List of BBC test cards

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The following is a list of test cards used by the BBC at various points in broadcasting.

Tuning Signals[edit]

First tuning signal

The first "Tuning Signals" test card was broadcast by the BBC in 1934. It was a simple line and circle broadcast using Baird's 30-line system, and was used to synchronise the mechanical scanning system.[1]

Test Card A[edit]

Test Card A made its debut in 1937. However, it was only transmitted in the period January to (approx) October 1947, when it was replaced by the first version of Test Card C.

Test Card B[edit]

Test Card B

Test Card B was an early BBC television test card. It was very similar to Test Card A but was never broadcast, only used by BBC engineers for internal use. The original card has since gone missing. The only differences were that the frequency bars were juxtaposed, the values were deleted, and an Ilford Panchromatic Response Chart placed below the circle where the letter box had been, the letter box in Test Card A was moved to the top of the card replacing the vertical resolution test.[2]

These amendments were sourced from the BBC Engineering Department Monograph No. 69 of 1967, to correct the disputed text. The illustration is a modern reconstruction not based on factual information available since September 1967.

Test Card C[edit]

Test Card C

Test Card C[3] was a BBC television test card first broadcast in 1947. It was the first test card to resemble the famous Test Card F.[2] It was also available as individual rolls of test film in the UK and many Commonwealth countries up until the end of the black-and-white television era.[4][5]

The image displayed here is a reconstruction and the castelations are incorrect.

These amendments are sourced from the BBC Engineering Department Monograph No. 69 of 1967.

Test Card D[edit]

Test Card D was a television test card first broadcast on 5th May 1964 by both the BBC and the ITA. This was the first test card to be based on a specification.[6] Test Card D was amended, and the amendment introduced on the 1st December 1965 as the radio and television trade objected to the original. Both versions had Reduced Power cards from the start. This Test Card was a joint effort between the BBC, BREMA and the ITA.

Test Card E (later Test Card C)[edit]

Modified Test Card C

Test Card E was a television test card designed in 1964 and made to accommodate the 625-line system on BBC2, as opposed to the 405-line system of Test Card D. However, Test Card E lasted for only four and a half days before being withdrawn. Test Card E was thereafter replaced by a modified version of Test Card C, which lasted on BBC2 until December 1964, the illustrated version of Test Card C shown here replaced the first version, and was discontinued in September 1969, and when the colour Test Card F was introduced in July 1967, Test Card C was only shown between 9.00 and 9.58 a.m. A version of the modified Test Card C also aired on BBC1 and BBC 2 from November 1969 (with the BBC1 and BBC 2 logos replacing the "BBC2 625 LINES" caption). This modified Test Card C also had versions where Reduced Power also appeared in the ident box. This version of Test Card C was last used in February 1975, and was only ever generated locally at the transmitter. Test Card E did however see later usage by RTÉ in Ireland and RTP in Portugal alongside Test Card D.

Test Card F[edit]

Test Card F was the BBC's longest-running and most famous test card, featuring Carole Hersee and Bubbles the Clown. There have been many different Test Card F variations.[2] It was first broadcast on 2 July 1967 (the day after the first colour pictures appeared to the public on television) on BBC2.

Test Card G[edit]

Test Card G was a television test card broadcast occasionally by the BBC. It was the first electronically generated test card to be broadcast, and was a variant of the Philips PM5544 test card.[2] This test card was generally used by local transmitters for opt outs or during times when a particular region was not showing a programme broadcast from London. It was also used in place of Test Card F nationally from time to time when the projector showing the latter test card's photographic slide was not available or undergoing maintenance until Test Card F was converted to electronic form in 1984.[7] Test Card G was also occasionally used by ITV alongside Test Card F before completely switching over to the ETP-1 test card in 1979.

Pye Test Card G as seen on a monoscope.

Another Test Card G, unrelated, was developed by Pye as a monochrome variant on Test Card C. It was used in other countries that use 625-line PAL, such as Bulgaria,[8] Denmark,[9] Luxembourg,[10] Thailand, Barbados and Malaysia,[11] but not in Britain.[2] A slightly modified version of the Pye Test Card G was used by YLE in Finland until it switched to the colour Telefunken FuBK test card in the 1970s, as well as in Norway where NRK used it in conjunction with the EIA 1956 resolution chart until it switched to the Philips PM5544, Test Card F and the Telefunken FuBK test cards in the 1970s.[12]

Test Card H[edit]

Test Card H

Test Card H was designed as a line up chart for cameras in-studio, possibly to test chroma specifications as well as resolution and bandwidth. The "H" designation was solely used for this chart, and was therefore never allocated to a Test Card used for broadcasting; following this, the letter "I" was also passed over as a Test Card letter, having been considered too similar to the number "1", therefore leading to Test Card J being the next in the series.[13]

Test Card J[edit]

Test Card J is an enhanced revision of Test Card F, first broadcast in November 1999.[2]

Test Card W[edit]

Test Card W is a widescreen update of Test Card F. A predecessor to Test Card W without an identifying letter first appeared in March 1998 as part of digital tests on the Astra 1D satellite, and was notably broadcast to the public on 6 November 1998 as part of a joke on Have I Got News For You to censor then-host Angus Deayton about discussing Peter Mandelson's life. Test Card W is an updated 16:9 (1.78:1) widescreen version of Test Card F. It first appeared in November 1999 alongside Test Card J, with which it bears some similarities. Both aforementioned test cards were designed for the 16:9 (widescreen) ratio.[2][14]

Test Card X[edit]

The high-definition version of Test Card W is visually similar but officially lacks a designation letter. This version is often referred to as Test Card X, but this is not a designation which the BBC recognises.[15] It is designed for use on high-definition TV services, & had been included a part of BBC HD's preview loop since November 2008 (though it had been in use internally at the BBC for several years prior) until the channel's closure in March 2013.

Unidentified test card[edit]

Recreation of the BBC unnamed electronic test card

An electronically generated image was first broadcast on 21 June 1997 on BBC2 between 3 am and 4 am. It was also broadcast in October 1997 from 3:29 am until 3:44 am, when, at the same time, BBC1 showed Test Card G. Both channels reverted over to these at the same time, and reverted to TCF at the same time, as part of a switching test with BBC Birmingham, whereby in the event of a need to evacuate BBC TV to Pebble Mill Studios in Birmingham, such as a power failure as happened in June 2000, a switch would be thrown, putting Birmingham in control of the network, until BBC Television Centre could regain control. Both TCG and this image were transmitted from Birmingham to prove the switching facility worked.

This test card was then seen again on 17 April 2007 between 4 am and 5 am during the BBC Learning Zone. Both transmissions were accompanied by a four-tone test tone, ranging from extremely low frequency to a very high shrill. It is unknown if this Test Card has a name,[2] though this test card has also been known to be used on point-to-point satellite links originating from the Fucino Space Centre[16] and other places in Italy (Telefisco,[16] Lapet,[16] etc), and by Marconi Portugal.[16] Another version, modified for NTSC, was used by Televisión Nacional de Chile (TVN)[17] in the 1990s.

Untransmitted test cards[edit]

There have been a number of untransmitted test cards. They would most likely be for internal use inside the BBC. Most of them are adapted from Test Card F.[2]

Comic Relief test card[edit]

A Comic Relief test card was broadcast on BBC1 on 18 March 1993 as part of Comic Relief.[2] This test card featured ten-year-old competition winner Hannah Marriott, wearing a red nose.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "BBC Tuning Signals". Meldrum. 29 March 2000. Archived from the original on 23 February 2009. Retrieved 14 August 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "BBC Test Cards". Meldrum. 29 March 2000. Retrieved 14 August 2009.
  3. ^ "Test Card C BBC". 16 July 2015 – via Flickr.
  4. ^ "BBC Testcard C Telecine Lineup 16mm Film Loop". YouTube.
  5. ^ "Telecine - a brief guide". YouTube.
  6. ^ "Test Card D BBC". 30 July 2015 – via Flickr.
  7. ^ "Test Card Memory Lane". Archived from the original on 14 March 2016.
  8. ^ "Non-UK Television Test Cards, Tuning Signals, Clocks and Idents - Bulgaria". 7 June 2019. Archived from the original on 7 June 2019. Retrieved 13 January 2023.
  9. ^ "Non-UK Television Test Cards, Tuning Signals, Clocks and Idents - Denmark". 7 June 2019. Archived from the original on 7 June 2019. Retrieved 13 January 2023.
  10. ^ Kemp, AUTHOR: D. "How to receive Continental television". Transdiffusion. Retrieved 13 January 2023.
  11. ^ Mann, Anthony (21 March 2005). "TV Malaysia received in Perth, Western Australia 1975-1987". Anthony (Tony) Mann's TVDX page. Archived from the original on 21 March 2005. Retrieved 13 January 2023.
  12. ^ "Vintage Electronics Blog & Forum - Radios, Television, Hi-Fi". 15 February 2020.
  13. ^ "Test Card J". 29 March 2000. Archived from the original on 1 July 2007. Retrieved 14 August 2009.
  14. ^ "- YouTube".
  15. ^ Quested, Andy (17 December 2008). "A Christmas Present from the HD Channel!". BBC. Retrieved 14 August 2009.
  16. ^ a b c d "Testcards-feeds".
  17. ^ "Question: this is a layout of a SMPTE-like test pattern used by Chilean channel TVN (which uses NTSC) that I don't remember having seen anywere else. Could have been a custom design for the channel?". reddit. Retrieved 13 January 2023.

External links[edit]