An excellent DVD: Mindcandy Vol. 2

(January 3, 2007)

At tUM, I received a Freax Art Album book and a Mindcandy Volume 2 DVD as prizes for the vector graphics compo. The book isn’t as interesting as the first volume (which I loved) – it’s a picture book after all, not a text book. The DVD, on the other hand, immediately got my interest. It is a selection of 30 representative Amiga demos: Technological breakthroughs and trend-setters from 1989 to 2004. While the Amiga was still alive, it somehow went past me and never caught my attention. But one year ago, I started to read a lot about old computer platforms – mainly out of technical interest, and to be able to judge demos better. During this process, I realized how great the Amiga was and started to feel sad that I wasn’t part of this hype back then. So the DVD fills exactly this emotional gap: Without buying an expensive A1200 from eBay and/or fiddling around with the intricacies of WinUAE, I could watch at least some of the masterpieces I missed.

As mentioned earlier, the DVD contains captures of 30 influential Amiga demos, starting with the rough and simple RSI Megademo, going all the way past masterpieces like Hardwired and Nexus 7 to the »modern« Amiga style as in Lapsuus and Silkcut. Seeing all this was a truly breathtaking experience. I didn’t care that much about the old OCS/ECS stuff, but the incredibly stylish AGA demos were simply amazing. I felt really, really sad for missing all that stuff »in time« and having to see it a decade later as a mere video capture. (But on the other hand, I’m now quite good at discerning bitplane effects ;)

But it’s not only the content that’s great about this DVD: It’s the whole presentation. First, there are three audio tracks for each demo. The first one is captured from a real Amiga audio output and is thus as close as ever possible to the »real thing«. The second track is an impressive 5.1 remix of the original MOD file (if present; please make sure not to watch »Silkcut« in this mode, the remixed MP3 just sounds bad). The third and coolest one is the commentary track: In most cases, it’s a comment on the technical background of the current effect, spoken by the DVD’s producer (Trixter of Hornet). For 13 demos, they even got voice commentaries from at least one of the original creators, which is very interesting.

Mindcandy 2 is also one of the very few DVDs that actually take advantage of the (limited, but nevertheless existing) programming abilities DVD menus have to offer. Two never-seen-before play modes have been implemented by the creators of the disc: A random mode that makes sure that none of the last 12 demos is played again and a »jukebox« mode that allows the user to create a playlist(!) of up to 12 demos.

However, the most impressive fact about the DVD is the amount of work that went into the as-perfect-as-possible video capture. All the footage was recorded from the RGB outputs of various original Amigas and processed by a broadcast-quality professional scan converter prior to uncompressed(!) recording on a PC. Scenes that were buggy on the fast AGA amigas were re-captured on slower ones to give a jerky, but accurate rendition of the scene. The remaining noise was partly removed by hand, as were occasional capturing glitches from the scan converter. »Patterned« display modes of early chunky-to-planar demos (e.g. »Closer« by CNCD, which only converted 50% of the pixels to run smoothly on a 030) were converted to full-pixel ones to make the MPEG encoder happy. And finally, all scenes that didn’t run properly on any Amiga the DVD creators had or were unuseable after capturing have been recorded in WinUAE and cut into the final footage. This is just an impressive amount of work.

I can just conclude that Mindcandy Volume 2 is the best DVD of any kind I’ve ever seen. I heavily recommend this disc to everyone who is interested in either the Amiga, the demoscene, or both.

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