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"you know when you drag through a comp that hasn't been rendered for ram preview and the res drops to a quarter or so? well firstly can i get around this somehow? "
Turn off Adaptive Resolution. In CS3, it's the 4th icon from the right in the comp window; 2 over from "1 View". You can set it to off, wire, adaptive, opengl.. You can also change it in preferences.
Not sure about the aspect ratio question.. I guess just make sure your footage is interpolated correctly, and you're using the correct comp specs. Square vs rectangle pixels.
What is the exact interpretation of the QT files? Make sure to also set the PAR, not just the resolution. also check how the are exported in the first place. smoke* and similar systems do use some odd tricks to manage different resolutions and may embed additional data outside the visible area that confuses AE.
I see this aspect ratio shift on some movies, too. A movie will look correct at 100%, but when viewed at 50% or lower, it will become compressed horizontally. I don't have a good explanation, or any advice other than the old joke that begins "Doctor, it hurts when I do this."
The interpretation is set to
separate fields off
D1/DV PAL Widescreen (1.42)
which is the same as i use for QTs from other sources
Perhaps it is the smoke. no other sources have done it. it's pretty irritating. thanks for that David, that will help get around it.