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Daily LifeHooking Up American TVs, DVDs, Games, etc.

By Brad Smith

First, you should read the sections on power conversion and TV standards and TV connections. This page assumes you know all that stuff.

Next, let's review how things were hooked up in the US. An American VCR always has what's called an RF output that can be connected to the TV's RF input. Them to watch the VCR (or game), the TV has to be a specific channel (usually 3 or 4). Some VCRs and game systems also have red, white and yellow jacks called RCA jacks. The red is for the right sound channel, the white is for the left sound channel, and the yellow is for video. If your TV has VCA inputs, you can connect the VCR's output to the TV's inputs. Then, to watch the VCR (or game), you need to select "external inputs" (or whatever your TV calls the RCA inputs).


An American DVD can be hooked up in exactly the same way, but DVDs also have another plug called S-video. It's a high-resolution connection that is needed to take advantage of the DVD's higher quality signal. Of course, the TV must have an S-video input for this to work.

Now, you've moved to France and you want the same setup. The first thing to do is, of course, to plug all your American electronics (TV, VCR, DVD, game system, ...) into a transformer of the proper size. If you want to hook your American stuff into your American TV, they'll work fine together, just like they did in the US. If you want to hook them into your French TV, you'll need to first make sure the TV is compatible with NTSC, the American broadcast standard. (Yes, this sounds like it belongs in the Nerd section, but you'll have to look for the acronym "NTSC" when you buy the TV.)

For devices that have RCA outputs, you'll need to buy an adaptor plug that converts RCA to SCART. Then you can plug it in like any other French device. The adaptors I've seen also have S-video inputs.

For devices that have only RF output, you'll need to connect them to something with a tuner (like an American VCR) because there is no way to convert that to SCART. Since the TV has only SCART inputs, that's a requirement. If you hook the device into an American VCR that has RCA outputs, you can connect VCR as above. This is a little messy unless you were planning to hook up that VCR anyway...

Advice Buy NTSC-compatible equipment in France. If you want to use any American equipment with your French TV, this is a requirement.

Nerd Info The RCA video output carries what's called composite video. It is NTSC formatted but contains no channel info, so the wire can carry only one viewable signal at a time. The RF output has the signal you want to view encoded onto a channel. This means to view it you will need a tuner set to the right channel. Since each signal has its own channel, numerous channels can peacefully coexist on the same line.

Lots of video games (especially older ones) come with an RF modulator, which takes the game's composite video output and puts it onto a channel (usually 3 or 4). The output of this little box is an RF output. Generally, the box also has an RF input. When the game is turned off, the RF output is the same as the RF input (e.g., your cable signal), and when the game is turned on, the output is the game signal. Thus, the box is also a switch. Some games also have the ability to output composite video, though that may require buying an extra adaptor.

The SCART is bidirectional, but the RCA and RF signals are unidirectional. Thus, the SCART adaptor plug usually has a switch on that says "IN/OUT". I've had some trouble connecting an American device into a SCART multi-input box using RCA lines and an adaptor. Part of the SCART spec is a sense signal that essentially says "I have a signal; watch me", but the American device cannot set that signal on the fly, so I suspect the adaptor makes sure it's always on. Then, when I plugged the RCA adaptor into the SCART box, the sound for the other devices became garbled, even when the American VCR was turned off.

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