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The Director Universe

Before you start getting up to your elbows in terms and techniques, let's take a few pages to put Director in perspective. In this prelude, we'll together trace the development of the software from modest animation tool to driving engine of the multimedia industry. We'll look at the features Director has added over the years and bluntly assess its strengths and weaknesses. Finally, we'll preview some of the many changes and new features that debuted with the latest version of Director.

Director defined

Macromedia Director belongs to a specialized genre: software used to create other software. As such, it's often referred to as an authoring tool or a development platform. Armed with only a copy of Director and your imagination, it's possible to create a fully self-contained, self-running program—and since Director is available in both Mac OS and Windows versions, it's relatively easy to produce work that runs on both Macintosh computers and PCs.

Since Director can incorporate sound as well as still and moving images, these productions are usually called multimedia. Furthermore, since they can include a high degree of user feedback, the double buzzword interactive multimedia is often applied. But interactivity isn't a given, and the term multimedia doesn't always apply; you could create a noninteractive work consisting of a single medium (such as a slide show of photographs), and Director would accommodate you nicely—so don't get hung up on buzzwords.

In the multimedia marketplace, Director has long been the standard authoring tool, used not just for developing CDs, but for creating special effects and for adding a whole new dimension to otherwise static pages on the World Wide Web. Some multimedia tools are useful only for disk-based production, but Macromedia has been aggressively retooling and upgrading Director to meet the growing need for Internet/intranet multimedia. As you'll discover for yourself, Director 8 has enough online features to make it an essential tool for Webmasters everywhere.


An authoring platform can be pretty nifty, but the real software powerhouses are computer languages (such as C++, Pascal, and Java). Both can create free-standing software, but a language can more fully employ the raw number-crunching power of the computer. Still, the border between platforms and languages is starting to blur, especially in the case of Director, which includes Lingo, a built-in command syntax that, over the years, has evolved to qualify as a language of its own.

What's so special about Director?

Director may have a pioneering history as a multimedia tool, but history doesn't count for much with today's breakneck pace of software development and marketing. Plenty of competing authoring platforms have risen up to challenge it—but frankly, most of them, such as SuperCard, Apple Media Toolkit, and Quark/mFactory's mTropolis, haven't made much of a dent in Director's dominance. So why does Director remain king of the heap?

Superior animation

Director produces graphic motion with the same techniques used by conventional animators: It places elements on individual layers and moves them through the scene one frame at a time. This can mean a laborious development process, but the end results are objects that move (and interact) in a believable fashion. Some authoring platforms don't use a frame-by-frame metaphor, opting instead for icons of specific screens (connected by linkages). That provides a faster way of developing an interactive infrastructure, but the finer elements of action are usually harder to control. With Director 8, the degree of control is even further refined, with new features that let you precisely synchronize sound and motion, twist and turn images, and include new image types. When it comes to setting images in motion, Director offers a clear advantage.

Royalty-free distribution

All files created with Director can be freely sold and distributed, without having to pay Macromedia a royalty for the privilege. That may be something you take for granted—after all, you don't pay Microsoft a royalty for a novel written with Microsoft Word—but some development platforms actually have licensing provisos that stipulate that you have to pay in order to market anything created with that product. Macromedia doesn't demand a piece of the action with Director-based works, but it does stipulate that a special "Made with Macromedia" logo be displayed on your work's packaging (the logo is included, in file form, on the CD that accompanies this book).

The label to look for:

Rather than demanding a royalty on all products created with Director, Macromedia asks that this logo be incorporated into the product packaging.

Figure .

Cross-system portability

As you probably know, not all software runs on all computers. There are different operating systems, and most software is designed to be compatible with just one of them. Some software products are "ported" from one system to another (usually Macintosh to Windows, or vice versa), but these new versions tend to be complete ground-up rewrites that bear only a surface resemblance to the original version. Such porting can be a very costly process.


Throughout this book, we'll use Mac OS to refer to the operating system used by both Apple Macintosh models and third-party clones (such as Motorola and Power Computing), and Windows to refer to Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, and Windows NT (as opposed to Windows CE or Windows 3.1), used by just about everyone else. Director no longer supports Window versions prior to Windows 95 or Macintosh systems prior to version 8.1.

When multimedia started to come into its own as an industry, developers were in a bit of a quandary. The Macintosh offered superior graphics capabilities, so it was the operating system of choice for designers and animators. But as target audiences go, the Macintosh-owning population is far outnumbered by those with Windows-compatible machines. Was it possible to combine the best of both worlds, by building multimedia on the Macintosh and then translating it into Windows-ready files?

Director made this possible, and with a minimum of headaches and hassles. There are two versions of Director (one for Mac OS and one for Windows), and files created by one can be opened directly by the other and saved in a stand-alone form for either platform. The conversion process isn't completely seamless, but it's pretty close, and it sure beats rewriting the project from scratch. And when you store both versions on the same CD, you can market a single disk that plays on both Windows and Mac OS machines.

How can Director provide such a smooth transition between the disparate worlds of these operating systems? The answer lies in the structure of its code, which includes an idealized machine layer (IML). The IML is a sort of toolbox that maximizes portability by keeping the multimedia data isolated from the system-specific data (the Java language works on a similar principle, as does HTML). In its anticipation of the conversion process, the IML makes it possible to offer compatibility not only with Windows, but with a multitude of operating systems—including ones that don't yet exist. Apple and Microsoft are hard at work developing the next generation of their operating systems, and the IML approach makes it likely that no matter what new technical twists ensue, Director won't be left in the dust of obsolescence. So you can see why learning Director is worthwhile, despite the steep learning curve. It may not be the dominant development tool forever, but Director expertise isn't likely to be a dead-end street any time soon.

Shockwave: Director's Net result

Here's where Director's adaptability starts to get truly exciting: Director movies can now be ported to the platform where the real action is: the Internet, or more specifically, to the multimedia-hungry World Wide Web. With the advent of Shockwave technology, a Director movie can be seamlessly integrated into a Web page; anyone with a properly configured Web browser can interact with the movie while viewing the page. Converting Director movies with Shockwave is fast and easy and requires only a splash of specialized knowledge.

In the online interactivity field, Shockwave's primary competition is Sun Microsystems'Java scripting language. But Java requires multimedia to be remade from scratch (and has a steep learning curve), whereas Shockwave is essentially another porting process for Director. Most Director productions can be saved as Shockwave files, with only the limitations built into the browsers and the Internet to consider. Shockwave is probably the quickest way to turn multimedia into Internet content, and that's generating a lot of excitement and experimentation.


For more information about Shockwave, see Chapters 5, 14, and 15.

The X files: Extensibility and external control

If you want to improve your hardware's performance, it's pretty easy to make incremental advances. You can just plug in a peripheral or add new memory or even speed up the CPU with an upgrade card. Usually, it's only after several years that the itch arises to chuck it all and start afresh.

Computer software tends to be a different story, however. Capabilities aren't added incrementally: They're clustered together in a new incarnation of the product (which instantly renders the old one obsolete). You can't take some of the neat new features of ThingMaker 7.5 and add them to your copy of ThingMaker 7.0—you have to throw out 7.0 to make way for 7.5.

Director isn't immune to these numbered-version incarnations, but it does offer the ability to employ special classes of software, called Xtras. Xtras are self-contained subapplications written specifically to extend or improve upon Director's features. Some are created by Macromedia, but many others are produced by third-party programmers. Once installed on your system, Xtras show up in Director's user interface, and working with them simply becomes part of working in Director. Using Xtras is kind of like adding extra blades to your Swiss Army Knife: Each one has a special purpose and can be whipped out when you need it.


For more information about Xtras, see Chapter 21: Extracurricular Lingo: Xtras.

It's in the script: The growth of Lingo

Why is English the dominant language of international commerce? Not because it's easy to learn (or even spell), but because of its massive and growing vocabulary. It's the same with Lingo: Director's unique scripting language may have started out as a close cousin to HyperTalk and SmallTalk, but it's definitely come into its own over the years.

Director 8 puts the finishing touches on the process begun in Director 7 of converting to a new syntax (called dot syntax) for Lingo. This new syntax allows you to create programming scripts using the same object-oriented programming styles used by hard-core programming languages such as C++ and Java. The new dot syntax doesn't replace the older Lingo syntax; the two co-exist, and you can use either one or a combination of both—whatever feels more comfortable to you.

Nowadays, you'll find three distinct types of Lingo:

  • Core Lingo, the scripting syntax and terminology that's built into Director itself—no extra ingredients are necessary.

  • NetLingo, language developed to integrate Shockwave movies into the Internet environment. These terms tend to have a slightly different kind of syntax, as they're required to work in conformance with the file-serving standards prevalent on the Net.

  • Xtra Lingo, which consists of additional language elements made comprehensible to Director thanks to an Xtra file. These elements aren't "official" Lingo—just custom vocabularies that are programmed to work in the context of scripting. Any adept programmer can write Xtras to provide new Xtra Lingo, and several already have. It's a means of customizing and extending Lingo, but the new terminology will work only so long as the correct Xtra is installed.

What's new in Director 8

With every release of Director, a number of new capabilities are added, and Director 8 is no different. Some claim that there are fewer new features in Director 8 than in the Director 7 release, but there are still a solid number of new features and improvements to existing features. In no way is Director 8 just an excuse to get your money. The sound, imaging, and productivity features alone make this version of Director well worth having.

Here's a rundown of what's new:

  • Zoom Stage. You can now zoom the Stage while authoring for close-up work or for viewing in a small window. The size and placement of sprites is adjusted automatically when the Stage is resized. You also have access to a canvas area, inside the Stage window, but outside of the Stage the user will see. This allows you to initially place sprites offstage, and then bring them onto the Stage using animation or Lingo. You also have scroll bars for viewing different areas of the Stage or canvas within the Stage window.

  • Property Inspector. A universal Property Inspector replaces a myriad of different dialog boxes. The Property Inspector automatically switches context to match the current selection. Two views are available: the Graphic view provides an interface very similar to that of the previous dialog boxes; the List view provides a more programmer-oriented version and supplies additional information.

  • Cast Window List View. Besides the standard graphical view of the Cast window, you now have the option of a List view. The List view enables sorting of the list by any of the list heads. Sorting in the List view doesn't affect the order shown in the Graphic view.

  • Sound Runtime Control. This may be the biggest addition to Director. With the addition of the new sound Lingo, much of the problems encountered using sounds will disappear. Multiple sounds can now be queued, and Director begins buffering the sounds before they play. Other enhancements include control over looping, the ability to specify segments of sounds to play, and control over sound volume (including panning).

  • Imaging Lingo. A large number of new Lingo commands have been added to allow direct control of bitmap Cast members. It's now a simple process, for example, to capture the image of the Stage, shrink it down, and place the new image in a Cast member. Control over the bitmaps extends all the way down to individual pixels if desired.

  • Asset Management Fields. Director 8 has taken a big step toward facilitating asset management to help multiple people work on the same project. Cast members now have additional information saved, including creationDate, modifiedDate, modifiedBy, and comments properties. In addition, linked scripts allow scripts to be edited in external editors.

  • Locked Sprites. You can now lock individual sprites to prevent modifications on the Stage or in the Score—no more accidentally moving a sprite when you're working with a number of sprites in close proximity.

  • Guides. While Director has long provided grids to assist in the exact placement of sprites, customizable guides now allow you to determine where the alignment will take place. The Align tool has also been enhanced to allow you to align sprites in a number of new ways, such as by aligning their centers.

  • Lingo Performance. The performance of Lingo as been improved, which should be an asset when creating entertainment that is delivered over the Web. Dot syntax has also been extended and made more consistent.

  • Scaleable Shockwave. Shockwave movies created with Director for display in a browser can now be stretched to fit the browser window. When desired, the stretching can be performed so as to maintain the original aspect ratio of the movie, preserving the proportions and look of the original movie.

  • Publish Command. The new Publish command and the Publish Settings dialog box incorporate the functionality of AfterShock with the Save As Shockwave command. This should simplify the process of creating Shockwave movies and getting them onto the Web.

  • Inline Double-Byte Text. Director now supports direct entry of double-byte text in Shockwave and projectors. This means that Director now supports working directly with many languages, including Japanese.

  • Multiple-Curve Vectors. Director 7 introduced the ability to create single-curve vector Cast members from inside Director. Director 8 has improved on that ability with the addition of the ability to create multiple-curve vectors within a single Cast member.

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