3D Movie Maker
Microsoft’s 3D Movie Maker (ages 8 & up), which brings McZee (the host of Creative Writer and Fine Artist) into the world of 3-D, is breathtaking on first glance – like the animated McZee himself – but once you get past the glitz, there’s not enough in the way of substance to really satisfy. Kids can make real 3-D movies with this CD-ROM, which means that the technology you’ve seen in Toy Story and Virtua-Fighter (first hinted at in Tron) is finally available for the home market. These virtual characters are made of 3-D tubes, with lots of shadows to create the illusion of depth, and not too much in the way of facial expressions. There’s no denying that they look pretty cool. The problem is, there’s not much they can do except sit there and look cool. Choose your actors, choose a scene, choose a camera angle; so far, so good. When it comes time for dialogue, however, you’ll have to settle for only a small selection of pre-recorded lines, unless you’ve got the initiative to record your own. If you do opt to record your own, you’re probably looking to make a finished product that this disc can’t possibly deliver. Each character possesses just a handful of possible actions. The only one that approximates a fist fight is ‘karate kick’, so if you want to have two characters fighting each other, all they can do is kick and kick and kick. You begin to get the idea of the limitations here. The movies run slowly, and the most you can hope for is a short film that makes sense: dreamers of subtle character illumination and intricate plot twists had best look elsewhere. Some of the better devices of past animation programs have been incorporated into the disc, including a synchronization function and a way to add text. Basic problems, however, are still unsolved; your characters don’t open a door, but instead breeze right through it. 3D Movie Maker is a high-production step in the right direction, but animation CD-ROMs still have a ways to go if they want to truly satisfy ambitious young filmmakers.
– March 1996