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How Capture Cards are the Backbone of Videogame Preservation

Gaming is getting on a bit, and has started to have a tangible “history”. Being a company that stocks and researches technologies that are considered “retro” by many, Daffodil has an affinity for making content accessible, timeless and preserved. From recording shows on the latest DVB482 to allowing Digitisation of media through Capture Cards, there is a dedication to preservation in all that we do here.

Video Games are a cultural phenomenon that not only deserve preserving in their own right, but in the process of preserving games we also preserve a snippet of the time they are from, the development process used, the cultural influences of the era and even dialogue lines of actors long lost to us. All of this and more is kept safe by devices many consider only suitable for Twitch streamers and “Content Creators”: Capture cards.

So what is a capture card, why would anyone that isn’t a streamer use one, and what do they have to do with preservation…?

What is a Capture Card?

Capture Cards

Modern Gaming Capture Cards

In the most basic sense, an External Capture Card is an adapter that records and streams the audio and video of an input. The device “captures” the screen, window or a specific app and records it as a separate file. For example by using a capture card like the VGB500 (The more common kind, for modern gaming and streaming) you can connect a Console output to your PC monitor and record that footage. The PC can then stream, edit, record, upload, etc as if the footage was any other video.

Essentially, a capture card transfers footage from one place / format to another by recording it.

An Internal Capture Card are recording functions built-in to a device, such as a Console. They only allow proprietary editing and recording, and only work on the device they are installed in.


Capture card

Retro-compatible Capture Cards

In the above example the capture card was a HDMI to HDMI Passthrough. This means the output and input were the same format and could carry crisp, 4K Resolution 60 fps footage seamlessly. That’s why the gaming sphere use these cards so frequently.

However, there are other designs, and they afford a variety of interesting uses!

Firstly, there are capture cards that use Component cables one side, instead of HDMI. What this means is a SCART, Component or S-Video device can connect to the capture card and show that footage on a modern HDMI screen.

Secondly, there are USB Capture Cards with Component compatibility. These are the most accessible way to digitise content as we just discussed, but also allow non-HDMI devices to be compatible, or the HDMI port to be in use by a monitor simultaneously for easy streaming, editing and software use. You can see a range of these accessible Digitisers and Video Capture Devices on our store.

What Are Capture Cards For?

What Are Capture Cards For?

With the general state of the capture card landscape established, why would anyone but gamers be interested?

Component capture cards mean VCR footage, VHS tapes, Cassettes and even Camcorder footage can all be “captured” by the card and saved in a digital format on a modern device. Read our short guide on Digitisation here to understand how to preserve memories from outdated devices.

By capturing the footage of a VHS tape onto a PC or Laptop you open the way for editing, saving and sharing just like any modern video. For example, you can burn your Camcorder footage onto a Disc and share it as a wedding gift! Or you can digitise an episode of a series from your VCR onto your PC and show people on Facebook, Email or Reddit that you have preserved a high-quality copy of the show. Some Lost Media might be sitting in your cupboard! (I checked all my old VHS’ when I found out about Lost Media and preservation, but alas I wasn’t sitting on anything that had been lost. Let us know if you would like to digitise your VHS’ to be sure!)

How To Preserve Video Games with a Capture Card

How To Preserve Video Games with a Capture Card

Once you have got to grips with what capture card you need and has the right connections, you can begin saving gaming footage. Consoles from the PS3 and Xbox 360 Era will use HDMI, so a VGB500 modern capture card will work wonders and keep your recording high-quality.

However, older consoles have a variety of inputs. A component capture card gives you the best coverage as you can connect individual Red, White and Yellow cables (Or S-Video) as well as use a SCART Adapter to connect to other devices. Consoles like a Gamecube can be hooked up with the right cables and displayed, recorded or streamed right from your PC or Laptop. This is great for retro game streams and in particular Speedrunners who need access to almost every game in history, as the majority have a route!

a Capture Card

Outside of streaming gameplay, recording this footage in itself is vital. A simple YouTube search will give you results for old games simply labelled “x Game Gameplay No Commentary 1080p”. These serve as digital libraries, displaying real gameplay of an old title that would otherwise be lost to us, and inaccessible to anyone without a specific console and disc. As console architecture becomes older and discs become less common, digitising these games in high-definition with modern frame rates becomes paramount to showcasing just what games could be back then, and still can.

If you have a simple capture card like a VGB300 and a console like a PS1 or PS2 then chances are there are some games in your collection you can record and help preserve. While you should keep the physical disc too, of course, the digital recording is the best way to show people what you have and help create an authentic and complete picture of the game in question.

Even as recently as the PS3 era we have games that have become “rare”. Games that were a flop on release, discontinued, underplayed and therefore lack any real recording or simply games that were only released on that console and never accessible another way (Looking at you, Metal Gear Solid 4).

Many of these games are incredibly interesting to go back and experience for a perspective on what the era was like for game development. Not to mention many will be worked on by developers, artists, writers and management staff that went on to join some of the biggest mainline “AAA” gaming companies we have today.

(For a great insight into preservation, documentation and the development of games both new and old check out the NoClip YouTube channel)

The Most Accessible Retro Capture Card

The August VGB400 is the latest Capture Card for SCART / RCA devices and records direct to USB or Micro-SD card, with no software, drivers and operating systems clashing with your old media. Simply record to MP4 and create banks of USB / Micro SD storage for full playthroughs, game extras and more. Also, the box has an HDMI output so you can use it as an RCA to HDMI converter.

The Future of Game Preservation

As we head into a more and more accessible future for gaming, with exclusives slowly shifting their way onto PC and recording software becoming a staple for gamers everywhere, preservation is going to matter more, not less.

It will be easy for the oversaturation of modern game content and recordings to trick us into thinking that games are a linear process when in reality a game from 20 years ago can have as much soul, writing-quality, innovative ideas and production value as a game from 2023.

By recording and sharing old games and committing those memories and details to tape (So to speak) you can help build a complete picture of the anthology of gaming, and you might even gain some retro game fans as followers if you stream the process!

Check out our full range of video capture devices to find the one that is right for you, and get digitising your VHS’, saving camcorder footage, preserving videogames and more.

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