E for… Environment mapping

First we had 3D objects then mapping was added but it was not the end yet as the latest generation of demos went further with a technique called environment mapping. If you wish to learn more about it you can go for the technical explanations.

Non coders, including I,  can also make do with a « plain » description : here we have a 3D object covered by some texture to which is added a light source. As the object moves (or rotates) the light will more or less shine on its edges and generate reflections. Come to think about it, I am not so sure this is such an easy way to explain this effect, so I hope that the picture below will prove more helpful 🙂

The very first screen featuring environment mapping ! Two great looking fishes. Thank you Llama of  tSCc. (1998)

This effect finally made it onto our small and limited Atari computers in 1998 with the above screen called Babelfish and created by tSCc. To achieve this, coders had to think of a « trick » and use a lower screen resolution (ie bigger pixels). A new era began from this moment as a lot of effects would use this technique called Chunky to Planar or C2P. I still remember how amazed I was the first time I saw this couple of environment mapped fishes swimming around the screen !

The era of environment mapping has just begun !

In my opinion too few coders dared create this kind of effect, maybe because it is quite technical and requires both style and coding skills to bring a satisfying result. Anyway the introduction sequence of 1999 Madness by Cream, as seen above, perfectly did the job !

But one democrew deserves more than any other to be greeted for their numerous and successful efforts in bringing us loads of environment mapped objects : Dead Hackers Society !

A very smooth example of environment mapping ! UCM20 intro released in 2000.


Taken from the Error In Line 3 invite. Gorgeous isn’t it ? (2003)

The production shown above (and that I had almost forgotten about) is a milestone as the full demo is made of environment mapping. Maybe it is not very smooth but the end result still remains impressive ! That’s the reason why you will find the video of this Error in Line 3 invitation at the bottom of this page.

Dead Hackers Society did it again and even better with their 2003 demo Moving into Darkness. This demo features several examples of environment mapping and shows that they fully master this effect making it look both gorgeous and smooth. But to speak the truth I love this demo from the start to the ending as it mixes lots of technical effects for our greatest pleasure.

First example coming with bumpmapping !
A second example with nice graphics in the background.
And my fave effect in this demo but check the video at the bottom of the page to have a more comprehensive view.

Let’s leave a little room to other crews with My Galaxy (2007), a very nice collaboration between MJJ Prod, Sector One and Dune. Here you can see a cube that goes morphing growing sort of branches that make it look like a star, but not the usual kind, an environment mapped star of course !

A very polished screen and a great effect  !

My last example is an environment mapped cube taken for the short yet very pleasant 2011 Natrium intro by Rave Network Overscan. Note that a very similar effect can also be found in 2016 Arsenite by Dekadence.

So lovely ! I mean the cube ! What else ? 🙂

To fully understand the part played by light in environment mapping you need to see in motion that’s why I am now going to show you some videos.

Let’s pay a well deserved tribute to our pioneers fish:

Followed by the first step of Dead Hackers Society in environment mapping :

 On with  Dead Hackers Society again with their Error In Line3 invite :

And we end end with the same democrew with their best demonstration in this field, the Moving into Darkness demo. Note that you should watch this demo till the end, or you can check my coup de coeur. 🙂


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