Getting started with Macromedia Director
Feb 14, 2000


Q: I've been involved in digital video, shooting/editing, for awhile - my goal is to now create a project, to distribute on CD, that would consist of 7 compressed video (Sorenson?) clips - 30 seconds to several minutes in length - and accessible thru a menu with buttons.

I'm new to multimedia and have downloaded a trial version of Director 7. I've worked thru the tutorial and am trying to find out more....(a manual would be nice). If I can create this project in Director, would I need additional plug-ins or software to stick it on a CD in playable fashion? I'm using a Mac G3 - I have a Lacie CD burner and toast.

A: You're using Director 7, and I must confess that I haven't yet upgraded from 6.5 (I don't need the new functions yet so are saving the cash!) Anyway, I'm going to assume that for the basics I'm going to talk about Director 7 hasn't changed drastically from 6.5, but if the following doesn't seem to ring true let me know...

Director uses Xrtas to play QuickTime (and do some other things too) so you will either have to package the appropriate Xtra(s) when you create a Projector for it, or include a copy of the Xtras folder that contains the appropriate file(s.) A Projector is a Director movie that has the application code attached to it so that it will run without Director being present. If you create a Projector and try running it the program will tell you what it's missing so you should find this out during testing!

If you are going to distribute this on a CD-ROM then you should probably include the QuickTime installer so that users without QuickTime can install it. Check with Apple about licensing (it's free, but you do have to fill out a form.)

Are you planning to create a cross-platform disc? If so you are going to need a copy of the Windows version of Director to create a projector for your project that runs on the PC. Floating around on the net there are "stub" projectors that you can download and use. These are Projector files that point to another Director file. Just change the name of your movie to that name and the Projector will play it. Or, maybe you have a friend or know a consultant who will make a Projector for you?

Continuing on this theme, you will have to learn how to make a cross-platform CD. The Toast software manual explains how to do this. You end up essentially creating two sets of files on the CD; one in ISO format for PCs, and the other with the Macintosh File System. Mac users won't see the PC stuff, and vice-versa, so no one will see applications for the other platform. You can duplicate all of your data, or more efficiently, you can actually share the same files across the two file systems as well. You'll want to do this with the video, but can also do it with the Director file if you don't package it with the Projector. If the file is only a couple of MB it probably doesn't matter either way. Again, the software for your burner should explain how to do this. Just make sure that you add the Windows file extensions to all your file names. Put ".mov" at the end of the video and ".dir" at the end of Director files (or ".dxr" if you plan to protect the files.)

Finally, if you are doing a cross-platform disc, make sure you test your project on both OS's as early and as often as possible. Though the differences are getting smaller, there are differences between the two, which seem to most often come up when working with digital video.


Q: Thank you very much for the speedy reply! That gives me some direction. I'm wondering about learning Lingo? I've got some programing background (Way back in the early 80s, learned some COBOL in a tech. school)...and I can see some definite benefits for doing some 'if' 'then' type options. Can you do that in Lingo? Is there a good book you could recommend on Lingo?

I'm doing a Multi-language project for parents and teachers who speak English as a second language (I've done a previous video only version.) I thought I could incorporate it into a multimedia deal so that when a clip is done playing, the program can check several parameters before making the next move.

Maybe you can do that with the non-demo version without programing code - but the demo version has a pretty limited library palette.

-JF (Again!), WA

I started programming with COBOL (well, actually Pascal, but I then did a fair bit of COBOL), so I think you will be able to master Lingo(!) It's a scripting language, and a pretty complete one at this point. I was kind of fortunate that I first learned the scripting language for HyperCard, and switching to Director back when Director was at version 1.0 wasn't too hard. Now it's a much more complex application!

You can do all the if then else stuff, set up global variables, etc., etc. I imagine that you can probably find quite a bit of Lingo documentation on the web; maybe even check Macromedia's site!

I can't personally recommend a Director book as I haven't read any of them! I'm sure there are good ones out there. Again, maybe a search of the web will turn up some reviews. Or check and read the reader reviews; just be aware that some Director books don't really cover Lingo. Lingo in a Nutshell by Bruce A. Epstein seems to be rated well there (I've never seen the book myself, so this is not a recommendation!) You probably want to get to a good book store and check the books in person.

Director itself comes with manuals; though I use the online help reference most of the time. Is the on-line help not included with the trial version? Director's on-line help contains a complete dictionary of Lingo commands with examples of how to use them. Good for when you kind of know what you need to do. It's like a regular dictionary; great if you know the word you are looking for, but no help if you don't speak the language.

I think the biggest difference between Director and other script tools (like Visual Basic etc.) is the concept of PuppetSprites. In Director you typically set up an animation over a series of frames, or you have a loop (while you're waiting for the user to do something.) In either case, you can make things on screen change or appear to move by changing the frame, or you can use Lingo to move or change elements on screen. To use Lingo to move something you must first "puppet" a sprite track. You issue the PuppetSprite command, and now that track is controlled by Lingo. Once a track is a puppet you can switch cast members or move them using Lingo, and they will be updated on screen (provided you tell Director to update the screen, which it will do on entering a new frame, or if you use the updatestage command.)

Once a track is puppeted, whatever has been set up in that track in the Score will be ignored until the puppetsprite property is turned off. Once you get this concept, and master some of it's finer points, you're on your way to creating very complex projects.


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