What Do All These Different Video Connectors Mean?

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the March, 2005, issue of
Larry’s Monthly Final Cut Studio Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

While we are on the subject of hardware, another reader, I must confess I lost his name, asked me if there was a difference between all the different video outputs on his tape deck.

Which set me to thinking. I’ve worked with decks for so long that I just take their various outputs for granted. So, if you’re new to this whole video thing, here’s a quick primer.


Let’s start with the connectors. There are four principal types of video connectors:

Jerrold, or F-connector



HDMI connector



The F-connector screws, or slides, onto a post on the back of your deck or TV set. This connector is used for connecting RF (radio frequency) signals. While very useful in connecting a VCR to a TV set, it has very, very limited use in professional (or even semi-professional) video. It’s principally used for RF signals.

The RCA connector is the one that’s used on most consumer gear. Normally used for audio signals, it can also be used for video when inexpensive connectors are required.

The S-video connector, unlike the other three, has four wires to cary video signals. (The others all use two.)

HDMI is designed for high-definition media. An HDMI signal includes both audio and video, but not timecode. (HDMI stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface.)

The BNC connector is a twist-lock silver plug used in most professional video installations. The twist-lock means it won’t come off by accident. Due to the way it is constructed, and the quality of the wire attached to it, BNC connectors provide higher quality and more secure connections than RCA connectors. (BNC stands for Bayonet Neill–Concelman.)


Now, back to our discussion of outputs. Depending upon format, and how much you spend, a tape deck can have up to five input/output options. Here’s a quick description of each, from lowest quality to highest (and cheapest to most expensive):

While there are a few technical benefits to capturing DV-recorded output using an SDI connection on a very high-end deck — specifically for converting color sampling, or integrating Betacam and DV footage — in general, a FireWire connection is the best method for transferring DV footage into your computer.

For higher-quality or higher-resolution formats, HDSDI is the best option for signal quality, resolution and distance.

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