Revision is the name of a demo-party come festival that happens every year in the town of Saarbrucken in Germany. I went in 2014 and had a great time so I figured I'd go again. I generally take the Eurostar and another train from Paris. Annoyingly, my Eurostar was delayed so I ended up missing my connection. After going around five desks to find an alternative, hanging around for another 3 hours then sitting on the floor of an SNCF train, I was not amused. Getting to Revision late is no fun because all the best seats are gone. I ended up right at the back, facing the wrong way, again!
A demo-party is part of the demoscene: largely a European, continental affair where coders show off their skills by creating artistic programs that boggle belief. Back in the day, it was all about signing the game you just cracked with some snazzy graphics. Nowadays, it's about using the hardware to do things it shouldn't or creating exquisite graphics with only 64k or even as little as 4k. Some programs are built to run on devices you never thought would display art!
The party itself is a get-together of sceners from around the world, who show off their work in competitions. There are a variety of competitions such as 64K, Modern PC Demo, and such, with retro competitions like the Amiga Demo, the Old Skool Intro and 8 Bit competitions. In addition there is a live shader competition where two coders are given 25 minutes to write a demo, on stage, from scratch. A very cool event to watch, particularly as there is a live DJ on stage providing the beats. Other competitions such as photography, tracked music, and the old school graphics competitions are popular, showing off more of the classic art and design side of the scene.
Revision takes place in E-Werk, a large brick-hall outside of town. It's quite a good venue with plenty of room for a mahooosive screen, sound desks, outside showers and vendors, and all the other trappings of a small festival. Around 800 people stay in the venue with others visiting on certain days. Despite being totally stressed out on the first night I managed to get some sleep under my desk. Most people tend to either sleep behind the stage, next to the wall of building or under the desk. I basically create a nest where I sleep during the night and code during the day. It's hard to tell which is which as the hall windows are blocked during the festival. One has to remember to go outside and get some sunlight.
Coffee is provided for free, which is excellent, and it's not half bad. The beer is about 1.5 Euros (with that oh-so-eighties bottle return - gotta love Germany). It's mostly pilsner type stuff which is a shame, but it's still tasty. The vendors are mostly pizza, sausage and crepes which is alright. The best tips for food at Revision is to a) take a bowl or cup and b) visit the supermarket on the car-park nearby. E-Werk is at the end of what is an out-of-town shopping centre so on the Saturday, it's wise to stock up on what you need.
There are some other events that take place such as guided tours of the infrastructure. I went on a tour around the main mixing desk; Revision has quite an impressive setup for it's audio and visuals. It really needs to as well, dealing as it does with old and new hardware of all kinds. Not only that, but almost everything is streamed to the web and archived for later. It's quite impressive. There are seminars and talks too. The ones this year seemed a little weak compared to previous years which was probably just as well since I wanted to get a lot of my code done.
I spent my time working on my WebGL Library, which I'm quite excited about and look forward to releasing this year. I didn't enter a demo this time around which was a mistake I think. I'd hoped to enter the live shader compo but being late put paid to that. I'm not the type of person who can code till 3 in the morning but many people at Revision are. I think it's best to go with an entry; it's taking part that makes the festival.
My favourite entry from all the competitions had to be Fermi Paradox by Mercury. I'm a sucker for anything space, but the music, the art direction, the style and above all, the coding are superb! Other demos that made my jaw drop were Darkness Lay your Eyes Upon Me by Conspiracy, Instant God by Fairlight, Carillon and Cyberiad and Shapeshift by Cocoon
The demo-scene is a relatively closed off affair in some ways. There is little respect for anyone using Unity, anyone who just plays games or doesn't contribute to the scene. The scene has it's own memes and tropes, such as the classic Amigaaaaa roar, the greetings that always occur in demos, and it's own set of celebrities such as Smash, Cupe and The Dark Lotus. The scene is quite friendly but seems much more popular in europe than anywhere else. Recently, the Tokyo Demo Fest has been talked about a fair bit, but sadly, the UK's only demo-party - Sundown - will be taking place for the last time this year.
In my humble opinion, the best computer art and the best computer artists in the world can be found in the demo-scene, with many of them coming to Revision. It's no wonder that companies try to recruit from here and many of the attendees work for some pretty high profile businesses. If you are into computer graphics, digital art or computers of all kinds, I'd definitely recommend a demo-party!