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
[Page 3 of 5]

And yet, just because behaviors can be accessed from a preset library doesn't mean that you're compromising power and flexibility. Let's not forget the 566-page scripting dictionary for expanding Director's capabilities.

The familiar timeline carries over from earlier versions of Director.

3D on the Web ... that people can view
All right. So we've established that it's powerful, easy and expandable. Now let's talk about what's been added since 8.0.

Of course, at the top of everybody's list of drool-inducing features is the ability to animate 3D for the Web, add interactivity to it and deliver it to an incredibly large base of users who have the capability to view it—200 million, according to Macromedia. (This may or may not be accurate; but suffice to say that a whole lot of people have the Shockwave viewer plugin in their browsers.) See, a lot of companies have developed technologies to enable interactive 3D content on the Web. There are Cult 3D and Viewpoint Experience Technology, to name a couple. And I'm not trying to pick on the companies that put out these technologies, but, when it comes down to it, how many people have plugins to access content that you develop on these platforms? If you're developing content for a client, does this client care which one is better if few of their customers can view it?


3D objects, just like regular objects and behaviors, are
added to the Internal Cast list.

Now, I'm not a big fan of this argument in and of itself. I am a Mac guy, after all, and Mac guys don't cotton to any ad populem arguments. If Shockwave 3D were garbage, I'd say forget about it, use what's best and promote it so that it becomes the dominant standard. But Shockwave 3D is incredibly easy to develop; it looks nice on the user end; it's flexible in terms of bandwidth; and it offers some extra goodies that you might just be interested in. So, in short, it's worthwhile in and of itself.

Here's what I think makes it nice.

First, as I mentioned, it's easy to develop for. Director 8.5 adds two new library categories for controlling 3D, as well as 300 new Lingo commands. (Lingo is Director's scripting language.) So let's say you have a 3D television. You want people to be able to rotate the television around, zoom in, pan, dolly, etc. How do you do it? Just as with the 2D library items, you simply drag the behavior onto the object, adjust your preferences and click OK. Save it; embed it in your Web page; and everybody can interact with your 3D television. The same goes with several other 3D library features. Plus, you can even use many of the 2D behaviors on 3D objects. Just drag them onto your 3D object as you would onto a 2D object.

Just as with 2D objects, 3D objects have their own library of behaviors.
3D objects can also use many of the 2D behaviors.

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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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