HD Test Card Special

Monday 18 March 2013, 09:23

Andy Quested Andy Quested Chief Technologist HD&3D

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Hi I’m Andy Quested, chief technologist HD & 3D, BBC Technology.

It’s been five years since my first blog about the BBC HD Channel and I can’t believe so much time has passed and so many things have happened since the channel and high definition began!

BBC Two HD starts on the 26 March and already several of you have spotted that this means the end of the test card and AV sync test signals.

The test card returned in December 2008 after a long break in a new ’turbo charged’ high definition format along with the brand new AV sync check signal.

The test signal package was added to the BBC HD promotion after we had many complaints about lip sync and ‘odd’ looking pictures. We took some time to have a long look at all the issues and suggestions coming in but we also looked at how the then new high definition televisions were set up when they were delivered.

The biggest issue was definitely lip sync however the complaints suggested we could have up to a four frame audio lead and a two frame video lead – often on the same programme and at the same time!

To get to the bottom of this a colleague from BBC Research and Development (BBC R&D) and I did an end to end sync check of the channel and all its processes. This included a couple of on-air tests to confirm the transmission encoders were not introducing sync errors.

We did find a couple of small problems and after they were corrected I could safely say the system was ‘alright arriving at you’ – a modification of the old engineering phrase ‘it’s alright leaving me’!

The test card and AV sync signal started to go out just before Christmas 2008 and were accompanied by my blog A Christmas Present from HD Channel that included help setting up new high definition televisions and the many (and varied) AV surround systems being attached.

I was very pleased to see a drop in lip sync complaints to virtually zero over the next few weeks. Now whenever we get complaints we can investigate the source, especially when people say they have confirmed their system is correct by using the test signal.

If you want to know more about the tests carried out and the processing involved, the BBC R&D White Paper is worth a read!

The last transmission of the BBC HD Channel promo is actually the morning of the 25 March through to the start of programming later that day. However, after the last programme at around 1.30am on the morning of the 26 (still to be confirmed) and the start of BBC Two HD programmes at 6.30am there is a gap and I made what would be called a ‘land grab’ for the time!

To say goodbye to the test signals we will be transmitting them continuously overnight!

To make it more interesting I have worked with BBC R&D colleagues to recreate some of the older test cards from a 30 line version through the 405 line era, on to 625, colour, widescreen and finally high definition.

I must thank all the current and past BBC R&D engineers who put so much expertise into creating many of these industry standard test cards.

The loop is 10 minutes long so set your PVRs for about a 30 minute recording any time after the last programme (please check the EPGs just in case there are last minute schedule changes) until around 6.00am.

Please remember that the majority of these cards are recreations adapted for the HD Channel and not the originals and also that the HD version is still the modified version which means the grey scale is not exactly correct, but I hope that doesn’t distract from the event.

As for a re-return of the test card I can’t say. Personally I would like to see it again sometime.

Many thanks to all of you who have contributed to the BBC HD Channel blogs in the past but I am sure there will be more blogs about HD and beyond to come.

Andy Quested is chief technologist HD & 3D, BBC Technology.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Andy, they should make you DG. What a great idea. Thanks for all your work on BBC HD.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I can't believe they can't find two minutes a day or something for the test card. A real loss.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Dear JamesRogers - thank you very much. Think I will stick to technology as a career though!

    Dear Kevin - All I can say is I am pleased you found it very useful


  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    This news makes me feel quite sad actually. We've lost BBC Television Centre, Pages From Ceefax and now we are going to lose the test card all over again. BBC TWO don't broadcast 24/7 because overnight they broadcast a preview loop and so I see no reason why the test card can't be broadcast instead of or as part of the BBC TWO preview loop! I've really enjoyed the 5 minute outing that the testcard has been getting on BBC HD in the afternoon and I'm gutted that the test card is going.

    Well done on all the work you've put in over the years, Andy! I know that you are the one responsible for bringing the test card back and I appreciate it very much!

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Hi Andy - Nice idea to make the ‘land grab’ for the time! I was wondering if the test card and AV sync test signals would get permanently ditched or whether a slot would be found during the night.

    Sad to see BBC HD going as it has been my most watched channel since it started due to its bringing together of some of the best of BBC content.

    Sad also to watch the final new transmission from TVC this afternoon since it has been part of my growing-up in the UK during the 60's. Still it looks a fabulous facility at the New BH - are you still down at Wood Lane or has R&D moved too?

    When does BBC 4K start? ;- )

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Is there any chance of getting a short loop of the Test Card added to the iPlayer for connected devices/Sky On Demand etc?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Many thanks for this, glad you managed to get this past the management who I recall you saying "wondered what all the funny noises were".

    Will we see the 3D side by side version in this parting gift?


  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I'm with Ben on Comment 5 about hoping continuing the Card within This is BBC Two preview loop on the four SD and on HD version would be an option.

    I supppose the reason this is not possible is due to the way SD tuners process sound, though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    The test card could be broadcast in HD on BBC TWO HD and perhaps on BBC TWO SD test card J or W could be broadcast. Or quite simply continue the preview loop on BBC TWO SD and put the test card on BBC TWO HD. Even if the testcard was broadcast for 5 minutes every morning on BBC TWO HD it would be better than nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Many thanks for all your hard work Andy it will be sad to see BBC HD go so what a good way to see it out! Is there any reason every now and again there is a crackle in the Dolby Digital audio on BBC One HD? It effects all versions of the channel on both my Sky box and FTA HD Sat receiver even when setting to PCM audio, audio description track and all other channels unaffected. Only happens at certain times and have not had it happen for a while but it started last week? Many thanks in advance.

    Kind regards,

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Come on Richard Salmon and Richard Russell and possibly Peter Vince too ....... lets hear your thoughts!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Dear all - sorry for the delay I was tied all afternoon and evening. Thanks very much for all the comments.

    Dear NSM_HD - can you give a date and time - I've not heard anything but I could have missed it.

    Dear RogerGB_UK - Richard S did most of the work to reconstruct the very early cards and Richard R's software was used to re make the later cards (not forgetting Peter V's contribution)

    This is all a tribute to BBC R&Ds work over many years that has made the design so iconic!


  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Sad to see this go, Incidentally, will there be an 'About the BBC' blog to discuss BBC TWO HD and the Corporation's plans for the now lost 'channel' for HD content from channels other than BBC ONE and BBC TWO..

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Also: will http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbchd/faqs.shtml have a refreshed look from 6am on Tuesday 26 March, since there are some channel number changes afoot on the Sky EPG?

    Additionally, please would it be possible for the "Also in HD" Tag to be inserted as relevant on the BBC Two SD EPG for programmes being broadcast on the same date?

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Hi Andy - Good to see you back again. I know you're very busy, but a quite a few people on avforums.com have noticed a picture fault on BBC ONE HD on Freeview. It started about a week ago.It looks like faint vertical stripes on the picture, described as a 'brushed metal' effect. People (myself included!) have been logging complaints via the BBC complaints mechanism, but they don't seem to be getting very far. I get my Freeview from Winter Hill, I think someone's also noted it from Emley Moor. BBC1 HD via Sky and BBC HD via Sky and Freeview are all fine, it's just BBC ONE HD via Freeview. Can you perhaps throw any light on this? Thanks in advance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    i can also comfirm this problem with bbc one hd on freeview, the comments rules do suck sorry to say but google this and you will have all the details you need

    BBC ONE HD possible picture fault on Freeview HD

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I can confirm that there is a serious degradation of the BBC One HD picture in the area served by the Winter Hill transmitter. I have checked for the problem on several TVs at different locations in the area and the fault was visible on all. This has only occurred relatively recently. The fault can be seen as a series of parallel vertical grey lines of various widths extending all the way across the image. It is a very strange problem and quite different from encoding artifacts/interference issues I've seen before.

    I'm writing out of slight desperation here because I'm struggling to engage within anyone who can deal with this. Moreover, I tried the Radio and Television Investigation Service helpline, but I ended up perpetually trapped in their queueing system.

    I would really appreciate it if you can encourage anyone to look into this as the BBC One HD picture quality is very poor at the moment, with vertical lines passing over presenters' faces etc. For some reason the other three Freeview HD channels are unaffected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Hi Andy thanks for the reply, sorry should of given a date and time.
    14/03/2013 7.00pm onwards on BBC One HD also happened from 5/3/13 5.30 onwards. It seems to happen when there is loud background noise, when in Prologic II or NEO:6 mode on the amp it is heard from the surround speakers but even when setting to AFD so just the front left and right it can still be heard like a crackle or distortion in the audio.
    So far it seems to be ok tonight but it does seem intermittent.
    I'm not sure if it is something to do with the bitrate used in the Dolby audio which is the lowest of the HD channels on DSat but I could be wrong.

    Kind regards,

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Great idea. Mind you, I still can't understand some of the decisions - I never understood why we lost Ceefax as other digital broadcasters in Europe are still broadcasting "teletext" services rather than the cumbersome (although graphic rich) replacement.


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