[interview #1: Navis of ASD speaks..................]
The main coder of ASD talks about the background of his productions

The classic Greek profile of Navis/ASD
Navis, Andromeda Software Development's coder, can be defined as the real traction force of the ASD collective.

It's probably due to his constance that, indeed, ASD are now where they are: at the top of the demoscene's mountain.

If you read the Lifeforce's development diary in the great latest issue of Zine, probably you'll know that Navis wrote the code of that production lifting his little child with one arm and staying up all night or waking up at 5 o'clock in the morning, and all of this having a full time job in the rest of the day.

Navis' constance emerges even in the extreme planning spent on their productions: as ASD themselves write, the work on Lifeforce covered 8 months: certainly it's not a party production.

We asked Navis in a brief interview more informations on his motivation, his working techniques and his cultural background. Read on.

Lifeforce: can you spot Herbie the beetle?
1) Let's start with a "personal" question. ASD was born as a group around the mid-Nineties, but you said that in 1996, after seeing "Machine of Madness" by Dubius, you decided to give up. What was so massive in that demo, to induce you to stop and what was the spark that made you start coding again, up to winning Assembly a few weeks ago?

It wasn't exactly the "Machine of Madness" that made me stop. It was a combination of things including that demo: I saw the demo fresh out of Assembly 96 at the Greek party caled Gardening 96 - held in August 1996. I was so impressed by the technology (bump mapping, true colordepth, motion blurring) and camera work.
At the Gardening 96 we (ASD) had a demo that was a bit of a failure. We came 4th and I was very displeased with that. It was my fault for starting the demo so late (2 weeks before the deadline), a mistake I never made again. Another factor was that in 96 I finished high-school and went to England to study Engineering (*not* computing). I found other interesting things in life there (parties, women, circuit design, in that order) and forgot about the active demoscene for a while (4 years). After I graduated I did an Msc course in computer graphics (2000) which sparked my interest again.

2) I think there is a process in "Lifeforce"'s creation never seen before in any other demo the scene produced. I'm talking of the effort that brought to the "lowrelief" scene. Can you tell us some more about that one? Is there a "real" version of the lowrelief?

Yes, it is a scan of a real statue. I had to get a permission from university college, Oxford to scan it. My supervisor and my academic connections helped me alot ! we were lucky. I also found a company (Eykona ltd) that did the scanning for us - we are still working with that company in commercial projects. They were very pleased to be involved in an artistic project. (more info and pictures of the statue here)

3) We can find this quote In the "Iconoclast" readme.txt file: "It is our belief that hardcoding can speed up the process of creating a demo, as it eliminates the need for a very versatile and fully integrated scripting and spline laying tool". Do you still agree with this assumption, even looking at your long artistic path? After all, "professional" animators don't code: they use tools. What do you think of the use of "tools" in demos, and will you ever use one?

The Lifeforce lowrelief...'live'
Yes, I still agree with this assumption. Tools in demos (made by 2-3 people in a very short period of time, unlike for example Maya or 3D studio which are alot more versatile) are good for what they are but still impose limitations. I will never make or use a demo 'tool', first of all because I would find it boring to make the tool in the first place, and second because I can write a better demo just by resorting on low level coding. It takes a while to learn how to do it but once you are there the results can be astounding.

4) A few of the scene productions that show more "maturity" sometimes look back and put citations of the demoscenic past within themselves.
Can you tell us of the references, maybe even of the more hidden ones, in your latest demos? Do you see any references to ASD demos in nowadays' productions?

Surely it's an original way to greet...
I don't think we have any notable references to old demos, apart from the odd reuse of models. There is a strong one between iconoclast and lifeforce though, in that lifeforce begins where iconoclast ends. (my question was truly referring to references to *other* demos, not ASD ones, like for example the obvious reference to Second Reality in Iconoclast, with the checkboard and the bouncing spheres)

5) In the last years, the creative process for ASD demos seems to have been perfected; there seems to be also a lot of "planning" behind your productions. Is this true? Music and graphics, also, seem to be made always after code. Did you ever think of (or did) building a demo around music (music ready before the demo itself) or around graphics?

We do a lot of planning before starting. I know, for example, what our next 3 demos are going to look like. Building the demo around music is not going to work for very big productions because that would restrict me to the point of not being able to do anything. It is tough on the musicians to have to work like that but there is no other way.

6) As promised, a question about Greece! How big is the scene in Greece, and how alive is it from the artistic point of view? What can you say about other forms of art in Greece, even compared to other places you've visited?

Bunch of polaroids
The scene in Greece is not big but people still make demos. I very rarely find them interesting or worth talking about, as they almost always resort to ten years old design and music. We need new blood which is hard to find.
Art in Greece. Hm... I must say that I don't know much about the very recent state of high-end art in Greece. For me it is enough to know that up until the 80s there were some notable movements (in music, theater, poetry and painting) in Greece, especially if you take into consideration the size of the country. My favourite Greek music is from the 60s. There is enough good music from that era to last me for ever. Therefore I don't really care about what is happening there now.

Greek music from the Sixties... anyone knows what Navis is referring to? He seemed a bit "snob" towards his country at the end. But you know, many people live their birthplaces as soon as they can as a sort of "search for freedom", but nonetheless still love their origins.
Thanks to Navis for sharing his thoughts with us.

posted by friol at 9/16/2007 07:26:00 PM - under: , , - comments? here (3)

the Tunnel - demoscene blog(c) friol 2o18