Interview with Demoscener – Pixtur (Still, LKCC)

Welcome to the Interview with Demosceners. This time, we welcome Pixtur who is taking care of graphics and designs (and code) of Still and LKCC!

In this interview, Pixtur talks about how got into the demoscene, importance of having a “concept” and how he get the inspiration and turns it into the demo.

And as you read on, maybe you’ll understand why Pixtur’s demo looks quite detail-oriented… :) Happy reading! :)


First of all, could you please introduce yourself briefly?

photo by Pixtur

My name is Thomas Mann. Although I share this name with a famous German writer, I was the big disappointment of my German-teacher. In the demoscene I use the nickname pixtur. I am a member of LKCC and Still. And sometimes I collaborate with other groups like Bauknecht. I guess the roles I’m most comfortable with are concept and editing. I have some experience with 3d-modeling and composition, too.

You got interested in computers in early age? Do you remember how it was like when you had first contact with a computer?

I grew up in East-Germany. Although the communist lacked the resources to make computers available to the general public, they clearly understood the importance of computer engineering. That’s why computer science was a favorite topic in kids’ magazines. I got so hooked, that I build a model of a computer out of cardboard and pretended to type on it. I think I even made some screens out of paper that I could insert into the display.

That is cute and creative :) How old were you at that time?

I don’t really know. Maybe 10?

Ok, but you did touched the real computer afterward, right? :)

The dad of a good friend of mine was an engineer with access to a computer. He started to teach interested kids BASIC. His computer was self-assembled, even the keyboard was made out of elevator-buttons. There was no way to save your programs, so you had to write them on paper, type them in and test them out. He was an incredible motivating teacher. I think I was 12 by then.

Later I went through the whole computer science for kids program. It was held at an after-school location. The communists were anything but unstructured: before getting access to “real” computers you had to complete a series of courses like programming pocket-calculators in machine code. Over the next few years I spent all my free time there and met some kids that were just as eager and are still close friends today. We started a computer club – LKCC. 

A few years later we got all pretty fluent in BASIC, Pascal and Assembler. Although the teachers couldn’t answer most our questions by then, they were very smart at motivating us. 

Did you actually make something with those programming languages you learnt there? Like games?

We started to program games and eventually demos. But by then it was 1989 and the iron-curtain came down.

Can I ask what happened exactly?  How did the iron-curtain affect your local club?

The story is actually kind of sad. The institution was called “Pionierhaus” which translates into something like house of pioneers. And since everybody now hated everything even remotely related to communism, this was a bad omen. The people who ran the place were anything but socialists. They were just a super nice bunch of nerdy teachers with no political agenda whatsoever. If anything they were the seed for a sub-culture of hackers. Well, they had close down the house within a year or two. Every time I hear a German politician complain about the lack for young engineers still makes me angry.

At least now we could afford “real" computers. We all got into gaming and spent some years with Doom. Some of us did some hacking and cracking games. I also wrote my fair share of BBS-intros and trainers. Eventually, we lost motivation in that stuff altogether. But since now most of the members of the computer-club studied at the same university, we turned LKCC into a volleyball team and participated in the student-league for a couple of years. I think we came in first once. Well, now I’m really drifting off, but you ask for it. :-)

Sure, I appreciate these trivia more than you know :) That’s great to know that you drove the club into another challenge :) But you guys all learned much about programming and you decided to play games instead of making them? Somehow I find it quite odd.

At that time my friend and I had been developing a Wolfenstein 3D-like game engine. It was more than 1 megabyte of source-code – most of it highly optimized assembler code. And then came Doom. I vividly remember the first time I saw it, because it shattered our dreams of becoming game developers: It only need two functions in assembler (the rest was C++), but it featured curved walls, stairs, and windows. And it was still faster than our engine. This taught me the lesson, that a good algorithm always beats optimization. And that premature optimization is bad. So we basically stopped programming and started gaming.

That’s interesting… I thought normally people decided to make games because they saw nice games… but you did it other way around! :) Ok, so when and how did you discover demoscene? And what motivated you to join?

During the university-time I was sharing an apartment with two other guys. One was a member of LKCC and the other was a fellow architecture student: Nero. He spent all of his free time working on old-school demos (e.g. “The Fulcrum” [video] by Matrix).

I was always puzzled by his never-ending motivation and didn’t really get why anybody would spent that much time on making “demos”. It seemed crazy. But some years later Diver of Salva Mea asked me if I could do some modeling for a demo-production. The concept looked kind of nice, so I agreed. We finished and released at Evoke 2002 and made the 2nd place (“Kassiopeia”). That weekend was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. And I am addicted ever since.

How was it like to create your first demo? Was it fun? 

Working with the guys from Salva Mea was super stressful. I guess I’m sort of a control freak when it comes to timing. Nevertheless we released something and I learned a lot.

After that I did a small project with Mad, who made a 3D engine and already had a nice soundtrack. Suddenly I was responsible for all design aspects, so the fight shifted from discussing design to begging the coder for more effects and control.

Still @Revision photo by Pixtur

Oh, ok… now I’m imagining several guys trying to grab the wheel… :) By the way, you mentioned “architect student”. Architecture? Why did you went in for architecture? By hearing your story, I believe you’ve been interested in computers, so you could’ve just chose Computer Science field…

Some of the members of LKCC were a year older and already started to study computer science. When I had time I would join them. But most of the courses seem incredibly boring to me and the CS-building was ugly as hell. Naively I thought that studying computer science would be kind of boring. Since I was doing a lot of sketching somebody suggested I could study architecture instead. So I applied and was somehow surprised to get in.

The first two years were quite difficult. Most of the students seem to be superficial arrogant artsy types. And the professors preferred nice presented designs over “logically optimal solutions” to a given problem. 

Luckily I also started working as an intern in startup that did super advanced computer visualization. They bought SGI-computers worth several family homes and hired most of the members of our old computer club LKCC to figure out how to use them. It was insane, and super fun. Coincidently the CEO of the company was an architect. But he never did any design work – all he did was talking to investors. So I had the luck to realize that although architecture is fun, working as an architect is not. And no longer trying to please the professors at the university I suddenly had a lot of fun and surprisingly got a pretty good degree after all. 

Ever since then I’m constantly jumping across the fence between design and code. Although this kept me from getting outstanding at the either of them it kept me busy.

Jumping between design and code… that sounds like a proper demoscener to me :)

I made the interesting observation that most people really do think in drawers: I’m not as good in programming as the coders I love to work with, but I know a thing or two about coding. 

Really? Unfortunately I can’t tell if you are being honest or modest… then what about in your actual paid-work? Do you do both code and design? Or it’s code OR design?

During my freelancing time the jobs were evenly distributed between programming and design. Nevertheless for all my clients I was either “the coder” or “the designer”. They even got quite annoyed when I dared in one role to comment on the other.

The nice thing about knowing a bit of both worlds is that I might be better at discussing with developers. Sometimes driving them to really good results, sometimes driving them nuts. :-)

Hahaha, Ok! :) Do you find the thing you learned in the architecture field is useful in programming and designs?

It might not have been instructional for computer programming. But nowadays my “profession” is more that of a user interaction designer. I believe that architecture gave me a strong foundation in thinking problems through and presenting them nicely. If you think about it, there are a lot of similarities between designing a building and designing a GUI: There is an entry, there are stairs, navigation, short-cuts, there are rooms and windows. They even call it “screen real-estate”. 

The other thing I learned at university was about almost fanatically focusing on a concept. If you don’t have a concept all design decisions are random and driven by taste and your gut-feeling. This might work for some people. But having a concept makes it much easier to discuss design in a team or with your clients.

So the concept is the pillar… That’s good to know… Ok, let me go back to the demoscene topic. How do your projects start usually? Could you explain your demo-making process?

I gave a long talk on that topic at NVscene 2015. Basically I start with a concept or an idea and let it ripe for some time. We have a wiki with potential demos. I recently started to collect references for every project on Pinterest. Eventually I start building research scenes and approach musicians. By then I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do.

I’ve checked your seminars, or I’d like to call Pixtur’s How to make demo series :) It was very detailed and got many practical examples/advices that I find it’s useful for non-demo project as well. But why do you reveal this much technique? You could’ve kept all these secrets to yourself and just bear away prizes!

Keeping secrets is never a good long term plan. And most of the things are not secrets to begin with. Like Newton put it: “We’re all standing on the shoulders of giants.” It’s all bits and pieces borrowed all over the place. Giving talks helps to really think the stuff through and understand it. If you can explain it – you understood it.

Oh, Ok! Then where do you get your inspiration for your work?

This is hard to say. Sometimes it’s basically “me too” - this was the case with “Square”. Sometimes I actually get an original idea, for instance while listening to a soundtrack. I regularly visit classical concerts with my mom. Whenever I’m listening to a big orchestra I start drifting. Nowadays I pay attention and try to remember and write down the images in my head.

What do you mean by “me too?”

More like a cheap clone of something already invented. Everybody did this raymarching stuff, and I decided to give it a try as well. I used a mandelbox shader by Mad and played around with it. In my point of view the “problem” with all the releases so far was the obsession with the 4KB limit. But with 4KB you can’t use a proper soundtrack and sophisticated camera-animations (at least I can’t). I think all the content in Square would have easily fit into 32KB, but who cares…

Ok, thank you. I believe there are several stages in demo making process like brainstorming, coding… Which stage of process do you like the most?

I love the few precious days when the exploration shows that I got something interesting. Before that it’s hell. After that it’s polishing (which is also hell). I had a work-flash once while working on “Perfect Love” [video]. I still don’t know how to get into that kind of flow.

Your final work is always exactly the same as you imagined in your head?

This is super rare. I almost did with “Passing”. But most of the time it’s not even close. Sometime I’m still satisfied. Sometimes I’m super disappointed. And quite frequently my degree of satisfaction contradicts the feedback we get on Pouet (note: Demoscene portal site).

So, you can say “Passing" is your (own) most favorite demo so far?

Interesting conclusion, but you’re right on spot! Passing still is the best concept I came up with: It’s a simple effect that looks kind of nice and can be transformed in endless variations. I really like the idea that the camera is not moving in the whole demo: the world is scrolling by. This endless loop matches nicely with the images and desperation I hear in the Mad’s soundtrack. It’s like a never-ending David Lynch nightmare made by endless repetition.

Nightmare… Ok… I got it… So, what program do you use to make demo? Do you create your own tool?

I’m a control freak. I need to be able to tweak parameters to nudge keyframes. Without a tool, I would drive coders insane. 

At Still we use a program called tooll.io. A personal dream of mine is to build a tool that help other people to make demos. It’s a long way, but with “Coronoid” [video] it worked out for the first time. Watching somebody using your tool to be creative is even more satisfying than being creative yourself.

Could you show us where your demo is born? Do you set theme or atmosphere of the demo, or write down your ideas on the notepad?

“Our office…” photo by Pixtur

Whenever I get the inkling that something might turn into a concept, I try to investigate. Sometimes these are super rough storyboard-scribbles. During the years I got a bit better at actually writing a concept. I wrote two concepts for Smash and the guys from Mercury in the hope of doing a collaboration, both on the train back from Breakpoint (note: Demoparty held in Germany). Sometimes I do edit rough mood-sketches with Final Cut.

“Some sketches I did for Intrinsic Gravitiy” photo by Pixtur

Ooohh, so these sketches were turned into that demo! :) Thanks for sharing! Then regardless of what project you’re working on, do you set your own rule or goal? Is there anything you really care about when you make demo?

I try hard not to repeat myself. At Still we’re jokingly referring to the list of forbidden ingredients: No cities, no lens-flares, no white-flashes, no dust particles. It’s hard.

Right… the more you make, the more you get the forbidden items.. :) Ok, time to shoot this classic question. Your favorite demo, memorable demo, demo that changed your life… anything. Tell us a demo(s) which is special to you.

Of course Future Crew was super influential. But later I got into demos that build up an atmosphere that hinted more than it explained. For a long time, my favorite demo was “Energia” [video] by Sunflower, then “ASDF” [video] by Mel Funktion and Little Bitchard, and finally “Numb Res” [video] by Fairlight. I guess I always had a special love hate relationship to Fairlight.

Hehehe… okay :) I’ve read that now you have your own company to run and I believe you must be leading busy life! But why do you spend your time to make demo, which is non-lucrative. What makes you keep going?

I believe that the meaning of life is to figure out what makes you happy. Maybe the communist propaganda of my childhood had effect on me after all: gathering money and stuff doesn’t work for me. Of all the things I tried so far working with friends on challenging creative projects is the most effective method to keep me happy.

Although most of the time my work is fun, the bar is set much higher for my personal projects. For me it’s much harder to satisfy myself than to satisfy clients. So making demos as much as designing tools to make demos is a never-ending source of problems to solve.

The way to be happy… So you’re constantly challenging yourself but having fun doing it :) That’s nice, you get happier and better at the same time ! Then what is “good demo” and “good tool” to you?

I don’t really know what a good demo is. I would be able to describe demos I like right now and explain why, but that might totally change within a year. Also my opinion is sometimes radically different from other people. The nice thing about the demoscene is its diversity. Having a definition of a “good demo” would not be a good thing. But if you seek advice: I once heard that to win a major party you need tits, dragons, and cubes.

But a good demo-tool is a different topic! If you want to make it a bit user-friendly it becomes a super difficult design challenge. It would have to be as flexible as a programming language, but still allow you do tweak stuff at a minute level. It should drive your creativity without ever losing control. If made right it should keep you in the flow for hours. Obviously our tool doesn’t do that. Yet.

Hmm, sounds really challenging indeed… well, then what type of demo do you want to make in the future?

One day I want to make a mega-demo like “Stargazer” [video] or “Agenda Circling Forth” [video]. Until then I’ll try to keep doing smaller pieces on topics I’m not comfortable with. I want to do something with particles. But first I have to figure out how to sort them. And eventually I want to bring our demos into VR.

Very much looking forward to that :) And finally, your message for demosceners and demo fans out there please.

To learn making better demos you have to release demos.


Thank you so much for answering all the questions, Pixtur!

If you want to check Still and LKCC’s work, be sure to check their website (click their name). And as he presented in the interview, he has been giving several seminars around “Demo Making”. I find it’s really practical and informative, so I highly recommend watching these series if you’re trying to make demos.

And if you’re interested, his tool "tooll.io" can be beta tested from here :)

Thank you very much for reading this till end! :)


- In case you’re wondering what “demo” or “demoscene” is, better check out the well-made documentary called Moleman2.  (and the director, M. Szilárd Matusik's interview can be read in here.)

  #1: Interview with Demoscener: q from nonoil/gorakubu is here.
  #2: Interview with Demoscener: Gargaj from Conspiracy, Ümlaüt Design is here.
  #3: Interview with Demoscener: Preacher from Brainstorm, Traction is here.
  #4: Interview with Demoscener: Zavie from Ctrl-Alt-Test is here.
  #5: Interview with Demoscener: Smash from Fairlight is here.
  #6: Interview with Demoscener: Gloom from Excess, Dead Roman is here.
  #7: Interview with Demoscener: kioku from System K is here.
  #8: Interview with Demoscener: kb from Farbrausch is here.
  #9: Interview with Demoscener: iq from RGBA is here.
#10: Interview with Demoscener: Navis from Andromeda Software Development is here.

For some of my posts related to “demo and “demoscene” culture is here.

デモシーナー、Pixturさん(Still, LKCC)にインタビュー



個人的に、Pixturさんの作品には「すごく細かいところまで気を配っている」という印象があるのですが、お話を聞いて、なるほどぉ~といろいろ納得しました(笑) どうぞお楽しみください!



photo by Pixtur

こんにちは、トーマス・マン(Thomas Mannといいます。ドイツの有名な小説家と同じ名前ですが、この名前で期待した学校の先生たちからは随分がっかりされたものです。デモシーンではPixturというニックネームでLKCCStillというグループで活動しています。時々ですが、Bauknechtなど、他のグループとコラボレーションすることもあります。グループで担当して、いちばん自分でもしっくりくる役割は、コンセプトと編集ですかね。過去には3Dモデリングやコンポジションの経験もあります。



かわいらしいですね!それにすでにクリエイティブな感じ(笑) おいくつぐらいの時ですか?











もちろん(笑) 私はこういうトリビアが大好きなもので。それにしても、バレーボールのチームにするなんて、転んでもタダでは起きませんね!良かったです。 でも、ちょっと不思議だなと思うのは、それだけプログラミングのことを学んできたのに、ゲームを作るのではなくゲームで遊ぶことに熱中したという点です。何か理由があるのでしょうか?

当時、僕と友達で『Wolfenstein 3D』みたいなゲームエンジンを開発していたんですよ。ソースコードが1MB以上あって、そのほとんどが高度に最適化されたアセンブリ言語でした。そんな時にDoomが発売されたんです。このゲームを初めて見た時のことは今でもはっきりと覚えています。「ゲーム開発者になる」という僕たちの夢が壊れた瞬間でしたからね。アセンブリ言語で2つの機能しか必要としないのに(残りはC++)、曲線状の壁や階段、窓まで使っていたし、それに僕たちのエンジンよりも速かった。これは僕にとって、「優れたアルゴリズムは常に最適化に勝る」、「早まった最適化は良くない」ということを教えてくれた出来事でしたね。だから、このゲームを見た後はプログラミングをやめて、ゲームで遊ぶようになりました。

面白いですね。普通は、すごいゲームを見たから自分でもゲームを作ろうと思った、という流れなのかと思ってましたが、その逆だったんですね! では、デモシーンとはいつ、どのようにして出会ったのでしょう?出会いと、自分でデモを作るようになるまでの経緯を教えてください。

大学時代、僕は2人の学生とアパートをシェアしていたのですが、ひとりはLKCCのメンバーで、もうひとりが僕と同じ建築学科のNeroだったんです。彼は暇さえあればオールドスクールのデモ(Matrixの『The Fulcrum』[video]など)を作っていました。

Neroの尽きることのないやる気にはいつも驚かされていましたが、正直こんなに多くの時間を「デモ作り」に費やす人たちのことはよく理解できませんでした。ちょっと常軌を逸しているんじゃないかと思いました。でも、数年後にSalva MeaDiverにデモに使うモデリングをやってくれないかと頼まれて、見たらコンセプトも良さそうだったので参加することにしたんです。そのデモ(『Kassiopeia)は2002年のEvokeでリリースして、2位になりました。あの週末は、僕の人生の中で最もやりがいを感じた時間のひとつでした。あれ以来、デモにハマっていますね。


Salva Meaのメンバーとの制作は、本当にストレスのたまる作業でした。タイミングに関して言えば、僕は自分ですべてを管理したいタイプなんだと思います。まあ、とにかく作品はリリースできたし、僕もその作業から多くのことを学びました。


Still @Revision photo by Pixtur

今私の頭のなかでは、車のハンドルを奪い合う男子の姿が浮かんでおります(笑) ところで、先ほど「建築学科」という言葉が出ましたが、大学では建築を専攻していたのですか?小さい頃からずっとコンピュータが好きだったのに、そちらの方面には行かずに建築を選んだのはなぜでしょう?










ははは、なるほど(笑) では、建築学科で学んだことが、プログラミングやデザインに役立つことはありますか?



なるほど、コンセプトが柱になるんですね。 さて、そろそろデモシーンの話に戻りましょう。Pixturさんのプロジェクトは、いつもどんな風にスタートするのでしょう?デモの制作プロセスを説明していただけますか?

NVscene 2015で、この話題に関するセミナーをやりました。基本的には、まずコンセプトやアイデアから始めて、そこから熟成させていく感じです。今後デモになりそうなものはWikiを作ってあって、最近はPinterestを使ってプロジェクト用の参考資料も集めるようにもなりました。それからリサーチシーンを作り始めて、ミュージシャンにアプローチしていくことになります。ここまで進むと自分が何をしたいのかが、かなりはっきり見えてくるんです。



あぁ、なるほど! では、作品のインスピレーションはどんなところから得ているのでしょう?





あれこれ調べながら、「何か面白そうなアイデアが浮かんだぞ」と感じられる数日間がすごく好きですね。そこに達するまでは地獄なので、この数日間は貴重なものなんです。そして、その数日間が過ぎると、今度はアイデアを洗練させていく作業になります(これも地獄です)。一度だけ、『Perfect Love』[video]の制作をしている時に、あっとひらめくような感覚がありましたね。あの感覚にどうやったら自分を持っていけるのか、自分でも未だに分かりませんけどね。







個人的には、他の人たちがデモを制作するのに役立つツールを作るのが夢です。実現までは長い道のりですが、『Coronoid [video]で初めてうまくいったんですよ。誰かが自分の作ったツールを使ってクリエイティブなことをしているのを見るのは、自分がクリエイティブなことをするよりずっと充実感を感じられます。


「オフィス風景」 photo by Pixtur

何かがコンセプトにつながりそうだと感じると、それを探ってみるようにしています。本当におおざっぱな絵コンテを描いてみることもあります。ここ数年で、コンセプトを書くのは少しだけ上手くなりましたね。過去には、コラボレーションができないかなと思ってSmashMercuryのメンバー用にコンセプトを2つ書いたことがあります。両方ともBreakpoint(注:ドイツで行われていたデモパーティー)から帰る列車の中で書きました。あと、Final Cutを使って、ラフなムードスケッチを編集することもあります。

『Intrinsic Gravitiy』用のスケッチ  photo by Pixtur

このスケッチの完成形はこちら:『Intrinsic Gravity



作品を重ねるごとに禁止項目が増えますもんね(笑) では、そろそろ定番の質問にいきましょう。好きなデモ、心に残るデモ、影響を受けたデモ、、または人生を変えたデモ Pixturさんにとって特別なデモを教えてください。

当然ながら、Future Crewにはすごく大きな影響を受けましたが、その後は説明よりも多くのことを示唆する雰囲気を持ったデモに惹かれるようになりました。もう長い間、僕の好きなデモはSunflowerの『Energia』[video]だったんですが、その後はMel Funktion Little BitchardASDF』[video]、そしてFairlightの『Numb Res』[video]です。Fairlightに対しては、いつも愛憎の絡みあった特別な感情がありますね。

ふふふ、そうですか(笑) Pixturさんはご自身で会社も経営されていると伺いました。毎日かなりお忙しいと思うのですが、その中でもデモという何の利益も出ないものに時間を割くのはなぜでしょう?何があなたをデモの制作に駆り立てるのですか?



幸せになる方法ですか。自分自身に挑戦することを楽しんでる感じですね!でも、幸せにもなれるし、技術も上がるしで一石二鳥な気もしていいですね!(笑) では、Pixturさんにとって「良いデモ」、「良いツール」とはどんなものですか?



本当に難しそうなタスクですね。 では、今後はどんなデモを作ってみたいと思いますか?

いつかは『Stargazer』[video]や『Agenda Circling Forth』[video]のようなメガデモを作ってみたいですが、それまでは自分が苦手とするトピックで小さめの作品を作り続けていきたいですね。パーティクルを使ったものがやりたいんですが、まずはソートのやり方を理解しないといけないので。それから、最終的には作ったデモをVR対応にできたらいいなと思います。

Stillのメガデモも、VR版の公開も楽しみにしていますね! それでは最後にデモシーナー、デモファンの方にメッセージをお願いします。




StillLKCCの作品は、Pouetやグループのウェブサイトからチェックできます(グループ名をクリックしてね)。そして、インタビュー中にもでてきた「デモの作り方」シリーズのセミナーですが、とても実用的な内容になっているので、デモを作ってみようと思う方にオススメです。過去には、Revision 2013の「Concept, Camera, Composition and Color(コンセプト、カメラ、コンポジション、カラー)」、Revision 2014の「Rules of Thumb for (Slightly) Better Design(勝てるデザインのルール)」がYouTubeで公開されています(英語)。





  #1: 日本のデモシーナー、qさん(nonoilgorakubuのコーダー)にインタビューは、こちら
  #2: デモシーナー、Gargajさん(ConspiracyÜmlaüt Design)にインタビューは、こちら
  #3: デモシーナー、Preacherさん(Brainstorm、Traction)にインタビューは、こちら
  #4: デモシーナー、Zavieさん(Ctrl-Alt-Test)にインタビューは、こちら
  #5: デモシーナー、Smashさん(Fairlight)にインタビューは、こちら
  #6: デモシーナー、Gloomさん(Excess、Dead Roman)にインタビューは、こちら
  #7: 日本のデモシーナー、kiokuさん(System K)にインタビューは、こちら
  #8: デモシーナー、kbさん(Farbrausch)にインタビューは、こちら
  #9: デモシーナー、iqさん(RGBA)にインタビューは、こちら
#10: デモシーナー、Navisさん(Andromeda Software Development)にインタビューは、こちら

- その他、「デモ」と「デモシーン」に関連する投稿はこちら
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