What is S-Video?

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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2019
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S-Video (Separated Video often referred to as "Super-Video") is a video interface standard found on most audiovisual equipment today. S-Video is a step up from standard composite video, which uses a yellow RCA jack and RCA cable, while S-Video utilizes a mini-DIN plug and S-Video cable. When connecting equipment that has both options, one can choose to use S-Video.

S-Video connectors are four or seven-pin mini-DIN plugs. To ensure correct orientation of the pins the connector has a notched, metal sleeve that must align properly with the female jack before it can be inserted. S-Video cables are more expensive than RCA cables and are not always included with products, but can be purchased separately.

S-Video delivers a superior picture to composite video by avoiding some of the processing that composite video requires. A video signal is a mixture of two separate data streams: brightness or luminescence, known as the Y stream, and chrominance or color, known as the C stream. The C signal carries values for red and blue, while green values are deduced. Hence, RGB, or red, green and blue, occupies just two data streams within the C signal.


In the original analog video standard in use since the 1950s, the Y/C signals are compressed into a single stream, passed through a single RCA wire, and decoded by a television filter into its Y and C elements. Although enduring and convenient, the process of compressing and decoding video signals results in some degradation of data integrity. This translates directly to the screen in loss of picture quality. S-Video preserves greater signal integrity by housing two wires in a single sheath, dedicating one to each of the Y and C signals and eliminating much of the filtering process. Greater preservation of signal integrity results in a sharper picture.

As with composite video, S-Video only transfers visual data. Audio cables are required for transferring sound. These can be standard RCA cables, or in the case of high-end CD and DVD players, digital audio connections might be preferred.

There are people who claim to see no appreciable difference between composite video and S-Video, while others believe the transition from composite to S-Video is akin to getting a system upgrade for the cost of a cable. Some of the confusion might lie in the fact that aside from HDTV, television signals and VHS tapes are encoded with composite video. DVDs, however, are encoded using a higher standard, so an increase in picture quality should be more evident when using S-Video to view DVDs. But before running out for S-Video cables, check to see if your equipment supports either component video or High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI), both of which are superior to S-Video.


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Post 5

I have a projector that has an S-video + RCA audio cables ran through the walls of a church, from the back sound room to where the projector is mounted on the ceiling. The cables are about 50-75 feet long (about). The projector went bad so I need to replace it, and wanted one that has HDMI. Is there a converter that I can put on both ends of these cables so that I can convert both sides from S-Video/RCA audio to HDMI? This is to avoid running new cables. Can I do that with the existing cables, so at the end, I'm connecting HDMI to HDMI, once the converters are attached at both ends?

Post 4

When you're buying an s-video cord to connect your computer to your tv, make sure you get the right type. There's 7-pin s-video cords and 4-pin cords.

Post 3

Personally, I rate S-Video quite highly, over Composite and Component I might add. I've seen the evidence of superior picture with S-Video over the other two options, it's the connection for me certainly.

Post 2

anon520 wrote: "I just bought a new HDTV and have a HD cable box, but my receiver does not support HDMI. Should I hook up the HDMI from cable to tv, and then use component cables from receiver to cable? Can I use both, or does it have to be one or the other?"

Use HDMI from HD cable box to HDTV for audio and video.

I am assuming your receiver will be handling enhanced audio e.g. surround sound, so use the appropriate cable from the cable box to the receiver e.g. coax, TOSlink fiber, plain RCA.


Post 1

I just bought a new HDTV and have a HD cable box, but my receiver does not support HDMI. Should I hook up the HDMI from cable to tv, and then use component cables from receiver to cable? Can I use both, or does it have to be one or the other?

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