Don’t Settle For Mediocrity or: How They Crammed 3½ Minutes Of Video Into A 4kB File

A friend of mine just pointed me to the Breakpoint 2009 4K intro winner by RGBA and TBC called Elevated. I’ve got to be honest, price I haven’t been as impressed with a demoscene production since Farbrausch‘s Debris (which was 177K). And of course by “K” I mean kilobytes. As in smaller in file size than the images making up the design of this page.

Screenshot of RGBA and TBC's 4K Intro, Elevated

A screen shot from RGBA and TBC's 4K Intro, Elevated

Let me put it to you another way, the images you see above are screenshots from the video. Each represents one frame from the three and a half minute, full-frame-rate video. They both weigh roughly 12K each. Yet two amateur programmers managed to put together three and a half minutes of photo-realistic video running at roughly 30 frames per second, with musical accompaniment into a 4 kilobyte executable. How’d they do it?

Technically speaking they used a technique called procedural content generation. More importantly however, they did it by ignoring conventional wisdom and daring for something normally considered impossible. 3D video producers will tell you that their work is generated on specialized computers and rendered over hours if not days, the final product of which will weigh in the hundreds of megabytes. Yet Elevated (which I embedded below for your viewing pleasure) is delivered in a 4K executable and runs on average hardware. Don’t believe me? Download it and see for yourself! Also read the story behind Elevated in the coder’s own words.

The lesson is an important one, that you can go beyond the status quo to produce something heretofore thought impossible. Too often it seems people follow the Microsoft model, where sluggish code relies on newer, faster hardware to pick up the slack. Why not shun the norm and dare to push the limits of the medium you work in? Whether it’s 3D, game programming, web development or what have you. Be inspired by the work these guys did and blaze a trail of your own!