Using a composite video signal for your home cinema devices is usually a last resort.
However, there may be times when this type of connection will be just what you need for a quick and easy connection. So what do we need to know about this connection type?
A composite video connection looks like this.
It is a single female RCA jack which will be colour-coded yellow.
Due to the design of this type of connection, you don't have to insert the plug a particular way round in composite video outputs and inputs.
Composite video cables look like this. They will have two male RCA connectors on either end and will be colour-coded yellow.
The colour-coding is simply there to make connecting your system easier. It isn't a special type of cable purely for this type of connection, and you could use it for connecting analog audio if you wanted to.
A composite video connection transmits a basic video signal between devices. It sends standard-definition video only - and does not carry an audio signal.
If you use a composite video signal for the picture, then you will need a separate connection to hear the audio.
Composite video outputs should normally be used as the last option to view images from a device. You should get a better image from (in order of quality):
Therefore if any of these options are available then it would be better to try these first.
The advantage of this type of connection is it is available on almost every audio-visual device, and so should allow you to get a picture from a wide range of devices - both new and old. Most AV devices will also provide composite video cables in the box and so this is often the easiest type to set up - but that doesn't mean it's the one you should necessarily use!
It is called a composite video signal as it combines three signals into one - known as YUV.
Y is the brightness, and UV combine to make the chrominance or colour.
It is this combining of the signals which make a composite signal the most basic quality. When you see it on a TV screen the image will appear less-defined and with a poor colour accuracy, compared to the various flavours of component video that you can get.
A component video signal is clearer as it separates the colour signals which allows for a better picture.
Paul started the Home Cinema Guide to help less-experienced users get the most out of today's audio-visual technology. He has worked as a sound, lighting and audio-visual engineer for around 20 years. At home, he has spent more time than is probably healthy installing, configuring, testing, de-rigging, fixing, tweaking, re-installing again (and sometimes using) various pieces of hi-fi and home cinema equipment.