What Is S-Video?

Close-up of s-video cable
Evan-Amos / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain


S-video, or Y/C, which stands for Separate Video, is an analog (non-digital) video signal. Unlike composite video, which carries all the video data in one signal, S-Video carries brightness and color information as two separate signals, hence the name. Because of this separation, video transferred by S-Video is higher quality than that transferred by composite video. S-Video has a variety of uses, including connecting computers, DVD players and VCRs to TVs.

To put S-Video in perspective, performance-wise, while it is a better option than composite cables (Red, White and Yellow), it is still not as good as the performance of component cables (Red, Green, Blue).

So, how does it work? Well, the S-video cable transmits video via two synchronized signal and ground pairs, named Y and C.

Y is the luma signal, which carries the luminance, which refers to the brightness or black-and-white elements of the video, and it includes synchronization pulses.

C is the chroma signal, which carries the chrominance, which refers to the color of the picture. This portion of the signal includes both the saturation and the hue elements of the video.

S-Video has become less popular since the advent of HDMI.