Graeme: The most important aspect to those incredibly looking trailers is the quality of the sources. Those things are shot on film or very high-end HD cameras and remain uncompressed all the way, until they are fed to the encoders. Ironically, the most efficient web codecs really benefit from having pristine, uncompressed sources.
Then, there's the encoding technology, which is H264. You can now also use H264 encoding in Flash video. You can use a standard MP4 container (compatible with the current Flash Player and Quicktime) or a new Flash-specific F4V container.
Encoding directly from AE will give you good quality, but you can get even better quality by taking the AE comp or an uncompressed file to Adobe Media Encoder (running in standalone mode) and using 2 pass VBR encoding for H264. Or you can also use a specialized solution like Squeeze.
While encoding is a science (which can't possibly be aquired in a forum post!), no amount of encoding experitse will give you a source with the quality of a high-end movie
Graphic Graeme wrote:
I was just on the apple.com site. I'm curious as to how they're able to compress their movie trailers and have them look so crisp?
Hardware encoders/ a dedicated encoding server with sophisticated custom routines most likely. As already said - good compression is an art in itself, especially for web with limited data rates. There is no generic recipe. Different content or different sizes all require their own specific set of optimizations. that's why it's so difficult and some people swear by one program for one task, but use other tools for other stuff. Come to think of it, this is pretty much the same for BluRay/ DVD. There are a few things that generally apply like working uncompressed, getting rid of fields and block artifacts, preserving Gamma etc., but the terrible truth is, that you only know, after you've tried to encode. Therefore the only sane advise is, to use short clips to test out parameters, and only after you have found suitable values, do the full encode. The rest is just experience. With every encode you will know more about how your tool responds to adjustments and how it influences the quality.