Digital and Analog Audio Video Cables Explained

As consumer electronics have evolved over the past 50-60 years, a plethora of cables and connections have evolved to interface them. It can be a little confusing. Here is an overview of the audio and video cables used to connect all kinds of electronics that will help you understand what is going on the next time you need a hook-up. What’s in an Audio-Video Cable? There are three components in a cable that affect signal quality: the conductor, the shielding, and the connector. The conductor is the type of material used as a medium through which the signal passes. Different conductors have different properties like resistance, and techniques like twisting affect these properties. Excess length and inadequate diameter for the signal are common conductor issues. Since a conductor is also basically an antenna, it can also pick up other signals. Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) and Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) introduce noise signals into the desired video or audio signal. Proper shielding on a cable reduces electronic noise that the conductor receives. Every connector on a cable actually makes two connections – the connection to the equipment and the connection to the conductor. Bad connections on either side can mean serious degradation of the signal and are a common source of quality issues. Technical performance information is usually readily available when shopping for cables. You don’t have to become an expert, but by learning some basic terms and understanding what is good and what is bad, you can prevent greatly overpaying for a not-so-great cable (which is easy to do). Analog Audio Cables The ¼ inch plug connections (male and female) commonly known as RCA or phono jacks have been around from almost the beginning of the component stereo era. They are still a fairly common way make audio connections between components. A separate connection is used for left and right stereo signals, so connections are usually color coded in red, white, or black. As video became part of home electronics, the RCA jack was employed to connect video signals as well (color coded yellow). While great for analog audio, the RCA jack is less than ideal for video. However, it was adequate when the common format for video was VHS tape. Digital Audio Cables Only recently have cables used only for digital audio started to become common. Digital audio signals are frequently combined with digital video signals (as described with HDMI), so separate cabling is not needed. The most common type of digital audio connection is the Coaxial Digital Audio cable. This uses an RCA connector on each end with a coax cable. Since both audio channels are transmitted digitally over one wire, only one cable is needed for both channels. Since coax cable is used, Coaxial Digital Audio cables feel and look more substantial than RCA cables, plus the connector is frequently plated with a fine metal to improve the connection. Optical Digital Cables use fiber optics to transmit digital audio signals as pulses of light. While this may be the optimal way to transmit digital information, optical cables are expensive, can be somewhat fragile, and have bending limitations. On the positive side, optical cables are immune to interference and do not degrade over a long distance. Analog Video Cables There a number of cables used to carry analog video signals. As mentioned, a common RCA jack was typically employed early in the life of consumer video equipment. As the mediums used for video improved, from enhanced analog like Hi-8 to digital like DVDs, better connections were needed. Options for analog connections and cables include: RCA (Composite) Coaxial S-Video...

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Learn How to Convert MiniDV Tapes to DVD

Converting Mini-Digital Video (MiniDV) to DVD So you have tons of footage shot on your digital camcorder that uses a mini-cassette format for DV (digital video – also known as MiniDV), but you would like to have it on DVD. No problem. Copying them to a variety of digital formats, including DVD, is a snap. Your basic options are to copy the video content onto a DVD using a DVD recorder or to transfer them to digital format using your computer. If you use a computer you can easily edit using video tools as well as burn DVDs – a capability most computers have these days. Copying DV to DVD using a DVD Recorder If you have a DVD recorder as part of your home entertainment system, this is the most straightforward method. Just plug the output of cable of your MiniDV camcorder into one of the available inputs on your DVD recorder. Many models of DVD recorders have input connections available on the front specifically for connecting camcorders. You may want to take advantage of this, or you may want to take the trouble to use a rear connection – depending on what type of output you camcorder provides. Depending on the age and type of your camcorder, the non-camcorder end of the camcorder output cable could have several types of video connectors: Firewire HDMI S-Video RCA Audio-Video Your goal is to use the highest quality connection possible. Firewire and HDMI are the best options, followed by S-video, and finally RCA if that is what is available. So if your camcorder has a HDMI output and the DVD recorder has HDMI input, then take advantage of it. The improved quality will be worth it. If you find you have a compatibility issue, you can buy adapter cables for converting just about all connection styles. Shopping on-line for cables and adapters can save you a bundle over buying them at retail stores. Just search for what you need (i.e. RCA to HDMI adapter). Once you’ve made the connection, the rest is a snap. Put a recordable DVD in the recorder (it may take a moment for it to read and load the DVD), place a DV you would like to duplicate in the DV camcorder. Now select the Input on the recorder that the camcorder is connected. If you are unsure, press play and toggle through the inputs looking for the video signal coming from the camera. Once you find it, stop the camcorder and rewind it to the desired starting place (if necessary). Now press record on the DVD recorder and press play on the camcorder. Keep going until you have recorded all the DV tapes you wish to transfer. Copying DV to DVD using a Computer There are several advantages to using a PC to copy your digital video tapes. First, if you don’t already have a DVD recorder, you can buy what you need to use you computer for less than you can buy a DVD recorder or DVR. Next, it is easy to edit and otherwise work with your video content (including adding a soundtrack) using a computer and some video software. Again, the first critical step is determining the connectivity between the DV camcorder and the computer. Some PCs and Macs come equipped with HDMI and Firewire connections. If you can use these to connect directly between your computer and camcorder then all you need is a video application capable of video capture and editing. If you cannot connect directly, then you need an adapter that can connect your camcorder output to the computer...

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How to Convert Home Movies to DVDs

Converting home movies on VHS or Hi-8 video cassettes to DVDs present a minimal problem. VCRs and VHS or Hi-8 camcorders have RCA style video and audio outputs that can be easily connected to a DVR or a DVD Recorder, and to a computer USB port using an adapter and video software. Unlike VHS and Hi-8 cassettes played on VCRs and camcorders, older film reels of home movies present a different challenge when it comes to converting them to a digital format. Most old 8mm projectors do not have video output jacks. The old projectors never converted the movies to any analog signal – they simply passed the images on film in front of the projector bulb. There is no easy way to directly dub this content to a digital format. Consider Using an 8mm Film to Digital Conversion Service So if you have reel tapes of 8mm or Super 8 home movies that you would like to upgrade to digital, you might want to shop around for a service that can convert the tapes. It wouldn’t hurt to get a good idea of the cost involved in using the service before deciding to do it yourself. Depending on how many tapes you have and your discretionary spending budget, paying someone else to do it may be the best option. Perhaps members of the family like siblings and cousins would even be happy to chip in for the conversion if they end up with their own copies. Getting a group of contributors could make this option more affordable. You can look online for conversion services, but don’t forget to check locally. While it may cost a few more dollars to use a local service, you would have the peace of mind of hand-delivering and retrieving your precious vintage home movie footage without the risk of it being lost or damaged during shipping. Also, be sure you are comparing apples to apples. The level of service and quality of conversion varies greatly between providers. Do a little homework and find out what you will get for your money. You Can Convert 8mm or Super 8 Film to Digital Yourself If your budget doesn’t allow using a service, don’t worry – you can still covert the old reels to digital yourself. You just need: A functional 8mm or Super 8 reel projector A digital video camera (and any required media for recording like DVDs) A good projection surface (a screen, a flat white wall, etc.) A tripod An audio cable As you might guess at this point, the best way to convert those old home movies to digital yourself is to project them onto a good projection surface and record them using a digital video camera. Obviously, you want to put the 8mm projector on a nice stable surface, and have a good stable tripod for the digital video camera, so it can be focused properly on the image to get the best possible result. Important Tips for Converting 8mm Film to Digital Here are some things to keep in mind while converting those 8mm reels to digital: Keep the Projected Image Small: A rule of thumb is that the smaller the image, the sharper it will be. So focus the projected image so it is fairly small yet easily visible. This usually also involves having the projection surface not too far away from the projector. Focus the Digital Camera to Maximize the Image: Adjust the digital video camera so that the image fills the recording (without losing any part of the image) while minimizing the amount of the unused projection...

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Video Tape Formats Explained

If you are a bit overwhelmed by all the types and varieties of videotape available, here is a brief overview of the most common videotapes used in consumer video electronics. We will divide tapes into two categories – analog video tape and digital video tape. Digital Video Tape Formats Mini-DV Tapes are used with certain digital camcorders, and are the smallest of all the formats available. They can capture great quality images because of the digital format, and digital formats can be copied over and over without losing image quality. Mini-DV tape is available in 30, 60, 63 and 80 minute lengths. DIGITAL8 is a digital format recorded on Hi-8 and 8mm cassette tapes. You don’t need to buy special tapes to record on a Digital8 camcorder – you can use Hi-8 and 8mm tapes. However, it will use the tape twice as fast. A 2 hour Hi-8 tape will only last 60 minutes in a Digital8 camcorder. One great advantage of a Digital8 camcorder is that is can also play your analog 8mm and Hi-8 tapes as well. Analog Video Tape Formats VHS tapes are played in standard VCRs. They are the ones most of us are familiar with, and most of us probably still have quite a few around. Blank tapes could be used to record home movies or television programs, and VHS was also that standard format for produced content (like movies) for decades. Camcorders also initially used VHS tapes, but quickly transitioned to a smaller format. VHS provided good resolution when recorded and played back at the 2 hour speed (SP). However, it could also record 4 hours (LP) and 6 hours (SLP) at a significant reduction in quality. Super VHS or S-VHS is a VHS size format that has improved resolution. While this format never became common in the consumer market, it was very popular with professionals. Like VHS, it has widely been replaced with digital formats. A VCR has to be S-VHS capable in order to play the enhanced quality. S-VHS tapes will not play on standard VCRs. VHS-C tapes contain VHS style tape – but with less tape and a smaller cartridge than standard VHS tapes. This was one way to reduce the size of a camcorder and still have a tape that could play on a standard VCR when the VHS-C was put into an adapter (that usually came with a VHS-C camcorder). 8mm camcorders and tapes were introduced shortly after VHS camcorders were put on the market. The size of a camcorder needed to accommodate a standard VHS tape was just too bulky, so smaller tape cartridges were developed to use with a camcorder. Of course, the draw back was that the 8mm tapes could not be played on VHS players. The tapes had to played using the camcorder or they had to be copied to VHS. Most 8mm tapes record 2 hours of video. Hi-8 is a high quality 8mm analog video tape for Hi-8 capable camcorders. It has improved video quality over regular 8mm as well as hi-fi stereo sound. It may not be digital quality, but Hi-8 provides an excellent video picture. While some resolution may be lost when copying to regular VHS, most of quality will be retained when copying to a DVD. Hi-8 tape comes in 30, 60, and 120-minute lengths. ¾” Video Tape is a very early version of video tape used before the introduction of VHS. It may still be used by some videographers and 3/4″ decks are can be found in many professional duplicating houses. The quality is very good, but it...

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Guide to Video Copy and Conversion Basics

Video Copy and Conversion Basics When converting video formats or copying video, there are some basic things to keep in mind in order to accomplish the conversion or copy and maximize the quality of the video in the new format. These include: Analog or digital video Media formats Digital file types Connections Usually these become less of a concern if you using a DVD recorder, DVR, or VCR to record the content, these since formats and media are somewhat transparent to the user. You simply connect the devices, put the right disk or tape in, and start recording. Digital or Analog Most of us are aware of the difference between digital and analog video formats. Analog formats are waveforms on magnetic tape. Digital formats are bytes of ones and zeros stored on a disk – either removable or fixed. However, there are also digital formats found on magnetic tape like MiniDV camcorders. While analog video can be good quality, it is easy to find analog recordings of very poor quality. Sometimes this is due to the poor quality of the initial recording device (i.e. a very cheap VCR or camcorder), and sometimes it is due to poor copying or over copying. Every time an analog video signal is copied it loses quality due to the noise introduced and information lost through the playback heads, the connections, and the record heads – even when good equipment is used. Anytime an analog signal is part of the copying equation (analog to analog, digital to analog, analog to digital), then maintaining the best possible quality should be a consideration. With digital video, it is usually easier to capture good quality in the beginning and maintain it no matter how many digital copies are made. The sequences of ones and zeros are easily replicated without any lost information or degradation. However, managing digital video on a computer may mean paying attention to file formats and the video player or editing tools. Analog Formats Standard VHS tapes are the most common analog format. Quality of the copy depends on the quality of the signal, the recording/playback device, and selected tape speed. The faster speeds that record less time of content (like two hours versus four hours) provide better quality. S-VHS and Hi8 are a superior quality format for analog video. S-VHS are the same size and style as a regular VHS cassette, however, it takes an S-VHS capable player to play S-VHS cassettes (which can usually play regular VHS as well). Hi8 is a mini-cassette typically used in camcorders. Digital Formats Digital videos are usually on a DVD or in a video format computer file. VCDs can also be used to store and play video files, but this format is rare in the U.S. and other Western countries. Blu-ray is the newest generation of DVD. Blu-ray disks have more video storage ability, and in turn Blu-ray players use a smaller scan wavelength which improves video quality. Much like the VHS/S-VHS example above, Blu-ray players can play regular DVDs, but regular DVD players can not play Blu-ray. After a DVD is burned or recorded, usually a “finalize” step prepares the DVD to be played on any DVD device. The issue of digital video file formats (frequently called containers) can get confusing, as they are numerous and have names like MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, RealVideo, WMV, and MVC. Then there are different computer based video players like Quicktime, AVI, and MP4. While generally there is compatibility between formats and players, it isn’t always the case. This is also true of video editing applications. Most programs for PCs...

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How to Use Your PC to Transfer Video Tapes to DVD

You see it in so many homes – including yours. Shelves, stacks, and boxes of old VHS and video tapes we just don’t want to get rid of. They have our favorite episodes of Seinfeld, our treasured home videos, and a backlog of movies recorded from HBO or Showtime that we just never got around to watching. Why Convert VHS to DVD? There are a few problems with keeping these old VHS video tapes: VHS Tapes are Bulky: With VHS tapes, a few hours of video takes up as much space as a book. Converting VHS to DVD means storing the same video content on a small stack of disks – probably taking up less space than just a few of VHS tapes. VHS and Video Tapes Deteriorate and Break: Analog tapes, whether VHS or 8mm cassettes, degrade over time much more rapidly than digital disks. While storing tapes in constant temperature and humidity helps delay deterioration, the longer you wait to transfer video tapes to digital disks the lower the quality will be. Plus, cassette tapes have mechanical moving parts that are more likely to break or malfunction the older they become. VHS Tapes are Obsolete: VHS tapes and players are rapidly going the way of the dinosaur. If you keep waiting to do something with your old video tapes, one day you will find yourself with no way to play or reproduce them. Then you may end up spending big money to pay a professional to salvage your precious home movies. How Do I Convert My Video Tapes to DVD? There are several ways to copy VHS or other video tapes to DVD. If you have a VHS player (or a camcorder) and a component DVD recorder, just connect the output of the VHS player to the input of the DVD recorder and record directly to the DVD. Some of you may even have dual VHS and DVD recorder decks. Most of these have a dubbing function that will make copying the tape to DVD easy and fast. Whether or not you have a DVD recorder to use for copying your tapes, consider using your PC for converting them to DVD. First, if you don’t have a DVD recorder, you probably have a DVD burner on your PC. You can buy the tools needed to use your PC to convert the tapes for much less than you can buy a component DVD recorder. Second, while direct dubbing will copy your tapes, using a PC gives you tremendous power to easily edit and create DVDs you will actually want to watch. Plus, you can add background music and soundtracks. Using a PC to Transfer VHS to Digital is Easy! Using the power of your PC to capture and transfer analog videos to digital DVDs has never been easier. In the past it may have involved buying a video card and opening your PC to install it in an open PCI slot. Next you installed the video card drivers, then you crossed your fingers and hoped it all worked. Now it is almost as easy as plugging in a USB cable. A number of manufacturers provide exactly what you need to make it fast and simple. Just search on-line for “VHS to DVD Converter” or visit your favorite technology store. Comprehensive packages include the hardware and software needed to transfer your old tapes. The software makes it easy to capture and edit the video. The hardware adapter connects your computer’s USB port to the RCA style jacks for video (yellow) and audio (red and white or black) found on...

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