My first attempts at computer graphics were in the early 90s with AutoCAD for DOS running on a 486. AutoCAD is a design tool meant for architecture and engineering, not 3D animation - it couldn't do keyframing or rendering. But using AutoCAD I learned the fundamentals of 3D modeling, and then moved on to 3D Studio 4 for DOS. Primitive by today's standards, it was the best 3D package available for PCs at the time, with features like inverse kinematics, morphing, and motion blur.
When I was a freshman at college, 3D Studio MAX debuted and its object-oriented design revolutionized the way 3D was done on the PC platform. Modeling, and to a large extent animation, was performed with non-destructive modifiers that could be stacked on top of one another. This meant that you could go back to an old modifier at any point in the stack to tweak its settings without losing all the changes made in subsequent modifiers.
I began creating Ornaments with 3D Studio MAX 1.2. By the time I'd begun animating, version 2.5 was released. I was convinced to upgrade when I saw the new image motion blur feature. It achieved reasonably good motion blur by quickly post-processing a single rendered frame rather than compositing multiple rendered images, which allowed me to apply image motion blur to every object in Ornaments with minimal cost at render time. Version 2.5 also allowed for animation of individual vertices of an object, offered material supersampling to prevent texture scintillation, and had better OpenGL performance, among other new features. No third-party plugins were used in Ornaments, nor was Character Studio or IK.
Here's a screenshot to show what it was like to animate a scene:
All editing was done by rendering preview AVIs through OpenGL and laying them out in Adobe Premiere. Since I was coordinating the music and action, a lot of time was spent at this stage to get the timing right. After I was satisfied with the video and music synchronization, I rendered to Targa image files.
Sound Forge proved invaluable for sound recording and editing. Using its pitch-bend feature, I created a doppler effect for the train and tinsel sliding sounds.
I chose Windows NT 4.0 Workstation as the operating system on both PCs. It was stable and efficient, able to utilize both processors in my second computer for rendering and encoding, but it did suffer an occasional blue screen due to faulty drivers. To this day it remains my favorite release of Windows.