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If I was to compare a 720p video encoded (using x264) from an untouched 1080p Blu-ray rip with the same video encoded at a similar bitrate but from a 1080p x264 rip, which one is more likely to look better in terms of perceived quality?

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If the 1080p encode has a high enough bitrate, one shouldn't notice a significant difference, else the BD source offers greater headroom to retain detail.

  • Isn't a double step doomed to a greater loss from the start?, one might doubt – ed0 Dec 13 '15 at 18:12
  • Mathematically, yes. But your query concerns perceptual quality. Run the command in this answer on both a 1st-generation and 2nd-generation encode to see how much difference you get. – Gyan Dec 13 '15 at 18:19
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A lower-than-optimal bitrate video with higher resolution could easily look worst than a smaller one with proper bit per pixel dedication. Of course a very important fact is the viewing device and condition. A smaller video should get upscaled to fill the screen, for example a 1280×720 will get upscaled in full-screen mode on a 1920×1080 screen.

So, in conclusion the perceptual quality highly depends also on other factors than the resolution only.

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