Multimedia authoring software gets even better: Director MX 2004

In a world where multimedia authoring applications have shelf lives little longer than the average loaf of organic bread, the continuing success of Macromedia’s Director, which began life as VideoWorks more than a decade ago, is all the more remarkable.

Director may no longer be as popular as its younger stablemate, Flash, when it comes to authoring Web multimedia. But in other environments such as interactive CD-ROMs, games and 3D, the program’s versatility and power remains unquestioned.

Although not part of the recently-released Macromedia Studio MX 2004 bundle, which included Flash Pro, Dream-weaver and Freehand, Director MX 2004 has adopted a matching appearance — and the same strict product activation policy.

The level of integration with other Studio applications isn’t limited to looks. For example, you can directly launch and edit Flash MX 2004 content in Director, saving you an awkward round-trip, and you can now drag and drop Flash components from the Code Library palette into your project.

Click here to see an illustration of how Flash components can be dragged and dropped from the Code library.

Although some standard pre-built com-ponents such as a calendar and text fields are included, the beauty of integrated elements is that they allow Flash developers to easily repurpose their work. In fact, throughout Director MX 2004 there is a clear attempt to embrace a wider constituency of users by adopting standards. In the past, interactivity in Director relied exclusively on Lingo, its unique scripting language.

The ability to now author in JavaScript opens the program to a wider range of users. Another plus for coders is the ability to name sprites and channels, so you can now refer to them directly in your scripts, making them easier to handle. Aside from this, the scripting environment remains largely unchanged.

Click here to see an illustration of switching between Lingo and JavaScript.

One new feature that will universally delight commercial Director developers is the ability to use a single version of Director to create Mac and PC Projector files that run completed Director projects. Previously, you had to purchase separate Director applications native to each environment you were targeting. The ability to author for multiple platforms can be configured from a single tabbed window.

An even more exciting innovation offered by MX 2004 is DVD-video support, although the reality is more prosaic. Director hasn’t suddenly flowered into a DVD authoring tool that can create DVDs playable on standard players. Instead, DVD support merely means you can embed MPEG-2 video into a Director project and link to DVD media on the host PC.

Nevertheless, it enables you to now create rich PC-based multimedia with a new DVD Event Manager, allowing you to trigger events such as Web access during DVD playback. While most items on the Director wishlist have now been checked off — including the ability to create custom icons for executable Projector files — there are a few that the new version fails to address. The only serious disappointment is the lack of improvement to Director’s 3D engine. It’s a key tool for the growing number of interactive 3D modellers and it sets Director apart from the less powerful Flash.

In brief:

The ability to author cross-platform makes the upgrade to Macromedia Director MX 2004 a simple choice for existing users. If you’ve hit the development ceiling with Flash, Director is a more powerful, but expensive, alternative.
Price: $1516 (new users); $805 (upgrade from 8.5)
Vendor: Macromedia Asia Pacific
Phone: 1800 001 014

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Tom Gorham

PC World
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