Get In To Streaming for Under £100 with a Budget HD Capture Card
| Reuben Howe
Streaming can be daunting for the uninitiated, but the rewards are well worth breaking the ice. From nature streams of real wild animals across the world giving us a glimpse of exotic wildlife in a truly free environment right the way to the world finals of an event like EVO with the most competitive gamers on the planet.
In the middle of all that is a niche for you, whether you want to stream you and your partner playing through story experiences like It Takes Two, Bonding Ambivalence and We Were Here Together or if you want to go-it-alone and stream high-fidelity competitive gameplay. The freedom of choice is yours, and the few people who drop in to those first streams will be a product of who you are, and what you choose to stream!
Whatever your decision, be it your pets or your workouts or your gardening (Or your gaming, of course!) you'll want a capture card to get lossless video and audio data sent to your stream. Get to grips with streaming with a budget capture card that doesn't skimp on the recording quality.
What is a Capture Card?
First of all, what is the role of a capture card? If all you have is a dedication to a hobby like gardening or gaming then a capture card is a way to record and stream that hobby to everyone!
A Capture card is a small electronic box with a few important components:
VIDEO INPUT - The primary function of the capture card is to receive audio-visual data from HDMI or even RCA and it does this through the device's "Input" ports.
VIDEO OUTPUT - To see your recorded / streamed video in real time capture cards can support an "output" port too. This allows you to monitor and view the footage lossless thanks to cabled passthrough (More explanation on those terms in a bit)
PC / LAPTOP CONNECTION - Finally, the capture card will have a way of connecting to PC such as an ultra-fast USB 3.0 connector. Plug in your inputs and outputs then hook up your laptop or PC to have a complete streaming set-up in one small box!
What Features Does a Capture Card Need?
When looking at budget gadgets for any type of tech, you need to know which features are worth taking a hit for to lower the price. In the case of capture cards you want fast audio-visual transfer and simple use. Once the cable connections are confirmed to be up-to-par then other features like networking or button controls on the card itself are "luxuries" which raise the price for only a tiny increase in usability.
By focusing on the tech that matters, the VGB500 is a lossless HDMI 2.1-ready USB 3.0 capture card all for under £100!
The term "lossless" we keep using refers to the cable connection between your source device (Game console, camera, etc) and your final stream. By maintaining a cable connection from your device to the card and then through to the Output and stream you can be sure that the audio-visual experience on your end is identical to that on stream (Before applying things like bitrate and bandwidth effects).
USB 3.0 is vital for USB capture cards as it is the only USB spec that can keep up with HDMI 2.1 speeds. There would be no point transferring your data through a super-fast HDMI cable only to have it hit a USB 2.0 connection and slow down to a crawl!
How to Use A Capture Card
Understanding what all the ins and outs of this budget capture card are is one thing, but using them is another! Luckily, the VGB500 is simple to use. The box is clearly labelled with HDMI in and out ports, and an obvious USB 3.0 dongle.
By connecting the HDMI IN to your console or camera, your HDMI OUT to a monitor or TV, and the USB to a Laptop or PC you have finished connecting in moments.
All that is left is to open a recording / streaming software such as OBS and add the device as a Video Capture Device (Click here for a full guide).
This method works for capture cards for camcorders and SCART / RCA devices too when using a compatible capture card! The VGB500 might be just shy of £100, but the VGB300 is an OBS-Compatible capture card for just £33.95! The reason being that the VGB300 has no separate video output to monitor the recording, and the device only accepts RCA (Red, White, Yellow) inputs with no HDMI option.
If you are hoping to stream from a laptop and camcorder outside in the garden, or stream retro consoles then the VGB300 is the card for you. For most streams, though, the VGB500 will provide a HD output and better quality of life for viewers as well as compatibility with modern devices.
Budget Capture Card Options
While maintaining a minimum quality of USB 3.0 and Lossless passthrough via HDMI, the lowest cost cards will be just under £100. These ensure you have the high-fidelity footage which viewers expect while not having to blow the bank on extra features which a beginner does not need.
For HDMI capture see the VGB500. For RCA capture of retro devices see the VGB300.