I wrote something a few years back about Snapprint, a t-shirt printing company that did literally one thing (printing some words on a t-shirt for you) very well. It is gone now, because things that do one thing well don't seem to be favoured by the modern economy. Thankfully, though, a lot of software projects are made by hobbyists and are thus a little more resistant to the winds of commerce.

I was talking to someone about old digital cameras because of my recent purchase of a little point-and-shoot, and I found myself flashing back to the mid-2000s, when my brother, our friends and I would make Star Wars fanfilms (thankfully lost to time—unless's Google Video Archive ever becomes actually searchable) using a digital camera my dad had borrowed from work, Windows Moviemaker and a little piece of software we found online called LSmaker.

We'd searched around for how to put lightsabers in our videos, and understood if you want to Do Things Properly you needed to get After Effects or whatever. We would've loved to Do Things Properly, but also we just wanted to add glowy effects over the videos of us pretend-swordfighting with sticks and trying desperately not to give in to the temptation to make lightsaber noises while doing so. Crucially, we also wanted not to get in trouble with our friend's mum by downloading a dodgy version of something off Limewire and getting a virus on their computer. Miraculously, though, someone had made some software that let us do exactly this.

I can't actually find much about who made LSMaker online—perhaps unsurprising for a freeware app that hasn't been updated in over 15 years. Some digging on the Wayback Machine leads me to the old website, where I discover that the person who made it is Hungarian and seems happy to remain pseudonymous. I also discovered that they also made some programmes called LSSound and LSText which allow the addition of sound and text "just like in the movies" to your videos. It's also a charmingly of its time site with its perpetually-windmilling lightsaber gifs at the top.

I recall LSMaker having a degree of depth—it could in theory do a whole bunch of stuff, explosions and various other things. Looking at screenshots like the one above, there were even more options than I remember—but it was also possible to use it, very easily, in the simplest way imaginable: pick a lightsaber colour and paint it onto the video frame-by-frame. I think this is quite important—software of this variety can certainly do other things if you want to, or do the thing you want to in a more complicated way, but it must be easy enough to do the main thing that literal children could do it, and not get too put off by the rest of it.

When I was talking about LSMaker on Memhaz a few weeks back I mentioned one particular bit of animation I did when someone threw one of the lightsabers and because of the relatively low frame rate of the camera, the stick blurred in a way and I realised how I might be able to convey motion by expanding the shape of the lightsaber into an arc. I'm not a particularly skilled visual artist but I'd still count what I did with that as legitimately good. It was possible to make something that was (to us at the time) very cool with a limited set of tools.

Obviously you can do stuff that's arguably a lot more impressive these days with a Snapchat filter. My brother, though, ended up being a professional 3D artist and animator, and I reckon it's at least in part because we used to do stuff like this. I don't know if Snapchat filters are inspiring people to do that; I think you probably want to make the one thing as easy and as straightforward as possible, while not doing everything for you.  

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