Intro to Video Signals

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Video Signals

Video Standard Image Connectors Signals Carried Explanation
Radio Frequency (RF) RGBIntroRF.jpg One F-type coax
Two prongs
Luminance (Y, H, V), Chrominance (C), Audio Left, Audio Right RF (Radio Frequency) is a Frequency Modulated signal in the UHF band usually incoming from an antenna or long run cable. This signal contains modulated composite video and mono/stereo audio. It does a great job of transmitting a signal over very long distances over air or wire with little loss.

Most televisions feature an RF tuner and demodulator to handle RF input. The most common connector is the F-type (coax, like cable TV). Much older televisions (early 1980s and earlier) usually have two screws to fasten down a twin-lead antenna. Rarely they will have an RCA-type connector which expects RF input. Televisions with a rotary select dial usually indicates that it only supports RF input. Depending on the television, the RF tuner is usually connected to all inputs and may be designed to handle both 300 Ohm and 75 Ohm. The F-type connector is almost always expecting 75 Ohm input. Check the TV user guide or service manual to be sure. It will not harm the television to feed the wrong impedance, but the signal may be too weak to see.

If the impedance from your console to the TV is mismatched (F-type is 75 Ohm and Twin-lead is 300 Ohm), you need a balun (transformer) – a very simple circuit and cheap to buy and works in both directions.

Composite Video RGBIntroComposite.jpg One RCA
Luminance (Y, H, V), Chrominance (C) Composite video is very common, and comes on almost every consumer TV made after 1990. Composite, as the name implies, is a complex signal. It was designed for NTSC, PAL, and SECAM broadcasting and contains the information for chrominance (hue and saturation), luminance (brightness), horizontal sync, and vertical sync all on one wire.

While it is often downplayed as inferior to other video signal types, it remained a standard for which many CRTs and game consoles were designed to handle. The quirks and lossiness of the signal were sometimes exploited in games to create useful effects such as smoothed color dithering and fake transparency. Examples here on Genesis and SNES ( and here with the transparent tubes in Sonic 2 ( On the other hand, visual defects such as dot crawl and jitter can be a real nuisance of interference between the 5 signals. Many consumer TVs have a "comb filter" designed to eliminate interference issues, but often times professional or broadcast monitors do not have a comb filter as studios often wanted to be able to see interference issues and eliminate them during broadcast.

Composite supports up to 240p/480i resolution in NTSC and 288p/576i in PAL.

S-Video RGBIntroS-Video.jpg One 4-pin Mini-DIN
Luminance (Y, H, V)
Chrominance (C)
S-Video is derived from component video. Luma (brightness) and sync are the same as composite, but the Chroma (color) signals are split out and sent down a different wire, eliminating interference.

S-video is considered a higher quality signal and is well supported by hardware from the mid 1990s and later.

  • Supported by: SNES, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Dreamcast, N64, Xbox, Phillips CDi.
  • Easily Modded Consoles: Master System, Genesis, 32X, SNES Mini
Component YPbPr placeholder Three RCA
Three BNC
Luminance (Y, H, V)
Pb (blue difference from Y)
Pr (red difference from Y)
YPbPr splits video out to 3 different connectors, making it better quality than S-Video. "Y" transmits brightness information (Luma) and horizontal/vertical sync, "Pb" transmits the difference between the blue color signal and Y, and "Pr" transmits the difference between the blue color signal and Y. Green information is not sent as it can be derived from the other three signals.

Component is a very high quality video signal derived from RGB. Bandwidth (and storage) is reduced by a large margin via exploiting the limitations of human vision and how we view colors. This is managed by only sending one full-bandwidth signal (Y, or Luma) and 2 modifier signals (Pb and Pr). There is also a similar YCbCr that is a digitally encoded.

  • Supported by: Xbox, GameCube, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii. HD Retrovision cables perform conversion of RGB to Component.
One JP-21
Three to Five RCA
Three to Five BNC
Uses different types of sync. RGB is the best quality video you can get, as it requires no transcoding or changing of the color space and it is the same format that the electron gun uses to make the image displayed for CRTs. Note that the difference between the sync separation types is often not noticeable, but the more separation the less chance of interference. See the Types of Sync for in-depth information. Choose the most separated option which your equipment supports (depending on cable availability).


Video Connector Image Description
Coax F-Connector COAX.png Usually used for RF. Also sometimes in the form of a brown or orange RCA jack similar to composite.
Most commonly used for composite (yellow) and YPbPr component (green, blue, and red) but can sometimes be used for S-Video (labelled Y and C) or RF (orange, black, or brown).
BNC BNC.png Generally found on professional displays and are used as a more secure RCA jack. Also often carry RGB signals.
4-pin Mini-DIN Mini-DIN.png Generally used to carry S-Video signals.
SCART SCART.png Can carry Composite, S-Video, and RGB signals, along with audio. Very common in Europe.
JP-21 SCART.png Identical in appearance to SCART but the pinout is different. Generally only found in Japan or Asia. Not compatible with SCART.
VGA VGA.png VGA is an RGBHV standard that uses a DE-15 (15-pin D-Sub) connector. Usually used on computers, PC monitors, and presentation TVs.