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Daily LifeTV Connections and Cables

By Brad Smith

French TVs use a single connector instead of the myriad of RCA, coax and s-video connections Americans are used to. However, it is still possible to convert back/forth. As far as I know, every American TV made in the last 10 years uses one or more of the following connectors:

Coax F-Type Video Connector F-Type Video Jack Thick cable
Carries multiple signals on multiple channels, both sound and video
RCA RCA Connectors RCA Jacks Red = Sound, right channel
White = Sound, left channel
Yellow = Video
Carries signal only, no channels
S video S-Video Connector S-Video Jack High-resolution video, like form a DVD player
Carries video signal only, no channels and no sound

SCART All the French TVs I've seen use something called a Peritel SCART connector. It's a big, stiff cable with a 21-pin male plug at each end. I've personally had some trouble with cheap cables having (or developing over time) bad connectors, so I do not recommend buying the cheapest ones you find. This cable carries all the video and sound, so you don't need any other connections. You can buy adaptors that connect a SCART to your American RCA or S-video connectors.

One feature to look for when buying a French TV is the number of SCART connections. A large TV might have two, but smaller ones will probably have only one. If you want to plug in more things than your TV has plugs, you can buy a box that allows you to connect more.

3-to-1 SCART Box MULTIPLE DEVICES: Connecting multiple devices to your TV is very different from the US. Let's say you have two things (for example, a satellite box and a DVD player) that you want to connect. If your TV has two SCART inputs, you plug one device into each SCART, and you're done. You change the channel to EXT1 or EXT2 (or whatever the TV calls the two external inputs) and you're watching the selected device. If you buy one of the boxes just mentioned, the key thing to know is that it doesn't have any kind of selector to choose which device you're watching. You have to turn OFF all the other devices that you're not watching.

These multiple-input SCART boxes have worked fine for me when used with French devices, but I've had problems using them with American devices. For example, when I connect my American VCR using the requisite adaptor, the sound from the satellite is messed up, even when the VCR is off. But this doesn't always happen, and I don't know what triggers it. Just be aware this does not always work perfectly.



VCRs: The Canal Satellite box has two SCART inputs to which you can connect a VCR and/or a DVD player (actually, any SCART device). When you turn off the satellite, it passes the VCR signal to the TV so you can watch a tape. In the States, you would put the recording device between the box that selects the channel (cable or satellite) and your TV so you can record shows from the cable/satellite. However, the French satellite box feeds the signal back to the VCR so you can still record shows. In fact, it has a timer feature that will turn on the VCR to record. I don't believe this is specific to Canal Satellite, but I have no personal experience with any others. The same connections can be done with a DVD player. The canal Satellite box has two SCART inputs, so an expander box is not needed.


Advice Don't buy cheap SCART cables because they break quickly. It takes only one bad wire to kill the whole cable, and it turns out that's easy to do with a cheap cable.

There is little nerd detail to add to this. Using SCART is pretty easy, although it is more expensive to hook up a system than using coax, S-video and/or RCA. Each of the cables and boxes costs money. Depending on where you go and how much you want to spend, a SCART cable could cost 10 - 40€.

Here's an explanation (in English) of the SCART plug: http://www.hippy.freeserve.co.uk/scart.htm. If you want way too much information (in French), including voltage levels and specs, visit http://www.corsaire.org/consulting/peritel.html. Both can be found with a Google search for "peritel"

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