The SMPTE colors bars is a television test pattern used where the NTSC video standard is utilized. Viewers knew it better as the random stripes of color that occasionally popped up on the television for seemingly no reason. The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers calls this test pattern “Engineering Guideline EG 1-1990.”.
By comparing this pattern as received to the known standards, engineers are given an indication of how an NTSC video signal has been altered by recording or transmission and what adjustments need to be made to bring it back to specification. Al Goldberg of CBS Laboratories originally created the colors bars in the 1970s.
Over 30 years later in 2001, these bars received an Engineering Emmy. Between their creation and this award, television stations often broadcast the color bars during special “color check” segments. On occasion, viewers would need to adjust their television sets to make sure the colors were “well separated” and matched their descriptions.