Composite Video RCA connectors are those that often come in a triple-connector package having a yellow, red, and white jack. Basically, the yellow jack is used to interface input and output devices for analog video transmission. The standard yellow or composite video RCA connector can convey a maximum video resolution of 480i (480-interlaced), which is equivalent to 720 x 480 pixels at 59.94 Hz. The “i” in 480i stands for interlaced, where the display draws every other horizontal picture line and then loop back and draw the remaining lines. Most cable and satellite TV providers transmit high-definition digital signals at a minimum of 720p, with the “p” defined as progressive scan, where each horizontal line is drawn sequentially. Progressive scan is generally crisper than its interlaced counterpart.
Originally, the RCA jacks were developed in the 1940s to connect phonographs to amplifiers. Thus, this type of jack was otherwise known as phono plugs during that era. Characteristic structure of RCA cables are single male pins with colored collars and color-matching jacks. In the advent of high-definition video, this video interface technology still remains among the most commonly used ones in home theater systems. Its simplicity and good performance are just some of the reasons why this type of video cable has been able to survive the undeniable popularity of higher-standard audiovisual connectors.
Composite video is an analog format of video signal before it is modulated with an RF-carrier and transmitted via the RCA interface. It should not be mistaken with the component video, which is also carried by RCA connectors but with different color schemes (RGB). The main difference between the two video types is that the composite video combines the video signal components into a signal line-level signal, while the component video conveys the video signals in three separate lines. This means that one composite RCA connection is generally equivalent to three component RCAs.
One of the main drawbacks in composite video is its inability to separate color and brightness signals into their distinct channels. This shortcoming is a significant problem when it comes to video transmission that includes digital multiplexing processes or propagation of several video signals in a single channel.
In 2009, analog TV transmission in the US was officially replaced by the digital format. Composite video is not up to the task of handling the high bandwidth signal associated with the new high definition digital transmission. Unlike component video, composite video doesn’t separate colors and brightness into distinct channels and lacks the visual appeal of hi-definition transmissions.
Aside from component RCA connections, higher-level connectors like VGA and HDMI are now widely used to interface digital video devices instead of composite RCA connectors. VGAs are those commonly employed in computer video connections, while HDMIs are those more preferred in today’s sophisticated home theater systems.