With the soon to be advent of Director 8.5. Director 8 was initself a mind blower. Even with the steep learning curve attatched to director any person working with the Internet or Multimedia cannot afford to be without this product. Ideal for the student (even if it is a little pricey) or the seasoned proffesional looking to make their first steps into advanced interactivity. With up graded features on its Vecta palet and supported colour system for web safe colors really make this a authoring system to be reconed with. One of the most excellent freatures of Director 8 is its upgrade in the object Orinatated langue of Lingo. Lingo is one of the easiset programming languages to learn and gives you excellent grounding to move onto such things as C++ or Java. A key feature of the new Lingo is its sister inside of director called Net Lingo. Where Lingo traditonally has been used to produce Multimedia cd roms Net Lingo as the name iplies has been developed for the web. Integaryted with this is Shaockwave and coupled with it's other authoring system Flash and once again Macromedia have developed a package to be reckoned with. In the coming months ahead with the eagerly anticipated release of Director 8.5 will the Boys at the big M (and not B.Gates lot) once again produce a winner? My money's on a definate certinty and as a classic film once stated "I'll buy that for a dollar"
Another year, another release of Director. Version 7 was a superb product, and Macromedia will have done well if it can improve upon the features of Director 7 that made it such a great product, such as the greater Internet capabilities, vector shapes and embedded fonts. Director 8 lacks any new feature as useful as these, and feels more like a number of minor enhancements that add up to a recommended upgrade rather than an essential purchase. With version 8, Macromedia continues to focus Director primarily as a Web content creation tool. The Director Shockwave Studio, containing the Multiuser Server 2, Fireworks 3 and a sound tool (SoundForge XP on the PC, Peak LE on the Mac) as well as the main Director application, is aimed first and foremost as an Internet media tool with other multimedia applications playing a distinct second fiddle. This is underlined by the old Save as Shockwave command now being called Publish, and there is even a Preview in Browser feature, assuming you’ve got the latest version of the Shockwave Player installed. The most obvious changes to the user interface in version 8 are the new Property Inspector and the revised Cast window. The Property Inspector let you see and adjust the parameters of a Cast Member, Sprite, or multiple objects. It provides a much more consistent way to access Sprite properties, making many dialog boxes redundant, and helping to streamline the authoring process. The revised Cast window now gives you to option to switch from the conventional thumbnail view to a list view, which not only saves screen space but enables you to sort by media-type, name, and creation date. You can even add notes. This makes it much easier to manage assets, especially when you have large casts with many different media types scattered throughout. The Stage has also been given a few new twists, including finally, guides for accurate placement of elements, and the ability to distribute
sprites evenly as well as align them. You can now also lock sprites to prevent accidental editing. A nice touch is the ability to zoom the Stage in for close editing or out to save screen space. This feature, together with the cast list capability, make Director 8 less of a screen hog than previous versions. However, all these are essentially workflow enhancements, and while they might free up a developer’s time to be more creative, have no direct impact on the end-user’s experience of the results. Features that will be apparent to users are slightly thinner on the ground. The most obvious of these is what’s called Runtime Imaging, which allows you to control sprites on screen through Lingo, for instance to apply graphic transition effects, and composition effects. The aim of this is to allow you to combine graphics effects to create complex graphics from smaller, simple graphics, saving file size and precious download time. Shockwave movies are now scalable, which will allow developers to create full browser area movies and create a more immersive experience. The Publish command, which outputs a Director file as a Shockwave movie, can convert bitmap files to JPEGs for greater compression, and can automatically create loader movies that play while the main movie is downloading. The Shockwave Multiuser Server is one of the most exciting new developments from Macromedia, allowing the creation of multi-user online environments such as games, chat rooms and virtual communities. Version 2 of this server based Xtra is more robust, and allows the connection of up to 1,000 users simultaneously. Expect to see a lot more chat engines and multiuser environments built with Shockwave in the future. The only other new feature of note is the incorporation of the Sound Xtra, which allows much better control over sound, including synchronization of multiple audio streams and panning control. This makes Director even
better as a tool for creating audio toys, interactive mixers, and audio jukeboxes.
With D8, Macromedia has addressed a number of problems that I found annoying. It still has problems but it is definitely heading in the right direction. The new imaging Lingo commands are worth the upgrade alone as it allows manipulation of images without having to put them on to the stage. The new layout, though alien at first has become a great asset too. It allows changes to main items and settings, which required some searching for in previous versions, much quicker. The only problem with it, after learning where everything is, is that the Property Inspector insists on being in the foreground constantly. This has the effect of hiding anything underneath it, usually something you are looking for, like scripts, until you move it off the area of the screen. Getting a bigger or a second monitor could resolve this, but I have had to struggle to get a single 19" so the likelihood of this happening is slim. The main problem is however that for some of the most commonly used features in multimedia (e.g. MPEG video, exporting images etc) you will still need a costly Xtra. Having to uses these Xtras to allow the use of what I consider fundamental multimedia components in the industrial standard setting product is highly irritating. That said it is very rare that I have not found an Xtra that can save me the cost in time alone. A related difficulty, depending on the size and budgets of your company or the intended use of Director is that after you have spent £700+ (£300 upgrade) you then have to keep going to who ever pays the bills with a request for a different Xtra for a job (Accountants and bosses seem to frown on this in most organisations I have worked in and Girlfriends if your working for yourself seem doubly unimpressed.) It isn't as large a leap as from 6 to 7 but still a great upgrade. The 30 day trial download from the Macromedia website gives a taste but doesn't give you long enough to find out how much better this version is
, as I have been working with it for 4 months now and only after about 2 months did I start finding out how much better, faster and stable Director 8 is.