How to Choose Analog Capture Hardware?

on Tuesday, February 26, 2008

If you want to capture video from a digital camcorder, the best way to do so is with a FireWire port. But if you want to capture analog video — whether from a VCR, Hi8 camcorder, or other analog source — you’ll need some specialized hardware. You can install a video-capture card in your computer, or (possibly) use an external analog video converter that connects the analog device to your computer’s FireWire or USB port.
Read the packaging carefully before you buy any video-capture hardware and make sure that it is designed to capture analog hardware. Some FireWire cards are marketed simply as video-capture cards, even though they can only capture digital video.
When choosing an analog video-capture device, check the packaging to make sure your computer meets the system requirements. The device should also be capable of capturing the following:
  • NTSC (North America, Japan, the Philippines) or PAL (Australia, South America, Southeast Asia, most of Europe) video, whichever matches your local video standard (see Chapter 3 for more on broadcast video standards)
  • 30 frames per second (fps) for NTSC video or 25 fps for PAL video
  • 720 x 534 (NTSC) or 768 x 576 (PAL) video frames
  • Stereo audio
Although you don’t have to get a device that can capture and export S-Video as well as composite video, try to get one if possible; S-Video provides better image quality than composite video. Composite video uses the standard RCAstyle jacks, color-coded yellow for video and red/white for audio; S-Video connectors look like Figure 2-6. S-VHS VCRs have S-Video connectors, as do some higher-quality analog camcorders.