You could experiment with some of the h.265 options in the Adobe Media Encoder, but a lot of things can't play that back yet, so it might not work at all. This brings up an important question, how are these videos being played on the TVs?
Generally speaking, I render an intermediate file out of AE (such as a QuickTime with the PNG codec [which is technically lossless]) and then bring that file into the Adobe Media Encoder to create my deliverable (which is often an MP4). One of the benefits is that I can try tweaking the compression settings of the H.264 codec and encode many variations without having to re-render the AE project file every time.
Basically, your post is an inquiry into the dark arts of video compression. It's a whole WORLD of complications if you get deep down into it. Compression is not something you would want to do in After Effects though. AE isn't built for that. You can't even do multipass encoding in AE! Use the Adobe Media Encoder - that's what it's for.
I should probably explain my process.
I create my animations and render them in Media Encoder, which gives me MP4s, then I turn those into WMVs which get deployed onto the TVs.
That works fine, but I was just wondering if there was a better way. I don't have much video background, so I wanted to make sure I'm doing this
the best way possible.
There is absolutely no need to convert the MP4's (H.264) to a WMV. MP4 is a better container and universally accepted on all operating systems.
Well, it's good you're asking!
Your current workflow is causing poor quality. You shouldn't create a highly compressed file and then try to make another highly compressed file out of it again. MP4 files use the H.264 codec to make very compressed files. The more compressed a file is, the more quality is lost (how much varies based on the codec).
If you need your files to be WMV's, you should make WMV's from the Adobe Media Encoder without the H.264 middle step (or do what I initially suggested which was to make a proper, lossless intermediate file and make your deliverable from that).
And Rick is right. H.264's are better quality at smaller file sizes and, heck, they even encode faster in the Adobe Media Encoder! If your TV's can play them (and they probably can), I'd go that route.
Thank you guys so much! I really appreciate your advice. I will do that from here on out.