by Scott Porter - Amicroe Australia
VideoWorks was released by MacroMind in the late 80's as a fun, simple animation program that allowed you to create and play movies on your black and white Macintosh. MacroMind as become MacroMedia and VideoWorks has become cross platform Director 6.0.
Like its predecessor MacroMedia Director 6.0 still has at its core an animation engine, the files are still movies and are edited through a score window that controls the sequencing of events. This is where the similarities end. Director version 6.0 is the most powerful, yet easy to use multimedia authoring software I have had the pleasure to use.
I have never really mastered Lingo, the director scripting language - short of stop, start and go to marker. Thus I was delighted to discover the new drag and drop Behaviours feature, and the built in Behaviour Library of this latest version. Behaviours are basically pre-written lingo scripts that can be dragged and dropped on to the stage, cast members or places in the score. An example of a basic behaviour would be to change the cast member of a particular sprite when the mouse rolls over it. Third party behaviours are already available and down loadable from the web. File Flex for example, is a collection of behaviours that adds database functionality to a Director movie.
Perhaps the most prominent use for Director movies in recent times has been for animation sequences on web pages. Indeed it is now common place to see the made with MacroMedia icon, or to be asked if you are shocked when entering high budget pages such as www.nike.com. Director 6.0. has even more web oriented features, such as streaming shockwave, and tools to build CD/Internet hybrid applications. It is claimed the streaming shockwave feature will remove the "please wait while loading" that currently precedes many director movies on the web. At the time of writing, this feature had only been tested by loading the Director 6 shockwave plug-in and going to the MacroMedia demo page. Suprisingly enough it worked, but I got the feeling the demo movie was well suited to streaming.
The new Director 6 Shockwave plug-in also plays MacroMedia Flash movies. MacroMedia purchase Future Splash Animator from FutureWave Software and renamed it Flash late last year. Unlike Director, Flash uses vector-based graphics which are smaller and faster to load across the net. Flash is not nearly as powerful as Director but perhaps a better solution for basic web page work.
The new version of Director also has an improved sprite handling interface and more powerful and intuitive automatic tweening controls, now using key frames. One places a cast member on the stage, then enters the score window to define one or more key frames for that sprite. Properties of the cast member such as position, blend etc can be changed at each key frame. Director will then auto-animate between the key frames. New controls allowing ease in and out can be used to create smooth non-linear motion or blends.
Director 6 projectors can still be created for Windows 3.1x, as well as 32bit native projectors for Windows 95 and NT, and PowerMacintosh.
Let's face it, Director is not cheap... both to acquire and in other ways... I was playing with Director last night taking the screen snaps and realised that Derector NEEDS realestate. I'm using a 15" @ 800 x 600 and I couldn't edit the score and see the result at the same time. I put the resolution up to 1024 x 768 (on the Mac I can do this on the fly) and could still have used more. I thought I could use this as a worst feature paragraph at the end. Wanting to become a professional Director developer is perfect justification to invest in a 17" or even a 20". And, of course, as much RAM as you can manage!
According to the MacroMedia web page there are over 350,000 Director developers world wide which does not surprise me. You certainly do not need any programming prowess to create powerful interactive multimedia presentations.
A Glossary for the non-Director user...
Sprite: When a cast member is placed onto the stage it appears as a sprite in the score.
Tweening: When using Director to auto animate between keyframes, tweening is the control that is used to control the differences between consecutive frames.