Overshadowed in recent years by its popular cousin Flash, Director quietly progressed, cleaning up its interface and adding a wide variety of tools. With the release of version 8.5, Director stands ready to pull ahead of the pack. Sporting a rich-featured, mature authoring environment, enhanced with RealMedia playback and killer 3D technology developed in partnership with Intel, Director packs a punch. Overshadowed in recent years by its popular cousin Flash, Director quietly progressed, cleaning up its interface and adding a wide variety of tools. With the release of version 8.5, Director stands ready to pull ahead of the pack. Sporting a rich-featured, mature authoring environment, enhanced with RealMedia playback and killer 3D technology developed in partnership with Intel, Director packs a punch.
The total package
With this single--albeit high-priced--tool, you can create standalone CD-ROM content, kiosk presentations, and Shockwave movies for the Web. The new Shockwave Studio lets you build true streaming 3D graphics, perfect for games, application interfaces, and product demonstrations. Shockwave Player isn't as popular as Flash Player, but we think that the new capabilities make it a worthwhile download for your users. Unlike the prerendered 3D content displayed in Flash, Shockwave 3D content displays in real time, based on actual object models. The built-in 3D system also allows for powerful bones animation (created in third-party applications), cartoon-style rendering, and even particle effects that mimic smoke or water. Because the 3D-playback technology in the Shockwave Player scales according to your hardware, you can still view the content on older machines, although it will be less detailed.
Director doesn't provide a 3D authoring environment of its own; instead, it integrates with established software to import models, textures, and scenes. Even if you lack the cash for a full-featured 3D program, you can still import models created by other developers, often available as free downloads on the Web. Keep in mind that Director recognizes files in only W3D and OBJ format; VRML, WRL, or DXF will not work. You can bring imported objects to life by applying behaviors and scripts from the Library. With prebuilt behaviors, you don't have to be a programmer to create basic animation effects. For the hard-core developer, Director 8.5 also offers new Lingo keywords that let you create and manipulate 3D objects on the fly.
Beefier back end, multimedia support
Director 8.5 boasts new support for XML data and an enhanced Multiuser Server. The Multiuser Server, a back end for live chat rooms and multiplayer games, now supports 2,000 simultaneous users and server-side scripting. Director also excels at combining multiple media types. It not only handles text, graphics, audio, QuickTime, and PowerPoint, but also incorporates streaming RealVideo and RealAudio, as well as 3D elements and Flash 5.0 movies.
Unfortunately, Director still doesn't export cross-platform CD-ROM content. To create executables for Windows and Macintosh, you have to shell out for two copies of Director--a Windows version and a Mac version. Multiple platforms automatically support Shockwave content on the Web, but cross-platform CD-ROM producers are out of luck (or just a lot more cash).
Director 8.5 looks like a must-have for any professional developer building interactive Web content. Despite the hefty price tag, Director remains a strong buy, especially for upgrading customers.