Shared Composite/Component Video Input Connections

Be prepared for less flexible TV connection options

Shared Composite/Component Video TV Video Connections Example
Shared Composite/Component Video TV Video Connections Example. Robert Silva For Lifewire

As TV and home entertainment technologies move forward with new connection options, older, less-used connections are no longer a priority for inclusion. As a result, they are decreased in number, consolidated, or eliminated. This affects the vast majority of LCD and OLED TVs and other home entertainment devices.

S-Video and DVI connections are already gone, and the number of component video connections and composite video connections is now few in number. The trend on "modern TVs" is to consolidate both a composite and component video connection into a single video input option. This is referred to as a "shared connection" which is illustrated in the above photo. However, before going into more details, let's 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" (shown in the above photo). 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/satellite 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 those products, is associated with low resolution (also referred to as standard definition) video. On many TVs, the composite video input is often times just labeled "video", "video line-in", and, if paired with analog stereo audio inputs, "AV-in".

Component Video

A component video connection consists of three separate "RCA type" connections and cables with Red, Blue, and Green colored connection tips (included in the above photo), which need to be connected to corresponding inputs or outputs that have the same colors.

On devices that provide component video inputs and outputs, the input/output connections may also carry the additional designations of Y, Pb, Pr or Y, Cb, Cr. What these initials mean is that 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 video 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 and 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 sunset on January 1, 2011, via the use of the Image Constraint Token.

The Image Constraint Token is a signal that can be encoded on a content source, such as a Blu-ray Disc, that detects the use of component video connections. If detected, the image constraint token can then disable high-definition (720p, 1080i, 1080p) signal pass-through accordingly on unauthorized devices, such as a TV or video projector. However, this does not affect content sources that existed before this limitation was implemented.

Also, as a further step, in 2013 component video was officially eliminated as a connection option for Blu-ray Disc players, and it is being encouraged that manufacturers limit or eliminate this option on other video source devices. For example, although many 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 Newer TVs

With 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 the 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, there is a catch — with this type of "shared" configuration, 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.

What this means is that if you have a VCR, older camcorder (composite video source) and 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 set. If you want to connect both your old VCR and DVD player to the TV at the 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 composite, S-video, and, or component video input options, as well as analog-to-HDMI conversion or said conversion with video upscaling, then the best option would be to connect all your composite, S-video, 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. 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.

However, be aware that there are an increasing number of home theater receivers that only provide HDMI inputs for video, or just provide HDMI and composite, but no component video connection option, so if you need to still plug older AV gear, make sure that when shopping for a new home theater receiver, that has the connection options you need.

Additional Suggestions

Faced with the dilemma of the consolidation of composite/component video inputs on most TVs available (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 than 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.

The Bottom Line

With all the changes on how we access our home entertainment, what lies ahead for you to be on the lookout for?

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 be more of a niche market as broadband infrastructure increases in availability, stability, and affordability.

Also, there is a developing trend 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 also used 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 going forward with home theater connectivity.