DVD is definitely a consumer electronics success story. It has been the catalyst for the acceptance of home theater, boosting the sales of TVs, surround sound receivers, and home theater speaker systems, and also paved the way for Blu-ray.
However, the popularity of DVD has also created a minor "glitch" in the consumer market. The DVD player is a high performance unit designed to be used in a variety of setups. It has a plentiful variety of video output (composite, S-video, Component, and in many cases HDMI) and audio output (analog, digital optical, and digital coaxial) capabilities. However, there is one thing manufacturers didn't account for: the increasing demand for players to be able to connect to a standard cable or antenna input on older or entry level-type TVs.
After receiving many emails and forum posts regarding this issue, I thought I would use this time to shed some light on this topic and provide those of you experiencing frustration on this a solution.
Many of you have written me that you have tried to connect your DVD player into your VCR and then use the VCR to pass the signal to your TV, but have experienced very poor picture quality in doing this. The reason that a DVD player cannot be connected to a TV in this fashion is due to the fact that DVDs are encoded with anti-copy technology that interferes with the VCR's circuitry. That is why you cannot make a copy of a DVD onto a VCR tape successfully. However, this also prevents you from using the VCR as a "conduit" to pass a DVD signal through to the TV.
Using An RF Modulator
So, what is a person to do? Most people have their antenna or cable connected to the VCR and, from there, the VCR is connected to their TV. However, how can you connect a DVD player to your TV, if your TV doesn't have AV inputs that are compatible with the DVD player? Secondly, how can you connect both your VCR and DVD player your TV at the same time if your TV only has one cable or antenna input?
The answer to the above questions is a little black box that has been around for years called an RF modulator (Radio Frequency Modulator). The function of an RF modulator is simple. The RF modulator converts the video (and/or audio) output of a DVD player (or camcorder or video game) into a channel 3/4 signal that is compatible with a TV's cable or antenna input.
There are many RF modulators available, but all function in a similar fashion. The main feature of an RF modulator is that makes it perfectly suited for use with DVD is the capacity for it to accept the standard audio/video outputs of a DVD player and the cable input (even passed through a VCR) simultaneously.
Setting your RF modulator is fairly straightforward:
First: Just plug your cable/vcr output into its cable input connection of the RF modulator and the DVD player into the RF modulator's AV inputs.
Second: Connect a standard cable from the RF modulator to your TV.
Third: Select either the channel 3 or 4 output on the back of the RF modulator.
Fourth: Turn the TV on and the RF modulator will automatically detect your cable input for the TV. When you want to watch your DVD player, just put the TV on channel 3 or 4, turn the DVD on and the RF modulator will automatically detect the DVD player and will display your movie.
Although there are minor differences in brands of RF modulators the set up is basically as outlined above.
If you don't have a stereo system you can also hookup the DVD player's stereo outputs to the RF modulator as well. Obviously you won't get the benefits of surround sound, but you will hear the audio through the TV's speakers. Also, you won't get the full benefits of a DVD quality picture and the conversion from video to RF (cable) downgrades the resolution. However, as you switch between your VCR and DVD you will notice the quality of the DVD image is still superior than anything you probably have viewed on your TV.
With more consumers buying DVD players and enjoying their benefits, full knowledge of connection options and limitations is important. Hopefully, this short article has provided some needed information.
For a visual look at connecting a DVD Player to and RF Modulator, and then to a TV, check out my Step-by-Step: Set up and Use an RF Modulator with a DVD Player and a Television