What is S-Video?

S-video is an analog video connector used on older computers, TVs, DVD players and VCRs. It separates the luminance (brightness) and chroma (color) signals and provides synchronization pulses.

While S-video isn’t as good as newer digital interfaces like HDMI, it’s a useful connection for old devices. You can use an adapter to convert S-video to an HDMI signal.

What is S-Video?

S-video is an analog color video cable and signal format. It is superior to composite video cables and signals, but not as good as component video.

S-Video carries the luminance (black-and-white) and chrominance (color) signals on separate wires, with ground and horizontal and vertical sync pulses. This is in contrast to RCA, which mixes the luminance and chrominance signals together on one cable. S-Video also provides a higher bandwidth for the luminance signal than does composite.

The S-video connector consists of a 4-pin mini-DIN plug that fits into a matching port on the device. It is important to check that the port and plug match; it is easy to damage an S-video plug by inserting it in a non-compatible port or by pushing too hard when removing it.

Some older TVs, VCRs and game consoles only have S-video inputs. You can use an adapter cable to convert from an S-video to a standard RCA cable.

How to Connect

S-video cables separate brightness and color information into two distinct signals. The resulting video signal is of higher quality than composite and earlier analog color-video standards. To connect your device to an S-video cable, first examine both the S-video port on your device and the connector on each end of the cable. Both the port and the connector must have the same number of holes to be compatible. S-video connections are round and can have either 4-pin or 7-pin holes clustered around the center.

S-video ports are the same size as RCA audio jacks and can be used to transmit both video and audio. If your television does not have an S-video port, you can use an inexpensive s-video to HDMI converter to convert the video to an HDMI signal, which can be connected to your TV. Avoid connecting and disconnecting your devices frequently, which can cause premature wear and tear to the s-video connection.

Buying a S-Video Cable

S-video isn’t very common on modern digital devices but you can still find it in older equipment. It’s an excellent choice for connecting an old game console or video camera to a TV or monitor and offers better colors and clarity than standard composite.

S-Video connectors are round with four or seven pins, depending on the device. The pins fit in one way only – try to plug the cable gently, as pushing too hard can damage the small pins inside.

Markertek stocks a selection of S-Video cables in all different sizes. Choose the length that matches your needs. Look for cables with a high shielding percentage, which will help to reduce interference from electromagnetic and radio waves caused by appliances in the vicinity. This is especially important if the cable runs long distances or around other electrical equipment. It’s also worth noting that a S-Video cable can transfer only video information – the separate channels for brightness and color signals must be converted to an analog signal by the equipment receiving the signal.

Getting Started

Unlike composite video, s-video separates brightness and color information into two separate signals. This reduces signal interference and improves resolution. It also allows for a higher number of colors, which provides more vibrant images.

If you want to upgrade your older device to support s-video, make sure you have the proper cables. You’ll need a cable with an RCA type connector that matches the one on your device. The cable should have 4 pins inside: 2 are grounds and the other two carry luma (brightness) and chroma.

If you can’t afford to buy a new s-video device, you can use a hack to combine the chroma and luma signals. However, this can be rather tricky and may not yield optimal results. Mike is working on a YC core for MiSTer that will hopefully make this process much easier.

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