Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio
at a Glance

Maker: Macromedia
Price: $1,199 for the full version (Studio includes Director 8.5, Fireworks 4, Shockwave Multiuser Server 3 and some freebie software); upgrades are also available
Platforms: Macintosh and Windows

Overall Impression: It's difficult to generalize about a suite as feature-rich as Director 8.5. This multimedia authoring suite offers incredible flexibility and robust scripting without being overly complicated. It allows you to build Web content or standalone applications with ease and with a great degree of sophistication. Whether you're developing the latest D&D adventure game or simply building a presentation to take on the road with you, it would be difficult to find something this powerful and easy to use.

Key Benefits: Director 8.5 is the first viable platform for total 3D and interactive authoring. The power is incredible, as is the simplicity for some of the more common functions. The ability to drag library behaviors over objects makes this an incredibly valuable tool for rapid multimedia development, while the Lingo scripting offers essentially unlimited expandability for more complex projects.

Disappointments: In terms of library support, the 3D offerings are plentiful, but you can't do as much with it. There are some playback problems with QuickTime elements, and there's also artifacting when you apply vector motions to 3D objects. (This last one could be a graphics card issue with the ATI Rage 128 AGP.)

Recommendation: Strong Buy as both an upgrade and a straight purchase.


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Macromedia Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio
Multimedia authoring suite for CD-ROM and the Web

by David Nagel
Executive Producer
[email protected]

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 pages—2,056 if you count the manual for Fireworks 4, which is included with the suite.

In this first example, this Shockwave 3D object uses
a simple "camera orbit" and a "change cursor"
command. Both of these are simply a matter of
dragging a behavior onto an object. No coding.

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 anything—interactive Web content, stand-alone applications, games for distribution on CD-ROM, Web chat rooms, Web-based multiplayer games—really 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.

Studio components
The Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio includes Director 8.5, Fireworks 4, Shockwave Multiuser Server 3, the Shockwave 8.5 player and Bias Peak LE for audio editing on the Mac and Sonic Foundry Sound Forge XP for audio editing in Windows. The CD also includes media for getting started using the program, including sample 3D objects, as well as the four aforementioned bulky manuals. Mac and Windows versions are included in the same box.

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 functionality—basically 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.
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