AUGUST 1, 2001
by David Nagel
So here we have the granddaddy of multimedia authoring. I can remember playing with early versions of Director and liking it all right, but not being in love with it and not really caring for what was being produced with it. Last year, I got a hold of Macromedia Director 8.0, and all of that changed. With version 8, Macromedia did a serious revision of this hulking suite of authoring tools, tightened it up, brought in some usability features that almost made me cry and overhauled the workflow to make it about as easy to use as a graphics program, but retaining and expanding the robustness that gives the program its real power. Director 8.5 expands upon this even further with support for 3D, including physics; support for streaming Real Video and Real Audio; and integration with Macromedia Flash 5, just to name a few.
Now, I say all of this by way of introduction to Director because there's no way I can give a complete overview of the program. This is probably the most complex tool I've ever reviewed. I don't mean "complex" as in difficult to use; I mean "complex" as in where do you even start with a program that includes a 566-page scripting dictionary and a 597-page book covering just the stuff that's new since the last release? The manuals total 1,642 pages2,056 if you count the manual for Fireworks 4, which is included with the suite.
I don't bring this up to make the program sound daunting; it's not. It's just that it was designed let you create literally anythinginteractive Web content, stand-alone applications, games for distribution on CD-ROM, Web chat rooms, Web-based multiplayer gamesreally anything you can think of. This is a total authoring solution. If there's an application you can think of, you can probably create it in Director 8.5.
Macromedia Fireworks is an image editing and Web graphics tool for doing everything from building graphics to compressing for the Web to creating interactive animations, such as button rollovers. (I've reviewed Macromedia Fireworks 4 separately, which you can read here.)
The Shockwave Multiuser Server 3 is an updated Shockwave server that allows up to 2,000 users to participate in multi-user Shockwave content simultaneously. This includes multi-user games, chat rooms, etc. This is actually twice the number of users allowed under the previous Shockwave Server. It supports server-side scripting and uses the UDP protocol for more efficient data delivery than was found in previous versions.
Both the Mac and Windows audio editing tools are "lite" versions of professional audio editors. They allow for limited functionalitybasically enough to put together some audio before bringing it into Director 8.5.
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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications.