NoSleep (it's always odd addressing people with such nicknames!):
The main choice you face is - are you mainly concerned with quality or getting as close to universal playback as possible?
Sorenson 3 is really a legacy codec. It can't compete with more modern technologies in any way. So much so, that Quicktime hides it. If you want to use it, you have to enable a checkbox in QT Pro to show legacy codecs.
H264 is by far the best option. It can be played back by people with Quicktime, and now it's also a standard codec for Flash video. But it will still take some time for most people to have Flash 10 installed, so it's not really universal. For best quality, use Adobe Media Encoder (installed with AE CS4) in standalone mode, so you can enable 2 pass VBR encoding. Gamma shifts are a problem when using Quicktime, AE and AME don't use this (even show a warning if you try to use it).
FLV with the On2 VP6 codec, yes, doesn't have the same quality but can be played back by almost everybody (it's been out since the Flash 7 plug-in, so it came with most browsers for years). At a higher data rate. it should give you good quality. Again, if you use AME in standalone mode you can take advatage of better encoding quality by using 2 pass.
You can encode directly AE comps in AME standalone, by launching AME and opening the AE comp using Dynamic Link. It will render and encode without an intermediate file. You'll save disk space, but it will probably take just as long (or longer) than exporting a lossless file and feeding that to AME.
Remember, AE is a content creation application. Distribution formats are still better when produced from a dedicated encoding application, such as AME.
Also, FWIW, FLV and H264 are available from the Render Queue, in the format list inside the Output Module. They are missing in the trial version only. Again, you will get better quality from AME standalone.
Good to know about FLV in render queue--I didn't notice it sneak in there. That's helpful for a client Ihave who requires them as a deliverable. I didn't quite follow what you were saying about gamma shift in H264--it soundeed like you were saying there was no such thing as accurate color in Quicktime from AE or AME. Is there a way to get decently accurate color from a small h264? I hate explaining to non-technical clients that their project looks all washed out due to compression.
Obviously the goal is to make posting a test render for approval as painless and quick for everyone involved, so thanks for your advice.
On that note--it seems like a little export to web-page function in AE like you can do with images in the other CS apps might be a useful feature for AE...
You definitely should'nt have washed out color with h264. What Adolfo was saying is that Quicktime color management in inconsistent, so if you render a h264 codec in a Quicktime file (or any other codec in a .mov), there will be a gamma shift depending on the software and platform used to play it back. And that's not just an Adobe problem. Even Apple application displays differently the same QuickTime movie. Yes it's a mess.
But the good new is Quicktime is just a container file, not a codec itself, so you can use h264 inside flv, or mp4 containers to have them display your colors correctly.
Hope that helps,
Just to clarify (last thing I want is to look like those guys who are correcting others all the time!) - what I meant is that these gamma shifts are a known problem when encoding through Quicktime technology, be it when going to a Quicktime file (H264 wrapped in a .mov file) or even when going to a standard .mp4/m4v file.
If you encode using the AME or AE path to H264, this problem shouldn't exist. Still, some degree of color change can happen when squeezing bits drastically, so correcting for these things is a standard procedure. So, if gamma goes up when encoding to H264, you can apply the Levels effect in an Adjustment Layer in AE and lower gamma by 10-15 per cent, if at all needed.