Making of fr-08: .the .product
5r2, Chaos & a dog
Fr-08: .the .product is probably one of the most outstanding scene productions that were released in y2k. Its makers describe the winning intro at The Party 2000 as a "64k demo" - and yes, it is a demo in its true sense: a demonstration that it's possible to compress gigabytes of data to 64k and make a stunning show in megademo quality. Hugi talked with two of the main persons behind this milestone, 5r2 and Chaos of farbrausch.
Regarding the basic ideas and motivations behind the demo, 5r2 states: "Basically fr-08 is a pure technology-demonstration. Concerning this, it kind of has a 'back to the roots'-aspect as it revitalises the old spirit of pushing the limits of hardware and - in this case - the bytesize." Chaos adds: "I didn't want to make a 64k demo, but I wanted to make the tool. Unfortunately, 64k demos are the only good use for such a tool."
Who proposed making fr-08, and when did this happen? 5r2: "The idea was born in early 2000, shortly after having finished another demo, for which I had used Photoshop intensely. I realised that most effects for creating textures were based on very simple functions. So if you had a basic set of filters and other functions it should be possible to create textures in a quality comparable to demos while the data to describe it would only use up minimal diskspace. the procedure for the geometry is basically the same. You could say that the idea was to develop a simple version of Photoshop and Lightwave to generate the 3d scenes. The first time I talked about the idea was at the Mekka-Symposium 2000. At first [ms] of farbrausch was supposed to do the coding but it turned out that he was to busy with other projects so I asked Chaos and in August we finally decided to start the project."
Confronted with the question whether they planned to release it at The Right 2000 right at the beginning, 5r2 gives a clear answer: "Definitely. Although the MS by no doubt is THE demoparty of today, 'The Party' remains the competition-highlight. Perhaps it has become a traditional thing in our minds, I don't know... Just consider that it has been the tenth The Party for Chaos - he has not missed a single one. Perhaps that explains why to us The Party is still the greatest challenge."
The actual work started in October. "Within two weeks Chaos had created a tool which was able to create some simple textures. This was the first time that we really believed the concept could work. But the even more impressive thing was the ingenuity of the tool. What I expected was a pretty minimalistic GUI and uncomfortable handling. But what Chaos was beginning to create was the most impressive demo-tool I have ever seen" - says 5r2.
"The textures and models were made completetly with the tool", Chaos is busy to emphasize. "Nothing was imported from Photoshop or Softimage, everything is generated." Concerning the development software used for engineering the music and the code: "The sound was made by KB with Logic Audio. He coded his own plug-in synthesizer and included it together with the MIDI file in the intro. While KB used Assembler, I preferred to write almost everything in C. We used Visual C and NASM. The farbrausch packer (frp) is the last part of the tool-chain. It's basically a fucked up UPX. Ryg is constantly improving it."
"What changed most dramatically and most surprisingly during the development process was our fear of size", 5r2 reports. "In the beginning none of us could predict, if the final data would actually fit into 64kb. We feared that we could end up with a very nice 200kb demo. But at some point we had included all important elements - a simple tune, some textures and geometry and the code to create it and before the coders had even begun to size-optimise their code, the demo was so small that we lost all respect for the 64kb limitation."
He continues: "The second thing that changed was the overall design of the demo. The plan was to create homogenic and rather technical scenes. But when the texture-tool began to show its possibilities, we decided to sacrifice the homogenity for a greater variety of impressions. As this demo was never meant to be a style-demo, the decision was not too hard."
The internal communication within the team apparently was problem-free. 5r2: "Chaos and I work in the same office. After having finished our daytime job, we continued working there on the demo. So the communication between the two of us was as comfortable as can be. As the sound had no big influence on the rest of the demo, KB could work autarkic most of the time. Besides, we continued a tradition, which the guys from Elitegroup once started. In December we rented a house in Denmark where we locked ourselves up for two weeks. Without those two weeks the demo most probably would not have been finished."
With Chaos' timing-, texture- and geometry-generation tool, which includes all basic functions of high-end products, it was possible to make a demo with the length of a standard 4-5 mbyte megademo fit into 64 kbytes. "The data needed to create the actual content only consists of the parameters for the functions. And as those parameters are also quite repetitive, they have a very good packing-rate", 5r2 explains. "The data to create the graphical content of fr-08 uses about 25kb, including all textures and geometry in seven scenes and all the timing and camera-motion etc. for 6 minutes of fr-08. The whole code including graphic- and sound-generation uses 32kb. The scary thing is that those 32kb are not even size-optimised to the end yet. In the party-version of fr-08 there were even parts of the code included, that were not used at all. So believe us - there is still much space for improvement."
Fr-08 requires DirectX 8.0, and the original party version didn't work with many video adapters except those produced by nVidia. What special features of these technologies were used? Chaos: "None of importance. The final version of the demo runs on an ATI Rage Pro 64 card, it's just that the textures are mangled up because that card does not support texture wrapping. DirectX 8 is faster, smaller, more reliable and much easier to code with than DirectX 7. I never used OpenGL on PC, so I can't compare it. Actually, it is pretty hard to write a slow 3d engine when using DirectX 8. I wouldn't know how to do it."
According to 5r2, the reason why a long endtext scroller is included in fr-08 is that "there has not been a reasonable endscroller in a demo for ages. We simply missed this. And we thought fr-08 was the perfect demo for this hommage."
Asked about the impact fr-08 had on the audience at The Party 2000, 5r2 reveals his personal feelings. "Well - we were pretty scared before the competition, as you never know, if everything goes straight, if the beam is not too dark or to bright and you can never tell how the audience will react on a production. Unfortunately the competition was only visited by about 50 people, which was kind of disappointing. But the overall-quality of the competition-entries was great anyway. I especially liked fresnel/2 by Kolor - a great experience on the bigscreen. And when finally, after the usual power-failure, fr-08 was shown we were really nervous. But what happened then was so absolutely incredible - when the first scene was shown the crowd was going 'hey, nice graphics for 64k' and in the second scene with the castle we had the first applause. I really can't describe how great this feeling was. We had worked very, very hard for such a long time and suddenly it all paid off. Some guy told me that while fr-08 was running, the crowd was growing to about 200 people and when the endscroller appeared the whole crowd was clapping to the music several minutes long. I will NEVER forget this feeling. Finally at this point one personal note: Big, big thank you to the whole audience - you really made my day!"
Is it true that farbrausch brought their own bigscreen to TP? Yes. Chaos confirms: "Bombe brought a video beam to the party, and he could not use it because his place was too close to the wall. So he gave it to us and we used it to promote the old and new farbrausch demos. It was really great, the first thing you saw when coming from hall 2 into hall 1 was the farbrausch screen. Thanks a lot, Bombe!"
Concerning the philosophy of the group farbrausch, 5r2 defines: "Farbrausch is a free forum for any creative demoscene-activity. In farbrausch you can find the greatest range of variety in style and attitude. The farbrausch-philosophy is based on personal friendship and love for the sport. If you have seen more than one farbrausch production you will understand what I mean."
Asked about the next projects of farbrausch Chaos responds: "That's the great thing about farbrausch: Have a look at our latest 4 releases: konsum, black2000 (even darker remix), luke and the product. Konsum is minimal code, maximum filesize and optimal impact. Black2000 was made in a hurry. Luke does not fit in any category and the product is maximal code, minimal filesize and optimal impact. What is coming next? Well, at least you won't be able to say that it's a typical farbrausch demo."
The reasons for 5r2's interest in demo-making allegedly are "money, might and fame", while Chaos says: "You should have been at the competition. Before fr-08 I did it because a man does what he has to do. But I got a great reward that I did not expect and that I will never forget."
Regarding their 'real lives', the makers of fr-08 are less talkative: 5r2 just says, he's doing "stuff", and Chaos even states: "Real life sucks."
Any final words for the readers of Hugi? Chaos: "Demo or die." And 5r2: "Hund." (That's German for "dog".)
In case you haven't seen fr-08: .the .product yet, be informed that you've missed something, but it's still not too late: http://www.theproduct.de/
Adok/Hugi - 07 Feb 2001