Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

The Next Big Thing

Posted by Trixter on January 12, 2009

As some followers of a certain thread on pouet might have guessed, the MindCandy crew has started production on MindCandy 3.  This time around we’re mixing the familiar with the unfamiliar:  We’re revisiting the PC — specifically Windows  — but unlike any other demoscene project, we’re doing it all in HD.  That’s right:  MindCandy 3 will be Blu-Ray.

Oh, we’re going to make a DVD available as well, don’t worry.  In fact, we’re tossing around the idea of including the DVD in with the BD, so that there’s only one package to get and you can enjoy the BD when you eventually upgrade your hardware.  Nobody gets left in the cold, and the demos get the proper treatment they deserve.  And it’s one hell of a treatment; thanks to kkapture, we’re able to get clean and pure video from most demos, 60 frames per second, at 720p.  For those who hate interlacing artifacts, this is the fastest progressive video specification HD supports. For some demos (like Into The Pink), the video exceeds what most 2008 machines are capable of.

Work on MindCandy 3 actually began before MindCandy 2 was finished.  In mid-2003, a good friend of the project, Steinar H. Gunderson, worked with us to create “demorender”, which did exactly what it said it did:  Hooked DirectX 8 and 9 calls to grab the data from a frame, dump it through a VFW codec, and then continue, all the while faking the timer so that the demo would be fed a constant timebase.  We were able to capture around 50% of the demos out there when ryg announced kkapture in 2006 and we found that, right off the bat, kkapture did everything our tool did.  We weren’t ready to begin MC3 at that time — and farbrausch is, well, farbrausch — so Steinar contributed the source code of demorender to ryg to fill in a hole or two in kkapture (I believe it was in .wav writing or something but I’d have to check the sources to be sure).

Fast-forward to 2008, and we start to get the MindCandy bug again.  We were in the middle of tossing around ideas to cover, when Blu-Ray finally won the HD format war, and we took that as a sign that that’s what we should target.  The first MindCandy, which was in production from 2000 to 2002, came right at the cusp of the DVD revolution; it was the right product at the right time, and as a result, it did well and the demoscene gained some new converts.  We’re at another cusp:  HD video.  We’re excited to work in that medium and we hope that we can live up to the standards set by MC1 and 2.

While the www.demodvd.org website will remain and start to get updated as we get rolling, I’m moving the Developer’s Blog over here, because this space is an actual blog and not some Python code I slapped together.  I’ll tag them appropriately, for those who want to follow only MindCandy development.

Because part of capturing HD material is making sure you have an HD monitor, I have one now.  Unfortunately, I can’t stand how my 1920-wide window displays a 640-wide skinny little blog in the center, so I will be checking wordpress.com every week to see if they have a theme available with a flexible width that doesn’t royally suck.

12 Responses to “The Next Big Thing”

  1. grey said

    I don’t actually own a bluray player so when you said 720p60 being the best it could do I had to do some digging. Well I guess you were right for high framerate at least. I can’t believe that Bluray can seriously only do 1080p @ 23.976fps or 24fps! As if I needed more reasons to stay away from it as an overblown format. albeit, IMNSHO all physical media are basically just for historians at this point; blu-ray won a battle, but downloadable content [legal or otherwise] will win the war.

  2. Trixter said

    720p@60 is the second-highest bandwidth BD can handle; 1080p@30 is the absolute highest. Unfortunately for us, this has led to some interesting issues for editing and storage — everything is really friggin’ huge, and my dual-core can’t edit stuff realtime. (It can, with some tricks, which I’ll post about later.)

    You are correct that BD is the last physical media we will see. Downloadable content is the future, but it will take at least 5-10 years to get there, and BD will bridge the gap. The average fast broadband speeds in the USA (outside of California, anyway) are typically 6mbps download, and that’s not even enough for full-quality DVD.

    We have received criticism that making BD a target is idiotic. The thing is, there’s no other way to deliver 720p@60 content. MPEG-4 at that datarate chokes most quad-core machines, and even if you have a fast machine, the bandwidth is an average of 25mbps. So for this project, BD (and DVD, for those who can’t do BD yet) is really the only option.

  3. nine said

    just learn to use non maximised windows! I had the same problem for a long time. Now I discovered that using non maximised windows is very useful. I highly recommend it.

  4. Trixter said

    Whether or not the window is maximized or not has little to do with it. I guarantee you if I gave you a 60fps 720p MPEG-4 file, you would not be able to play it; the CPU requirements for decoding are simply too high for most computers.

    Next time you play a 720p MPEG-4 at 24fps, measure your CPU usage. Then multiply it by 2.5 (the difference between 24 and 60) and see if you still have enough :-)

  5. danbee said

    I think nine was referring to your blog looking silly in a maximised browser window. I must admit, since I bought myself a 24″ 1920×1200 monitor I haven’t done any fullscreen browsing!

  6. BD is definitely the way to go. As for performance, most modern video cards (Radeon HD2000 and above, GeForce 8500 and above IIRC) can fully accelerate H264 video.

    My HTPC at home is based on a relatively low-end Core 2 Duo E4500 processor (dual core at 2.4GHz, again IIRC) and with video acceleration enabled it handles 1080P30 easily. Look up Media Player Classic Homecinema if you want to try it out.

    Finally, 6Mbps is about 4Mbps more than the standard in Israel, which is surprisingly modern in its internet infrastructure; even if broadband content delivery becomes standard in the US it will take years to reach the rest of the world. And that’s ignoring latency (if I remember correctly, the light-speed round-trip cost alone is about 30MS, in practice a good ping time to a US server is ~150MS).

    Holding my breath for MC3 :-)

  7. Trixter said

    @nine: Sorry, I misunderstood you. In the end I couldn’t find a decent flexible theme so I reverted back to this one.

    @danbee: My monitor pivots, so when “skinny” websites irritate me, I rotate 90 degrees, turning my monitor into a three-decade-old page monitor (always had a soft spot for those!). Even then, my blog still has unused whitespace on both sides… Someday I’ll move my blog to something I own, but currently wordpress.com can handle a slashdotting better than I can so I’m here for the short haul :-)

    @Tomer: I will give that a shot. I (now) have a very powerful video card that has 216 CUDA cores to dedicate to something, but I have not yet found a player that claims to use them. I will check out Media Player Classic Homecinema to see if it helps.

  8. Chris said

    The only “supported” application for my ATI video card’s hardware H.264 decoding (marketed as aVIVO) that I’ve found is PowerDVD. nVidia has a similar feature on their cards called PureVideo, which PowerDVD also supports.

    I guess I’m lucky, having FTTH in the area has boosted broadband speeds a bit in this area. Having a 20/5Mbit connection for $30/month is nice.

  9. Trixter said

    You’re more than lucky; you’re blessed by the bandwidth gods. Even with AT&T U-Verse (fiber-optic) starting installation in my area, the best I can hope for once that’s completed is 15mbit/s down, 1.5mbit/s up.

    Thanks for the tip regarding playback; I will look into PowerDVD if Media Player Classic Hometheater doesn’t work for me. I’m generating a half-bitrate 720p@60 file right now and I’ll report what works in my next MC3 production blog post.

  10. Oh man, MindCandy 1 was so mind blowing. I can’t wait for a new MindCandy in HD!

  11. Kusma said

    Trixter: I don’t know if you know this or not, but Steinar H. Gundersen is aslo known as Sesse/Excess in the demoscene. I’m only mentioning since you credit him by full name, but ryg by handle. :)

  12. Trixter said

    I know, but the entire time we were talking, we addressed each other by first name, so I guess it’s just a habit I got into with him.

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