First, what kind of h.264? There are hundreds of types. If you used the QuickTime h.264 setup so the file is in a .mov container you're asking for trouble.
Second, h.264 is a lousy production codec most of the time. Try rendering as a jpeg compressed QuickTime or JPEG2000 if you need an alpha channel, or use another production codec.
I'm not entirely sure what sort of H.264. I took the original .avi files into Media Encoder, and listed "format" as H.264 so I could get a .mp4 file. When that didn't work, I tried converting a .mp4 file to a Quicktime .mov (Apple ProRes 422 (HQ)) file, but still came up empty.
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You really shouldn't be using H.264's in After Effects when you have a higher quality version already available to you. H.264 is compressed. This means that you are losing image quality. Is there a reason you're trying to replace the incoming files with a lossy codec?
I think we just wanted a smaller file size. I wanted to replace .avi because I'm running After Effects on a Mac, and it wasn't reading the files. Our first try at getting a readable file was to replace .avi with .mp4. That didn't work, so I tried .mov, but I was still getting that above error.
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It's odd that files you're creating in the Adobe Media Encoder are not being read by After Effects, even though they're different versions.
Does AE on the Mac not read the AVI's?
Unless you're running out of hard drive space, you shouldn't worry about the file size of the assets you're using in AE; it has no effect on the file size of your finished product.
If, however, you must make them smaller, I'd suggest using a better intermediate codec. One that doesn't lose data and one that AE finds easier to work with (it's very hard under the hood for AE to deal with codecs that use inter-frame compression). DNxHD and Cineform are both excellent codecs (free from Avid and GoPro respectively). They're not totally lossless, but they're visually lossless which is good enough for most work (and worlds better than H.264!)
If you don't want to go with a professional 3rd-party codec, try Quicktime with the PNG codec or, if you must go smaller, Quicktime with the Photo- JPEG codec.
Speaking of third-party codecs, you haven't installed any codec packs on your system, have you? I have sometimes seen some of them wreak havoc on professional video applications.
AE on this Mac doesn't read the AVIs.
I have only installed the codecs from here: http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1396, but I was already having these issues before that (Adobe suggested to download these for this problem).
EDIT: I just tried the codecs you suggested, but my PC wouldn't open them.
I also want to clarify that these are all video files, and not still images.
I suggested that you install those codecs on both machines and use them as your intermediate codec.
We use Cineform where I work (on PCs) all the time. Something else is clearly wrong with your machine if you can't even install codecs on it.
Okay, I finally was able to get these videos to work! One (or both) of these solutions got this project to work: I emptied the cache for AE, and upgraded the Apple software on the PC. I can use uncompressed .avi, .mov or mp4s now. Thanks trying to help me out!
Glad you found a solution.