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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Test patterns



Remember them? I can't recall the last time that I saw one broadcast. My wife and I were trying to explain them to our kids, who didn't understand why the broadcast companies would fail to broadcast content overnight. We tried to explain that people just didn't think that it was worth it. But then, again, wouldn't it cost the broadcaster as much to send out a signal of a test card as of a back episode of the Late, Late Show?  Must get a weigh-in from Roberta X.

We were explaining to the girls the traditional sign-off, which would explain some details about the station, explain when they would come back on the air, and then usually would play the national anthem with either an eagle flying, a flag flying, a fighter jet flying, or all of the above.  I admitted that, on most occasions, I was incapable of resisting the urge to stand and place my hand over my heart during the national anthem portion of the sign-off. My family exchanged that look that says, "Yeah, that's Matt/Daddy, all right."

I refuse to be embarrassed.

So, when did you see your last broadcast test pattern and sign-off?

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8 Comments:

At Thursday, July 12, 2012 9:35:00 PM, Blogger Turk Turon said...

My first job at a TV station (ch 6 WTVR in Richmond, VA) was to run the national anthem, turn the signal to white (lowest output power) and throw the big switch to turn off the transmitter. Ah, those were the days!

 
At Thursday, July 12, 2012 10:43:00 PM, Blogger TheUnpaidBill said...

I work for a PBS station. We shut down our over the air broadcast every night, but our cable feed is 24 hours.

So while I don't usually make a point of it, I could see one on a daily basis (I do get some of my tv over the air). I usually see one every time I go past the ops center.

The point of a test pattern is it gives a specific wave form that provides a reference against what is being produced. Some random program would not provide the same reference point.

 
At Thursday, July 12, 2012 10:44:00 PM, Anonymous Brandon said...

I can remember as a child being up early enough on Saturday morning to catch 10-15 of test patterns before the cartoons started. That would have been in the mid 80's.

 
At Friday, July 13, 2012 7:42:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On a PBS station in the early 1990s, and one a low-power community access station in Kansas in the early 2000s.

LittleRed1

 
At Friday, July 13, 2012 9:42:00 AM, Anonymous daniels said...

As recently as 8 years ago, there were some local North Texas over-the-air stations that would shutdown and show a test pattern at night.

May be there still are, but seeing as how I don't watch much TV anymore, I can't rightly say.

 
At Friday, July 13, 2012 10:39:00 AM, Blogger Matt said...

Never actually seen that phenomenon. When I was a little kid, I sometimes got up early enough that a couple of the stations deep in UHF-land (try explaining THAT concept to kids nowadays...) weren't on the air yet, but there was no test pattern...just darkness and static. And by the time I was allowed to stay up past when TV stations went off the air...well, they weren't going off the air anymore. The only times I've ever seen test patterns have been:

1. In movies or other media that are _referencing_ this phenomenon by having it occur to the characters in the story
2. A few times when I was in video production studios, displayed on monitors that were turned on and calibrated, but not connected to a feed at the time
3. Once, during the middle of the day, when a local station went off the air for a few minutes to do some emergency maintenance. This was probably in the mid-90s.

 
At Friday, July 13, 2012 12:10:00 PM, Anonymous Old Windways said...

When I was a kid (late 80's to early 90's) and before we got cable, the local PBS station (Connecticut Public Television, CPTV) would frequently have the test pattern on when I got up in the morning and flipped on the TV. I don't think I every stayed up watching late enough to see them sign off though.

 
At Friday, July 13, 2012 2:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After the national anthem I seem to recall a loud tone.

 

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