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Software Review: Adobe Director 11 from Adobe Systems

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Adobe Director 11 is a media generation product that allows users to build applications using a movie metaphor where the user is the director of the movie. It is a popular choice for creating CD-ROMs and stand-alone kiosks, and it supports both 2D and 3D media. Using Adobe Director 11 along with the Adobe Shockwave Player, you can create and publish interactive games, demos, prototypes, simulations, and eLearning courses for the Web.

What do you need to run Adobe Director 11? On Windows you need an Intel Pentium 4 600 MHz or higher, Windows XP SP2 or Vista, 512MB RAM, 500MB hard drive space; on a Mac, Mac OS X v10.4, 512MB RAM, 500MB hard drive space and DVD-ROM drive (full detailed specs for both Authoring and Playback available here).

Adobe Director started out as MacroMind's VideoWorks in 1985 as an application for the original Macintosh. It became Director 1.0 in 1988. In 1992, MacroMind-Paracomp merged with Authorware to form Macromedia. In April of 2005, Adobe acquired Macromedia and in March of 2008 this, the first Adobe branded version of Director, was released.

Adobe Director 11
The Adobe Director interface is designed around the movie metaphor. That is, each project that you create can be thought of as a movie with a cast of characters. In this environment you have a Stage where everything on screen takes place and a Score which not only handles the soundtrack, but also handles where the placement of the Cast are located as well as describing the action. And then there is you, the Director.

As the Director, you add the Cast; this comprises all of your media elements. You then place them on the Stage as sprites; these are simply the copy of the Cast members that appear upon the stage. You then refine the actions of the sprites by editing them on the Stage, or within the Score.

Director has been used for such widely divergent systems as the delivery of accelerated 3D entertainment for fast action games and virtual products. The creation of interactive 3D eLearning applications and the creation of high impact features at theme parks, museums, and visitor attractions.

So what is new with Adobe Director 11?

• DirectX 9 Driver – now used for rendering 3D graphics. Support for DirectX 9 enables the availability of Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) performance on a variety of video cards and provides a platform for further 3D enhancements in future releases.

• Bitmap Filters – now uses Adjust Color, Blur, Drop Shadow, Bevel, Gradient Bevel, Gradient Glow, Glow, Convolution Matrix, Displacement Map, and Perlin Noise filters to apply effects to bitmap images.
Adobe Director 11
• Improved publishing process – lets you easily publish your movies by using the Copy Linked and Dependant Files feature. Now you can automatically copy linked Cast files and Dependant files to the same relative location to the projector as they are to the movie file.

• Script window enhancements – let you easily browse and create scripts using the dictionary view and the script browser view.

• Physics engine (PhysX from AGEIA Technologies, Inc.) – uses the Physics (dynamics) Xtra, a fully integrated rigid body physics simulation engine that can create rigid bodies of primitive and complex shapes. It implements terrains in the physics scene using static concave objects. It registers collision callback for colliding bodies. It can enable and disable callback for specific rigid bodies, and uses Raycasting for rigid bodies created with physics.

• Vista and Mac/Intel Support – will let you author movies on Mac OS X v10.4 or Windows Vista. The Shockwave Player and Projector are supported on Vista and the Power PC, not the Intel Mac at this time.

• Code Snippets – will help you reduce the learning curve for the scripting in JavaScript and Lingo by using the code samples provide for all methods in the Scripting Directory.

• New Text Engine – will let you display smoother and crisper text in your project renderings.

• Support for Flash CS3 Professional – and the videos created with Flash will enhance your creativity. You can now launch Flash from directly within Director 11. While it supports ActionScript 2.0, it does not support ActionScript 3.0 at this time.

• Multiuser Xtra – will let you develop movies using the Multiuser Xtra and is supported out of the box.

• 3D Save – lets you save changes applied to the 3D world using the Save 3D world command.

 • User Interface enhancements – for enhanced usability. These include a central docking channel with a tabbed layout, the ability to float or un-float toolbars, the message and Cast windows are now tool windows, the Stage and score panels can now be docked together, and the debugger window is now a separate window from the script window.

Adobe Director 11As with all of the Macromedia products that Adobe has acquired, Director 11 is taking on the mantle of an Adobe product and as such is becoming easier to use and more feature rich. With over four years since its last release, this is a very welcome update. The support of DirectX 9 graphics, the advanced physics engine, and the Flash CS3 integration being very welcome additions. Add to that the additional media file formats (over 40 now), the code snippets, and the new OS Support, this makes for a significant upgrade.

If you want to see what Director 11 can do, check out an example of the Mountain Bike game that was developed in it. Note the download speed depends on the quality of your connection.

While I won't say that there is anything Earth-shattering in this release and there are missing things that people will wish it had contained, I do think that it puts Director 11 back on the playing field in the rich-media arena. It will be interesting how Director plays out over the next couple years as it finds its niche in Kiosks, large multi-screen performance works, game development, and eLearning.

If you are currently using Director and are considering an upgrade, I think that it is an easy decision to do. If you are a Flash user and wondering why one would use Director, the answer would be for a lot of those things that are not Web-based, or that Director does better than or in concert with Flash. If you are looking to create interactive games, demos, prototypes, simulations, and eLearning courses, then I highly recommend Adobe Director 11.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.