23

In Pleasantville, after a few minutes, we see some ads running on an old TV screen.

At some point, the broadcast ends with a single constant frame showing some circles, lines, which I can tell is for testing the signal, but the image contains the head of a native American man.

Why is it included in the test pattern?

Pleasantville Test Pattern

  • BTW, you can this in the movie Joker also! – Agile_Eagle Jun 15 at 16:31
36

This is an homage to the real-life "Indian-head" test pattern, introduced in 1939 and widely used during the era of black-and-white television in America.

enter image description here

The reason the man's head was included in the test pattern was to allow the tuning of brightness and contrast settings, either by broadcast engineers to ensure broadcasts were being sent correctly, or by TV owners and repair shop technicians to ensure broadcasts were being received correctly.

enter image description here

I don't know why the head was specifically that of a Native American man, but the intricate detail of his headdress, incorporating multiple shades of grey, certainly makes it a striking (and useful) test image.

| improve this answer | |
  • 16
    For the true test-card anoraks - here's a history of the British ones. All older Brits will recognise the girl, clown & chalkboard, from before the days of 24h broadcast - testcardcircle.org.uk/tchistory.html – Tetsujin Jun 13 at 12:19
  • This image does not match the one in the OP's image. They do both feature a man in a native headdress facing right, but they are clearly not the same image. The OP's image shows a more cartoony, less shaded and detailed version. (Notably, this makes it less useful in terms of "setting of brightness and contrast controls".) – Darrel Hoffman Jun 15 at 16:13
  • 2
    I never said it was an exact match, I said it was an homage. An homage is never exact, that's why it's only an homage. – F1Krazy Jun 15 at 16:22
  • 1
    I guess my question would be why they didn't just use the original image? I mean, I'm sure it's copyrighted, but a big Hollywood studio could certainly afford to pay whatever fee that would entail. – Darrel Hoffman Jun 15 at 16:33
  • 1
    That's a fair question. According to the page smcs linked to, the original artwork was, at that time, hidden in some guy's attic. Why they couldn't use a copy of it, I'm not sure. It may well have been a deliberate artistic decision, to show that there's something slightly off about the 1950s world the protagonists are in, but that's purely my own speculation. – F1Krazy Jun 15 at 16:41

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .