Adobe Systems Director 11
- Vista and Leopard support, support for Flash 9, PhysX engine and DirectX9, new bitmap filters, Unicode and text engine enhancements; script browser, code snippets
- No PPC support for Mac users, workflow and installation gripes on Windows Vista, no GPU enhancements for Mac users, relatively expensive
It's tempting to see Director's resurrection as a timely response to the focus on rich-media online and offline applications, which has been sparked by Adobe AIR and Microsoft Silverlight. However, aside from workflow enhancements and some changes to scripting and physics, there's nothing groundbreaking in this release. The logical next move would be to beef up the feature set with something really novel.
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Director has been notable by its absence in the successive Master Collections, so it's refreshing to see this old stalwart of the multimedia-authoring brigade decked out in Adobe's new livery.
When developed by Macromedia, Director was always the heavyweight alternative to Flash, for example offering support for 3-D objects and physics simulators to provide the basis for Internet games using Shockwave. In Director 11, the PhysX engine from Ageia Technologies has superseded the Havoc physics-simulation engine.
Offered as an integrated Xtra (Director's name for plug-ins), this can create rigid bodies of primitive and complex shapes and create terrains in the physics scene using static concave objects. The PhysX engine can detect and control events in the 3-D world through raycasting, through registering collision callback for colliding bodies and enabling/disabling callback for specific rigid bodies. To take full advantage of these new capabilities, however, you'll need a working knowledge of Director's scripting language, Lingo.
As you'd expect from an Adobe product, there is full support for Flash CS3 content in Director 11 (including drag-and-drop editing), and the ability to create Flash ActionScript objects and access all of their properties and methods. The installation CD for Windows is meant to include Flash Media Server, the Flash Media Server authoring components for Flash and documentation (the Mac installation CD only includes the authoring components and documentation). However, we couldn't locate these extras on our Windows disc.
Director works with a wide variety of other media types — over 40 are supported, including QuickTime, and most other audio, video and image formats. It scores over vector-based applications with support for bitmap filters, such as those available for Photoshop, which can apply effects to bitmap images. While this isn't a new feature in Director, version 11 adds ten new filters to the line-up, including Adjust Colour, Blur, Drop Shadow, Bevel and Glow. There are also distortion and noise filters in the shape of Convolution Matrix, Displacement Map and Perlin Noise.
Director 11 uses a new text engine to embed fonts in Shockwave output: the Bitstream engine adjusts to render text on any platform and any resolution. Director now also offers Unicode text and font support, which is essential when designing for an international audience.
There are several user-interface enhancements with this version. Message and Cast windows are now tool windows and the Debugger window, which was a part of the script window, is now a separate window; there are new options to float or unfloat tool windows.
The biggest change, however, is that the document windows now appear as separate tabs in a central docking channel, which is useful for focusing on a particular part of the workflow. The Stage and Score windows can be docked together by pressing Cmd/Ctrl and then dropping the Score window over the Stage window. New media editors appear as separate tabs in the maximised tabbed view and Windows users can add new tabs for a media editor by clicking the Plus button. The result is a more streamlined workflow.
This edition adds support for Windows Vista and Windows XP SP2, but Mac users will find that the authoring application will only run on Mac OS X 10.4 on Intel processors. This level of support also extends to Director's Shockwave plug-in technology, in the form of the Shockwave Player (for online playback) and Shockwave Projector (for standalone applications), but here at least PPC Macs are supported. You'll still need to be running at least Mac OS X 10.4, though.
Windows users will also be able to use the new support for DirectX 9 to take advantage of graphics hardware to render 3D elements, if they have a compatible video card.
Installation was straightforward enough, and the application takes up relatively little space, but when installing on Vista we had to run the program as an Administrator to avoid an annoying licensing glitch. Another minor grumble is that the installer doesn't automatically place a shortcut to the application in the Windows Vista Start menu or on the desktop.
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