You just knew this topic was coming, didn't you! By "nice animation" I'm thinking in particular of avoiding flickering on thin lines, and also finding good compression settings, and how to make it so that the most number of people can view the animation. There is another topic that can be covered, of how to get the animation itself to be nice, but here I'm just using the normal SketchUp feature, anyone wanting a better animation itself could look into the Smooth Animation plugin. Here's the Ruby for that plugin (do a right-click download as file approach to get the .rb file):
Back to the problem at hand... First, the many issues:
1. The Windows version of SketchUp seems incapable of exporting a movie with anything but Cinepak as the codec. That leads to compression artifacts along edges that are at a shallow angle.
2. The antialiasing in SketchUp isn't very good.
3. You can get a good movie by exporting an image sequence (use PNG for best results), but then the file is enormous, and your clients may struggling to download it, and it would play very poorly.
4. Because the antialiasing isn't too good, even an image sequence movie has distracting flicker on shallow or steep angle lines.
5. However you got that far, you could make a Windows Media Video file, and just assume that Mac users would find a way to cope (most can, because of the Flip4Mac add on to QuickTime), or you could make a QuickTime movie and hope that Windows users can cope (most can, because anyone who has an iPod or an iPhone connected to their PC certainly has QuickTime). Neither case is ideal though, because perhaps your ultra-important client CEO, who made $1M in the time it took me to type this, is a Mac user who can't play WMV, or a PC user who can't play QuickTime.
I'll go through the various stages now, and in this I'm using Huck's river scene, which has 10 scenes, of which I animate through 9 of them (I skipped to last one that goes to a plan view). I also cheated slightly, in that on my Mac I can go straight to a movie with perfect quality video, I don't have to go via an image sequence. The resulting movie is the same as if you had gone via an image sequence, so the rest of the test is valid. Lower down in the message are links to the results, if you want to skip ahead!
As the antialiasing isn't good, you can work around that by exporting a very large image, and then reduce the size when you make the compressed version of the movie. Some would say to make the large version set to not antialias, and there is logic to that idea, but I tried it, and the results weren't good enough. For my test I exported at 4096x2304, with antialiasing. The movie it made was over 12 gigabytes, and took five hours to export. I expect an image sequence export might be even bigger.
To get the most number of users to be able to view a compressed version, I exported the movie as MPEG-4 file format, and used H.264 as the video codec. That gives a .mp4 file that many players will be able to cope with (it's technically not a QuickTime file, even though the file format is based on input from Apple), and the same file can also be played using Flash. This means users have a choice of whether to view it in their preferred media player, or in a web browser using Flash.
As part of the compression I took the size down to 1024x576, which improved the antialiasing a lot. There are still defects that I can point out, but most people won't notice them. Another thing to think about is data rate. You either want to use the lowest data rate that the movie still looks good enough, or perhaps the highest data rate that your client can view at. For this case I just went with 2 megabits per second, which these days is lower end broadband, and from having compressed a few thousand movies in the past I had a sense that the quality would be good enough.
Incidentally, I made the animation at 24 frames per second. That's the frame rate of all feature films. It's also a convenient frame rate for making DVD versions of the animation. For NTSC you can make a 23.976 fps progressive DVD, that will play very nicely on any DVD that outputs component or DVI (or HDMI), and is still compatible with 29.97 fps TVs. For PAL you could speed up the file by 4 percent to get a very good progressive 25 fps DVD. I made the animation at 16:9, which looks impressive in a browser, and could also be used for making anamorphic DVDs. A client with a good widescreen TV would hopefully be blown away!
The compression to 1024x576 MP4 took a while, though I didn't time it. Maybe an hour. The file is just over 12MB, about 1/1000th the size of the original export. I opened the MP4 in QuickTime Player to save out a reference MOV version (not everyone has their browser set up to handle MP4 versions correctly), and I made a Flash file that could play the MP4. The ability for Flash to play these MP4 files was introduce just under two years ago.
So (drum roll please...), here are the resulting files. All of them are playing the same physical MP4 file, one direct, one via the QuickTime reference file, and one via Flash: