 like I did for the previous discs because I never learned shader programming or marching cubes or texel stencils or anything else really advanced, so I'm not qualified to comment. I'm looking forward to what the other sceners can come up with." On however I unfortunately read that Andromeda, Orb, Cocoon and Conspiracy declined in giving commentary. Why? Trixter explains: "They had personal reasons why, all of which make perfect sense. One group wasn't comfortable in their English speaking skills; another group felt that they put so many months into the production that to talk about it would take away from the overall experience. There are other groups as well who declined. For their commentary, we are soliciting guest commentary, or will have 'commentary' that talks about the disc itself instead of the production :-)"

Realising a project like Mindcandy surely makes you guys run into all kinds of problems which you have to solve before reaching the release stage. Did you have many problems with this third edition of Mindcandy? Trixer comments: "Tons! 1. Money. To make a Blu-ray you must pay these idiotic licensing fees and you must encrypt with AACS or you can't get your disc professionally replicated. It's nearly $5000 just to make your first disc, and this nearly killed the project outright. Fortunately some of the costs have come down a little, plus we were able to figure out a few things.2. Hardware Technology. When we talked about HD, the format war was still going on. Part of the decision was waiting for the HD-DVD and Blu-ray war to declare a victor. Once HD-DVD lost, we got to work. 3. Software Technology. Thanks to in-band capture, we didn't need to invest $1200 into an HD capture card; Sesse/Excess had helped us as early as January 2004 with a kkapture-like program, and it worked for about 20% of everything out there, which was amazing for a first try, but we took so long to produce something that ryg produced kkapture and eventually Sesse contributed his code to that project. Even now kkapture isn't perfect; we've had to try to capture demos on different platforms with different videocards to get a decent capture of something. Some of the more interesting failures should be in the production notes. 4. Personal time. Every member of the crew has a career and personal life (really! :-)) and this has meant that the project starts and stops a lot. In my case, I only have about 5 hours of free time a week due to a new job position and family obligations, so our progress is unfortunately slow."

I can Imagine that people in and outside the demoscene are looking forward to get their hands on Mindcandy 3. The makers are doing and have done a great job! Implemented a lot of nice stuff! Trixter told me not everything they wanted made it to Mindcandy 3. So which of the there original ideas didn't make it to the final product? "More demos. A BD-50 can hold up to 50 gig per disc, but demos require about 25 mbit/s on average to have no artifacts; that limits our playlist to 3 hours long. Pairing down the playlist was really difficult", Trixter explains and continues: "We also were going to do 1080i as the video format, to get 60 images per second as well as the highest resolution. But some initial tests and reviews showed that there was mishandling of interlaced footage by early players and TVs, so we chose 720p @ 60fps as the final format. Although the resolution is only 720p, the video is very crisp and detailed, and the smoothness of 60fps is breathtaking. "

Mindcandy 3 DVD extras and Mindcandy 4?

The Mindcandy DVD's in the past had some nice extras. So what extras will Mindcandy 3 have? What can Trixter tell us about the extras on the Mindcandy 3 Blu-ray DVD next to the demos? Trixter: "We've never shown intros, so one feature is a showcase of five intros in the 2000 to 2009 time period. One in particular is Heaven 7, exe-patched for HD resolution. It looks great :-) And the last one is Elevated in full 60 Hz glory, which looks breathtaking. Another feature will a short sequence of some of the more funny and interesting moments of NVScene; most of the talks were recorded in HD. Finally, there will be the Production Notes which will list all of the extensive planning and work that went into making the disc, just like previous discs. And I am also creating color test patterns and motion quality patterns to aid in the calibration of your blu-ray setup, whether software or hardware player, so that you can be sure you're seeing the demos as they were intended."

So there you have it, readers. Mindcandy 3 will be packed with some very nice extras. Before we leave Trixter and let him finish Mindcandy 3 we of course discuss the future of the Mindcandy series. Not that we want to look to much ahead but if there ever would be a Mindcandy 4 what would it be like? Trixter: "If I had more free time and a lot more money, I'd like to have a 'one demo from every platform ever made' disc which would have all sorts of interesting stuff, like demos made for the ZX Spectrum, C16/plus-4, custom homebrew hardware, Apple IIGS, Palm Pilot, Playstation 1/2/3, Dreamcast, Genesis, NES, HP calculators, etc. The reason I mentioned more money is because we strive to view the real thing on the real hardware, so we'd need to do a lot of e-bay purchases to get the various platforms, plus an HD camera to shoot demos from things that have no video output (palm pilot, etc.)."

Epilogue - Where and why buy Mindcandy 3?

And here we leave Trixter on his quest to get Mindcandy 3 out for us to purchase. As he told me in the beginning of this article June 2010 is a realistic release date. Mark this month! Once released, on which websites can Mindcandy 3 be purchased? Will Mindcandy 3 also be on sale in any real store? To answer and comment on this question Dan Wright comes in: "We'll follow the same path as in the past. We will sell it online ourselves as well as at Amazon. Then our main distributors/re-sellers will carry the disc: Maz Sound in Germany, CSW Verlag both out of Europe and Microcinema, Animation Trip here in the US. We will check with others in stocking MC3 as well (our current list is here). Our largest distributor and reseller in the US is Microcinema and through them we are (or were) able to get a ton of online presence with MC1 and MC2 (Best Buy, Walmart, etc.), however we have no control of their costs, which can result in selling the product less than our suggested amount. For a good example, go to Google, type in MindCandy DVD, then select the shopping tab at the top. Microcinema was able to get us into most the places that show up! Including Netflix. Mindcandy 3 will be a more expensive product for distributors to stock. That won't be a problem with our distributors and re-sellers overseas but Microcinema may not be able to stock it if we have to sell to them for too high of a price. Our goal is to sell the product at $20, but we may have to go higher (say $24). We would like to find a distributor to help us in Australia. We will only sell perhaps 50 discs, maybe 100 over there. Perhaps a reader of Hugi maybe interested? Also, have people sign up on the reservation list. Those will be notified of the disc's release a couple weeks prior to our official release date. Plus it gives us an idea on how many to produce. We are looking at 2k to 2.5k. We anticipate we can easily sell 1k, after that we have to work hard. We don't fully recover our cost until about 1.5k and anything over that allows us to fund the next project and donate to scene causes."

Of course as a scener we have seen most, if not all, demos on the Mindcandy 3 DVD. As executable or on, youtube and such. So Trixter, to conclude, why should Mindcandy 3 be bought? Trixter: "That's a good question. Here are several possible answers:

- To hear each group's commentary about their demo (my personal favorite reason!)

- To show off the demoscene to friends without worrying about the correct hardware

- To see the demos played in their best possible framerate and quality

- To show off your new home theater screen (demos can make for some excellent calibration material)

- To run your own demoshow at local parties (we freely allow public performance of all Mindcandy discs)"

Links related to this article

Official Mindcandy website
Mindcandy 3
Mindcandy 2
Mindcandy 1
MFX Mindcandy 3 commentary on 64kb intro Heaven 7 :-)

The Booklet