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Apr 20, 2000

ASK THE GURU: Best tool for "pioneering multimedia system"

Q: I am currently studying for an MSc in Computer Science. For my research project I have to create a pioneering multimedia system (for Rheology) which will (hopefully!) include new techniques for multimedia e.g. "hyperlinked videos".

I was wondering if you could advise me on the best authoring tools to use - it has been suggested that I use Macromedia Director - I am relatively new to this area so if you could recommend any software that that would be useful to me and possibly their advantages/disadvantages.

If you have any other info on multimedia and creating a multimedia system that is able to present and distribute videos it will be gratefully accepted.



A: Ah, well let's see. Assuming that you don't want to build it with web-based technologies (i.e. HTML with plug-ins etc.) then you have the following choices:

Macromedia: Director
powerful, can do just about anything. Lots of books and reference materials available.
con: complicated and can be difficult to learn. Expensive (if you have to buy it)

Tribeworks: iShell
version is available for free download. Can be used to create most kinds of applications.
con: No third-party books or documentation. Not as widely used.

Macromedia: Flash
Simpler and Easier to use than Director
con: Not as powerful and featureful. Better for web work.

Basic(various: either Visual Basic on PC, or RealBasic or other variant for Macintosh)
Depending upon the type of application you are creating it may be easier to learn than Director. Lots of books and reference materials
con: Implementing some features (creating animation, etc.) may be much harder using Basic

When someone asks what tool to use I usually recommend Director because I know that it will be able to do pretty much anything anyone wants to create (and also, it's the tool I know.) But you may be able to create what you want using any one of a number of other tools.

I think your best bet, if you can, is to sketch out the features that you want for your project. Using paper, rough out the screens that the user will see, paying particular attention to what happens on the screen (don't worry so much what they look like.) That way you will have an idea of the features you need to implement. Then, if you know anyone who has experience with these tools you can show it to them and they'll give you a better idea of what tool to use.

Certainly I don't think you can go wrong with Director; the only exception to that would be if you wanted to do something so simple that you could have done it with two HTML pages, then spending time learning Director would have been a big waste as you could have done it all in a day with an HTML WYSIWYG editor. But if you're interested in multimedia, then Director is currently one of the best tools available, and spending time learning it will be of use to you down the road.

Hope this helps.


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