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Shared Composite/Component Video Input Connections

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Be Prepared For Less Flexible TV Connection Options
Shared Composite/Component Video Input Connection Illustration

Photo of Shared Composite/Component Video and Analog Audio Input Connections

Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

As TVs get new capabilities, as well as new connection options, there comes a time when older, less-used connection options are no longer a priority and, thus, are decreased in number, consolidated, or actually eliminated. This is what is happening with the vast majority of LCD and Plasma TVs that are now being offered for sale to the public.

S-Video connections and DVI connections are already gone, and the number of Component, and the decades-long standard bearer, Composite, video connections are now few in number - in fact, the trend now is to consolidate both a composite and component video connection into a single video input option. This is referred to as a "shared connection". However, before I delve into more details, let us review what composite and component video connections are.

Composite Video:

The composite video connection is that long familiar connection that uses a "yellow tipped RCA cable". The composite Video connection sends an analog video signal in which both the Color and B/W portions are transferred together. This connection has been used for decades on TVs, video projectors, home theater receivers, cable boxes, and is also found as a secondary connection on DVD players/recorders, and even older Blu-ray Disc players. Composite video, as executed in this connection format, is associated with low resolution (also referred to as standard definition) video. Also, on many TVs the composite video input is often times just labeled "video" or, if paired with analog stereo audio inputs, "AV-in".

Component Video:

A component video connection, as executed in consumer-based video products actually consists of three separate "RCA type" connections and cables with Red, Blue, and Green colored connection tips. These connections, may be also carry the additional designations of Y,Pb,Pr or Y,Cb,Cr. In these forms of component video, the red and blue cables carry the color information of the video signal, while the green cable carries the B&W or "Luminance" (brightness) portion of the color signal.

Component video is very flexible, even though the cable connections are passing analog video, the capabilities are much more extensive than composite video connections as they are technically able to pass resolutions up to 1080p and can also pass video signals that are either interlaced or progressive.

However, due to copy-protection requirements, the advent of digital TV transmission, and Blu-ray disc, the high-definition capabilities of component video connections were sunsetted on January 1, 2011 via the use of the Image Constraint Token.

Also, as of 2013, component video has been eliminated as a connection option for Blu-ray Disc players, and it is being encouraged that manufacturers limit or eliminate this option on their devices. For example, although the vast majority of home theater receivers still being made and sold still offer the component video connection option, you may see the number of available connections reduced as each successive model year reach store shelves.

Composite and Component Video and New TVs

So, here we are the present (2014 and beyond). In light of both the adoption of HDMI as the video and audio connectivity standard for home theater, TV manufacturers have essentially pulled a fast one on unaware consumers - the "Shared Composite/Component Video Input" - which is illustrated in the above photo.

The way this type of shared input works is that the TV's video input circuitry has been modified so that both a composite and component video source connection (and associated analog audio input) can be accommodated. As you can see in the above photo illustration, the component video cables can be connected as they would normally, but you can also use the Green component video input connection to connect a composite video connection.

However, if you haven't noticed so far, there is a catch - you cannot plug in both a composite video and component video signal source (with associated analog stereo audio) to the TV at the same time.

In other words, if you have a VCR or older Camcorder (composite video source) and, let's say, an older DVD player or cable box (component video source), you cannot connect both of them in at the same on a TV that only provides a shared composite/component video connection. It is important to point out that in almost all cases, TVs with a shared composite/component video connection only provide one - so if you want to connect both your old VCR and DVD player to the TV at same time, you are out of luck - unless...

The Home Theater Receiver Workaround

If all you have is a TV that provides a shared composite/component video connection and you need to connect both a composite and component (or more than one composite or component) into that TV, then yes, you are out of luck.

However, if you have a home theater receiver that provides analog-to-HDMI conversion or said conversion with video upscaling - then the best option would be to connect all your composite and component video sources (and associated analog audio) to your home theater receiver and then connect the home theater receiver to your TV via its HDMI output.

As I mentioned above, almost all newer home theater receivers provide both composite, component, and analog audio inputs. Also, if your receiver has built-in upscaling, the video signal from your composite and component video sources would actually be improved somewhat going into your TV.

The External Video Scaler Workaround

If you have a home theater receiver that doesn't offer analog-to-HDMI conversion or upscaling, that does prevent a problem. However, if you like your receiver's audio performance and don't want to upgrade on that front, you do have the option of using an external video processor/scaler. This would provide you with with a way to connect your composite and component video sources, and then just using a the processor/scaler's HDMI output to connect to the TV - with the added bonus of providing an improved signal going into the TV from those sources. However, it is important to point out that external video processor/scalers can be quite expensive. Here some examples: DVDO Edge Green, Gefen, Lumagen, Atlona.

Additional Suggestions

Faced with the dilemma of the consolidation of composite/component video inputs on new TVs (with the added prospect of their eventual disappearance) - you might think about  doing some long term planning.

First, consider copying all your homemade VHS tapes to DVD (you cannot make copies of most commercially available VHS movie tapes released since 1984 due to copy-protection).

Second, if you have an older DVD player that does not an HDMI output, it is time to upgrade to a Blu-ray Disc player. These players not only play Blu-ray Discs, but DVDs (upscaled to boot!), and CDs as well. Also, chances are, with the current state of pricing you should be able to find a Blu-ray Disc player for less that you paid for that old DVD player when it was new. Even if you aren't interested in buying Blu-ray Discs, the player will extend the playback life of your DVDs, and they will look better too.

Third, upgrade your cable/satellite box to one that has HDMI outputs - also, consider DVR service to replace that aging VCR or DVD recorder. It is important to note that due to increased copy-protection DVD recorders are not as practical for recording TV programs as they were when they first came out - and are now very hard to find. However, you can still use them to copy your VHS tapes, which you might consider before that VCR bites the dust (at this point, you probably won't be able find a new one to replace it).

Final Take

So, with all the changes on how we access our home entertainment, what lies ahead for you to be on the lookout for? One thing for sure is that although DVDs and Blu-ray Disc will still be around for some time, the trend is definitely going towards the internet streaming side of the equation - eventually, physical media will more of niche market as broadband infrastructure increases in availability, stability, and affordability.

Also, there is a developing trend, although still in its initial stages, to eliminate the need for physical connections between components via several wireless connection options. We already have Wifi and WirelessHD (WiHD) and WHDI standards for audio and video, and Bluetooth, as well as other options, are being using for accessing and distributing audio.

In addition, with the establishment of WISA (Wireless Speaker and Audio Association), strides are being made to establish a standard for the implementation of wireless speaker options that can be used in even the high-end home theater environment.

The consolidation of composite and component video connections on TVs is just one, very small, part of what is in store in the coming months and years for home theater connectivity.

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