Director 11 Released – R.I.P. Director

by Andy Polaine on June 3, 2008

in General

Adobe_Director_Icon.pnged.

Director 11 was released a couple of months ago apparently, though I hadn’t seen the press release. If this was a new version of Flash, the web would be going crazy right now, which just goes to show what’s happened to Director over the years. It was only Douglas Edric Stanley’s rant on how unstable it is that alerted me to the fact.

The good news is that Adobe have finally got around to releasing an Intel version of the Shockwave plug-in, so all that old stuff we made can be viewed online again, and Director is now Intel and Vista compatible.

The bad news is that it’s about three years too late. Macromedia and then Adobe pretty much let Director gather dust whilst they polished Flash. Though I’m sad to say it, there seems to be little point in Director anymore.

I’m sad because it could have been a contender in the multi-touch prototyping arena and because Macromedia and Adobe really just let a good application die. It’s also depressing because all that Lingo I know is pretty much redundant – I think I’ll learn Fortran next.

Director used to be (and probably still is) great for rapid prototyping, had a great set of plug-ins with its Xtras and its handling of bitmaps, video and audio was far superior to Flash. Now the likes of OpenFrameworks and Processing are there for funky stuff and Flash can handle pixels and video brilliantly for the day-to-day work.

I still think Director has a much, much better interface and conceptual paradigm than Flash, though the next version of Flash, ‘Diesel’, steals quite a few elements from Director to finally make keyframes usable. I also think that Lingo is a great way to get non-coders into programming because it’s very forgiving, although I know many ‘real’ coders find it too sloppy because of that.

mountainbike_ss.jpg

Adobe’s ‘Extreme Mountain Bike Race’ – about as extreme as a fluffy kitten.

Adobe appear to be staking Director’s future on 3D games online, but I can’t help thinking that in these days of online PS3 and XBox games – not to mention PC-based games – that the market isn’t huge for people wanting play 3D games that look and play like they’re from the Playstation 1. Simple 2D games like Line Rider are brilliant. If you want 3D, get a giant graphics card or a console.

Although there is talk of Director 12 and even 13, they’ll be too late to be of any use even if they do arrive. Director is effectively dead.

A great deal of the early discoveries and experiments with interactive media were created in Director (and Hypercard) and a lot of what we now take for granted online and offline wouldn’t have been the same without it.

So long, Director, been nice knowing you.

I know some of you out there reading this are of have been Director developers – I’ve even taught a few of you – what do you think?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Karl DD June 3, 2008 at 4:48 pm

The Director icon fits so nicely with your post – just add an ‘e’ and you have ‘Die’.

It is 3 years too late and it does seem strange they are going for the gaming audience. I know several people who still use Director for making interfaces for touch screens/installations in museums – and while I am far from a Director fan, it is hard to think of better alternatives. You either choose Flash, build your own interface from scratch in Processing/OpenFrameworks, or battle with customising the native interfaces of Windows or OS X. No fun involved.

I read an article where Toshio Iwai said after making media art for 20 something years he decided to give up because it was a full time job just keeping his legacy code running. So the silver lining is, as long as Adobe keep persisting with Director at least we can still enjoy the classics.

2 Andy Polaine June 3, 2008 at 5:51 pm

Yeah, I nearly made a special Die icon.

I can sympathise with Toshio. I’ve been thinking of updating all the Antirom files to get it to run cross-platform and not just in Classic, but it’s a massive amount of work really.

It’s the problem with interactive media in general – I think you have to be pretty zen-like about the whole thing and just let it go like the haiku writers who put their best ones in bottles and sent them out on the ocean.

The other alternative is of course Max/MSP, but I find all the Max stuff I see tends to look the same (though the same is often true of Processing).

3 Matt D June 4, 2008 at 1:56 am

Ah director, my first love.

It does seem a shame to focus on the 3d online game market, I think they should have re-embraced their roots as a offline media platform, on CDs,Dvds, In-store displays and Eyelights. Flash has never really been optimized for that scale, and the proliferation of the player isn’t a bonus.

RIP Director

4 Andy Polaine June 4, 2008 at 9:52 am

I agree – I still think it performs better on CD-ROM/DVD than Flash and prefer the production path.

Overall I think it’s a much better designed application than Flash. Flash is really the bastard step-child of a clunky animation application that happened to use vectors, but it’s testament to its usefulness that so many people put up with its utterly crap interface and early scripting problems for so long. It’s much better now, but still frustrating.

I think, also, that Flash coincided with a lot of web designers (read: graphic designers) being frustrated with the browser nightmares of the late 90s and ‘discovering’ interactivity for the first time. Their sights had been focussed solely on online and they had dismissed/ignored offline ‘multimedia’ as a dead form and really remained ignorant of a lot of interaction design. Much of it got re-invented and is still being re-invented with the discovery of pixels in Flash. No wonder everyone went particle effect crazy recently.

5 Karl DD June 4, 2008 at 10:44 am

If you look at the founding fathers/roots of each of these applications it tells you quite a lot about their biases:

Processing (Ben/Casey) – Data Visualisation & Generative Art
OpenFrameworks (Zach/Theo) – Computer Vision
Flash – Animation i.e. banner ads
Director – Offline media
Max/Msp/Jitter – MIDI/DSP/Matrixes!

6 Andy Polaine June 4, 2008 at 11:24 am

Flash was really more about traditional animation I think, though it soon got used for banner ads. Director was also an animation tool originally when it was Videoworks. Adobe still hosts quite an interesting history of Macromedia.

There still appears to be quite a Director community out there though:

http://director-online.com/
http://www.directorforum.com/

and who can forget: http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/director/ ?

7 Yves Bernard June 10, 2008 at 10:27 pm

Although i did many projects in Director since 1992 in another life (see http://www.magic.be), i know it is dead for many years… However, this was the best tool for us, early interaction designers and developers, and the first platform on which the beginning of interaction design could start concretely in the early 90’s. Today i teach Flash (i hate its clumsy interface for scripting), and i do projects in Processing, Max, or javascript/html… but i know artists who still use Director as their only development environment…

What’s worrrying me is how all those early interactive pionnering works from the 90’s on cdrom or installations could be preserved… Would be great if Adobe when deciding to stop it, will disclose its source code so we can still port it to future platforms…

8 Andy Polaine June 10, 2008 at 11:08 pm

Yes, it’s a real pain. I stupidly sold my old Pismo Powerbook for almost nothing on eBay and doubly stupidly just upgraded my G5 iMac to Leopard. so no Classic on there anymore.

The only option seems to be something like SheepShaver that emulates the PowerPC runtime environment so you can run Classic.

Mac Companion has a good guide on how to set-up various Classic emulators under OS X Leopard. I haven’t tried them yet though, but if they work well enough, it would be handy when teaching a bit of that new media history.

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