It depends on what device you will use (ie, connect to the LCD TV) to feed the content.
Widescreen DVDs are always 720x480 anamorphic (like the NTSC DV Widescreen preset in AE), and if all other variables are good (source material, encoding, etc), they can and do look terrific. Contrary to popular belief, there evidently are other aspects to image quality, besides pure pixel count.
If you want better than that and send HD video to your TV or monitor, it can't be a DVD. A DVD-Video disc is always standard definition. So, it has to be a Blu-Ray disc, or hook-up a computer display output to the LCD TV, or use one of the very affordable HDMI-capable media players (such as the Western Digital TV, or Popcorn Hour, for example).
In all of these cases, you can pick the HDTV 1080 Composition preset in AE, with the frame rate you need. The resulting Composition will be 1920x1080 with square pixels.
For Blu-Ray output you need an authoring application like Adobe Encore and a Blu-Ray burner (and player, obviously).
To send HD video from a media player like the the WD TV, or from a computer hooked up to your TV, you usually want to encode a high-bitrate H264 or MPEG-2 video file.
Since this is too broad in reach, once you figure out which route you want, let us know and we'll try to help with the details.
That would be normal HD then, i.e. 1080x1920 pixels. The more interesting question is, how it is supposed to be played back? BluRay? Desktop playback from a computer? This would quite influence the choice of output format and framerate, so please clarify.
I believe it will be played back on a standard dvd player, not blu ray.
Okay, so I don't care about High Def so much as I want to be at the proper pixel resolution. If 720x480 will get scaled up at runtime, then what resolution do I use so that there is no scaling?
If it's going to NTSC DVD, then it can only be 720x480 (either 4:3 or 16:9). There's no way to store a higher resolution video file that's meant to be compatible with standard DVD players.
It's not going to be scaled up in terms of pixels. It's just that, the larger the screen size in inches, the more noticeble the pixels become if you're using 720x480 NTSC (which, again, you can't help if you will play it back from a DVD player). Still, if you watch commercial DVD tiles, you'll see that (as I said before) if all other things are good in quality, they look fine on a 42" LCD or plasma TV. There are other important factors, like viewing distance - Standard definiton video will look better on a 42" display the further away you are from it.
You can render a lossless AVI or Quicktime file from After Effects, take it to Adobe Encore DVD and use one of the higher quality encoding presets from within Encore. There are dozens of other ways, but this is a really simple one and it should work fine.
thanks for all your answers, you guys are awesome. Tell me something though....
Right now I am rendering and watching my render as it does its thing. The comp is at 100% but it looks pixelated as hell. Should it look crisp since it's at 100% and on a computer monitor? Have I done something wrong? Or is this just a low res preview?
But in Photoshop, you know how when you are viewing an image at say, 97% it doesn't look good, but as soon as you view it at 100% it looks pefect. I figure it should be the same in AE. Is that the case?
What I'm getting at is this, have I done something horribly wrong and my images are all pixelated? Even text I typed is pixelated in the preview window.
> Have I done something wrong? Or is this just a low res preview?
It's hard for us to know whether you've done anything wrong, since we don't know what you've done, what your settings are, et cetera. Screenshots of, say, the Composition panel can really help us to see what you're seeing.
I'll make a guess, though. Perhaps you have the resolution setting in the Composition set to Half or Quarter or some other setting other than Full or Auto.