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Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio

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Multimedia authoring tools have it rough--they need to support every new media type that comes along. Macromedia's Director lets you import any popular media--including, as of version 8.5, 3-D models--and write scripts that specify how the media will animate or interact with viewers. Although 3-D support is the program's flashiest addition, Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio's support for Real Media and Flash 5 content may be a more practical feature.

A 3-D World Wide Web

Director's theater metaphor involves importing media (such as images and sounds), turning them into cast members, placing them on a stage (the viewing area), and writing scripts for them to perform. You can export your assembled movie as a stand-alone application (a projector ) or as a Shockwave movie viewable on the Web via the free Shockwave Player. (To create projectors that run on PCs, you'll need the Windows version of Director.)

Director's new 3-D capabilities allow viewers to inspect 3-D objects from any angle and to play games featuring real-time collisions. But this 3-D technology is different because the graphics stream over the Internet and take advantage of the acceleration provided by modern video cards.

Though Director lets you display and synchronize 3-D media, you'll need a separate 3-D-modeling program to do the creating. Sadly, no modeling programs for the Mac currently let you export models in the Shockwave 3D format. Most popular modeling packages (on all platforms) will support this new format soon; in the meantime, you'll need to create models in Windows, using Discreet's 3ds max or Caligari's trueSpace.

Making Director Behave

To script your movie, you can use Director's Lingo programming language or you can simply drag and drop prebuilt behaviors onto cast members placed on a stage. Version 8.5's 23 new 3-D behaviors, added to the existing library of 100 behaviors,

let you program 3-D interactions--fly-throughs, rotating objects, and camera movements--without programming.

Of course, creating sophisticated movies requires programming skill. The good news is, Lingo has been expanded to allow complete control of the 3-D environment, although programming in 3-D is much more difficult than using behaviors.

Version 8.5's emphasis on 3-D comes at the expense of other needed improvements. Director 8.0 introduced a new interface, as well as several new features, including imaging Lingo (for pixel-level manipulation of graphics) and sound controls. Macromedia doesn't seem to have given priority to updating or revising those features, though it did squash many related bugs.

To Macromedia's credit, it added support for Flash 5 and Real Media. You also get updated versions of Fireworks and Multiuser Server, which now allows as many as 2,000 simultaneous users and includes new features such as server-side scripting and multithreading for better performance.

Macworld's Buying Advice

Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio's new features are limited to support for new media types, and it's not yet Carbonized (although it's stable in Mac OS X's Classic mode). But if you want to include 3-D models, Flash 5 movies, or Real Media content in your multimedia projects, this upgrade is well worth its minimal cost.

Planet of the 3-D Models: Director now supports 3-D media, but its modeling tools limit you to simple shapes such as these.
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