Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio, 3D Player previewed
By Dennis Sellers
There’s something shocking about
Macromedia’s upcoming Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio and the new Shockwave 3D Player (both due next month).
Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio now includes Intel Internet 3D Graphics software.
This combination provides an easy way for developers to deliver scalable, bandwidth-friendly, interactive, 3D Web content into the mainstream for the first time ever, Peter Ryce, Macromedia’s director of product marketing, told MacCentral
Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio and the new Shockwave 3D Player are being described as a solution for developing “magnetic” content and interactive media on the Web, CD/DVD-ROMs, kiosks and corporation intranets — including 3D animation, interactive product demonstrations, and online learning applications. Director combines graphics, sound, animation, text, and video to create streaming, interactive, multiuser content that Ryce said is “easy to deploy.”
What is “magnetic” content? Macromedia describes it as “interactive, entertaining, visually impressive” content that makes Web sites “sticky.” In other words, magnetic content attracts users to a site over and over again.
Last July, Macromedia and Intel announced joint development efforts to bring Intel’s Internet 3D Graphics software technology to the Macromedia Shockwave Player.
“The technology we are developing will be equally beneficial to both Mac and PC users,” Macromedia spokesperson, Megan Kirkwood, told MacCentral at the time. “This might seem strange coming from Intel, but I assure you it’s the case. Mac users will be able to experience everything that PC users and developers can experience.”
The Shockwave Player is a Web standard for multimedia playback. Shockwave Player users will have immediate access to 3D through the player’s auto-update feature, said Kirkwood. Shockwave Player displays destination Web content such as high-performance multi-user games, interactive product simulations, online entertainment and training applications. Through Xtras, Shockwave Player is also extensible to play back custom-built applications. The combination of Intel’s Internet 3D Graphics technology with the wide reach of the Shockwave Player will help broaden the use of 3D content on the Web from niche applications to widespread adoption, according to Macromedia and Intel reps.
“Our work with Macromedia is part of Intel’s strategy to continue to accelerate industry innovation and develop technologies to improve the experience people have when using the Internet,” Steve Spina, director of technology marketing at Intel’s Architecture Lab, said. “Combining our Internet 3D Graphics technology with the Shockwave Player will allow 3D to take off on the Web.”
Diane Rogers, vice president of product management for Macromedia, said the joint development efforts with Intel would bring the realism and impact of interactive 3D to e-merchandising, e-learning and entertainment on the Web.
“Shockwave Player’s high performance engine is ideal for this kind of sophisticated interactivity and visualization,” she said. “By easily integrating into any Macromedia Flash or HTML Web site, Shockwave content gives consumers the magnetic Internet experiences unavailable with any other technology.”
The Intel Internet 3D Graphics technology, developed by Intel’s Architecture Lab, utilizes Adaptive 3D Geometry, a set of dynamic algorithms that enable 3D content to have multiple resolutions, automatically increasing or decreasing 3D quality based on the computing power of each user’s system, offering the best experience possible. The Intel technology also enables content providers to create smooth, photorealistic surfaces, cartoon rendering and effects that include elements such as smoke, fire, water, and vapor, according to Macromedia and Intel.
“The Intel Internet 3D Graphics Technology was developed to be highly scalable over a range of bandwidths and offer friendly 3D content for a variety of users,” Rick Benoit, strategic marketing manager at Intel, told MacCentral. “We think we’ve done a good job covering the spectrum of processors and platforms. Our partnership with Macromedia offers a way to create compelling content that you couldn’t do before.”
3D content should also benefit from the compressed Macromedia Shockwave format, which was optimized specifically for streaming over narrow bandwidths. Adding 3D capabilities to new and existing Web sites with Shockwave content can increase a site’s appeal to users, according to Benoit. Such 3D software developers as Alias|Wavefront, Discreet Logic, NxView Technologies, Softimage, Newtek, Maxon Computer and Right Hemisphere have said they’ll support the technology.
The goal for the revamped Shockwave Player was to offer scalability, interactivity, media integration, pervasive playback, and broad industry support, Ryce said. With 20 million of the players already deployed (and they can automatically update themselves for 3D playback) and over 40 partners, he said Macromedia and Intel are already on their way to accomplishing this goal.
Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio adds the capability to use RealVideo and RealAudio, the streaming audio and video formats from Real Networks, directly within Shockwave content. There are no specific functionality changes regarding QuickTime in this go-round, Ryce said.
The studio also sports a new Shockwave Multiuser Server 3, which allows multiuser content development to be achieved more effectively and, through the support of UDP, makes real-time Internet gaming possible, Ryce said. Intel Internet 3D Graphics Software includes:
Multiresolution mesh, which optimizes each user’s experience through advanced streaming and compression;
Subdivision surfaces, which minimizes file sizes;
Bones and keyframe animations, which allow animations over low bandwidths;
Non-photorealistic (cartoon) rendering, which offers a traditional animation look to more efficient 3D modeled characters and scenes;
Particle system effects, which simplify development of complex natural phenomena effects;
High-performance rendering engine, which scales to provide an optimized experience on a broad range of hardware.
Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio offers Mac users the Peak LE sound editor. It includes CD burning from the playlist, RealAudio encoding, and support for Adobe Premiere plug-ins. An upgrade to the full-featured version of Peak is available.
Targeted to professional Web developers, 3D content developers, and Internet business strategists, Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio lets such folks create with Lingo, Director’s object-oriented scripting language that features over 800 commands. It works with most existing 3D applications, from which you can import models, textures, and animations.
Shockwave Multiuser Server 3, which boasts the previously mentioned server-side logic and UDP support, lets users build multiuser communities that can have up to 2,000 simultaneous users. For the technically minded, the Internet runs on a hierarchical protocol stack. The layer common to all Internet apps is the IP — Internet Protocol — layer. However, the UDP protocol — used by voice-over IP apps, for instance — delivers info more quickly. Previously, the multiuser server offered only TCP support. With the new version, developers can specify which protocol to use.
As you might expect, Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio lets users integrate Flash 5 assets and movies with Shockwave 3D content and video streams for the creation of interactive Director sites.
The products will be available for download on May 3; boxed products will ship May 14. Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio will have a suggested retail price of US$1,199. Upgrades from version 8 will be $199 and from versions 5-7 will be $399.
“We’re being more aggressive in our upgrade pricing because we really want users to upgrade and take advantage of the features in the new version,” Ryce said.
To use the new products, you’ll need a Power Mac 233 or better (with current hardware accelerated 3D graphics card) or G3/300 or better (with which the standard card will work fine); Mac OS 8.1 or greater; OpenGL 1.1.2 or greater for 3D hardware acceleration; 32MB of system RAM for playback and 64MB for authoring; 4MB of video RAM for 16-bit usage on hardware accelerated 3D graphics and 8MB of video RAM for 24-bit usage on hardware accelerated 3D graphics; and one of the following browsers: Netscape 4.x or better, Internet Explorer 4.x or better, AOL 4.0 or better.
And what about a Mac OS X version? It’s coming. Eventually.
“We had a timing issue with this release since it was coming out around the same time that Mac OS X shipped,” Ryce said. “So we had to make some hard decisions. We couldn’t have Mac OS X compatibility initially, but we will be supporting it in the future — first in Shockwave Player, then in the authoring environment.”