downloads to tube tv?
September 11, 2011 5:42 PM   Subscribe

Noob electronics. I want to connect the following units. A Panasonic (old tube type, but nice big screen) tv, DVD player, and my MacBook Pro. The tv has one input, the VCR many. Do I need a 'modulator'? But more important, is there a way to get my digital downloads to the TV?
posted by ebesan to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
you'll need a digital/analog converter to get digital files to the TV, you can do firewire in to the converter, coax or RCA out to the TV (assuming the set has one or the other as inputs).
posted by tomswift at 5:50 PM on September 11, 2011

Have a look at this page (which says it can be done, but probably not easily or with good results). Thinking to back in the day when I had this problem, I got it working, but it sucked and so I almost never used it... be cautious about spending money here.

And just sayin', large computer monitors aren't exactly expensive anymore.
posted by deadweightloss at 6:01 PM on September 11, 2011

The TV probably has RCA component or S-video in, so you don't need a modulator. You do, however, need something that can convert the mini-DisplayPort output from your MBP to an analog signal. Unlike some of the earlier digital video connectors there isn't an analog signal present on that connector at all any more, so a converter is nontrivial. You can also find boxes that go from USB or firewire to analog video. It might be simpler to get something like a first-generation AppleTV, which had component video out.
posted by hattifattener at 6:28 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm going to assume your MBP has a MiniDisplayPort connector, and your VCR has RCA Connectors.

You need one of these to convert the MiniDisplayPort into DVI::

Mini DisplayPort to DVI Adapter

And then something that converts DVI to simple video:

Apple DVI to Video Adapter

And then a simple RCA - RCA video cable:

6ft RCA Plug/Plug M/M Cable

For audio, you need a standard 3.5" cable, as long as your RCA video cable:

25ft 3.5mm Stereo Plug/Plug M/M Cable

And an adaptor to switch from 3.5 to RCA:

Stereo F/M RCA Y-Cable
posted by meowzilla at 6:52 PM on September 11, 2011

If your TV has a "video in" jack, you won't need an RF modulator. If it only has an antenna jack (threaded coaxial), you will.

Your VCR will work as an RF modulator, but it likely won't work with your DVD player (because DVD players have Macrovision copy protection built-in, to keep you from doing exactly that). If you're using a DVD/VCR combo unit you shouldn't have a problem.

Aside from that, what meowzilla said. Hooking up the Macbook will be the expensive part, and the results will probably not be terribly satisfactory. Use S-Video (better than composite) or component video (better than S-Video) if your TV supports it.

For clarification: Antenna with RF modulator < composite video (single yellow RCA jack) < S-Video (round multi-pin jack) < composite (three red/blue/green RCA jacks).
posted by neckro23 at 7:11 PM on September 11, 2011

Your MacBook's display will look like crap on a CRT. Assuming you've got some suitable USB drives available, I think you'd be better served by spending $40-$80 on something similar to the WD TV, or maybe replacing the DVD player and/or VCR with a combo device that supports video files on USB drives.
posted by unmake at 7:16 PM on September 11, 2011

DVD player with DivX ($40), Cheap USB media player ($30).

Compare to the cost of assorted cables, inconvenience, etc.
posted by unmake at 7:30 PM on September 11, 2011

I could be wrong, but I believe that DVI to Video adapter meowzilla linked to won't work if you have a newer Mac Book with the mini display port. (That adapter was built for Apple's older full DVI outs that were carrying an analog signal alongside the digital.)
posted by nobody at 8:03 PM on September 11, 2011

nobody is correct -- meowzilla's proposed adapter chain isn't going to do it, because there's no actual digital-to-analog conversion going on there.

DVI comes in three flavors:
DVI-D: a digital signal only
DVI-A: an analog signal only
DVI-I: carries both a digital and an analog signal side-by-side (but does no conversion between them)

The MiniDP-to-DVI adapter converts a (digital-only) DisplayPort connection to a (digital-only) DVI-D connection. The DVI-to-Video adapter takes a DVI-I connection and converts the analog portion to S-video or composite. Since there's no analog signal coming from the first adapter, the second one isn't going to have anything to convert.

It would be very useful to know the exact model of your TV, since there are tube sets out there with DVI inputs, which would make everything a lot simpler.

Something like this might help, if and only if your TV has a component input. Then you could go MiniDP->HDMI->converter->component->TV.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 8:17 PM on September 11, 2011

Dang, it looks like you guys are right - the first negative review in the DVI to video adapter says the same thing. I looked into this a couple of years back and I vaguely remember something like that, but then I was gifted a TV with HDMI inputs.

If you have all your movies in a format that AppleTV likes, I would give that a shot. The cable setup I described, if it worked, is hooking up the TV as an additional monitor, which is pretty nice (you can watch anything on your TV that you can see on your screen, no restrictions) but if you only need to see certain formats, other boxes will work.
posted by meowzilla at 9:13 PM on September 11, 2011

Your ancient TV may have a large screen, but its display resolution is going to be awful. It'll probably be 480 lines, interlaced, but the Z-axis speed won't really support 640 horizontal resolution without a lot of blurring.

Worse, the best you can hope for from something that ancient is feeding it composite video. In composite video, the chroma information is mixed with the luma as a sub-carrier -- and the frequency break between the two is such that if you try to display 640 alternating black and white lines, it'll be too high frequency and will get interpreted as chroma, not as luma. (Anyone who, like me, owned and loved a Radio Shack Color Computer will be familiar with this effect.)

This means that if you're trying to feed it crisp 640*480, you're going to get color fringes all over the place.

If it doesn't have a composite input, then you'll have to use a modulator and feed it channel 4 -- and that's going to be even worse looking.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:05 PM on September 11, 2011

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