ONLINE > RECOLLECTION issue 2 > Off The Beaten Path
Off the beaten path: Panoramic Designs
by TDJ/Focus

Panoramic Designs (PD) was founded in 1990 by members of The Shadows, of which Olav Morkrid was by far the most famous one. As Omega Supreme he had been producing technical demos with quite a few world-records in them, "Pimplesqueezer 3" being the best of the lot. Still, the first PD demo was not done by him but by Marius Skogheim. "Pixel Magic" consisted of only a few small parts but was quite stylish. And so was the second one, "Digital Delight", which featured one of the best looking intros ever, made by Bjorn Rostoen, plus several other parts where the focus was less on coding and more on design. Only the last screen, featuring a sideborder dycp, reminded the viewer of their 'shadowy' past. The scene seemed to like it, and Panoramic started to appear in the magazine charts.

Up until then Haavar B. Hojem, also known as HBH, had hardly contributed anything, but he made up for it with "Wild At Heart" which he coded together with Marius Skogheim. This demo showed the first signs of things to come: some of the parts seemed to lack anything special effect-wise, yet radiated a certain feeling hard to describe, almost as if there was a deeper meaning to them. Appearantly not everybody liked it, as they got a lot of negative reactions on it. Their next production was better received though: "That's The Wave It Is", for which HBH only did the into, took third place at the big Horizon 1991 eastern party.

Things really started getting interesting with their release in June of the same year, called "Psykolog", coded by Haavar & Marius. The standard demo-part style was abandoned once again, even more so than with Wild At Heart. One of the screens for example had a lot of zeroes changing into ones and back, with only a diagonal scroll put on top. It was the last part however that really made the difference: it jumped between several screens, each with their seperate tune. One of them just contained 3 simple letters: L.S.D.

Some people felt that Haavar & Marius were just trying to act cool, pretending to use drugs. Others disliked the idea of a demo promoting illegal substances, even going as far as refusing to review it. For example, Scenery 64 wrote: "it seems to me like they've missed most of what the scene is about.". I couldn't disagree more. The scene is all about expressing yourself, and that's exactly what the creators were doing here. For the record, I am convinced that this was not an act, having met the guys several times in real life and also having swapped with the both of them. But even if it was, the result was something unlike anything ever seen before on the c64: they brought psychedelia to the scene. And there was more to come.

Right after they released Psykolog on the Censor party, Haavar & Marius went on a train-trip taking them through several countries, finally winding up in Holland where they visited the Silicon Summer party. It was here that they again finished third with their next piece of work, "Pez In My Brain". For those not in the know: pez is not just a kind of candy, but also slang for certain drugs. The demo was not as strange as its predecessor though, only the music in the intro and the final part were both real weird, almost hallucinatory.

Later that year HBH made a demo called "The Pezed Bars", bars referring to the rasterbars in the first screen. The second, and final, screen was something completely different: fractal pictures switching back and forth to the beat of the music, again a quite mesmerizing effect. The texts in the demo asked the viewer to look closer, and examine 'it', without explicitly stating what 'it' was, but hinting at the mind expansion that comes with the usage of certain drugs.

In the intro-scroller HBH had mentioned that The Pezed Bars would probably be his last PD demo, easing the mind of a lot of people who by now had really started to dislike what he had been doing in the name of this great group. But he had one more trick up his sleeve, the culmination of all he had done before: "Parapsykolog", released somewhere in 1992. Marius joined in as well, as did Olav Morkrid. There were several hypnotic effects: interfering circles, strange plasma patterns, the works. But again the real interesting stuff was to be found at the end. The effect of the switching between the screens from Psykolog was repeated, but this time pressing space didn't pause the switching but instead lead to another strange screen. And another. And finally to a screen representing the ocean, as if to say "let your mind flow".

These 4 demos, "Psykolog", "Pez In My Brain", "The Pezed Bars" and "Parapsykolog" still have a strange effect on me. Maybe it's because I've always been interested in psychedelia. Maybe because, when I watched them again in the late 90's, I had been experimenting with drugs quite a lot myself. Or maybe because I feel that these demos are far more personal than 99% of the things I've seen in my long career as a demo scener. Fact of the matter is: they have managed to scare me. I remember watching Psykolog a few years ago, at night, and not being able to shake that unpleasant feeling for the next few hours.

Also, I remember a letter HBH wrote to me many years ago, in which he told me about the current situation of some of his team-members. Bearing that letter in mind, some of the texts are quite frightening: I can't really say anything more about it as I'm not sure if it's public knowledge.

Anyway, Panoramic Designs released one more demo, arguably the best of them all: Mentallic. With that they managed to combine the great design of their first demos with the psychedelia of the last four. However, HBH did not contribute, and it made for a less eccentric, and maybe even less interesting production. But maybe it's better this way: his parts probably wouldn't have fit in. After all, they were really in a class of their own.