Creating 3D Animation


Inexpensive multimedia authoring tools
Aug 8, 1999


Q: I just can't bring myself to pay $1000 for Director ($2000 if I want stand-alone players for both platforms). I tried out iShell but same problem there (and I found the interface a little awkward).

Can I create professional-looking, cross-platform, interactive multimedia with some of these inexpensive programs I've found -- SuperCard ($140), HyperStudio ($130), MovieWorks ($100), or ClickWorks (???). What are some of the limitations? Can you give me examples of what Director can do that the others can't. Do you think I could start with one of these and "work my way up" to Director or should I bite the bullet and invest my time/money in Director right off?

While I'm waiting for your most gracious response, O Wise Guru, I'll be downloading some trial versions.
Gary L.


A: I'm all for saving money (that's why I'm still using Director 6.5) so I can understand your question/concern.

I guess the real question is; what are you trying to do? Do you have a particular project in mind, is this a skill you want to learn to get a job, or do you want to become a freelance multimedia developer? Because that will really determine the answer.

If you want to work as a freelancer creating interactive multimedia, then Director is pretty much of a no-brainer. You need to have it. That's partly because it's so well known. Of course, who says you have to buy both versions if you just want to learn how to use it?

On the other hand, if you want to get hired as a multimedia developer by a company, then while knowing Director might be a big plus, having a cool portfolio created with any tool might be just as good.

Director is a great tool; but it isn't the only tool (as you've discovered.) If you have a specific job in mind, then maybe Director isn't the only choice. Here's my impressions of your choices:

SuperCard (
A great tool, but there's still no cross-platform version. They do have a browser plug-in which works on Macs and PCs, but it's not quite the same. If you're only platform is the Mac, then it's worth looking at, and you should be able to create very impressive demos with it. But if you need cross-platform then it's not going to do the job.

HyperStudio (
It's been around a long time (I think it was originally based on HyperCard) and it's cross-platform, but other than that I've had limited contact with it. It seems that the company has concentrated on the educational market.

MovieWorks (
Creates QuickTime movies with some interactivity. While it provides a large collection of tools, the quality of the tools themselves was a little questionable (I reviewed the original release so my comments apply to that version.) If it's for your own amusement I'd consider it, otherwise I'd look for something else.

ClickWorks (
It's been out a while, but I've never encountered it either. They do have a demo, so it might be worth checking out. It's more expensive than the others ($399 for the base version and $985 for the pro.) Authoring is on Macintosh, but there's a runtime player for Windows.


Of the four, I'd probably start with SuperCard if budget was an issue and I was just trying to learn and create some cool demos. However there are other tools to consider.

Two tools you missed are Electrifier Pro ( ($395) and LiveStage ( ($300). These are authoring tools that create QuickTime movies that can include interactive functionality. I played a bit with the original release of Electrifier, and it was pretty cool. You can create interactive media with buttons, and do a lot of neat things. It does require QuickTime to playback (and the download of QuickTime isn't as small as many other plug-ins.)

Both programs have their supporters. Their interface is very different; Electrifier seems to be the simpler, easier to use tool, while LiveStage is more complicated, but adds scripting which Electrifier lacks. Scripting will allow more complex projects. LiveStage Pro has been announced, which created a bit of a stir at the recent MacWorld. Unfortunately, it's $699. You might want to read this write-up on LiveStage by J. Botaitis

Not to be ignored is Flash (, which is also from Macromedia. This is an interesting tool for creating web based multimedia. If you need only limited interactivity (mainly animation with some buttons) then Flash is the tool to get. For more complex projects, you'll need soemthing else. I believe that there's also a Flash player for playing things on the desktop. It's only $299

Which brings us to iShell ( I took a look at it prior to release and had a great deal of difficulty figuring out how to use it. But I believe that they've improved their documentation. And frankly, every tool of any complexity has a bit of a learning curve.

There are certainly people out there that like it (see this user report by J Cannon.) I thought their pricing plan was that is was essentially free, with a charge for upgrades and support? Their website seems to suggest it's "free." So even if the interface is a little odd (and Director's isn't great either!) I'd consider trying that. Since it's cross-platform, it would replace SuperCard as my number one pick to start with.

Finally, you ask what makes Director ( worth the big bucks. Well, it certainly is priced high; and if you're only starting out and want to play around then it's far too expensive. On the other hand, it includes lots of features; cross-platform, web support, etc. It's greatest strength compared to most of the other tools is the scripting engine which is tightly integrated with the Director display engine. It can be a pain to use and learn, but Director's scripting language Lingo makes it possible to do almost anything. Interactive games, graphical databases, you name it.

In a sense, this can be a problem for the multimedia developer; once you know Director you know you can build anything in it, so you put off learning other tools. Even though other tools may have advantages over Director, you figure "why spend time learning something else when I can do it in Director?" (as an example, if all you want to do is animate something, Flash is probably the better choice over Director) And if all you need are simply buttons that highlight and jump to another page, then you aren't going to use much of that extra functionality.

So there it is. You thought it would be easy, didn't you?


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