What Is S-Video (Separate-Video)?

Standard-definition S-video is declining in popularity

S-video (short for Separate-video despite the misconception that it might mean Super-video) is an analog video connection standard that transmits electrical signals over wires to represent the original video. If you have an older analog TV or DVD player, you might still want an S-video cable.

What Is S-Video?

S-video technology transmits standard-definition video with 480 pixels or 576 pixels resolution. S-video cables have a variety of uses, including connecting computers, TVs, DVD players, video cameras, and VCRs.

S-video is an improvement over composite video, which carries all the video data (including brightness and color information) in one signal over one wire. S-video carries brightness and color information as two separate signals over two wires. Because of this separation, video transferred by S-video is of higher quality than composite video.

Closeup of S-video cable with audio cables included.
riceteck at morguefile.com

S-video is also known as component video and Y/C video.

S-Video Ports

S-video ports are round with multiple holes and a slightly flat bottom. The ports can have four, seven, or nine pins. Like composite video (the yellow wire in a three-plug setup), the S-video cable only carries the video signal, so composite audio cables (the red and white wires) are still required.

A photo of a video card with an S-video port.

How S-Video Works

The S-video cable transmits video through two synchronized signal-and-ground pairs, named Y and C:

  • Y is the luma signal, which carries the luminance or the black-and-white elements of the video. It also includes horizontal and vertical synchronization pulses.
  • C is the chroma signal, which carries the chrominance, the color portion of the picture. This signal includes both the saturation and hue elements of the video.

If both your output device (computer, DVD player, or game console) and your input device (television) have an S-video port, all you need is an S-video cable with the correct number of holes at each end.

S-Video vs HDMI

Newer video standards like HDMI transmit digital video signals in code. The main benefit of digital video is that the signal doesn't degrade from source to destination. It's also capable of transmitting higher video resolutions.

If you're using a device that requires an S-video cable, consider upgrading your electronics to models that can send and receive digital video. You'll enhance your video and take full advantage of high-definition technology built into televisions and computer monitors.

If you want to connect a device with an S-Video port with a newer HD television or monitor, you'll need an S-Video-to-HDMI adapter.

How to Fix S-Video Not Finding a Signal

Both audiovisual devices must have S-video ports or jacks to connect using S-video. If you think you've connected everything correctly, yet your TV still can't find the S-video signal, try the following troubleshooting steps:

  1. Press Source or Input on your TV remote and make sure to select component.

  2. Double-check the cable and ports to make sure they have a compatible number of pins and holes.

  3. Make sure your source device (computer or game console) is sending its video out through the S-video output port.

  4. Purchase an adapter that will convert composite video, DisplayPort, or HDMI to an S-video cable that plugs into your TV.

    If the source device uses S-Video, but your display device doesn't find an adapter that converts S-video to HDMI or RGB input that will plug into your TV or computer monitor.

Correction 11/29/2022: Updated article with the correct reference for S-video.

  • Are S-Video cables still used?

    Yes, but most newer devices no longer come with S-Video ports. The only reason you'd need an S-Video cable is if you have an older device that only supports composite video.

  • How do I connect my PC to my TV without S-Video?

    Other options for connecting your computer and TV include HDMI, DVI, VGA, and Thunderbolt.

  • How do I convert DVI to S-Video?

    Use a DVI-to-composite convertor. If you have an old TV or VCR that only supports composite video, you'll need something that converts digital to analog signals.

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