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What is Picture-In-Picture?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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Picture-in-picture (PIP) is a feature that some televisions have that allows you to watch two programs at once by placing a small, inset window inside the main window. The inset window has no sound, but allows you to keep track of what’s playing on the second channel. Pressing a button on the remote will switch windows, placing the secondary channel into the main window, and visa-versa.

Picture-in-picture can come in quite handy. For those who can’t sit through commercials and find themselves flipping to another program to watch in the interim, putting the original show in the inset window will eliminate having to guess when commercials are over.

PIP is also useful while waiting for a particular item on the evening newscast. A teaser might be announced repeatedly while segment after segment continues. By using picture-in-picture you can place the newscast in the secondary window and watch another program until the news item appears. For breaking news, picture-in-picture will let you keep track of two stations at once to stay informed. If watching live court coverage, a local car chase or a press conference, when one station goes to break you can quickly switch to the other.

Using picture-in-picture sports fans can keep track of two events, switching to the game with the most action at any given moment. Time-outs and half-times are no longer a problem using PIP, and you won’t switch back too late, just missing the winning field goal, home run, put, touchdown or endplay. PIP is especially useful during the Olympics for watching different meets that are occurring at the same time.

PIP can be implemented different ways. Some televisions will allow you to move and resize the inset window. PIP that allows both pictures to be the same size sharing 50% of the screen is sometimes called picture-outside-picture or POP; and some flavors send sound from the second picture through headphones, called picture-and-picture (PAP).

There are caveats to using picture-in-picture technologies. PIP requires the TV have two built-in tuners to tune in two channels at once, or the secondary window will only view another source, such as VHS or DVD. However, even if the TV has two tuners, if the television uses an external tuner such as a cable box or satellite receiver, the external tuner will only unscramble one channel at a time. If the channels you want to watch are scrambled broadcasts, you’re out of luck unless the external tuner also contains two tuners for PIP. Cable and satellite receivers that contain two tuners are normally available for a slightly higher monthly fee than standard single-tuner boxes.

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Discussion Comments
By TheBrain — On Jun 15, 2009

My Sony Rear Projection TV has a digital and analog tuner allowing for pip. Is there a way to split the incoming broadcast signal and feed an analog signal back into the tv to preserve my pip functionality?

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