On Saturday the June 29th, at 11am, in a small basement room at Edinburgh’s Traverse theatre I gave a talk on the demoscene at the 67th Edinburgh International Film Festival. Entitled “An Introduction To The Demoscene – The Best Digital Art You’ve Never Seen”, I discussed the origins of the demoscene in the early 80’s software cracking scene and how those roots have evolved into the modern scene that we see today. I also showed a handful of outstanding demos too. The theatre turned out to be a great venue for a demoshow – dark and quiet, with comfortable seats, a good projector and sound system and no distractions.
The talk went really well, and I was very pleasantly surprised that most of the audience really seemed to understand where I was coming from. Subjects that I thought would be difficult to grasp (like 4k and oldschool demos) seemed to resonate well and I had some great follow up chats about the concepts as well as their potential applications.
Following on from my talk was Matt Swoboda of the legendary demoscene group Fairlight, who presented a great case study on the making of his Breakpoint 2010 winning demo (and multiple scene.org award winning too) “Agenda Circling Forth”. Matt’s talk also discussed further the nature of the demoscene. In particular he talked about how the often symbiotic relationship between art and technology allows the scene to constantly push the boundaries of what is possible. The demoscene has often been at the forefront of realtime computer graphics since the 80’s but it’s interesting to see that what we produce is really starting to be understood and accepted by a wider audience. This is partly because both the demoscene and the computing technology it uses have matured and are now capable of producing works that appeal to a non-technical, non-niche audience, but also because computer graphics are generally becoming more acceptable as they start to pervade every area of our lives – from iPhone and Xbox, motion graphics and music videos to CGFX in films and television. Matt and I both asked the question “what are we doing at a film festival!?” but it became clear that the industry was just as interested in us as we were in them.
So here are my slides from the event. I’ve updated them to include links to all the demos that I showed.
Where to find out more about the demoscene?
If you’d like to delve further into the demoscene then my advice would be to start with the curated list of demos presented by the team at DisplayHack called, with I think just a little bit of tongue in cheek, Curio.
Finally, Matt and I would like to extend a huge thank you to the EIFF staff and volunteers who looked after us incredibly well. I’ve always liked the Scottish approach to life (that’s what made my wife and I settle there for a few years) but I was a little bowled over by the welcome, the hospitality and the calm professionalism of everyone at the festival. Thank you!