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Microsoft reanimates 1995's 3D Movie Maker via GitHub

Next Nadella keynote to be delivered by McZee?

Microsoft has continued its record of open-sourcing curiosities from the past and released the code behind kids' favorite 3D Movie Maker.

You can take a look here.

For anyone too young to remember the tool, it came out of Microsoft's Kids educational subsidiary in 1995 and permitted the creation of movies using props, actors and scenes, all rendered in glorious circa-1995 3D. Various camera angles could be used, and while sample voices and music 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 that thing that all neat stuff produced by Microsoft does, and shuffled off into the Redmond cupboard where the Band, Media Center and Groove were locked away.

However, in April, Twitter user (and self-described "software necromancer") @foone suggested that perhaps Microsoft might like to open-source the old thing for purposes of extension and expansion. And Microsoft, in the guise of Scott Hanselman and friends, responded.

Before Reg readers gets too excited, it is 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 around the same time as Windows Me and then XP.

The code also won't build with modern tools. "Modern compilers dislike some of the pre C++98 conventions," notes the README, and a short folder name on root is needed ever if interested users can gather the requisite components. Those were the days, eh?

You'll also need to manually pop the infamous Comic Sans font files into the directory structure due to licensing issues.

Licensing issues have generally stymied the open-sourcing of many an elderly codebase, and so it is heartening to see a build of Argonaut Software's BRender included in the repo along 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 (the way most things were built at the time). First, he wrote the manual – the full documentation that served as the spec. Then the coding started.

This writer well remembers Argonaut from the Starglider series on the Commodore Amiga of the late 1980s. Later games, such as 1993's Super NES hit, Star Fox, will also trigger a shiver of recollection among those of a certain age.


Starwing: Nintendo, Argonaut's Brit boffinry and the Super FX chip


As for 3D Movie Maker, the code is very much "as is", albeit with cleaning to remove developer identifying information. The repo is also a historical record, although forking is encouraged for experimentation purposes.

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

The open-sourcing of 3D Movie Maker comes hot on the heels of the open-sourcing of the likes of File Manager and early versions of MS-DOS.

We can't but help wonder what else could be ripe for dragging up from the basement of Redmond and uploading to GitHub. Media Center, anyone? ®

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