Review of Macromedia Director 8.5 - Shockwave Studio

I have been working with Director 8.5 since its release. Since this is my first time using this program, I purchased the Macromedia book Director 8 and Lingo Authorized. The only books available on version 8.5 as of this writing are the ones that came with the program. However, a number are slated to be released in the late summer and one was released this June, but is not in any of the bookstores where I live. As a note, in the fall of 2001, a few more books for Director 8.5 have become available; look for my review of the new book by Phil Gross.

I am going to review this product from two perspectives. The first is the core of Director which is the material contained in version 8. The second perspective will be on the additions to its core contained in version 8.5

The program comes with three large books.

  • Macromedia Director 8 Shockwave Studio: Using Director - Shockwave Studio
  • Macromedia Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio: What's New in Director Shockwave Studio
  • Macromedia Director 8 Shockwave Studio: Lingo Dictionary

Also accompanying this product are Fireworks 4, sound editors for Windows and Macintosh platforms, and Shockwave Multiuser Server 3

The system requirements for authoring are:


  • Intel Pentium II processor or higher
  • Windows 95, 98, 2000, NT 4 (with service pack 3), or Windows Me
  • 64 MB of RAM with 100 MB of available disk space
  • 256 color monitor capable of 800 x 600 resolution
  • Microsoft Direct X 5.2 or later or SGI OpenGL (recommended)
  • 3D accelerator recommended


  • Power Macintosh Power PC processor (G3 or higher recommended)
  • Mac OS 8.1 or later
  • 64 MB of RAM (with virtual memory on) and 100 MB of available disk space
  • 256-color monitor capable of 800 x 600 resolution
  • OpenGL 1.1.2 or later (recommended)
  • 3D accelerator (recommended)

The system requirements for playback are:


  • 32 MB or more of installed RAM
  • Intel Pentium processor (Pentium II or higher recommended)
  • Netscape 4 or greater
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 4 or greater
  • AOL 4 or greater


  • 32 MB or more of installed RAM
  • Power Macintosh Power PC processor (G3 or higher recommended)
  • Netscape 4 or greater
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.5 or greater
  • AOL 4 or greater

I will start this review by saying that I am awed by the power of this program. Once stated, I will give a brief description of Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio.

Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio is a powerful multimedia authoring program. It is used to create highly interactive and multimedia presentations, learning applications, e-merchandising presentations, and entertaining games and movies. Director 8.5 can combine video, audio, 2D and 3D graphics, text, and Flash animations. Movies from Director can be published in the Shockwave form or can be exported as QuickTime movies as well as to other formats.

The terminology of Director relates to a theatre production. The stage is the window that contains the movie, the cast members are the resources that the movie uses such as graphics, text, sound, behaviors, etc. The score is a chronological progression of all the components of the movie, and the scripts control the actions of the movie, the cast members, etc. Once one learns the terminology, the mechanisms of how Director performs are easy to understand, and the steps to create a movie progress in a logical manner. The interface is clear as are the menus and palettes. While the screen is full, it does not impede the work. I have a 19 inch monitor but I use a resolution of 1024 x 768 since it is easier on my eyes than the higher resolution that is commonly associated with a 19 inch monitor.

Below is a screen shot of the stage, score, and cast members

Learning Director, like any other powerful program, takes time. But once the basics are understood, it is not hard to produce one's first movie.

The term "movie" when I first saw it used in Director made me only think of a group of actions that tell a story. However, this term as used in Director really encompasses much more. Director creates interactive multimedia; thus a Director movie can demonstrate and then sell a product, create a multimedia game, have a movie within a movie..... It can control how a second movie will play, if and when it will start to download in the background, call a URL from the net, etc.

Behavior Inspector

Actions in Director can be controlled by the Behavior Inspector (see above) and a library of different commands and behaviors (see below), but they also can be controlled to the last detail by a language called "Lingo." These other ways to control behaviors are basically Lingo commands that are put in a form that is easy to access and is visual.

Library Palette Two of the Behavior Library menus

As with the other Macromedia products, Director does not work in isolation but is well integrated. Fireworks, which comes with Director 8.5, can be accessed from Director and bitmaps, for example, compressed into jpegs. Since it is accomplished right from Director, the compression can be changed anytime. Thus, it is easy to create work in Adobe Photoshop, for example, at screen resoluion and import that file into Director, and then compress it from within Director. Thus, if, for example, a sky appears posterized, it can be dithered without having to go to another program outside of Director. Also, upon importing the bitmap, dithering could have been checked, as well.

Director files can be published with or without a html page. If one decides to publish with the movie already on an html page, for example, the position of the movie can be chosen. All of these actions can occur without resorting to writing Lingo scripts. The .dcr (Shockwave format) movie can, also, be brought directly into Dreamweaver and placed anywhere on the Dreamweaver generated html page.

As stated earlier, Director 8.5 comes with three good sized reference and instruction books. For those upgrading from Director 8, the core components are basically the same, but major additions have been made to it.

The last part of this review will focus on the new additions to Director namely:

  • The 3D Xtra which allows for 3D modeling content within a Director 8.5 movie
  • The Shockwave Multiuser Server which allows for real-time interaction and collaboration.
  • The Flash Asset Extra which allows for the use of Flash movies as cast members

The most publicized new component of Director 8.5 is the 3D authoring component. Macromedia teamed up with Intel to create a new and innovative 3D interactive component of Director. Some of the capabilities of this 3D component are:

  • Multiresolution mesh which uses advanced streaming and compression techniques
  • Subdivision surfaces which minimize file sizes
  • Bones and Keyframe animation which allows for animation over low bandwidths
  • Non-Photorealistic (Cartoon) rendering
  • Particle system effects for creating naturalistic phenomenon such as fog
  • A high-performance rendering engine for better optimization over a broad range of hardware

Through the 3D features now inherent in Director 8.5, Macromedia hopes to increase the use of 3D on the web by giving developers a common framework for 3D creation.

Aside from the Director 8.5 600 page manual which deals with the new aspects of Director, especially the Lingo commands, there are many tech notes on the Macromedia web site at Please note that while this URL is on page 8 of the guide, there is a misprint in that "3dmodels" is one word and not two as in "3d models."

The 3D portion of Director 8.5 differs from the earlier "2D only" versions in that the 3D state is controlled mainly by the Lingo language. However, one can still do 3D construction and manipulation without knowing Lingo by using, for example, the built in 3D section of the Library Palette (found under Window on the task bar) as well as the Extrusion tab found on the Property Inspector. A few of the commands from the Library are shown below. The three tumbling words at the bottom of the page were animated using the "Automatic Model Rotation" command.

Property Inspector Selection from Library/3D/Actions

Most of the aspects of Director 8.5 will be familiar to those who have used Director before. Additions have been made such as a 3D Extruder tab for the Property Inspector. A new palette addition, however, is the Shockwave 3D window which can be accessed from the toolbar.

Director 8.5 has developed a new file format called W3D. At present some programs like 3D Studio Max can export to this format. Also, Director can convert files such as OBJ. More companies are expected to create translators to export to the W3D format. There are many articles on the Macromedia web site that discuss various 3D features.

Director 8.5 has also increased the functionality and integration between Flash 5 and Director and also has enhanced its support of RealNetworks, RealAudio, and RealVideo.

The last of the new features that I will highlight is the Shockwave Multiuser Server 3. This feature gives developers a chance to add "community" on their web site. Since this area is foreign to me, I can only list some of the features such as UDP support for faster networking, Server-side scripting , and the ability for 2,000 simultaneous users to access the same multiuser content.

As can be seen, these additions add a lot of power for developers of sophisticated, engaging, and user friendly web sites.

The product new sells for $1,199.00. The upgrade from Director 8 is $199.00 and, from Director 7 it is $399.00 according to a major mail order catalogue.

As I stated in the beginning of this review, this is an amazing and incredibly powerful program.