How will you be playing the MPEG2 file for projection? MPEG2 codecs are very fussy about the resolution used. Almost certainly, the issue here is that the non-standard resolution you're using is a problem for the encoder.
The file will play off a computer hard drive for projection about 30 feet across a room to a large screen. But from what you're saying, the resolution is going to be a problem for most formats I'm guessing.I don't want to shrink the resolution if I don't have to, because even a little smaller than 960x720 and the whole thing starts looking fuzzy and/or pixelated. AVI files are currently too large for me to transport, and I was hoping MPEG2 would be small enough, but I can't know if it won't render. And I'm talking about rendering files that run on average about 5 minutes in length. AVI gives me something like 15 GB files, and until I get a portable hard drive, that's of no use to me.
If the resolution size is the problem, is there some place I can find out what the sizes for various formats need to be to render in After Effects? Or is there some way to keep the resolution and render in a similar format?
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For the best possible results you should be rendering to the native resolution of the computer feeding the projector, which in turn should be running at the native resolution of the projector. Most contemporary projectors can run at XGA resolution (1024x768) which is quite close to your current target.
AE is not the world's greatest encoder and on my Mac, at least, the MainConcept MPEG Encoder it uses doesn't allow me to render MPEG2 at any resolutions except specific standards (PAL, NTSC, and various HD standards). Neither your custom res or XGA are supported. I'd strongly suggest you render a lossless version from AE (uncompressed AVI or Quicktime Animation) and then encode your delivery file with another tool.
I'd ditch MPEG2 personally and use a more PC-friendly codec like MPEG4 or H264, which are far more flexible in their resolution requirements.
Okay. I'll work on that. Thanks much.