A capture card is used to record, or capture, audio and video onto digital media. It is called a “card” because it is a physical piece of equipment that fits into a computer’s expansion slot. The electronics are mounted on a piece of circuit board that looks a lot like a card (before the electronics are placed on it).
These cards perform all of the processing related to capturing video. This means the other processes running on the computer aren’t affected or slowed down. The cards accept external inputs from video cameras, microphones and even other computers.
The popularity of online streaming has caused a surge in the video capture card market. While the everyday user might not need a capture card, anyone serious about streaming high-quality video could benefit from one.
A sample use case is video game players who stream online. While there is software available to capture and encode video on a desktop or laptop, most video game consoles don’t have that option. The last few years have seen an introduction of external capture cards that allow users to record or live stream their gameplay by simply plugging in a USB device.
Some popular manufacturers for capture cards are Elgato, AVerMedia, Hauppauge and Roxio. Prices range from tens to hundreds of pounds. Professional hardware with built-in capture cards can cost much more.
The technology behind capture cards is always improving. Specifically, the codecs used to prepare the data for sharing (over the web or physical media) is changing or being updated. It’s important to research the currently available possibilities, capabilities and prices before choosing a solution.« Back to Glossary Index