Microsoft open sources 1995 kids’ favorite -3D Movie Maker • The Register


Microsoft continued its record of open-source curiosities from the past and released the code behind kid-favorite 3D Movie Maker.

You can take a look here.

For anyone too young to remember the tool, it rolled out of Microsoft Kids’ educational subsidiary in 1995 and enabled the creation of movies using props, actors and scenes, all rendered in glorious 3D circa 1995 Different camera angles could be used, and while voice and music samples were included, users could import their own audio to add to the fun.

Various expansions and versions were produced (including a Nickelodeon-themed incarnation) before 3D Movie Maker did what all the cool Microsoft-produced stuff does, and ended up in the Redmond closet where the band, the Media Center and Groove were locked up.

However, in April, Twitter user (and self-proclaimed “software necromancer”) @foone suggested that maybe Microsoft would like to open up the old thing for extension and expansion. And Microsoft, in the guise of Scott Hanselman and his friends, responded.

Before Reg readers are too excited, it’s important not to confuse 3D Movie Maker with the much-missed Windows Movie Maker, which was a handy tool for playing with video files and released as part of the Windows Essentials suite at about the same time as Windows Me then XP.

Nor will the code be built with modern tools. “Modern compilers don’t like some of the pre-C++98 conventions,” notes the README, and a short folder name on root is needed if interested users can gather the required components. Those were the days, huh?

You will also have to manually insert the infamous Comic Sans font files into the directory structure due to licensing issues.

Licensing issues have generally hampered the open source of many older codebases, so it’s encouraging to see a version of Argonaut Software’s BRender included in the repository with an anecdote attributed to Jez San, former CEO of Argonaut :

When Sam Littlewood designed BRender, he didn’t write the code and then document it (like most things were built back then). First, he wrote the manual – the complete documentation that served as the specification. Then the coding started.

This writer well remembers Argonaut from the Starglider series on the Commodore Amiga of the late 1980s. certain age.


Starwing: Nintendo, Argonaut’s British boffinry and the Super FX chip


As for 3D Movie Maker, the code is very “as is”, but with a cleanup to remove developer credentials. The repo is also a historical record, although forking is encouraged for experimentation.

The full archive, which included alternate versions and products, is also not present. However, there’s enough for someone with the right tools and enough ambition to bring the old thing back to life.

The open source of 3D Movie Maker closely follows the open source of File Manager and early versions of MS-DOS.

We can’t help but wonder what else might be ripe to dig out of Redmond’s underground and upload to GitHub. Media Center, anyone? ®


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