Originally Posted by Emmetpunk
What is the secret to this? How can a compressed rip look better in quality than a 1:1 rip? How much of a Handbrake-pro do you have to be to be able to achieve this?
Literally impossible. Anytime you re-encode media in a lossy format you will degrade the image vs. the encoding source. Often the quality loss can be imperceptible though.
For example, the movie Downfall from 2004 is quite grainy in its original state on the Blu-ray disc and also grainy when ripped with MakeMKV with a size around 30GB, but i've seen HD screenshots of this movie that has been compressed down to 10GB and looks ten times better than the original.
From a clinical perspective, this is also impossible. However, what you might be seeing is somebody who applied noise reduction to their re-encode. Despite what lots of people think, graininess in film is not an encoding artifact or error, it's part of the original image. Noise reductions will smooth out that graininess but also washes out a ton of detail. Some people prefer this look, although it's generally regarded as a bad thing by most "videophiles".
Here's a very common example:
The image on the left is far more accurate to what the original film looked like. The image on the right is after heavy noise reduction was done. Most people here would say the right side looks horrible, but there's a lot of people that prefer that look.