Picture and Sound: Your Entertainment System Explained


These days we all have multiple components for our entertainment and not just a simple TV w/ an antennae anymore. Most people have cable/satellite, VCR and/or DVD player, etc. It can be very confusing, but the basics are still picture and sound.

———— Basic Setup

The basic setup is a TV w/ a cable coming in the back either from cable TV. Above and beyond this you might have a cable or satellite box which tunes the signal before it goes to the TV.

W/ this type of setup, it’s pretty simple – one input and one component basically – the TV. Not much too it. The cable provides the picture and sound to the TV: picture and sound. So far, so good.

———— Another Device

The next most common device is a VCR or DVD player. Chances are if it’s a VCR, the cable goes to the VCR instead of the TV. Then the VCR output goes from it to the TV. This way, when the VCR is off, you’re watching TV. When you turn on the VCR, you see the tape playing.

You can turn the VCR on and see the cable/TV image b/c it has a tuner in it too. This way, the VCR can control the channel the same way the TV does. It needs a tuner in it so it can record things on it’s own. The VCR has a button like ‘TV/VCR’ that controls what signal it sends to the TV. It can either send the raw cable signal for the TV to tune or the VCR can tune the signal to a channel on it’s own to send to the TV. This second option also sends the tape signal when you press play.

This ‘TV/VCR’ button tells it to send either the raw signal (TV) or the VCR tuned channel (VCR). For the VCR tuned signal, the TV has to be on channel 3 or 4. Most TV’s now also have a ‘TV/Video’ type button which when pressed will switch btwn the various inputs it has including the channel set for the VCR.

Ok, so now we can see that sometimes the TV tunes the raw signal for picture and sound and sometimes it goes through the VCR. If through the VCR, the VCR can just send the raw signal for watching regular TV. It can also, tune the signal itself for recording or sending the channel/tape to the TV.

———— Record one thing, watch another

Sometimes you want the VCR to tune the channel for itself to record, but not send that image to the TV. Can you guess how? You set the channel on the VCR and handle the recording however you normally do. But you press the ‘TV/VCR’ button to the ‘TV’ setting so it sends the raw signal to the TV.

Now the VCR has the channel it needs, but doesn’t mess w/ the TV. So you can watch one thing and record another at the same time.

The VCR goes btwn the cable (source) and the TV so it can handle the signal how it needs, but also pass it on.

———— DVD Player

A DVD player is similar, but doesn’t need a cable signal (unless it’s also a recorder). If it’s just a player, then typically you want to connect it to another input on the TV. Some TVs have several inputs. Generally one cable (coax) input for cable/satellite (or VCR). Also, there’s usually one or two RCA cable hookups. These are generally 3 wire hookups – one yellow (video) and one red and one white (both are these are audio) – picture and sound. Some have an S-video hookup – it’s higher quality, but the same concept. Also, there’s component which is even higher quality.

The more inputs like this you have, the more options you have for hooking things up. The ‘TV/Video’ button on your TV and remote sd cycle btwn all of these.

So, you can hookup your cable to your VCR, hookup your VCR to your TV w/ the cable. But then hookup your DVD player to a separate input in the back (or sometimes front) of the TV w/ the RCA cables. When you hit the ‘TV/Video’ button on the remote, it will change where it gets the picture and sound from.

Normally, you watch plain old TV tuned signal. Your signal comes in and your change channels on the TV. Hit the ‘TV/Video’ button and it will switch. If it goes to your VCR, you may see another channel (tuned by the VCR). Hit play on it and then you’ll see the tape. Hit the ‘TV/Video’ button again and it might go to the DVD player. Mess w/ it and see the picture and hear sound from it.

NOTE: You don’t want to send your DVD player through your VCR b/c DVDs are encoded and won’t play right going through a VCR.

———— Like Water

Pretty simple. It’s kinda like a faucet in the bathroom w/ hot and cold water. You can turn on one and get water from one source (cold – outside) or turn on the other and get it from another source (hot – the water heater). You just have to tell the TV which source you want – picture and sound.

That probably covers most people’s setup. However, you can add even more. In the case that you have a DVD recorder, you need a source(s) to it too like a TV or VCR. Whatever you want to be able to record, needs to be attached to your DVD-rec.

———— Example

One example, send your cable to your VCR, then your output from your VCR to your DVD-rec, then your output from that to your TV. Then you have a new source added at each step. Your VCR cd record one thing but send a raw signal to your DVD-rec which cd record something (assuming it also has a tuner) and send a raw signal to your TV. So you cd record 2 things and watch a third.

Your VCR cd send the signal it’s tuning (and recording) w/ the ‘TV/VCR’ button to the DVD-rec which wd only allow it to play (and/or record) that same thing. Your DVD-rec cd do the same – send on what it’s recording.

———— Another Example

Another example wd be to send your cable to the DVD-rec and then on to the TV replacing the VCR. You may still want your VCR connected to the DVD-rec to record a tape now and then. This also allows you to pass on the VCR signal to the TV like the ‘TV/VCR’ button on the VCR. This prevents the cable signal from going through too many devices which degrades the quality.

Also, you might have a TiVo. The satellite/cable signal goes to it and it has 1 or more outputs. You cd send one output to the TV (typically S-video for quality) and another to the DVD-rec. You’d still want the DVD-rec output going to another input on the TV to watch DVDs, but going directly to the TV from the TiVo helps the quality.

The ‘TV/Video’ button will switch btwn the TiVo and the DVD-rec. So your TiVo is like the hot water and the DVD-rec like code. Pick your source for picture and sound. Piggy-backing on the DVD-rec (cold) side, is the VCR which is rarely used now.

In some cases, you’ll have even more inputs like another DVD player or TiVo or something. Many TVs have several inputs, but if you don’t have enough, you can get a switchbox.

———— SwitchBox

A switchbox takes several inputs and has one output. You can plug in your VCR, DVD player, TiVo, etc. and plug the one output of picture and sound to your TV. You never have to tell your TV which to use, but you do have to tell the switchbox which to send to the TV. You can label them on the switchbox and some switchboxes have remotes.

The multiple inputs on a TV is just like a built in switchbox, but w/ less quality degredation.

But if you have an XBox or similar you may need to consider a switchbox if you have too many devices for the number of inputs on your TV.

———— Better sound

Still going w/ the basic concept of picture and sound, you might want to improve the sound part. If your stereo is in your entertainment center, you can hookup the sound part to it and use it w/ or instead of your TV.

Stereos often have even more inputs than TVs. RCA cables make this easy: hook the yellow to your TV and the red and white to your stereo. Pick the right input on the TV and stereo so that you have matching picture and sound.

For this, a switchbox is helpful. Intead of switching the TV and stereo, you just change the switchbox. The picture goes to the TV and sound to the stereo.

I have DirecTv w/ built in TiVo which goes to the TV and dvd-recorder. The VCR just goes to the dvd-rec so I can dump to disc if I need and can even watch the VCR through the dvd-rec if necessary (also the VCR and DVD have other inputs for a camcorder or digital cam, etc.).

The TiVo and dvd-rec sound both go to the stereo for sound.

The TiVo picture also goes to a switchbox as does the dvd-rec picture. The switchbox output (picture only) goes to the TV and a wireless video sender. I don’t need the switchbox to watch TiVo b/c it goes directly to the TV (S-video) and to the stereo for sound.

The switchbox also goes to the TV. I have to switch the switchbox to DVD to watch the dvd-rec. The output from the switchbox is also split and goes to a wireless video sender to a projector on the other side of the room. So whatever the switchbox is on (TiVo or dvd-rec) that’s what the projector displays.

Normal TV watching just means the TV is on the TiVo input (S-video) and the stereo is on ‘Sat/TV.’ For DVD, the switchbox is on DVD, TV is on switchbox (‘TV/Video’) and stereo is on ‘DVD’ (I have a macro that does this for me on the remote).

For VCR, it’s the same as DVD, but switch the input on the DVD to be the VCR. If you haven’t noticed, each component has an internal switchbox w/ multiple inputs.

Whatever the switchbox is set on, the projector will display (and the TV will display if it is on that input).

If I plug anymore inputs into the switchbox (e.g., XBox, digital cam, etc.), I set all the same settings as above for DVD (depending on how I hook up the sound – direct to the stereo, direct to TV, etc.).

———— Summary

So it’s basically pretty simple and all of them follow the same basics: picture and sound.

So for the water faucet example, you might have hot and cold. Then under your sink you connect another line to your cold side that is salt-water. Now you can switch (under your sink) the cold to salt. Assuming you can only turn on one at a time, you can either have hot, cold or salt (on the cold side). Farther up the salt line, you might put in another line that feeds in pool water. So to have pool water, you have to switch to pool water there, then father up the ‘salt’ line has to be on and then the cold side has to be on.

Cold has 3 options: cold, salt and pool depending on the various inputs all along the way. Confusing, but simple.

So whenever you aren’t seeing what you think you sd be seeing, think ‘picture and sound.’ Make sure your TV is on the right ‘TV/Video’ setting (e.g., TiVo, DVD, VCR, switchbox, etc.), then make sure that source is set on the right input (e.g., switchbox on DVD, DVD on DVD w/ ‘TV/Video’ on the DVD player, etc.).

Same for sound, check the TV, switchbox, stereo, etc.

Despite even having a lot of options, they narrow pretty quickly. If I’m not seeing my dvd player (assuming it’s on), I just need to make sure the switchbox is on DVD and the TV is on switchbox. If the DVD player is showing the TV channel (which in my case is the TiVo), that might be confusing (am I seeing the TiVo or the DVD showing the TiVo?), but it’s usually pretty obvious if I just tell the DVD to show it’s menu or something.

———— Remote

Also, having a good universal remote for all the devices is nice. One that is ‘learning’ (can detect signals from other remotes and record them) and can do macros (a series of commands in a row) is nice. You can have ‘watch dvd’ as a macro that sets the TV, switchbox, stereo and turns on the dvd player.

See [http://www.thearmchairgeek.com/archives/2005/01/universal_remot.html]

Just remember: picture and sound. Where are the coming from? What are the options? What do I want?


Leave a Reply