First released in 1988 as MacroMind Director, the media integration tool has grown from its original CD-ROM kiosk and corporate presentations market to its latest incarnation, which allows developers to deploy content on CD- or DVD-ROM or via the Web, according to Macromedia senior product manager Miriam Geller. What's more, Geller says, Director MX offers native text-to-speech capability, letting developers comply with the Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act, which requires all federal agencies to make their electronic content accessible to people with disabilities. "Most visually impaired Web users have had to use screen-reading software to access content," Geller said. "Director MX uses text-to-speech functions within both PC and Mac operating systems, so that public facilities like libraries and museums don't have to spend the extra money on screen readers." Additionally, Director MX allows authors to create content that's accessible via keyboards or other pointing devices, meaning that people who find it difficult or impossible to operate a mouse can use the material.
Director-created Web content is displayed with Macromedia's Shockwave Player, but can be created in RealAudio and RealVideo, MP3, QuickTime, and Macromedia Flash, as well as with bitmap and vector graphics. That means that developers can author content once for any number of platforms, Geller says. Director's interactive content is created with Lingo code, but rather than requiring developers to type in each line of code, it presents Script pop-up windows so authors can simply click on the code they wish to insert.
Even prior to the MX release in early December, Director-authored content has been making inroads on a number of delivery fronts, Geller says. In 2001, Target wanted a way to bring consumers to its Web site, and so distributed a "Holiday E-CD" to in-store customers. When consumers used the disc in their PCs, they had access to games, Christmas songs performed by popular radio acts, and—most importantly—an interactive toy catalog that allowed them to create a "wish list" at the store's Web site.
Not all Director applications are interactive, Geller points out. The product has also been used to create multimedia presentations for Toys"R"Us' huge "Geoffreytron" electronic billboard in New York's Times Square, and by McDonald's to create custom menu boards for 100 restaurants in Arizona. A centrally located PowerMac controls all 100 menus, automatically switching over from the breakfast to lunch offerings at 11 a.m., for instance, and making sure the latest special offers are displayed.
On the server end, Director MX integrates Macromedia's ColdFusion and Flash Communication Server, and includes the capability to access USB or FireWire cameras as well as integrated microphones. MX was released in early December, with a list price of $1,199 for new users and $399 for an upgrade from Director 8.0 or 8.5.