Director 7 Shockwave Internet Studio
Looking to add something more to your web site? Do you feel you could use more exciting intros, or interactions or banners? Then one of the tools you should look at is Macromedia's Director 7. The Director 7 Internet Shockwave Studio is a package available for PC or Macintosh with three programs in it. It comes with a sound editor, Macromedia's Fireworks 2 and Director 7.
This review is in two parts. This part will cover Director 7 cast, score, stage and paint windows. The next part will cover the library, behaviours, and making a small shockwave movie.
The heart of the package is Director 7. Director 7 allows you to easily combine sound, text and graphics for a true multimedia presentation. Director 7 is not limited to creating web-based presentations though. It is quite capable of creating stand-alone packages that can be distributed on CD-ROM or DVD.
Shockwave interactions will work with any browser capable of using the Shockwave plug-in. Stand-alone package will only work on the computer system they were built on, so to create a cross-platform CD-ROM, you will need the program on a Mac and a PC.
The package includes three manuals; one for Fireworks, one for Director 7 and one for Lingo. Lingo is the authoring language for Director 7 that allows you to extend the basic package to create new interactions. Don't let the idea of programming scare you off, you can create quite good material without ever using Lingo.
Director provides you with a lot of information and many windows that you can open. For this tutorial, we'll just look at a few of the basic windows, the ones that you will use most often.
The first window that you will need is the cast window. Every item that you import or create for your movie is a member of the cast and without a cast, you can't make a movie. You'll find that Director supports a lot of file types for import. You can import various sound formats: waves, aif, .au, shockwave audio or MP3. You can import images from a wide range of formats including gif, jpg, pict, or png. Also images or buttons you create in Director will automatically be added to the cast.
The icons at the top of the cast window allow you to switch casts (Director allows you to have multiple casts for a movie and share casts between movies), select the next or previous cast member, drag the cast member onto the stage, view or change the current cast member's name, create a script for the cast member or inspect the cast member properties. You can double-click any cast member to edit that cast member. Double-click a picture and you'll get the internal paint program. Double-click text and you'll go to the text editor.
The stage is the area in which you make things happen. You drag members of the cast onto the stage, move them around to where you want, then play your movie. Without a stage, your cast members would have no where to go, but the real power in Director is the Score. You can change the size and background colour of your stage by simply using the Modify -> Movie -> Properties.
The score is probably the single most complex window in Director. Fortunately, you won't need to use all the options on the score, but it's nice to know that they are there. Cast members that appear on the stage are called sprites.
The upper left corner of the window shows you information about the selected cast member. The diamond and box just under that information show you the behaviours attached to the sprite. We'll explore that in the next part of this review. As you go across the top of the window, you'll find controls for setting how the sprite appears on the stage, the first frame the sprite appears, the last frame number for that sprite, whether the sprite can be edited, if it can be moved and if it should leave a trail as it moves.
Below that are a number of other items that you can set individually for any sprite in the movie. You can set the foreground or background colour, X: and Y: set where the sprite is on the stage. W: and H: set the width and height of the sprite (changing these can distort your image since you can set a new width without changing the height). There are then buttons that allow you to flip any image horizontally or vertically. You can rotate you image in the next box, or skew it by changing the numbers in the box below. You can also set left, right, top or bottom.
The exact effect of these changes depend on whether you change the numbers on a keyframe or not. Keyframes are indeed a key to making animations, and they will be discussed at some length in the next part of this article. The first frame and the last frame are always keyframes for a sprite, so if you set different numbers on one of those frames, you'll get an animation. If you set numbers on one of the middle frames, you'll change the image for entire movie.
Below the information about the sprite, you'll find another window with a bar. This is where you set the markers for the movie. Markers allow you to create named areas of the movie, and one of the most basic interactions in Director is to click on an item on the stage then "go to "jump point"". You'll find this is easy to set up using the behaviour library.
The next part of the window, you can show or hide if you like. The image above reveals the timer, palette, transitions, sound channel 1, sound channel 2 and the script frames. If you hide this, the script frame will be the only one you will see.
Finally you have the sprites and the frames of the movie. When you drag a cast member onto the stage, it will automatically be put in the score. When you chose a sprite in the score, you'll see the cast member in the window in the upper left of the score. Drag the end marker for the sprite to keep it on the stage longer, move the front marker of the sprite to place the sprite on the screen at a different time and the order of the sprites on the score determine which will overlap other images on the stage. Sprite 2 can sit over the top of sprite 1. Sprite 3 sits on top of both 1 and 2 etc.
The paint function for Director 7 includes all the basic image operations. You can draw using pencil, brush or airbrush. You can select parts of the image. You can draw circles, rectangles or polygons (filled or unfilled). You can type directly on an image, but I would recommend always leaving your type as a separate cast member. You can flip or rotate or skew your image. Plus set some other options as well. Any image can be manipulated within Director, you can edit imported graphics as easily as creating new ones.
Some more detail and creating a small animation await you.
If the idea of playing with this intrigues you, then download the trial version of Director 7 and have a play. It's fun, and includes rather complete tutorials for you to run through to get accustomed to the interface.