What is a Video Capture Device?
A video capture device acts as a bridge between a video source and your computer or a storage device.
It converts the video signal from a video source like a camcorder, VCR, gaming device, or a live video stream from a TV set into a format readable by a computer.
Video capture devices may be of the internal type – where a card has to be installed into a computer, very much like a graphics card in a desktop computer.
There are also external capture devices that are of the USB type. These devices can be plugged into the USB ports of your computer.
Generally, the output ports of the video source are connected to similar input ports of the video capture device,
The output ports are then connected to a compatible input port(s) on a computer.
In the computer, a video capture software program is used to start the capture process and store the captured footage in a particular folder in the computer.
Once the footage is captured in a compatible digital format, it can then be manipulated with a video editing program.
Usually, the video capture software program is bundled with the video capture device. It also doubles as a video editing program that enables you to trim the clips you’ve captured, add music, titles and even help you burn the edited video into DVD or other disc formats.
When Do You Need a Video Capture Device?
You’ll certainly need a video capture device if you have an analog video that you wish to convert to digital.
Analog video is a tape-based video. It can come in the form of VHS, 8mm camcorder video, or mini-DV video.
Computers don’t support the direct playback of analog video. That’s why a video capture device with a video capture software program is needed as a bridge or adapter to transport video from an analog source and convert it to digital before it reaches the computer.
When You Don’t Need a Video Capture Device
If your video is disc-based and it’s in the VCD, SVCD, or DVD formats, you’ll not need a video capture device. Being digital in nature, a computer can read these discs through a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive.
Even if you want to extract the video file from the disc, you won’t need a video capture device. You can do it with a DVD ripper.
But then if your computer doesn’t have a DVD drive, you can still use a DVD player and connect it to an analog video capture device.
If your DVD player has an HDMI out port, you can use an HDMI to USB video capture device.
If your camera or camcorder stores video in memory cards, as they do these days, then you would not need a video capture device.
Video data stored in memory cards are in digital formats. Many computers (laptops, especially), come with memory card readers and you can easily access your video files without the need for a video capture device.
Even if your computer doesn’t come with a built-in memory card reader, you can always buy an external one for cheap.
You also won’t need a video capture card if you have a camcorder with a DV port, for example, a Digital8 or mini-DV camcorder. In that case, you can use the Firewire connector on your device to connect to your computer. But then your computer must have a Firewire card on your computer.
Years back, some laptops were shipped with Firewire ports. However, in these days of HD video, they’ve fallen out of popularity. Firewire is in the realm of SD video.
Types of Video Capture Devices
There are two types of video capture devices. The first type is analog to digital video capture devices. They have analog video and audio inputs like Composite/RCA or S-Video.
As mentioned earlier, they’re usually used to convert analog video stored in the form of tapes to digital files which can later be edited and converted to disc, like DVD.
The second type is digital to digital video capture devices. They have HDMI inputs. They are usually used to capture live TV streams or games.
The second type is getting more popular with a wide range of choices at affordable prices.
That said, let’s look at the best video capture devices.
Video Capture Devices for Analog Video
You would need an analog video capture device if you have an analog video source, as mentioned earlier.
For analog video capture, you would need an analog video playback device. In the case of camcorder tapes, you would need an 8mm camcorder or mini-DV camcorder. Alternatively, you can also use an 8mm tape player/video cassette recorder or a mini-DV cassette deck.
If you’ve VHS tapes, then you would need a VHS player or video cassette recorder. You can also connect your DVD player to the video capture device if the need arises.
These playback devices have the necessary AV out ports which will allow you to connect to the AV in ports of the video capture device.
Let’s take a look at some analog video capture devices.
Pinnacle Dazzle DVD Recorder Video Capture Device
The Pinnacle Dazzle analog video capture is compatible with Windows 10. The software has been updated in February 2021. So, you don’t have to worry about buying an outdated device.
It comes with composite video and S-Video inputs.
As for audio, there are composite Left-Right stereo inputs.
This analog video capture set comes with the Pinnacle Studio which acts as video capture-cum- editing software.
After capturing your analog video to a computer, you can export your captured clips to File. Formats supported include AVI, MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and Windows Media.
Even if you aren’t happy with the options provided by Pinnacle Studio, you can use the free OBS Studio as video capture software.
Check out the video below to get an idea of how the Pinnacle Dazzle video capture device works.
Check out Pinnacle Dazzle DVD Recorder.
ClearClick Video to Digital Converter 2.0
The advantage of capturing analog video and converting them to digital is you can edit what you have captured.
However, if you don’t have a computer or don’t want to go through the hassle of setting up your computer for video capture, then you can try, the ClearClick Video to Digital Converter.
With it, you can capture video from your camcorder or VCR to a flash drive or external hard drive or memory card.
The advantage of this is you can play it back directly on your computer, HDTV or through your smartphone or tablet.
Video is recorded in the MP4 format in SD resolution of 720×480 and you can preview the video on the 3.5-inch screen as the video is captured.
Video can be output in HDMI as well. You may want to connect to your HDTV to get a larger preview of your video as it is captured.
Check out the ClearClick Video to Digital Converter 2.0.
UCEC USB 2.0 Video Capture Card Device
If you’re on a tight budget and want an analog to digital video capture device without the bells and whistles, take a serious look at the UCEC USB 2.0 Video Capture Card.
The standout benefit of this video capture device is it works on Mac computers as well. It works for MAC OS X 10.4 or later. for Macs, you would have to use Quicktime to capture video.
On the PC, it supports Two software programs are included with this USB 2.0 analog video to digital converter – OBS Studio and Honestech VHS to DVD. Even if you don’t have a DVD drive on your computer, you can download OBS Studio online for free.
Analog video inputs are the usual composite/ RCA and S-Video. Composite cables are provided as a gift for purchasing the package.
Video is captured in MP4 H.264. This format is compatible with modern digital video devices like HDTV, Smartphones, and tablets, among others.
Check out the UCEC USB 2.0 Video Capture Card.
Check out more choices for the best Analog Video Capture Devices.
HDMI to USB Video Capture Device
As the name suggests, this kind of capture device accepts HDMI input from digital video devices like camcorders, DSLRs, TV boxes, and so on.
The whole idea is to capture high-definition video but HDMI to USB capture device is popular among gamers out to capture their popular game segments.
A resolution of up to 4K can be captured. The output resolution, is, however, usually limited to Full HD 1080p for many of these devices.
HDMI to USB capture dongle is not only used as a video capture device to record video. It also acts as a video capture device for live streaming. It turns your DSLR or digital camcorder into a high-quality webcam. This is especially useful if you’re into video meetings with applications like Zoom.
What differentiates the HDMI video capture from its analog counterpart is its compatibility with Windows and Mac. HDMI is a common standard to both.
Let’s take a look at among the best HDMI to USB video capture devices.
Elgato Cam Link 4K
As mentioned you can connect your HD video devices like DSLR, camcorder, and even TV boxes to your computer via the Elgato Cam Link 4K, whether on a PC or a Mac.
Carry out live broadcasts with your HD camera/camcorder on any platform with high-quality video in place of your webcam.
Video resolution can go from 1080p at 60 fps up to 4K at 30fps on this USB 3.0 device if your setup can support it.
This HDMI video capture device works well with the open-source OBS Studio and Streamlabs, among others.
Check out Elgato Cam Link 4K especially if you’re looking for a video capture device for live streaming.
Magewell USB 3.0 HDMI Video Capture Dongle
If you’ve cash to spare and want a USB 3.0 HDMI video capture dongle, don’t give this Magewell HDMI video capture device the miss. It works with Windows, Linux and Mac.
You don’t have to install any drivers to use it. Just plug it into your computer’s USB port and it will pop up on any platform through which you want to capture video perform live streaming.
The range of video capture and streaming programs this plain-looking device works with is simply mind-boggling. Just name it and it supports it. It is this reason that it’s much sought after.
This is indeed a convenience. As a plug-and-play device, it works great. Users have, however, complained that it gets a little hot after a long period of use. It is explained that the issue is because the video capture-cum-streaming dongle works without taxing the resources of the PC.
You’re advised not to leave it plugged into your computer if you’re not using it for any streaming or video capture.
Still, users swear by it because this is one of the few devices that work directly with Skype and gives the impression you’re talking through a webcam.
Also you don’t have to purchase additional cables when you’re buying this HDMI video capture device. The seller provides custom proprietary cables guaranteed to work with the dongle. You may not have much luck with cables of other brands.
So, if you’ve cash to splash and want a device that works well across many platforms, then opt for the Magewell USB 3.0 HDMI Video Capture Dongle.
Generic HDMI Video Capture Device
If you’re really on a tight budget, then you may want to look at this video capture device. Despite its no-brand status, it is classified under the Amazon’s Choice category.
It claims to be powered by Ultra-Low Latency Technology. It supports the input of 4K video signal at a resolution of 3840×2160@60Hz but the output is 1080p resolution although 4K is mentioned. Not an issue if you don’t plan to do 4K.
The capture card doesn’t need an external power supply. It is compatible with Windows, Mac and Android.
Check out this HDMI Video Capture Device which sells for less than $20.
Also, check out this complete list of video capture devices – Analog and HDMI.