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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

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  • BTW, you can this in the movie Joker also! Jun 15 '20 at 16:31
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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.

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    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 '20 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".) Jun 15 '20 at 16:13
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    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 '20 at 16:22
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    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. Jun 15 '20 at 16:33
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    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 '20 at 16:41
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While many suppose that such test patterns were slides or printed stock that a television camera was aimed at. However, variations in lighting or a misadjusted camera would have service techs and home viewers adjusting their sets to a misadjusted source. Therefore, these patterns came from a monoscope tube, where the image - either the standard generic Indian pattern or a custom job with the network or station's name -- is etched on a metal plate inside the tube. An electron beam generates the image electronically, which is always the same.

So it's whimsical that Don Knotts or anyone could stand IN FRONT of the test pattern image, so he is front of a printed version in this movie. And since his head would be blocking the image of the Indian, and the Indian is what people remember from the days before 24-hour broadcasting, it was moved to a corner.

Photo of a monoscope tube without image of the Indian, which seemed to be an American thing.

Monoscope Tube

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