Macromedia Director MX 2004 review
Review Date: 18 Feb 2004
Reviewed By: Kevin Partner
Price when reviewed: (£1,127 inc VAT); Upgrade £319 (£375 inc VAT)
Director has been around for nearly 20 years and has dominated multimedia authoring for most of that time. From the beginning it has used a unique interface based on the metaphor of creating a movie. You assemble casts, write scripts and then present it on a stage. It's sophisticated, fully featured and expandable thanks to its Xtras architecture. But most important of all, when so much of the creative community uses Macs, Director remains available on both Mac and Windows platforms.
In 2003, Director became the last in the Macromedia product line-up to be given the
MX treatment. The idea behind MX was to
unify all of Macromedia's range so that using the programs in tandem would be a more streamlined process.
The late arrival of Director MX was down to both the difficulty of retrofitting the new interface and, perhaps, Director's relative importance to Macromedia compared to Flash and Dreamweaver. Unlike the rest of the fold, the upgrade to MX introduced only a few new features - and the story is similar for this latest iteration. Having said that, the changes that have been made are very much welcome, strengthening Director's position as the market leader and tightening integration with other Macromedia products.
So, why use Director rather than Flash? With the introduction of Flash MX Professional 2004 (see issue 109, p87) there's a good deal of crossover, but with this release Director has become more obviously focused towards CD and DVD production. Therefore, if you intend to deliver on the Internet, Flash is the only sensible choice. Also, Flash Player is ten times smaller than Director's Shockwave player, and can be found on 98 per cent of PCs (although not always the latest version). What's more, Flash movies are almost always smaller than their Shockwave equivalent. However, this latest version makes it much easier to integrate Flash into your offline productions.
Indeed, bringing Director and Flash together is the main focus of this upgrade. It still isn't possible to import FLA files, but once an SWF has been added to a cast, double clicking it launches Flash. This allows you to edit the file and then re-import the resulting SWF. This may be a slightly clumsy method, but at least it's now possible.
SWFs also perform between 15-70 per cent better when running inside Director rather than the Shockwave player. The simple reason why is that in order for Flash Player to be a viable method of distribution on the Web, its overall download size has to be as small as possible. Director, on the other hand, has no such restrictions, and so its runtime engine is optimised for performance. As a result, applications, such as video playback, will always run better in Director and a video playing within Flash should run more smoothly once the SWF has been imported.
These improvements make it clear that Macromedia is targeting Flash professionals who are looking to distribute their work, be it all or part, on CD and DVD rather than through the Web. The clincher, however, is what's hidden under the bonnet.
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