Demos - a digital art form

A Screenshot from the Demo "Magellan" by Farbrausch.
Demo is a genre of computer art, a multimedia presentation. Demos are created to demonstrate the possibilities of programming, graphics, modeling and music. The difference to a film animation is that a demo is calculated in real time and is not pre-stored. The author of a demo is called a demoscener and the auditorium is called a demoscene. Demos competitions are called Democompo and are held at demo parties (computer art festivals).

Demos have their origins in the 80s when the software pirates who removed the copy protection from a program in the sense of advertising for their own crew in a small intro in which one or more graphic effects could be seen drew attention. Mostly it was a logo and a scrolling text that ran e.g. from right to left that could be seen. The time quickly came when these little effects caused more buzz, and so the people who did these little intros have distanced themselves from software piracy in order to only work on such effects. This resulted in demos that contained more than one effect or one piece of music.

It became necessary to classify the demos into categories that depend on the size of the demo and the platform on which a demo is running:
  • Intro was originally a looping effect to celebrate a BBS or a Crewnname. In the meantime, this term means a demo of a very small size on the hard drive (4Kb or 64Kb). In addition, an intro can be of any size if it is dedicated to a specific event, e.g. a demo party.
  • A mega-demo with parts that have no meaning and that follow one another by pressing a space bar is hard to come across nowadays.
  • Trackmo or, to put it casually, a modern demo, is the most common form of demo. The dynamics of such a work, which is usually indicated by the music, allows the viewer a color experience in a certain time (usually around 5 minutes).

From the beginning, demos were developed for every imaginable platform. The classification in this category at modern demo parties is divided into oldschool (8bit and 16bit computers) and newschool (PC) platforms. There are also demos for consoles such as Atari, Game Boy or Playstation. There are separate demo compos for C64, Amiga and PC, as the quality of the works cannot be compared due to the performance of the respective computers.

Demos usually consist of three components: the program code, the graphic and the musical accompaniment. A demo crew consists of programmers, graphic artists and musicians, but they don't necessarily have to be part of a crew. Sometimes all of these three skills are combined in one person. The design of the demo is very important, which ideally highlights the artistic note of the demo from the crowd through an innovative concept. The overall impression arises mainly from the visual part of the demo, which proves the programmer's skills. Successful effects are reused in other productions. Some programmers create entire databases of effects. The music determines the style of the demo and its mood. The lack of music in a demo is unusual because it quickly becomes boring without music and the visitors turn away at a demo party, where the rating of the demo depends on the audience's emotion. In the first days of the demo scene, the music was stolen from games, but soon people were found who had only specialized in audio. Special software was developed, so-called trackers, such as FastTracker 2 or Renoise. In addition to the notes that were written on the sheet of music (pattern), these programs also saved samples, i.e. a pre-saved sound wave. In 4K intros you had to do without this type of instrument, so only the settings for the synthesizer were saved. Streaming music in formats like MP3 is frowned upon in the demos, but it is also celebrated in the streaming compos provided for this purpose. The graphic support for the programmers is provided by two different types of artists: Pixler and modeler. Pixlers draw pictures pixel by pixel, which allows them to take full advantage of the possibilities of each resolution of the picture. Of course there are artists who work on the drawing tablet with the help of programs like GIMP or Photoshop. Such images are submitted to the Newscool GFX-Compo, whereas there are special PixelArt Compos for the Pixler.

Another Screenshot from the Demo "Magellan" by Farbrausch.
Most of the three-dimensional effects that you see in a demo are based on ready-made, mostly pre-simulated models that are created in programs designed for this purpose, such as Autodesk Maya, 3DstudioMax or Blender. Textures (images that are drawn onto the 3D model) are drawn for various graphic representations. However, in smaller intros (64K or 4K category) the textures are calculated procedurally, i.e. with special algorithms. The models are based on instances of simple geometric objects from which a complex model is then put together. A demo is always an executable program. Since the 1990s, demos have increasingly been written in high-level languages ​​such as Pascal or C / C ++. Of course there are also editors, such as the "tool" from Farbrausch, with whose help you can "click together" a demo. Since the 1980s, home computer enthusiasts' meetings have only existed as warez share parties, where software was exchanged. Pure demo parties have only existed since the 1990s, when there is also prize money for the best releases. A demo party is usually organized over a weekend, so it lasts for several days. An important and demanded demo party takes place every year in Germany over the Easter weekend. Around 1995 the Assembly, an event based in Finland, was the “Mecca” for the people of Democracy.

The process of a demo party has to be imagined as follows: about three days before the start of the event, a huge hall is set up with a screen and a projector, a sound system and rows of tables with chairs. E.g. Evoke, a German party that is held in autumn, has space for 500 people who come with all their imaginable hardware. You don't just bring your laptop to such an event. Some crews manage to bring popcorn machines, LED walls that show scrolling writing in the dark, or bring their own sound systems. Admission is from 40 to 60 euros. For this purpose, a wide-ranging program around the demo scene is offered, which is evident from the competitions in the classic disciplines such as PC 4K, PC 64K, PC DEMO, AMIGA DEMO, AMIGA INTRO, C64 INTRO, C64 DEMO, Wild DEMO, 4k Procedural GFX, animation, Game Development, Tracked Music, Streamed Music, Executable Music, Photo, Pixeled Gfx, Modern Gfx, ANSI gfx and other exotic competitions. Between the compos there is a barbecue, communication and you get to know new people. Different DJs perform with their music sets. Large parties have their own fenced-off outdoor area with currywurst or pizza stands. Some scenesters come with finished productions, some put their works together on site. But there are also people who create a demo completely at the party. There is even the FastCompo for this, where a topic is given and you only have 2 to 3 days.

Most of the demo parties are sponsored by video game manufacturers. But other companies are also happy to help the artists to find a framework in this special field. Many companies have their origins in the demo scene, such as DICE, which continues the Battlefield series today, or VipriNet, which was founded to supply the Breakpoint demo party with Internet. In the meantime it has grown into a large company that offers software and hardware solutions. Not every demoszener has its origins in the cracker or hacker scene, and not every demoszener goes into the game industry.

The origin is mostly on the Commodore 64 and the Atari 800, because it was precisely at this time that computers were ready to display graphics in real time. The first tickers and colorful esoteric images were created. It was possible for the programmers to exhaust these computers in a way that not even the architects had dreamed of. Later with the Amiga came the time of the software renderer that could display complex 3D scenes without precalculation. The music playback capabilities had also improved tremendously. The era of trackers has dawned. The era of hardware-accelerated graphics cards only began in the 2000s. There is little literature about the demo scene printed on paper. However, there are dozens of disk mags in digital format that report on the scene. A well-known one is Hugi, which is now in issue 38, with articles not only about programming, but also, for example, with after-party reports and interviews. Some graphic artists publish their pictures in slide shows with music playing in the background. As an equivalent, there are music discs full of tracked music. is the scene archive. Every released production of the scene can be found on this website. even gave awards for the best demos of the year. An Internet portal that offers a convenient search function for the name of the demo, the crewn name, the party name and other criteria is, which is a forum and a news board at the same time.

My Productions

DarkHour Demo

This is my first contribution to the DemoScene. This demo was developed in 2000. I was supported by 'Sebsta', who drew some nice pictures, and 'Dr.Deadmake', who helped me code. At that time for DOS and in 256 colors. I later ported it to Windows to appeal to modern audiences.

We brought it out at the "Mekka" / Symposium Demo Party. Unfortunately we didn't win but it was a good experience.

DOS and Windows version:
OpenSource source code:

my 4KB Intro Psych66

This intro is for DOS. It was created in the debugger and is completely in 16-bit assembler. I didn't bring it out at a demo party. Some effects are not displayed correctly under the DOSBOX. It only runs without errors under native DOS. It has no music and is in 256 color 320x200 mode

DOS version:
OpenSource source code:

Cractro DVN

I wrote it for the Cracker Crew DVN. They changed the text of the scroller for their purposes (only the raw version can be seen here). For this intro I used the vipGFX 3 framework and the vip3D software renderer that I developed. Everything written in Pascal and 32Bit assembler.

Windows version:
OpenSource source code: