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Life being very short, and the quiet hours of it few, we ought to waste none of them in reading valueless books.

—John Ruskin (1819–1900)

Adventures on the learning curve

What you have in your hands is a book about Director 8, the authoring software created and marketed by Macromedia that enables you to develop multimedia and Web-based productions. The CD on the inside back cover is packed with learning materials, samples, and resources for creativity. Together, the book and CD make up a multimedia approach to (ta da!) multimedia.

Director is marketed in versions for the Windows and Macintosh (Mac OS) operating systems. The two products are remarkably similar, with the commands, menus, and underlying principles practically identical for both platforms. Although the screenshots for this book were taken on a Windows system, all the information applies to Windows and Mac OS alike. In the few instances where the platforms diverge, separate instructions are given for each.

In the pages to come, we'll try to live up to the title of Director 8 Demystified. It's more than a nifty alliteration; it's a summation of the goals of this project. Both the interface and the concepts behind Director can be pretty intimidating, and all the hype about multimedia in general seems to breed a lot of confusion and muddled expectations.

Our task is to slice through the abstractions and buzzwords and get down to business. Director may seem like a monolithic development platform, but ultimately it's just a tool, one that works as well in your hands as in anyone's.


This is a cross-platform book, appropriate for both the Windows and Macintosh (Mac OS) operating systems.

What's new in this edition?

If you're familiar with previous editions of this book, you should know that this edition of Demystified continues to keep pace with the changes to Director. The appendices alone, which include a complete lexicon of Director commands, functions, and properties, contain nearly 100 new elements, including some undocumented Lingo for you to play with.

This volume consists of three books plus a reference section:

  • Book One: Director Basics focuses on mastery of the mechanics of Director, leading you to a working familiarity with all of Director's features and an understanding of how to build productions complete with animation, sound effects, and a degree of interactivity. If you've never used Director, you'll find this section invaluable. If you're an old Director hand, you'll still find it a worthwhile refresher: The interface in Director 8 departs significantly from that of earlier versions; you may find yourself not knowing your way around.

  • Book Two: Digging Deeper eases you over the next hill on the learning curve: a firm understanding of Lingo, Director's powerful scripting language. Everything you need to gain proficiency in Lingo is here, from basic tutorials to advanced scripting exercises. And if you've never worked with a computer language before, you'll probably appreciate the in-depth discussion of programming concepts.

  • Book Three: Special Topics takes you deeper into Director by expanding on individual topics. Here you will find in-depth discussions of some specialized Lingo elements, such as lists, and the essentials of Director's built-in error-tracking and resolution capabilities, to help you debug your productions. You'll also find chapters to help you integrate sound and video into your productions. Information on Xtras will help you expand on Director's capabilities, and the final chapter gives you hints on how to avoid some common problems that plague productions, especially larger ones.

  • The Reference section provides an assortment of useful appendices. Appendix C, "A Lingo Lexicon," is a book in itself. In it, Lingo terms are defined by type and sorted alphabetically for easy access. All Director commands, functions, and properties are described and shown with the appropriate syntax. Examples are given for each element to help you integrate the elements into your productions. Notes are provided when an element behaves differently than you might expect, and suggestions are made for other elements that might better serve your purpose.

How to use this book and CD

The information and exercises in this book should take you from a raw beginner to someone able to author interactive CDs, Web pages, and other pro fessional-level applications. The book is designed to have three lives: as a tutorial (with multiple exercises), as an inspiration, and as a reference (hence, the substantial appendices).

You could start with Chapter 1 and work your way through to Chapter 22, dipping into the CD only when directed to do so. But why opt for the boring linear approach to learning a nonlinear medium? Instead, we recommend taking the following steps:

  • Play. Ignore the text at first. Just fire up the CD and play the arcade-style game Simple Invaders. Or experience the exploration-friendly interface of the Universal Import Demo. Each of the projects profiled were created with Director, so you'll be getting a feel for the software's creative potential—while having fun.

  • Peruse. Skim the chapters, and don't bother with the exercises or even with absorbing the jargon. You'll get used to seeing the workings of Director in many manifestations, and you'll get a clearer picture of the conceptual terrain ahead.

  • Plow Through. Start at the beginning and work through the exercises chapter by chapter. As you progress, you may find that new levels of knowledge give you fresh ideas for real-world projects. You might want to have a notebook handy to write down your bright ideas, so you don't get sidetracked too long by the glittering potential unfolding before you.

  • Rebind. When you have read the book through, take the book to your local copy shop and ask them to cut off the spine and rebind the book into two sections (or drill holes for a loose-leaf binder). You can then have the appendices easily accessible and still have the text of the book for reference. My local copy shops tell me this should cost only about $5, and it will make the "Lingo Lexicon" a lot easier to use.

What the symbols mean

Like most computer books nowadays, Director 8 Demystified employs a bit of custom iconography to guide the roving eye.

This indicates a helpful suggestion—not something that you necessarily have to pay attention to, but a bit of advice. It pertains not only to Director, but to other software as well.

This is the fast forward symbol, indicating a useful shortcut, such as a keystroke alternative to a menu command.

This is thekey concept icon, and it means Pay Attention: This Is Important Stuff to Remember.

The check mark is a reminder, meant to head off possible problems. These sections usually point out common misconceptions or oversights, not potentially serious errors.

The see elsewhere arrow points you to other sections in the book and CD. It often indicates where a topic is discussed more fully or where a file illustrating a principle can be found.

The explanation icon indicates a curiosity-quenching passage—not a tip or a warning, but a bit of background.

The try icon denotes an optional activity that further illustrates a feature or principle.

The new feature icon indicates that the action or function being discussed is either new or significantly revised in version 8. As some of the differences are substantial, those of you familiar with earlier versions (up to 6.0) should make a point of reading these sections.

The Windows and Mac OS icons call attention to information specific to each of those platforms.

The yikes! symbol pops up only when real caution is necessary—when a misstep or oversight could lead to data loss, massive time wasting, legal problems, or other hassles. Ignore these sections at your peril.


Most of the icons draw your eye to statements in the margin of the pages, but others point to sidebars like the one you're reading right now. The format distinction is primarily one of length.

In addition to the icons, Director 8 Demystified has a cast of characters … well, one character, to be exact.

Meet Swifty

This energetic fellow is a character adapted from the pioneering photographs of Eadweard Muybridge.

Figure .

This character is named Swifty, an apt appellation for someone as mobile and agile as he is. Swifty is the star of most of the tutorials, and we mention his name not to be cutesy, but because we'll be referring to him directly in the pages to come, saying "place Swifty on the Stage," rather than "place the animated sequence of the little walking man on the Stage."

Swifty is a collection of symbols of a human figure (walking, running, jumping, and on the historical work of Eadweard Muybridge (that's really how he spelled it). Muybridge was the nineteenth-century artist and inventor who first used a sequence of cameras to capture authentic motion, thus paving the way for the motion picture.

The CD component

Many of the contributors to the CD-ROM have not only created some pretty amazing stuff; they've graciously submitted their work in nonprotected form. That means you can muck about in their files and see not only what they did, but exactly how they went about doing it.


Although the contributors to the Gallery section of the CD have provided their projects in open form, they haven't given up the copyrights to their work. That means that you can browse through their files, learn from them, and copy them onto your hard drive—but please don't plunder them for your own projects.

The demystified.com Web site

As version 8 amply demonstrates, Director has become much more than an animation application. It's now a complete Web/Internet development environment, able to integrate media spread across a worldwide network as easily as it can coordinate files drawn from your hard drive. That's why we're maintaining a dedicated Web site at http://www.demystified.com.

This site serves a number of purposes:

  • It's an online location for networked media. In the latter part of this book, you'll find exercises that download and manipulate media stored here. You can, of course, perform such snazzy Web tricks anywhere, but using the media provided simplifies the learning process for you.

  • It's a bulletin board for late-breaking information on Macromedia Director (bug fixes, new versions, and so on) and its related technologies.

  • It's a forum for corrections, clarifications, and enhancements to this book. If you're puzzled by something on these pages, check out the site: We may have something that clears up the matter. If we don't, drop us a line and let us know; you'll find contact information at the demystified.com Web site.

Comments? Suggestions?

If you have comments, questions, or reports of inconsistencies, or even suggestions of topics you would like to see placed on the Web site or in the next version of the book, you can contact me (Phil Gross) by e-mail. I can't guarantee an instantaneous response (I have a very busy vacation schedule that puts me out of the country and out of touch at times), but I'll do my best. You can contact me at pgross@jps.net.

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