Trade test colour films
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Trade test colour films were broadcast by the television network BBC2 in the early days of colour television in Britain during intervals when no regular programming had been scheduled. The goal of these transmissions was to provide colour broadcasting in these intervals for use by television shops and engineers (the 'trade') to adjust their television sets. The earliest such transmission was made in 1956 (on the then sole BBC channel) but regular all day long films ran from autumn 1967; the last one was in August 1973. In all, 158 different films were broadcast; on average, each film was shown 90 times.
The frequent broadcasting of the films made them well known to viewers of the time. The one most frequently shown was The Captive River (1960), which was shown 525 times. The short film Giuseppina (1959), which had won an Academy Award, was shown 158 times and became the last trade test colour transmission on August 24, 1973. Other frequently broadcast films included The Home Made Car (1963), The North Sea Quest (BP, 1967), Overhaul (1957), Crown of Glass (1967), Roads to Roam (1967), The Small Propeller (BP, 1967), The Cattle Carters (BP, 1962) - with a theme song sung by Frank Ifield, Prospect for Plastics (1962), Evoluon (1968) and Cantagallo. A number of these films were produced by the oil company BP, including We've Come a Long Way (1951), The Shadow of Progress, Newspaper Run, and Skyhook. Other films included Paint (produced by Shell), Study in Steel (produced by British Steel), Algerian Pipeline (Constructors John Brown Ltd), The Captive River (Shell), Ride the White Horses (Ford Film Unit), Something Nice To Eat (the Gas Council), It's The Tube That Makes The Colour (Mullard), On the Safe Side (1967, UKAEA), Oil Underground (1960, Shell) and Transport Ability (UKAEA). Another film, Birth of a Rainbow (1967), about trout farms, was made by the New Zealand National Film Unit, while Network (1962) was made by the AEI, and No Claim Bonus (1963) was made by the COI. The Gold Miners was made by Films of Africa, and A Journey into the Weald of Kent (1959) and Beauty in Trust were made by the National Benzole Company with narrations by Sir John Betjeman.
The trade test colour films are among the subjects of interest of the Test Card Circle, an organization devoted to studying and preserving the test cards used by television broadcasters. The static test cards are typically transmitted for periods before and after regular programming, originally to permit viewers to adjust their television sets.
BBC2 daily schedule
According to the BBC Written Archive Centre, the following is an example of a typical day on BBC 2 in the late 1960s when the only scheduled programme during the day was Play School at 11 am:
- 09.00 Colour Testcard F
- 10.00 Service Information For The Television Trade
- 10.03 Colour Testcard F
- 10.30 The Colour Receiver Installation Film
- 10.43 TRADE TEST COLOUR FILM followed by Colour Testcard F
- 11.00 PLAY SCHOOL followed by Colour Testcard F
- 11.30 Service Information For The Television Trade
- 11.33 TRADE TEST COLOUR FILM followed by Colour Testcard F
- 12.10 The Colour Receiver Installation Film
- 12.23 Colour Testcard F
- 2.30 Service Information For The Television Trade
- 2.33 TRADE TEST COLOUR FILM followed by Colour Testcard F
- 3.10 The Colour Receiver Installation Film
- 3.23 Colour Testcard F
- 3.30 TRADE TEST COLOUR FILM followed by Colour Testcard F
- 4.30 TRADE TEST COLOUR FILM followed by Colour Testcard F
- 5.30 TRADE TEST COLOUR FILM followed by Colour Testcard F
- 6.30 TRADE TEST COLOUR FILM followed by Colour Testcard F
- Keys, Andrew (2007). "The Statistician's Guide to Trade Test Colour Films". Test Card Circle website. Archived from the original on 2008-06-18.
- "A to Z Of BBC2 Trade Test Colour Films". Test Card Circle website.
- The BP Video Library: The BP Video Library has 22 of the BBC Colour Trade Test films available to view on their website and to purchase on DVD, including Guiseppina, The Home Made Car, and Cattle Carters.
- The Test Card Circle: Details of the UK's Trade Test Transmissions including the history of the BBC and ITA Test Cards, a look at the music used and full details about the Trade Test Colour Films shown from the late fifties to 1973.
- List of BBC2 Trade Test Colour films