Create professional interactive multimedia with Director MX

Long before Flash and Dream­­weaver, Director was Macromedia’s premiere application for multimedia, providing extensive tools for designing animation and interactive programs that could be distributed on CD-ROM and, later, across the Web.

The introduction — and roaring success — of Flash has resulted in something of a decline for Director. As Macromedia moved towards a standard interface across its MX suite (incorporating Flash, Dreamweaver, Freehand and ColdFusion), for a time it appeared that Director was going to be left behind, but the latest version has been integrated into the rest of Macromedia’s range.

Unless you use OS X for the Mac, this release will probably seem much less substantial than version 8.5, which introduced a widely adopted 3D engine, although people who regularly use Macromedia products will welcome its improvements to the workspace.

Leaving interface changes aside, perhaps the biggest differences in the latest release concentrates on integration with Flash. At a first glance, this brings you up against Director’s main problem — interactivity — particularly across the Web. Flash is ubiquitous, offers small file sizes for downloads and, since the improvements to ActionScript in version 5.0, has moved towards becoming a usable tool for application development rather than just animation — all at a fraction of the cost of Director.

Flash is far from perfect, however. The MX release included tools for video, but they are still inferior to those for Director, as is support for bitmap as opposed to vector images. In addition, Macromedia appears to be considering Director as a support for back-end control of advanced features in Flash, providing features such as copies of Flash Communications Server and Flash Remoting MX that are useful for video conferencing, and live control of Flash movies via ColdFusion or Microsoft’s .NET server.

Beyond Flash, however, your reasons for upgrade will boil down to two things: do you need to provide multimedia applications on disc for the new Macintosh operating system as well as Windows, and how important are the (considerable) improvements to Director’s interface to bring it in line with other MX programs? If you are using version 8.5 and are not particularly interested in using Director with Flash, or in producing applications for Mac, the changes introduced in the last release will probably be sufficient for your requirements.

That said, changes to the interface should not be dismissed if you do a great deal of work with this program (see here for a screenshot). Anyone who uses Director MX is unlikely to wish to return to an earlier release, and Macromedia’s general work on interface design looks set to pay real dividends for multimedia professionals. These are also precisely the sort of people who are likely to use both Director and Flash for different applications, so integration between the two (as well as the rest of the MX range) will be greatly appreciated.

Director still remains the best of breed for producing interactive multimedia for distribution on disc (DVD and CD) as well as online, with a price to match. However, the very success of Flash means that anyone seeking to enter into multimedia development will consider the cheaper program first.

In brief: Macromedia Director MX
If you need 3D or expect a lot of video and image work on disc, choose Director — but for everything else, Flash is generally the better option.
Price: $2699; $899 upgrade from 8.0/8.5
Vendor: Macromedia
Phone: 1800 001 014
URL: www.macromedia.com.au

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