What is a Video Capture Card?

  • By: techsmart
  • Date: April 2, 2021
  • Time to read: 5 min.

As the name implies, a video capture card allows you to capture screen recordings when synched with devices like game consoles, computers, and cameras. It converts the footage into a digitalized form where you can playback, live stream, and upload online.

Gamers mainly use video capture cards because the more quality a gameplay stream is, the more recognition they get amongst rivals. Video capture also guarantees lag-free streaming and increases audience or YouTube subscribers.

Depending on your capture card’s functionalities, you can get more features that will benefit your course.

What are the Requirements to Use a Capture Card?

There are many types of capture cards designed for specific devices like:

  • Game consoles: These could be old or current generation games such as Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo, etc.
  • Computers: Desktops, Windows, and Mac devices.
  • Digital Cameras: Especially those with HDMI connection

Some of the best video capture cards will work seamlessly with all these devices.

One of the most important requirements for any device to work with a video capture card is the HDMI feature. When records the footage from one device. It can only transfer and play via the HDMI output of another device.

Other requirements to use a video capture card include the following:

  • A display screen. Either a TV or monitor.
  • Streaming software for the capture card
  • HDMI output with cable
  • A desktop or PC for encoding
  • Device’s USB or PCI-e interface.

What is a PC Capture Card?

Typically, all video capture cards are PC capture cards because they all need a PC to function. But in the real sense, people refer to only PCI-e capture cards as PC capture cards and not USB external capture devices.

USB Interface vs. PCI-e Interface?

One challenge you may likely face is choosing between a USB external capture card or a PCI-e capture card. Here you have to weigh your options because both interfaces have their advantages.

USB video capture cards are more common and b extension more adaptable than PCI-e cards. They afford you many alternatives to record your video. But on the other hand, PCI-e capture cards are not bandwidth restricted like USB cards. Most PCI-e capture cards also demand high-end devices, but USB cards are compatible with almost all devices.

If you want to use a capture card for only desktop computers, you are better off with PCI-e capture cards. However, for laptops, USB external capture cards are a better choice because of the many options available.

How to Install a Capture Card?

After unboxing your capture card, the next thing to do is set it up and install it. If this is your first time with the product manual, you will be good to go.

Before installing, confirm that all the cables you need are in place. Also, the type of capture card you are using will determine the installation process.

If it is a USB capture card, you will need 2 HDMI cables and a USB cable. The procedure for USB video capture card installation includes:

  • Put one of the HDMI cables into the capture card HDMI port.
  • Put the other end of the plugged HDMI cable into your primary device HDMI output port. The primary device could be your Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, or any other console.
  • Insert the other HDMI cable into your capture card’s HDMI output port.
  • Put the end of the plugged cable into the HDMI IN of your display port, TV, or monitor.
  • Finally, connect your USB interface cable with the computer.

For PCI-e capture card installation, you need 2 HDMI cables and a motherboard compatible with the card. You can only use this capture card with a computer that has a PCI-e slot.

The procedure includes the following:

  • Insert the capture card into the computer’s PCI-e slot.
  • Put one of the HDMI cables into the capture’s card HDMI IN port.
  • Put the other end of the already plugged cable into the HDMI OUT of your game console.
  • Put the second HDMI cable in your capture card’s HDMI OUT port.
  • Connect the other end of the plugged second cord to the HDMI IN port of your display device.
  • Deactivate HDCP in your game console settings.

How to Setup a Video Capture Card Software?

The capture card will not start functioning until you get a perfect driver and software for it. Some manufacturers preinstall proprietary software on capture cards, but users still prefer third-party’s software instead.

If you do not want to bother with software installation, you must buy a capture card on its own. However, the software must also be compatible with your PC for it to work correctly.

One of the most popular software that capture card users go for is the OBS Studio. Its installation procedure includes:

  • First, install the software after downloading it.
  • Click on “add a new source” to choose your video capture card.
  • Name your video capture card.
  • Open the OB Studio “properties” tab and select your already named capture card.
  • Click on start recording to record your on-screen activities.

NB: This installation and setup procedure might not go as perfectly as stated, especially if you are not a techie. But with a few trials and errors, you can get things right. If you get stuck at any point, visit OBS Studio’s official website for help.

What are the Types of Capture Cards?

There are five major types of video capture cards that brands base their product designs.

They include the following:

PC Capture Cards

These types of capture cards are perfect when working with a dual system. They allow you to sync both primary and secondary PCs. With this, you can rest assured of top-notch performance.

Most gamers that play on PC make use of these types of capture cards. It helps them compete with a reasonable frame per second rate. And allows seamless capture and record, and you can stream at the same time too.

PlayStation Capture Cards

These are the perfect capture cards for PlayStation gamers. The cards allow them to be flexible with their video recording. With this, they can record, stream, and edit their video footage.

Xbox Capture Cards

Capture cards designed with Xbox gamers in mind will help them deal with the game’s huge size compared to the ones with basic software. Xbox capture cards also support game editing, and streaming is made easier for the captured videos.

Mac Capture Cards

Not all capture cards support recording or game streaming on Mac devices. However, Mac capture cards are compatible with its resolution and will run game streaming easily.

3Ds or Wii Capture Cards

If you are more particular about transferring your footage between devices, you should opt for a 3D and Wii capture card.

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