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Compos are typically held at demoparties. The usual format is to show the competing entries sequentially with a video projector, after which the winners are chosen by public vote. In addition to party-based contests, there have also been online compos on websites and bulletin board systems.
The main competition on most demoparties is the demo compo. A typical party also includes an intro compo (for demos with a file size restriction), a music compo and a graphics compo. Other common contests include wild compo (for any kind of video material) and game development compo. Compos are often split into subcategories by technical and stylistic restrictions.
Compos at a demoparty are usually held during the afternoon and lasting after midnight, usually on the last whole day of the party. Each compo has its designated deadline, to which the competitors must deliver their entries, either via traditional physical media or through the party LAN. The purpose of the deadline is to allow the compo crew to prepare the assets of the competition: the crew makes sure that each entry runs correctly, perhaps records them to video in case of alternative platforms. The crew also performs preselection on the entries to be able to fit in a given timeframe with the competition, and also to maintain a quality level for a given competition. (Preselection at larger parties has always been a controversial standpoint, given the versatile stylistic state of the demoscene productions.) While deadlines are usually explicitly stated at demoparties, most parties are rather flexible considering release handins, especially if they are aware of a release's high quality—demogroups who can't finish the production before the deadline often create "placeholder" versions of demos, which serve the purpose of reserving the place for the production in the compo.
Compos show the production in a sequential order; some parties prefer to reorder competition entries in an ascending order quality-wise, so the best entries are left for the end of the competition. Each entry receives a unique "compo-slide", a generated screen which displays the entry's number in the competition, title, author, and sometimes, various specific things such as author comments or platform specific notes. At some parties, individual competitions (music and graphics) omit the display of the author name at this point, in order to avoid "namevoting".
The entry is then shown with a video projector and PA system; in case of music, through its specific replayer with the compo slide staying on screen (a few parties used to prefer showing the module patterns in case of tracked music, but this competition has become rare in general); and in case of graphics, through an image viewer program (Breakpoint expanded this tradition by also zooming inside the picture to reveal technical details for the trained eye). Applause is always awarded for an entry after it was shown, even if it was a below-average quality entry by someone who never created a production before; it is usually the actual effort behind the production that's awarded. It is not uncommon to hear applause during the display of a demo or intro when a remarkable effect is shown; this type of display of respect is generally considered a huge achievement and is highly regarded by the creators.
After the compo, visitors are given the opportunity to vote. Voting methods used to vary between parties: earlier parties preferred the "oldskool" paper votesheets, but most of them only allow voting through the party-LAN now, using votekeys handed out to the audience. To avoid mass-votes by individuals, a votesheet or votekey is usually only handed out to a visitor in exchange of a mark on the ticket, such as tickmark or the removal of the wristband. Votes, usually done via either preferential voting or range voting, are calculated after the voting deadline, which is usually some hours after the last compo. (Assembly is a curiosity in this case; due to the amount of compos at the party, ASM traditionally holds two voting deadlines and two prizegivings.) After the votes have been counted, a prizegiving ceremony is issued where the prizes are awarded to the winners; prizes usually consist of hardware and software, sometimes cash and often some sort of memorabilia of the party, such as medals, trophies or printed diplomas.
Fastcompos are a common form of entertainment at demoparties. Unlike regular compos, fastcompos are announced at the party, usually only a few hours to a day before the deadline, and often have some design or theme limitations. Fastcompos may be held for music, graphics, demos and anything else regular compos are.