Video Capture Cards 2004

One of the biggest changes for the consumer has been the ability to transfer full motion video to the computer via the rather slow USB port, which is common to many video cameras and all computers, instead of via a FireWire or analog connection.

The prices have also dropped since our last look at these devices!

Pinnacle Systems makes both consumer and professional boards. On the consumer end prices start around $100 for a Dazzle board that captures via USB, S-Video and Composite inputs. It also comes with a lighter edition of Pinnacle software.

The Studio Suite from Pinnacle is priced around $200 ($100 lower than in 2001) and includes both FireWire and a full set of analog in/out via a breakout box. Some of these cards may also support USB, so you would get the fast FireWire, slower USB and artifact laden S-Video and Composite.

One of the nice features of this type of system is that virtually any camcorder is supported both to and from the capture card.

Decklink and Pyro also make consumer capture cards in the $200 - $300 range.

You can also find FireWire capture cards for as little as $35 from companies like RAM and HD TV capture cards that will also accept a camcorder signal via S-Video or Composite connectors from companies like Hauppauge products priced from $80 for composite capture cards to $200 for HD tuner cards that also capture from S-Video connectors.

From here we start going into the more semi-professional range with capture cards including full copies of software like Premiere (which sells for over $600 alone). The cost of these systems is inflated by the software package.

Starting around $1,000 we get into semi-professional and then full professional Standard Digital (SD) and High Definition (HD) systems.

The Decklink HD card starts at $995 for a semi-professional type of card. The professional systems from Pinnacle (such as the Cine Wave) and Kona start at $1,500 for the Kona SD and travel up over the $2,500 mark for the Kona HD and Pinnacle Cine Wave HD systems.

Professional cards generally take raw video signals at 10 bits instead of a more compressed 8 bits. They also require rather fast hard drive system support, such as the new SATA (serial ATA) which offers data transfer at 150 megabits per second (your common ATA 100 drive in UDMA mode only transfers at 20 to 25 megabits per second). Without this speed you canít really capture using professional cards.

The professional cards are designed to take a signal via a special direct digital connector from SMPTE that is found on DVC Pro cameras. Kona ( offers a break-out box, but at an additional cost over the already close to $3,000 for just the capture card with two raw digital connectors!

Pinnacle, Decklink and Pyro systems are designed for PCs and sometimes for Macs. Kona cards are designed primarily for the Mac G4 and G5.

Believe it or not at $200 - $900 for a consumer capture card you are getting superior quality to most broadcast analog editing systems found in use around 1990! You are getting a far superior system to most industrial U-Matic or S-VHS systems. At $1,500+ for the professional cards you are getting a very quality system that would have cost you $100,000+ just a decade ago in dedicated equipment.

A Mac G-5 and $3,500 worth of professional capture gear turns you into a HD editing facility for either SD or HD (in both 1080 and 720 i and p formats). Thatís about $6,000 total for a system that more than rivals the old Avid system that cost a lot more just 5 years ago!

Our video special continues with these offerings from 2004:

Camcorders 2004 | Capture Cards 2004 | HD-DVD

Digital Theatrical Movies | JVC HD Camcorder | Sigma SD9 and Foveon Technology

Color Imaging Technology | V-Chip | 2004 Network Prime Time TV Shows

From our archives with these offerings from 2003:

Camcorders | Hi-Def TV | Promote Ur Videos | Future of DVD | Computer DVD Burners

New US TV Shows for 2003-2004 Prime Time

From our archives we have these articles from the 2002 Issues:

Doing Video On Your Computer | The Pinnacle Capture Card | ATA Hard Drives

Hard Drive Terms | Western Digital Drives | Producing A Scripted iMac Video

Audio For Video | Lighting For Video | Digital VHS | Removable Hard Drives

From September 2001 Issues:

Buying a Camcorder | Producing A Cable Access Show | Producing Broadcast TV

A Technical Look and History of Film, Video and TV | Stream Video and Webcasting

HDTV | Capture Cards


The Musician's PlaceTo Shop!
Instant Gift Certificates!

© 2001-2005 Issues Magazine.
All Rights Reserved.

Get 15 FREE prints!