MindCandy Volume 3: Demos 2003-2010 (2011)

It’s not fair.

After spending several hours watching MindCandy Volume 3: PC Demos 2003-2010, I decided it’s simply not fair that there are people on this planet talented enough to create art this visually stunning, using the exact same ones and zeros that all of us have access to, on computers no more powerful than the one you’re reading this review on. It’s unbelievable, is what it is. Unbelievable, and unfair.

Back with a third package of computer demos is MindCandy Volume 3: PC Demos from 2003-2010. The original MindCandy release contained both older and modern PC demos up to the disc’s release date (2003). Volume Two contained demos programmed on the Commodore Amiga. Many fans of the series (myself included) assumed that the third volume would cover Commodore 64 demos; however, the folks behind MindCandy explain in one of the package’s many extra features that several DVDs of C64 demos have already been released, so instead the group decided to refocus their energy elsewhere.

The result is MindCandy 3, a visually amazing collection of forty PC computer demos released since 2003 — and when I say visually amazing, I truly mean it. I watched the Blu-Ray version on a high definition television and the demos were absolutely stunning. Whether you are looking at abstract shapes and colors or watching virtual worlds unfold before your eyes, you will continually be in awe. In one of the included bonus features, Jim “Trixer” Leonard gives advanced technical details about how the video were captured. This particular feature reveals not only the technical expertise of the people behind the series, but also the amount of care that went into preserving the accuracy of each video.

The video quality presented on MindCandy 3 is top notch. Don’t let the 720p number fool you; running at 60 frames per second, these demos are gorgeous. With bright colors, fluid motion and no artifacting, the demos look as good if not better than they would on your computer. If I were trying to sell my HD television, this is what I would have running on it.

Audio on the disc is presented in a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. While some other online reviews dinged the package for not including a 5.1 surround sound mix, I did not feel the two-channel stereo mix detracted from the experience at all. While I believe a lack of free space on the discs was part of the reason for not including a 5.1 mix (the Blu-ray version takes up around 46 of the 50 available gigs worth of space), I believe that most (if not all) of these demos were originally released in stereo format. Given all the work the group did in preserving the video quality of the original demos, including an artificially mixed surround sound track seems (to me) to miss the point. Even with the 2.0 mix, my home theater had no problem blasting out the electronically crafted demo tunes.

One of my favorite MindCandy features, the audio commentaries, has returned again in Volume 3. Where possible, the creators of each demo have gathered and recorded audio commentaries specifically for MindCandy. Some of them are silly, some of them are technical and dry, and some of them are downright bizarre, but all of them are worth listening to. If you’re the type of person that enjoys Pop-Up Video and listening to DVD commentary tracks, you’ll find the commentary tracks both interesting and entertaining. I found hearing why programmers made some of the choices they did was fascinating and made the experience that much more enjoyable. Each audio track also contains subtitles that can be enabled or disabled regardless of which audio track you have playing (which would allow you to listen to the original audio track with the commentary subtitles displayed on screen, for example).

While watching the included videos from disc, it’s easy to forget that these demos run and generate all the video and graphics you’re see in real time on a PC. When my wife mentioned that some of the graphics “weren’t quite up to Pixar standards,” I reminded her that CGI movies are pre-rendered. According to a recent Gizmondo article, Pixar’s Cars 2 used a rendering farm containing 12,500 CPU cores and each frame took approximately 11.5 hours to render (Link). The demos contained on this disc can be downloaded and run on a run-of-the-mill PC.

Which leads to what for some may be the elephant in the room: why pay for a DVD or Blu-ray disc full of demos that are freely downloadable from the Internet? Personally I can think of several reasons.

- The A/V setup in my living room far exceeds the one in my computer room. My PC’s 24″ monitor and small speakers don’t compare to my 55″ HD television connected to a surround sound receiver. These demos may have been designed on the small screen, but look fantastic on big ones.

- No hassle. I want to watch these demos, not download each one and hope that my under-powered laptop will display them properly. MindCandy 3 costs less than the video card I would probably need to view all of these demos at 60 frames per second in 720p.

- The Commentary Tracks. For me, these alone are worth the price of admission. Having someone explain the idea behind each demo was awesome.

- The Extras. The Blu-ray edition of MindCandy 3 contains several additional extras, including a section of 64k demos (demos written in 64 kilobytes or less), 7 hours of demoscene-related speeches recorded at NVScene, the aforementioned Production Notes, and some footage from RVScene. Both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of MindCandy include the audio commentary tracks and subtitles.

For anyone remotely interested in the computer demo scene or computer programming, at $20, MindCandy Volume 3 is an absolute steal. If you include all the commentary tracks and extras, that’s less than a dollar an hour.

Purchase Link: MindCandyDVD.com

See Also: Review of MindCandy 1 and 2

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