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Sky Movies is changing to Sky Cinema, but what has really changed?

Sky Movies is changing its name to Sky Cinema, but there’s a lot more to the update than a simple title switch. Here’s all you need to know about Sky Cinema, including how picture and audio quality is improving, as well as the selection of movies on offer.

On the surface, a name change from Sky Movies to Sky Cinema isn’t all that interesting. Sky perhaps guessed we might say that, and so also announced some other, much more interesting changes at the same time.

In the interest of completeness, some of the more normal stuff mentioned was an increase in the number of new movies the channels will show. Sky is now going to add a new movie each day, which in percentage terms in an increase of 70 percent. Then there’s the amount of films available on-demand, which is also rising by 20 percent.

The name change to Sky Cinema will happen on July 8, and Sky is celebrating by making British icon James Bond the first film series it shows under the new banner. The movie in question is 2015’s Spectre, with Daniel Craig as the shooty secret agent.

Sky also re-emphasised that HD movie channels will now be free on its own platform to Cinema customers, as well as Virgin customers. This means that if you’re taking movies, you won’t have a supplemental “HD” fee to pay anymore.

HD is getting even better

And Sky also confirmed that we’ll see 4K movies arrive on Sky Q this year too, but perhaps more interesting than that was the talk about upgrading the HD picture quality for Sky Cinema. Why’s that important? Because for all that chat about ultra HD, people forget that the broadcast quality of HD can sometimes be somewhat lacking, and yet there’s plenty of scope to improve it.

Sky is claiming that its mastering process now has one-third more pixels, up to 2 million from 1.5 million. It’s not clear – and we have sought clarification from Sky on this – about what that means for the end product. A 1080p frame has 2m pixels anyway, and an interlaced 1080 field would have half that. However, broadcasters don’t work with interlacing, so this section is still a bit confusing.

Colour too has been given a boost with “four times the colour shades” – on the Sky FAQ about Cinema it says that this is an increase from 256 shades per colour to 1024 shades. Impressive, although the broadcast standard is different to mastering so it’s quite unlikely that this will make much difference.

We also asked Sky if it would be boosting the amount of bandwidth on the film channels to help further improve the quality. If the company replies, we’ll post that response here as an update.

Thinking logically though, it would make sense for Sky’s movie channels to move to a 4K mastering process now. That should result in sharper pictures on the 1080p conversions if it’s handled properly, and it will mean that they are building up an archive of movies which are 4K ready for when it launches the 4K service later in the year.

And Sky has given a boost to sound too, although again it’s not clear from the information we currently have to say how this has changed. It could be that it’s allowing for a boost in bandwidth that would allow transmitting 7.1 sound, or DTS (quite unlikely given the complexity of explaining this).

Free as a bird

The changes to Sky Cinema’s picture and sound will be rolled out, as standard, to Sky and Virgin customers. Obviously you’ll need an HD box to take advantage of them, but this isn’t an upgrade that requires new equipment – which makes it all the more exciting.

It’s not just the over-the-air stuff that’s getting an upgrade either. Sky says that it’s “Buy and Keep” program will be moving up to Blu-ray copies from next year. The service currently posts you a DVD after you pay for a digital copy, but that should get an HD upgrade in early 2017 according to Sky.

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