working on a website and wanna put short video examples on it. tried rendering as wmv file and the quality was so crappy! is there anyway I can customize the render process to improve the quality? when I do it as a real media it's the same thing.
Most of the quality depends on what bitrate you use when encoding. Which template did you choose? Anything less than 256K is probably crud. 256K is more or less questionably acceptable. Above 512K is usually pretty good. Once you've chosen that template click the Custom button and under the Video tab slide the quality slider all the way to the right. Selecting 2-pass encoding will also result in a much better image, but it will take twice as long to render.
Of course, the higher the bitrate you choose, the larger the file will be and the longer it will take for visitors to download the file.
As a rule of thumb - talking heads have less movement so look better at lower bit rates. You can also take that concept for any shot where the camera does not move and there is very little movement in the frame. For anything fast moving you have to play around and see what works.
Overall in the past I used Real because they had the most common and easy to access cross platform codec. Now I have moved over to Quicktime because the quality is better and it can be set up for streaming as easy as Real was. Also as more and more people move over to DSL and Cable you can get higher bit rate with almost any of the codecs that look great for streaming. Having said that keep in mind people out there still use modems so having only a higher quality, higher birate version will exclude someone with a modem who doesn't want to wait 12 hours for a clip to download to view it.
Another option is this - use Flash. Flash is sort of becoming the new Real - it is everywhere and 'everyone' has it or uses it to some degree. Sorrenson Squeeze makes it very easy to convert your video files over to a Flash compatable format.
One other option is simple - just do a low bitrate for streaming and a higher birate for downloading. People with modems sort of expect streaming to look like crap with the windows media format anyway, if they get it to work right that is. Always try to encode things that are backwards compatable - most people will just move on to something else if they get the "Plug-in required" or "You need a newer version..." messages that pop up.
I picked up a few good tips if you're making media for streaming, I think I got them from Sundance but cannot be sure. Of course if you're starting with media thats already created then this is useless info!
The trick is to shoot to minimise motion e.g. if its a talking head even a locked of camera only needs the slightest movement to shift the image 1 pixel and presto the whole frame is sent again. Better trick is to bluescreen the background then you are certain only the subject has motion. If the whole frame has to move do it slowly.
I think adding some motion blur to fast motion prior to encoding should also help.
I did some low bitrate comparisons of footage from Quake 3. I compared mpeg-1. quicktime, and WMV. I found that quicktime looked the best, and was slightly bigger then the wmv. You can check out the video here to see for yourself: