A video capture device is one that allows you to send audio and video from a VCR, camcorder or other device to your PC for storage on your hard drive or future editing. While many people place TV tuners and video capture devices in the same category, they are not equal devices. There are many overlaps in terms of what they do, but video capture devices will not tune TV channels nor can most be used as a tuner without external equipment. Let's look at choosing a video capture device and the factors that come into play when finding the right device for you.
What do you intend to use your video capture card for? This is most likely the easiest question you'll need to consider before buying a device. Most people go into this purchase knowing what they need and the features they'll require. Do you just need to backup the raw video so it's safe and sound? Do you want to be able to edit the files afterward?
If you simply want to capture and save your videos, just be sure that the device saves them in an easily played back format.
If you do intend to edit your videos once they're saved, you may want to consider a device that ships with bundled software that allows you to both edit and burn your videos to DVDs. In this way, you know you're getting software that will work with the video format your device saves the videos in.
If your goal is simply to save your videos, editing and burning software probably won't factor into your decision.
In choosing a device, you'll also need to consider your PC. Is internal or external better for your situation?
If you have the PC knowledge necessary to install an internal card, this may be the best route for you to take. As long as you have an available PCI or PCIx slot, you should be able to find a video capture device that will do what you're looking for. If you don't feel comfortable inside of a computer, an external USB device may be the best choice. You'll simply need to connect the device to an open USB port and (in most cases) the drivers will automatically be installed for you.
Inputs and Outputs
When choosing a video capture device, it's important to consider the inputs you need. Many of today's camcorders come with HDMI out. If you want to capture video from these devices, you'll want to make sure your device has HDMI in. If you want to use a VCR or older camcorder with your video capture device, you'll more than likely need RCA A/V inputs.
While these are probably the most common outputs on camcorders and VCRs, be sure to check the devices you'll be capturing video from. Other inputs and outputs may be available to you and considering all of your devices is important.
Another important consideration is cost. If you only intend to capture occasional videos then you probably don't want to spend a ton of money on a video capture device. If on the other hand, you know you'll be using the device on a regular basis, it may be a good idea to spend some extra cash to ensure that you're getting the best video quality possible from your videos.