TV error screen?
February 19, 2005 5:46 PM   Subscribe

Is there a name for the multi-coloured TV error screen?

You know, the one with colourful blocks. Traditionally accompanied with a long beep. Sort of looks like this only not really.
Anyone know what it's called?
posted by Count Ziggurat to Technology (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
They are called test patterns.
posted by mds35 at 5:53 PM on February 19, 2005

The most popular (not what you pictured) is the SMPTE color bars. If you're a TV geek, it's fascinating to see how popular these things are in the UK. [mefi discussion]
posted by ALongDecember at 6:06 PM on February 19, 2005

"color bars" is the specific name, and in Europe the most common type is EBU 75%. The beep is called "tone" (at 1KHz), and together they are known as "bars and tone".
posted by cillit bang at 6:13 PM on February 19, 2005

Aha! There is the wiki! I was looking for that.
posted by mds35 at 6:14 PM on February 19, 2005

This always scared me as a kid. Still does.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:23 PM on February 19, 2005

btw, It's not an error screen...

it's used for calibration. Or it should be - often editors don't know what to set these things to.

The idea is that the bars are used for the color & brightness calibriation, the sound is used for audio levels. Things are supposed to be mixed around the level of tone.
posted by filmgeek at 8:19 PM on February 19, 2005

"test tone"....
posted by noius at 8:24 PM on February 19, 2005

Something interesting, that is hard to miss on that jargon filled wikipedia page, is that they can be used in a very low tech way if you have colored pieces of film to view the pattern through. (This only works properly if you have calibrated films. But you can get the right basic effect with 3D glasses.)

Blue film: The top part of each vertical bar should be the same color/intensity as the bottom part.

Green film: The top part of the left four vertical bars should all be the same color. The top part of the right three should be the same as well.

Red film: Top part of vertical bars 1, 2, 5, and 6 should be the same color. Bars 3, 4, and 7 should be a different color.

IIRC, the standard way to do it is to use the blue while you're setting the controls, and then to check the results with the red and the green.
posted by smackfu at 8:37 PM on February 19, 2005

This always scared me as a kid. Still does.

They've always frightened me too!! Especially with 'Please Stand By' graphics.I used to be glued to after school cartoons and maybe once or twice a month they would pop up and I would just completely freeze in fright. Like I did not want to touch the remote or even look away. They would last for maybe 15-20 seconds. I remember this particular one would often appear after Thundercats (this is channel 2 in Oakland, CA) and it would have a graphic of a spinning red vortex like a direct drainage to hell and the caption 'PLEASE STAND BY FOR 20 SECONDS' in capital letters right to the left of it. What the fuck is up with that? Did they choose that graphic just to freak the hell out of me? Aaaa! This is why I do not want to watch The Ring.
posted by sammich at 9:48 PM on February 19, 2005

That's indeed correct, smackfu. Some pro monitors have a "Blue Only" button that turns off the red and green electron guns, and I've even seen a few old monitors that have individual red/green/blue switches.

I've seen calibrated pieces of blue film mounted in a plastic card (credit card size) handed out at trade shows. They're really convenient. I wish I could find one for free or cheap now, as I've given all mine away.
posted by Vidiot at 9:51 PM on February 19, 2005

Ah, excellent. Thanks.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 10:07 PM on February 19, 2005

In the UK we call it the test card:

Test Card Gallery
posted by gaby at 10:50 AM on February 20, 2005

To second cillit bang, my video editor friend refers to them as "Bars & Tones."
posted by fandango_matt at 4:22 PM on February 20, 2005

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