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AE presets, I want to display correctly on 16x9 HD TV

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Mike Susol
AE presets, I want to display correctly on 16x9 HD TV
on Mar 26, 2010 at 6:02:27 pm

I never feel confident that I'm setting up my AE files properly in terms of aspect ratio, pixel dimensions etc. It seems that the more I read on the topic the more confused I get. I'm hoping someone can explain to me (in the SIMPLEST terms possible) the most COMMON project COMPOSITION PRESET used when building an AE file that will be displayed on a large (42" plus) television. I'm building a motion graphic segment for a client and they will be displaying it on monitors of various sizes, including that 42". I don't want to overbuild but I also want to make sure everything stays as sharp as possible and that my circles aren't squished or squashed.

The "preset" pull down menu has a lot of choices and they can be very confusing (to noobs like me). Which COMP PRESET do the "pros" select when starting a project for a typical broadcast project.

- NTSC D1 Widescreen, which is 720 x 486
- NTSC D1 Widescreen Square Pixel, which is 872 x 486
- HDV/HDTV 720 (29.97), which is 1280 x 720
- HDTV 1080 (29.97), which is 1920 x 1080

Should I build my file using square pixels?
Should I just use a frame rate of 30 and forget 29.97?

Thanks in advance for your feedback.




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Michael Szalapski
Re: AE presets, I want to display correctly on 16x9 HD TV
on Mar 26, 2010 at 6:34:39 pm

The size of the TV in inches has nothing to do with the size of your composition. The size of your composition is more dependent on the pixels the TV can display. If the TV is a 1080 TV and you're planning to play stuff off of a Blu-ray player, then you want to do 1920x1080. If you're only planning to play it off of a standard definition DVD player then 720x480 DV widescreen preset should do fine.
If you're planning to play it off of a computer, you'll have to check and see what sort of resolution the computer is able to work with.
Honestly, it wouldn't hurt to do your animation at 1920x1080 and then downsize it to whatever you end up using.

- The Great Szalam
(The 'Great' stands for 'Not So Great, in fact, Extremely Humble')

No trees were harmed in the creation of this message, but several thousand electrons were mildly inconvenienced.


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Mike Susol
Re: AE presets, I want to display correctly on 16x9 HD TV
on Mar 26, 2010 at 8:22:48 pm

Thanks for the info Michael. I will be getting video assets sized at 1280x720 so I have three questions:

1. Why do you recommend working 720x480 vs. 1280x720?
2. Should I just size all of my assets to be 1280x720 (Illustrator, C4D renders, Photoshop etc.)
2. If I build at 1280x720 and compress using h.264 will my client have any issues playing an 8 minute loop from a laptop with a decent video card.

Thanks,
-Mike


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Dave LaRonde
Re: AE presets, I want to display correctly on 16x9 HD TV
on Mar 26, 2010 at 8:50:25 pm

[Mike Susol] "Why do you recommend working 720x480 vs. 1280x720? "

If you can absolutely, positively GUARANTEE that you won't have to make an HD version in the future, go ahead and work in SD and take your chances. If there's some question on the SD-only issue, you'd better work in HD.

I work in SD a lot. I can absolutlely, positively guarantee that the work I do doesn't have to go to HD in the future.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Dave LaRonde
Re: AE presets, I want to display correctly on 16x9 HD TV
on Mar 26, 2010 at 6:35:12 pm

The first and most fundamental question: What sort of device do you intend to use when you play your AE work on an HDTV?

....and listen to Michael. He's talkin' good sense.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Mike Susol
Re: AE presets, I want to display correctly on 16x9 HD TV
on Mar 26, 2010 at 6:43:39 pm

I can make that recommendation to my client. I'm assuming they will have a PC laptop but I'd prefer to recommend the most stable platform and avoid any issues if they have an old computer with a poor video card. Another member suggests that I build 1920 x 1080 and then downsize. I'm assuming this would give me the most flexibility in terms of BLU-RAY, STANDARD DEF DVD or playback from a computer hard drive. Will 1920 x 1080 be a lot slower to work with in AE vs. 720 x 480 (I'm using a Mac 2x3 Quad-Core Intel w. 12 GB RAM). Should I avoid 1280 x 720 altogether? Thanks.


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Michael Szalapski
Re: AE presets, I want to display correctly on 16x9 HD TV
on Mar 26, 2010 at 8:18:37 pm

[Mike Susol] "Will 1920 x 1080 be a lot slower to work with in AE vs. 720 x 480"

Of course. And 720 x 480 is a lot slower to work with than 360 x 240. :)

You work at the resolution you need to for each given project. I used to work almost exclusively in 720 x 480, but that was back in the day when everything was SD. Now most of my work is 1920 x 1080 (barring the odd-sized Flash video I've been doing lately).

Yeah, it's slower, but I'm outputting in HD so I have no choice.

I've even worked in 1920 x 1080 on my home computer which is a nearly 10 year-old machine running a (non-hyper-threaded) Pentium 4 processor and 1 GB of RAM.

Here are some tips on getting better performance out of your AE. And here's a page with good info on RAM.

- The Great Szalam
(The 'Great' stands for 'Not So Great, in fact, Extremely Humble')

No trees were harmed in the creation of this message, but several thousand electrons were mildly inconvenienced.


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Walter Soyka
Re: AE presets, I want to display correctly on 16x9 HD TV
on Mar 26, 2010 at 8:22:09 pm

[Mike Susol] "Will 1920 x 1080 be a lot slower to work with in AE vs. 720 x 480"

HD is slower to work in than SD; an HD frame has 6 times as many pixels as an SD frame. How much slower depends on the complexity of your project, but you can always preview at reduced resolution to keep your workflow fast.

I agree with Michael that it's worth doing at 1920x1080 for flexibility, though. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Mike Susol
Re: AE presets, I want to display correctly on 16x9 HD TV
on Mar 26, 2010 at 8:27:58 pm

Thanks for all of the timely responses guys. Very, very helpful. If I'm hearing you correctly, you recommend building 1920x1080 just in case the client comes back and requests an "HD" version. No way to "size it up" so to speak.

Looks like I'll be diving in to my first 1920x1080 production.

Best,
-Mike


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Jeremy Allen
Re: AE presets, I want to display correctly on 16x9 HD TV
on Mar 26, 2010 at 9:19:47 pm

As far as the 1920x1080 recommendation, what about the fact that he said he will be receiving video assets at 1280x720? Personally I would rather stay at the native resolution of the supplied assets and work at that size. If needed, I would then scale it to 1920x1080 from the final render when all is said and done.

If he starts out at 1920, most likely he's gonna drop all that 720p video material and just scale it up in After Effects, and depending on the footage, may or may not look so hot. But if he stays native to the supplied material, then he could have the final render file properly upconverted if needed.


As for the playback, I would make damn sure your client can play an H264 before giving him that as the final. Believe it or not, I've had several issues with clients not being able to play H264's on their computers. Usually they can hear the sound but not see the video. It's usually because they don't have the codec installed to play H264. You should also know about the color saturation and gamma issues with H264. Depending on the colors in your project, and your eye for details, you may or may not notice, but I often have to adjust the H264 to bring it closer to the final render. I just want to point out a couple things you should be prepared for..

---------------------------------------------
8core MacPro, 3.0 GHZ, 10GB RAM, OSX 10.5.6

C4D 11.5
AE CS3
FCP 6.0.1


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Walter Soyka
Re: AE presets, I want to display correctly on 16x9 HD TV
on Mar 26, 2010 at 9:43:10 pm

Agreed that if there's footage at 720p, you should stay 720p -- that wasn't clear to me the first time around.

I'd also stay away from computer-based playback, and recommend a standalone player instead, like Blu-ray, a compact flash player, or maybe one of those Western Digital media players. Simple, reliable playback is critical. Most of my work is in live events, and we always use two players with a switcher; one main player, and one backup in case the primary fails. This is standard operating procedure for all media types, including Beta, DVCAM, DVD, computer playback, DDR, etc. You don't want a simple equipment failure to ruin your event.

As a rule, I don't trust client computers for playback; they may not have the right software, codecs, or drivers; they may have the wrong power manager settings, they may have the wrong screen saver settings, they may have software that will pop up and steal focus from full-screen video, etc.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Michael Szalapski
Re: AE presets, I want to display correctly on 16x9 HD TV
on Mar 26, 2010 at 9:21:11 pm

If the video assets with which you're working are 1280x720, I don't see a problem with working in a comp that size. It's a lower-res HD, but it's still HD and, if the TV is only capable of showing 720 HD, you gain nothing from 1920x1080.

So, as mentioned previously, how you're showing it matters.

A mid-range laptop shouldn't have a problem playing back HD so long as it's compressed well. You can get decent-looking HD at 720 with only 2,000 kbps or so which should be fine on the laptop.

While we're at it, keep this Dave LaRonde jewel in mind:
Dave's Stock Answer #3:

Don't use AE to compress files for final delivery. The various compressors are there only to make quick 'n dirty files showing a project's progress to producers, clients, the kids, etc. AE is incapable of doing multipass encoding, a crucial feature that greatly improves the image quality of H.264 and MPEG-type files in particular.

Render a high-quality file from AE, and use a different application to do the compression. Popular ones are Adobe Media Encoder, Sorenson Squeeze and Apple's Compressor, which comes bundled with Final Cut Suite. Even compressing in Quicktime Pro is better than compressing in AE.

Making good-looking compressed files is almost as much an art as it is a science. It is NOT straightforward at all.
The COW even has a Compression Techniques forum.

- The Great Szalam
(The 'Great' stands for 'Not So Great, in fact, Extremely Humble')

No trees were harmed in the creation of this message, but several thousand electrons were mildly inconvenienced.


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Mike Susol
Re: AE presets, I want to display correctly on 16x9 HD TV
on Mar 26, 2010 at 9:32:37 pm

Great tips. I've learned the hard way about the compression issue AND the gamma issue with h.264. I always render a high-quality image sequence from AE and use Compressor to... well... compress. It took some trial and error to find the best gamma adjustment but well worth the effort.

Thanks again for sharing some secrets of the sauce (and for the helpful Dave LaRonde tips).

Best.



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