Director Compared with Flash


In the mid-1990s, when the Web replaced CD-ROMs as the primary means for delivering multimedia content, Macromedia saw both a problem and an opportunity. The problem was that the Web demanded quickly downloadable, low-overhead files, which Director movies certainly were not. The opportunity was that the Web at that time was a basically static environment that cried out for the kinds of movement, richness, and interactivity that were Macromedia's specialty.

Macromedia responded by developing Shockwave technology, which allowed Director movies to be compressed, streamed over the Internet, and played back transparently by means of a plug-in in the user 's Web browser. At the same time, Macromedia hedged its bet by acquiring a simple, third-party product that came to be named Macromedia Flash. Flash could do some of the same things Director could do, but had been designed from the beginning to meet the demands of the Web.

Flash rose quickly in popularity. For developers, it offered a streamlined interface and the ability to create amazingly tiny files. For Web users, it offered a browser plug-in that was much smaller and faster to download than the Shockwave player required by Director. As Flash became more and more popular, Macromedia added more and more features to it ”most significantly ActionScript, a scripting language that eventually acquired many of the same capabilities as Director's Lingo. The unfortunate result was that Macromedia now had two products with a largely overlapping feature set, and developers had no clear-cut way to decide whether to develop a project in Director or Flash.

In many ways, Flash has won out, and for good reasons: Flash is designed to use vector graphics, which are often much faster to download than the bit-mapped graphics that Director prefers to use. Flash's scripting language, ActionScript, is closely related to JavaScript and is therefore more comfortable than Lingo for many Web developers. Flash has a much larger installed base (98% of U.S. Web users have the Flash plug-in, as opposed to only 63% who have Shockwave). Flash's retail price is significantly lower than Director's. And on top of everything else, there is the intangible but very real "coolness" factor: At least for the time being, Flash is, Director isn't.

Why would anyone want to use Director?

If you're developing exclusively for the Web, it probably makes sense to use Flash and the other MX Studio applications. But if you plan to use other distribution channels ”either instead of or in addition to the Web ”Director can still do a lot of things that Flash can't:

  • For many people, Director is easier to use. While Director's interface is similar to Flash's, it is in many ways more flexible and more forgiving . And for people who have no scripting or programming experience, Lingo ”with its ability to use plain-English syntax ”is often easier to learn than ActionScript.

  • Director offers superior bitmap handling. Vector graphics may be faster to download, but many kinds of visual material ”particularly photographs ”still require the kinds of subtlety and fluidity offered only by bitmaps. Director is significantly more bitmap-friendly than Flash, particularly in its ability to use alpha channels for smooth compositing.

  • Director works better with digital video. The ability to use digital video was added to Flash only recently, with the release of Flash MX. Flash is comfortable with only small bits of video, using only a single compression method. Director can handle big or long video files in a variety of formats.

  • Director accepts more types of media. If your multimedia content exists in a digital format, chances are that Director can import it and work with it. The most noteworthy example is the ability to import 3D models, added in Director 8.5. But there are many other data types that are at least as useful. (Try importing a PowerPoint presentation into Flash!)

  • Director movies are more accessible. Both Flash MX and Director MX have new features that make their movies accessible to visually impaired users. But unlike Flash, whose accessibility features are designed to work only with third-party screen-reader software, Director has text-to-speech and keyboard navigation features that require no special software on the user's computer.

  • Director remains the tool of choice for CD- and DVD-ROM development. While the Web gets all the attention these days, much multimedia development is still aimed at "fixed media" such as CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, and the hard drives of computer-based kiosks . For these applications, Director still offers a wide array of features ”such as advanced memory management and the ability to interact directly with external hardware and software ”that are not even dreamed of in Flash.

  • Director is infinitely extensible. If there are features you need that aren't built into Director, chances are you can add them by means of an Xtra. Xtras are Photoshop-style plug-ins that expand the capabilities of Director. If the Xtra you need isn't available off the shelf, you can find third-party developers who can create custom Xtras to meet your needs.


Macromedia Director MX for Windows and Macintosh. Visual QuickStart Guide
Macromedia Director MX for Windows and Macintosh. Visual QuickStart Guide
ISBN: 1847193439
Year: 2003
Pages: 139 © 2008-2017.
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