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I want to write a Pi app to test the ability of American HDTVs to display 720p50, 1080i50, 1080p50, and other assorted modes, like the 59.94 & 60fps variants of 720p60 and 1080p60 via HDMI. Few/no retail TVs sold in the US explicitly guarantee native-50fps support, but from what I've read, somewhere between 15% and 40% of LCD displays can do it anyway (the same way no TV explicitly advertises support for 720p120, but most 3d-capable sets can be directly driven at 120fps over hdmi).

Is there any language (Java, Python, C, etc) that supports programmatically changing video modes on the fly when running under stock Raspbian w/default window manager? Or at least, without having to chuck Linux entirely and hit the Pi's bare-metal directly?

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It presumably is possible, but have you looked at tvservice. I use this in bash scripts, and it should do what you want.

NOTE there is no man, but tvservice -h shows supported commands.

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