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Mindcandy, Volume 3: PC Demos 2003-2010
MindCandy is an ongoing series of demo compilations with a devoted fanbase, all of which share a love for graphic arts and computer programming. I'm more of an outsider to this niche market: I dabble in graphic arts-slash-illustration and only understand basic HTML, so most of what's on display in MindCandy is waaay over my head. Luckily, the content is still easily digested by curious newcomers; simply put, if you like bass-heavy music and high-resolution graphics, this stuff is worth watching. It's been almost five years since the release of Volume 2, which championed the Amiga system and its surprising capabilities. Volume 3 takes things back to PC land, while this well-rounded Blu-Ray / DVD combo pack offers plenty of bang for your buck. To put things in perspective, most of Volume 2's demos were presented in letterboxed 480i, so the overall atmosphere has been boosted considerably. As for the demos themselves, what they're about isn't really important. As with previous volumes, visual styles, characters (if any) and settings vary wildly. Some evoke a slightly photo-realistic approach with a thin but discernible plot. Others are completely formless and abstract, like the visualization options of Windows Media Player turned up to "11". Any way you slice it, these are music videos in their purest form: audio syncs up perfectly in many cases, especially since it was crafted specifically for each demo. But this stuff isn't animation, as the packaging forcefully reminds us: MindCandy's demos are built entirely from real-time code, and the spontaneous nature of each one is evident in execution.
As for the demos themselves, what they're about isn't really important. As with previous volumes, visual styles, characters (if any) and settings vary wildly. Some evoke a slightly photo-realistic approach with a thin but discernible plot. Others are completely formless and abstract, like the visualization options of Windows Media Player turned up to "11". Any way you slice it, these are music videos in their purest form: audio syncs up perfectly in many cases, especially since it was crafted specifically for each demo. But this stuff isn't animation, as the packaging forcefully reminds us: MindCandy's demos are built entirely from real-time code, and the spontaneous nature of each one is evident in execution.
View Complete List of Included Demos (39 clips, 219 minutes total)
Presented by FuseCon, this handy combo pack of MindCandy boasts well over ten hours of content on the Blu-Ray alone, and most of it's presented in 720p. Don't worry, though: due to the nature of this content and it's authoring, everything still looks fantastic from start to finish, which makes MindCandy, Volume 3 a unique demo disc for home theater enthusiasts. It's certainly not for everyone, but those with an eye for visuals will feel like a kid in a...well, you know. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
We don't get a full high-def presentation, but this 720p transfer absolutely bursts at the seams with detail. Aspect ratios fluctuate along the way, but most fall somewhere between 1.66:1 and 2.20:1. Color reproduction is fantastic, black levels are rock solid, textures are flawless and compression issues are basically nil. To be perfectly honest, it's amazing that such a diverse collection of content has been presented in uniformly excellent quality. Simply put, even those with modest home theater setups will enjoy getting lost in MindCandy's dense, jaw-dropping visuals. A top-notch effort all the way!
It doesn't sound bad, but the audio presentation is definitely a disappointment. Presented in a standard-def Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, the music isn't nearly as powerful as the visuals...and oddly enough, even Volume 2's audio was granted a 5.1 track. I'll be honest, though, and admit that MindCandy's visuals are much more of a selling point, but the lack of effort here doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Optional subtitles are provided during the audio commentaries, for those unfamiliar with European accents.
Seen below, this two-disc combo pack arrives in a dual-hubbed Blu-Ray case, along with an insert booklet filled with demo descriptions and technical details. The menu presentation is a bit awkward at times, but it loads fast and covers the basics nicely. This whopping 219-minute main feature is divided into 39 chapters (one per demo) and no obvious layer change was detected on the region-free disc.
Next up are Additional Clips (here dubbed "An Intro to Intros", 19 minutes) of extremely short demos. These are all under 64kb each and demonstrate just as much creativity, flair and style as many of those found during the main feature. Pound for pound, this is probably the most satisfying extra of the bunch.
Also here is a meaty collection of NVScene Presentations from the 2008 event in San Jose, CA. Highlights include "History of the Demoscene (66 minutes), "Deconstructing Demos: From Conception to Performance" (86 minutes) and "The Other Side of Demo Programming" (50 minutes). All told, there's over 8 hours of footage in this section alone and most of what I sampled was entertaining stuff.
Closing things out is a brief selection of footage from RVScene ("America's Biggest Four-Wheeled Demoparty!", 8 minutes) and a slideshow-type presentation of Production Notes by James Leonard. The latter is pretty in-depth and much more compelling than what "production notes" usually implies.
Also included is a DVD Copy of the main feature on one dual-layered disc, which looks fine and sounds exactly the same. The audio commentaries are also included, but none of the other extras listed above. A welcome gesture of perfectly good quality, but hardly a substitute for its high-def counterpart.
MindCandy, Volume 3 is certainly a unique release: it's more of a music video collection than anything else, and even that term doesn't quite do it justice. Pulsing, vibrant images sync up quite well with original music, creating a spontaneously creative atmosphere rivaled only by previous volumes. FuseCon's combo pack release hits just about every mark, exceeding expectations in the video and extra departments but falling short in the audio. Either way, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more unique demo disc, so all interested parties should consider MindCandy, Volume 3 firmly Recommended.
NOTE: The above captures were obtained from the DVD edition and do not represent the 720p native resolution.
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