To clarify, are the photos inside precomps at all, or just placed as-is into one main 720 comp? Having them in precomps is one of the easiest places to get tangled up on this.
Dummy questions - have your resolution set correctly? In both viewer and preview panel? Accidentally turn on draft quality? Accidentally set the photos to draft quality?
And one other thing. Did you make your composition 3840x1440 as a precomposition where you put all your photos and then that precomp in your main composition 720P/1080p and from there you are zooming in on them using camera. Or your're in one big 3840x1440 composition and zooming in on your photos. If second part is correct that could be the problem because you are actually zooming in those smaller pictures in bigger 3840x1440 resolution.
You cannot scale down images and then hope they retain full res. You need to keep them at full or use continuous rasterization/ collapse transformations more consequently even in the pre-comps, though that may have sideeffects on your 3D flight. There's nothing wrong here, you are simply messing with the render and transformation order, which you need to understand.
Thanks all for your help. To answer your questions, the 3840x1440 file was made in Photoshop and all of the photos are lined like one huge tiled display. I cannot post it here because it has confidential photos.
I then brought this into the comp with settings of 1280x720.
When the camera flies on the X and Y planes, it works perfectly, as the various pictures slowly fly by like I wanted them to. I just cannot zoom into one of the photos to make it full frame (1280x720). I thought because it was a camera that it would zoom in and keep the integrity of the photo because after all, if the camera is 3D, well, I thought everything would look fine.
One question - if I made that 3840x1440 file at a resolution 150 or 300 instead of 72, and then zoomed in with the camera on THAT file, would the photo be clear because it's of a higher resolution? I don't want to have to re-do the entire file like this only to find that that won't work neither. Thanks.
- check how many photos you have on your 3840x1440 - i mean. If you need to zoom in to any photo -to be sure that you have full resolution of it - your photo on that canvas have to have as many pixels as youtr main composition (or more). If you have smaller pictures - as Myllenium said - you will have lower quality because by zooming in you are enlarging it.
- or maby... - did you turn on DoF (Depth of Field for your camera? If so - you have to turn it on or set your Focus distanse to your surface/photo
And dpi does not change anything for video. Pixel resolution is what you have to look at.
One question - if I made that 3840x1440 file at a resolution 150 or 300 instead of 72, and then zoomed in with the camera on THAT file, would the photo be clear because it's of a higher resolution?
Pixels are pixels and video doesn't have DPI. You really need to work with the full resolution images. Depending on what you actually do, it may be sufficient to place the "hero" image at full res in the same spot and perhaps one row surrounding it and then do some sneaky cross-fade at some point as you dolly in, but otherwise - what's not there is not there. You have to go back to the original sources, even if working with so many high-res images in AE can be a pain.
This is a lesson learned and thanks for all of your help. The X-Y works great and I know now how to use Z for something like this.