Best quote ever....
From a close friend of mine :
"Blu-Ray is a great master format for piracy"
I have worked in the film and movie business for years and have had access to uncompressed 1080p24 10-bit per channel tapes of films. The quality is SPECTACULAR!!! Those extra two bits of color depth make a HUGE difference....
I have then dropped compressed using x264 (with the settings tweaked to hell and back) for 9Mbps and 50Mbps. Then I compared the output quality against a simple down-sampled 10-bit to 8-bit master on studio monitors.
Well... I'll say this... 9Mbps is awesome viewing quality, but the difference between the master and the output is quite noticeable. Hell.. what do you expect compressing from 1.2Gbps to 9Mbps. The 50Mbps however was pretty damn close to the original. Of course I made use of long B chains and really long sequences (in the seconds), but it was spectacular.
Then I compressed to 720p from all three sources... the signal quality dropped to crap from the 9Mbps source. But the output quality from the 10-Bit master and the 50Mbps showed very little visible difference... the PSNR showed a great deal more loss than the monitor did. The PSSIM on the other hand showed that the loss for the 50Mbps was minimal when compared to the 8-bit downsample of the master.
So... for watching... 9Mbp/sec at 1080p24 is spectacular and more than suitable for any consumer HD equipment (no your $5000 flat panel IS NOT a calibrated monitor)... but if you need something to use as a master for piracy... the BluRay is ideal... don't settle for less.