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People get confused when it comes to the topic of resolution. They will throw out the term DPI. DPI is Dots Per Inch, and it doesn't really mean much if you're not printing. With Photoshop you're really looking at pixels per inch, but again, what do you need? Well, it all comes down to what you have to deliver. So, if you're producing video for the web, that's typically a lower resolution than say HD or digital cinema. What you're looking at is the total pixel count, and you can view that information right inside of Bridge or Photoshop.
This particular image is about 6000x4800 pixels tall, and if I look at this next one, you see it's about half the size at 3200 pixels by 2100 pixels. Again, what resolution do you need? Well, it depends upon your delivery format. If I was going to be delivering this image at 1920x1080, I only have about 50% more resolution than I need. That means I could zoom the image slightly and pull out without any pixelization.
On the other hand, this first image is much higher resolution. If I need 2000 pixels to fill the screen across, I've got almost 6000. That's going to allow me quite a bit of zooming. So, if the image were full screen here, and you zoomed into 100%, you'd notice that you have the ability to really see the action. Now we're recording this screen at 1280x720, and that's another flavor of HD that's very popular. Notice that this image is almost five times higher resolution.
This means we could start on a framing like this, which is 100% magnification, and pan across this group. Now the preview quality is just dropping temporarily during the pan, but that gives you an idea of how much room there is. Or maybe we start on this group of children, and we zoom out to see more of the photo. So, hopefully that gives you an idea of how resolution works. What I typically say is this: take the delivery resolution that you're planning on making, for example, 1280x720, and multiply it by a zoom factor.
Typically, you're going to deal with zooms with a factor of two to five times, depending upon how close you want to crop. This will give you a good sense of how many total pixels you need. If you're scanning the photos, you can set the target resolution in the scanner itself. If you're dealing with digital files, make sure you try to get the proper resolution from the client. These days with modern digital cameras, it's possible to get many more pixels than you actually need. If you're dealing with high resolution, say 40 megapixel digital images from a DSLR, you might actually need to downsample those before you bring them into After Effects.
Having too few pixels is a problem, but so is having too many. Always think about the delivery format that you need to make and the level of zoom you need to achieve.
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