Shared Composite/Component Video Input Connections

Be prepared for less flexible TV connection options

As TV and home entertainment technologies move forward with new connection options, older, less-used inputs are no longer a priority. As a result, they decrease in number, consolidate, or go away altogether, affecting 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 and composite video connections is now few. The trend on modern TVs is to combine both a composite and component video connection into a single video input option. Manufacturers call this setup a shared connection. 

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

Composite Video

The composite video connection uses a yellow-tipped RCA cable. It sends an analog video signal in which both the color and black-and-white portions transfer together.

This connection has been around 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 connections usually handled low-resolution (also referred to as standard definition) video.

On many TVs, the composite video input has the label Video, Video line-in, or, 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 connection tips which connect to corresponding inputs or outputs that have the same colors.

On devices with component video inputs and outputs, the connections may also carry the 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. In contrast, the green cable carries the black and white or "luminance" (brightness) portion of the video signal.

Component video is flexible. Even though the cable connections pass analog video, the capabilities are 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 high-definition capabilities of component video connections phased out on January 1, 2011, via the Image Constraint Token.

The Image Constraint Token is a signal encoded on a content source, such as a Blu-ray Disc, that detects the use of component video connections. The token can then disable high-definition (720p, 1080i, 1080p) signal pass-through on unauthorized devices, such as a TV or video projector. However, this restriction doesn't affect content sources that existed before the implementation of this limitation.

Although many home theater receivers still offer the component video connection option, you may see the number of available connections reduced, or eliminated, with each successive model year.

Composite and Component Video Input Sharing

The way the shared input works is with modification of the TV's video input circuitry to accommodate both a composite and component video source connection (and associated analog audio input)

In this setup, component video cables connect normally. Still, you can also use the Green component video input connection to connect a composite video connection. However, with this type of shared configuration, you can't plug in both a composite and component video signal source (with associated analog stereo audio) to the TV at the same time.

If you have a VCR, older camcorder (composite video source), and an older DVD player or cable box (component video source), you can't connect both of them in at the same on a TV that only provides a shared composite/component video connection. In almost all cases, TVs with a shared composite/component video connection only offer one set. To connect both your old VCR and DVD player to the TV at the same time, you are out of luck unless you use some trickery.

The Home Theater Receiver Workaround

If you have a home theater receiver that provides composite, S-video, or component video input options, as well as analog-to-HDMI conversion with video upscaling, connect all video sources (and associated analog audio) to the receiver. Then, connect the home theater receiver to your TV via its HDMI output.

An increasing number of home theater receivers only provide HDMI inputs for video or HDMI and composite, but no component video connection option. If you still need to 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 problem of composite/component video inputs consolidating on most TVs available (with the added prospect of their eventual disappearance), you might think about doing some long-term planning.

  • Consider copying all your homemade VHS tapes to DVD (you can't make copies of most commercially available VHS movie tapes released since 1984 due to copy-protection).
  • If you have an older DVD player that doesn't have an HDMI output, it's time to upgrade to a Blu-ray disc player. These decks can also read (and upscale) DVDs, as well as play CDs. With the current state of pricing, you should be able to find one 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.
  • Upgrade your cable/satellite box to one that has HDMI outputs. Also, consider DVR service to replace that aging VCR or DVD recorder.

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 stops working.

The Bottom Line

With all the changes in how you access home entertainment, what lies ahead?

  • Although DVDs and Blu-ray discs will still be around for some time, the trend is going toward internet streaming. Eventually, physical media will be more of a niche market as broadband infrastructure increases in availability, stability, and affordability.
  • A developing trend is eliminating the need for physical connections between components via several wireless connection options.
  • Wireless speaker options are available that you can use in high-end home theater setups.

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.

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