Compression

At work today, iq showed his demoscene work which was really cool. Demoscene is a sort of computer graphics hobby where programmers try to fit the coolest demo in a certain amount of space. His demo was 4k, which he says is about the same as an icon on the desktop. He went on to explain that if you were to render all these frames at full resolution and store them as .tiffs, it’d take a couple gigabytes. His program was giving him on the order of a million to one compression ratios.

I was a little familiar with how most of these worked already but it was really neat to have him actually walk through it all. What I found most interesting was how much you have to understand in order to compress something. You can’t compress something into some mathematical function until you know what basis functions to use. You can’t make good approximations unless you understand what the simplifying assumptions were. iq learned all sorts of neat tricks for rendering that let him get atmospheric effects and terrain generation using some really hacky approaches. For example, the waves in his demo look awful statically, but when seen during a fly through with motion blur, they looked fine. I’m looking forward to see what these guys do once they start using hull shaders and geometry shaders more.

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