Normal service resumes.
It does not seem that long ago when TV stations would actually shut down at night. For a few happy hours the incessant drone of talking heads, the inane cackle of laugh tracks, the ceaseless exhortations to not just sit there but BUY something would end. A solemn voice would bid you goodnight and you would be left with silence* and the wondrous beauty of the SMPTE test pattern.
*actually most stations transmitted a test-tone as well. You can have the full experience via YouTube. The test card did change over time. You can watch the evolution of the color bars via YouTube.
Those brief hours of rest from the constant chatter were good. They gave you time to think of other things. They may have provided notice that there are other things you could be doing.
While the Internet can provide interaction and engagement far ahead of television it is still more chatter. Indeed the interactive nature can become a reward in itself. We can end up clicking buttons and waiting for a response just like rats in an experiment clicking a bar to get more food.
The Internet, just like television, can become habit. It is something we do because it is something we do. Not all habits are good and some can become stifling or distracting. Indeed they can even become addicting. As I said in a reply on another thread: the best way to prove you can quit any time, is to quit any time.
This is my way to say that I will be taking a break from posting. I am not going away for good, just taking a brief vacation. I have been gratified that anyone found these postings interesting enough to read. I am grateful for all those who commented and offered advice, encouragement, or just good cheer. Posting some of the TMI stuff was helpful to me. I hope that it may have provided some help to others.
I may still post some lighter stuff. That spikey haired guy may well perform weekend DJ duties from time-to-time. Those threads are fun to create and easier (if I am hit by “inspiration”).
The Color Bars
The test pattern shown at the top of this thread is the standard SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and TV Engineers) color bars. These are far more useful than they look, allowing many aspects of the signal and the television to be checked and calibrated.
The Native American Head Pattern
One of the oldest test patterns is the Indian Head. I am sure modern PC sensitivities would be much more comfortable with the abstract color bars (although that word itself is fraught with difficulties, perhaps it should be “bars of color”). Again this allowed many aspects of the signal and display to be monitored and set. The boxes and circles showed errors of display geometry, the fine lines checked resolution, and even the Indian head provided a check of display characteristics.
The PLUGE (Picture Line Up Generation Equipment) pattern is one you may have seen (along with the Color Bars) on some DVDs. They appear on special calibration DVDs but also as a menu option of some regular DVDs. The PLUGE allows you set the brightness and contrast of your display. There is some argument over how to say the word but I have only ever heard Plooge (sounds like scrooge).
Brightness: Is more accurately called black level. It sets the level of the darkest part of the picture.
Contrast: Is more properly called white level. It sets the level of the brightest part of the picture.
Super Black The darkest part of a TV picture is not set to zero. For various technical reasons it is set above that. (7.5 IRE for those that care about and understand such stuff). This means that it is possible to actually have something that is blacker than black. Some refer to this as “super-black.” Indeed it is the existence of super black that allows the PLUGE pattern to be used for setting black (brightness) levels.
[I am too lazy to write up the procedure. In any case, most discs with the pattern will contain instructions.]
The Laserdisc Turtle
Long before there was DVD, there was Laserdisc. Laserdisc offered higher resolution than VHS. Although using a laser the picture was stored as an analog signal. The discs were heavy 12″ in diameter and much more awkward to handle than DVD or VHS. The discs (like LP records) had two sides. This meant a break in the movie to flip the disc.
[Later machines used a rotating pickup to automatically “flip the disc.”]
Due to limitations on storage, some movies spread to two discs. Sometimes only one side of the second disc was filled. This left the other side empty. All the discs had a message on the empty side. Some used the turtle shown below.
While a laserdisc collection is unlikely to win the girl’s heart, the turtle does induce the “ahh that’s so cute” response. Perhaps any laser-loving PUAs could use that to their advantage.
Test Card F
The BBC’s test card “F” provides the answer to the following trivia question: “What female has had more hours of TV time than any other, yet you won’t know her name?”
The answer to the question is Carole Hersee. She is the young girl that features in the test card below. Test card “F” has been copied by stations around the world. Estimates put its total airtime at 70,000 hours. Hersee is now in her fifties but was eight years old at the time she first appeared. She is the daughter of BBC engineer George Hersee, who developed the card in 1967.
AS with other patterns all of the elements have a use. Even the clown and chalkboard have a purpose. The “X” on the chalk board represents (on some versions) the center of the picture. The clown’s buttons will show up transmission or decoding errors (chroma/luma delay).
For a blogger who has a reputation for charts and graphs, this post seems very in character. If I could add a story about how test patterns made me depressed, it would be perfect.
For all of you that read along (on this post and others), thank you. I hope you enjoyed the show so far. I hope you will return when I recommence transmissions.
[show clock or flag or nice nature scenes]
[cue national anthem]
[fade to black]
[show color bars]
Because I am such a sweet guy, I will save you the annoying tone.