Composite Video Connections Explained

Many home theater devices still support composite video inputs

Composite video is an analog format for transferring video signals in standard definition. Many modern home entertainment electronics still support composite video inputs, so you can connect your old DVD/VCR player combo and other analog devices to your smart TV.

The composite video signal format is also referred to as CVBS (Color, Video, Blanking, and Sync).

What Is Composite Video?

The composite video connector is the oldest and most common video connection that is still in use. It can still be found on many video source components and display devices, including VCRs, camcorders, DVD players, cable/satellite boxes, video projectors, and TVs. However, composite video connections have been eliminated from Blu-ray disc players and most newer streaming devices.

Composite video signals are analog and typically consist of 480i (NTSC)/576i (PAL) standard-definition resolution video signals. The color, black-and-white, and luminance portions of an analog video signal are transferred together from a source to a video recording device (VCR, DVD recorder) or video display (TV, monitor, video projector). Composite video, as applied in the consumer environment, is not designed to transfer high definition analog or digital video signals.

Composite Video Connectors

Composite video or CVBS inputs come in three types. For professional use, the main type of connector used is BNC. In Europe, the most common type for consumers is SCART, but the most common type of connector used worldwide is the classic RCA video connector. RCA composite video connectors have a single pin in the center surrounded by an outer ring. The connector usually has a yellow housing for easy identification.

Composite RCA Type Video Cable and Connector
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Composite video is not the same as an RF (Radio Frequency) signal that is transferred from an antenna or cable box using a coaxial cable.

Composite Video Connectors and Audio Connectors

Composite video connectors only pass video. When connecting a source that has both composite video and audio signals, you need to transfer audio using another connector. The most common audio connector used in conjunction with a composite video connector is a pair of RCA-type analog stereo connectors, which look just like an RCA-type composite video connector but are usually red and white near the tips.

Most TVs made since 2013 feature shared composite/component video connections. Since there is only one port for both video and audio, you will need an adapter to use a standard RCA-type cable.

Other Types of Analog Video Connections

Other analog formats for video transfer include:

  • S-Video has the same specifications as composite video in terms of resolution, but it separates the color and luminance signals at the source and recombines them on the display or on a video recording.
  • Component video separates luminance and color into three channels. Component video cables can transfer both standard and high-definition (up to 1080p) video signals.