How do I connect a PVR to a flat screen TV

PVR is an acronym for Personal Video Recorder. A PVR is the new video cassette recorder (VCR). It works similarly to a VCR, but instead of using video cassette tapes, it simply records to a Hard Disk, similar to what is in a computer.  Since modern TV signals are digital, it makes sense to record the digital data on a digital data storage device, like a hard disk. It allows the digital signal to be recorded and played back in much better quality than using an older VCR.

Which Connections

connections rear
Common connections seen on the rear of a PVR

There are a number of different connecters on the rear of a PVR. These are summarised in our hierarchy table of video signals and cables (click here for details). But before we look at the video and audio connections, let’s deal with the antenna/cable connections.

Antenna In – Antenna out

There is normally a cable coming from a connection on the wall (wall plate)  to the antenna/cable “in” socket of the flat screen TV. This is where the TV signal is connected. The signal comes from an antenna on the roof or from the cable company to the wall plate.

What you need to do is to loop this cable via your PVR. This will require a 2nd antenna cable to be used – this is often supplied with your PVR.

The antenna out socket of the PVR may be marked “Loop Out” or “Antenna Out” or” To TV” or something similar. By looping the input signal via the PVR the signal is available to both the flat screen TV and the PVR. This way, you are able to watch your programs on the TV and/or via the PVR and/or record one program and watch another, as the incoming signal is now available at both the PVR and the flat screen TV.

So, this has the input signal sorted, now we need a way of getting the recorded video and audio from the PVR to the TV. We will follow the order of quality as listed in the hierarchy table of video signals and cables.

HDMI

The best and simplest way of connecting a PVR to a flat screen TV is by using a HDMI lead. This connects the digital video and audio from the PVR to the flat screen TV all in the one cable.

In the above example, the PVR is connected to HDMI input 1 of the flat screen TV. So to watch the PVR, simply select the HDMI 1 input on the flat screen TV. This is normally done on the TV remote control by pressing the “input” or “source” button.

Component Video and Audio

If your PVR or TV does not have a spare HDMI socket, then you can use the component video cables (three in total) and left and right audio cable for the connection.


The actual colour of the cables is not important. The plugs on the cables are normally colour coded to help you connect the right lead to the corresponding sockets. So, if you have Component video leads marked with red, green and blue at each end, simply connect those colours to the corresponding red blue and green sockets on both the PVR and the flat screen TV.  If you don’t have the right colour coded lead, then other leads will work, you just need to be more careful in matching the sockets and colours together.

S-Video

According to our hierarchy table of video signals and cables, if we can’t use HDMI or component video,  the next best quality video is S-video. However this is not always available these days. As can be seen in the pictures of our example PVR and flat screen TV, it is not available on these models. .

Composite Video

The last choice we may have is to use Composite video and audio. This is not the best quality, but it will work. It  is mostly available on older TVs, especially the older CRT TV (standard big glass tube TVs – CRT is an acronym for Cathode Ray Tube).

Again, the cable colour is not important, but connecting the coloured output socket from the PVR to the same coloured input socket of the TV is important.

Summary

To connect a PVR to TV, you need to connect the input signal (antenna or cable), the video and the audio. The video and audio is best and simplest connected with a HDMI lead. If that is not available, then use component video (3 channels) and audio (2 channels). If component video is not available then use S-video or Composite video, with the two channels of audio for left and right audio.

If you need to purchase cables, here is a link to Amazon’s range of Audio and Video Cables.

Please leave a comment below if you have anything to add or a question about connecting a PVR to your TV.

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13 COMMENTS

    • Hi Jill,

      If the TV only has one analogue input (which is all many have) then there is only one way to connect a VCR/DVD to it. You will have to use the yellow, red and white leads from the VCR/DVD combo. The reason being, the green, red and blue (component video) from the DVD/VCR only has the DVD signal, not the VCR signal. The yellow lead (composite video) has both the VCR and DVD signal. The red and white has the audio from both the DVD and VCR.

      So the yellow lead from the VCR/DVD plugs into the green input of the TV. The red and white from the VCR/DVD go the red and white audio in on the TV. Make sure there is nothing plugged into the red and blue inputs adjacent to the green.

      hope this helps

      Geoff

  1. Thanks Geoff your article was just what I needed. My TV doesn’t have a scart socket and my PVR doesn’t have a HDMI socket so your tutorial was very useful.
    John C

  2. I’ve brought a 2012 flat screen UK tv to Australia. Despite several hours of internet inspired set-up tricks, and it being hooked up to a modern outdoor aerial, it will not detect any channels. If I bought a pvr, would it act as a digital decoder and allow me to use my tv. If so, would it be as good as a locally bought tv (i.e., watch one channel and simultaneously record another) or would it be only good for one channel at a time? Your thoughts would be welcome.. cheers, John

    • Hi John,
      Yes, buying a local STB or PVR will tune in the local channels. Connecting it to your pommie TV by HDMI or component will work fine. If you get a PVR with two tuners you’ll be able to watch one program and record another program at the same time, all via the PVR. The TV will simply be a monitor for the PVR.

      From memory, UK uses a slightly different digital format for transmission, they use 2000 modulators where as Oz use 8000. I believe this is the main difference. Your TV may not be flexible enough to cope with that. However, that is only in the transmission of the signal through the air, once it is decoded, it is the same.

      The other thing to check is that your antenna system is working – you could do this with another local TV or STB.

      Before lashing out for a PVR, you could check everything by borrowing or buying a cheap STB and connecting it to your TV via HDMI

      hope this helps

      Geoff

      • I finally got around to buying a $50 Dick Smith STB, which came with a bundle of cables included, all of which were useless to my needs… I had to buy an HDMI cable. Once hooked up, with the tv source set to HDMI, I ran an auto-tune on the STB, and weyhey, I’ve got a working tv with about 20 channels. It is a 2012 Bush 22″ flat screen, and with the modern outdoor aerial, has a crystal clear picture. Thank you for your time in considering my dilemma, and sending me your thoughts. If I ever win the lotto, you are certainly on the beneficiary list… cheers, John.

  3. Thank you for the help in recording from my digital flat screen. No need to have all those cable services

  4. Thank you so much, you explain things so well.
    I was able to do it well by my self, and that never happens.
    I will be visiting your web site again when need be.Thank you
    Cheers-Kathy

  5. Hi there,

    How can I use one decoder for multiple screens in the house with each screen having full control of what to watch?

    thanks

    • Jambo,
      It is not easy to have one decoder to supply more than TV. Firstly the decoder only receives one channel at a time, therefore it is not possible to have different channels at the same time.

      It is possible to have the same channel on all TVs at the same time, but not easy as you need extra cables etc. If you want to do this, let me know and I can give you a few ideas on how to do it.

      Asanti Sana

      Geoff

  6. Thank you for your help. I have managed to set up my new PVR with the other one I had. It was a bit of a struggle to find my way through the cables. It had been set up for me previously. I had to replace a non working PVR.

    I mentioned your website on the Whirlpool forums discussion thread that I was looking at also.

    • Hi Kathleen,
      Thanks for the question. Connect the output of the PVR’s to the TV with HDMI or Component cables, and select which one you want to watch via the TV’s remote control.
      Then you need to loop the antenna connection from the first PVR, into the 2nd PVR, then loop from that into the TV.

      That should be it,
      Hope this helps,
      Geoff

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