Capture Sources & devices

Let's concern : "What we want to capture is..." and "Which is the best choice for my project?"

 "How can I get the TV show?"
 "How can I grab (record) my playing?"
 "How can I broadcast my live game playing?"

Hello everyone, this is my first post of my blog except the introduction :D. I'm going to be talking about choice for best solution, focusing the target and choosing the capture card. Currently so many of articles can be found by internet, maybe you were too difficult to choose that or not. In this case, I will suggestion of that.

What is the target? and what we need thing is...

Let's talking about some cases. If you found case you are looking for from list of below, you're lucky guy :D. Anyway let's focusing it.

   a. Focusing the target source

        - TV program, cable TV

You can buy just TV tuner devices, from your own country's distributor.
The TV program from antenna cable, currently it capable from SD(480i) to HD(1080i) resolution. Today, most of TV programs are shown as 1080i or 720p in HD broadcasting system. While the TV resolution is specifically different from specific location, it is basically same. In digital broadcasting system, there are two types of using, NTSC and PAL. Most of digital TV tuner support both NTSC and PAL systems so you don't need to worry about wrong selection. (see the details about NTSC/PAL/SECAM). There are three types existed, the USB portable, PCIe card and home-brew standalone types. These are typically also have AUX input port, composite/S-Video/Component, that can be useful for other capture sources.

Note that non-free TV channel should be needed the specific card for decoding the scramble signal. I will not discussing about this fact.

Recommended device : One of thing listed would be needed.
PCI/PCIe HDTV tuner card for internal of PC device
USB HDTV tuner for external of PC device
Home-brew TV tuner box included HDD for standalone type device

      - Old VHS tape

The VHS so old types that might be difficult to seeing in this time. Personally I have VCR and some VHS tapes which are my family's memory, old movies or kids animation.
My grandfather's 70-year celebrate party was recorded in last 21 years ago. It was too old that might be deterioration over time. It must be needed to convert from VHS tape to digital file. Here, we need the devices that already discussed from above "TV tuner". Unfortunately. VHS tape signal has only composite signal except for professional VCR system. Professional VCR for legacy broadcasting systems has capable to BNC type of Y/C(S-Video) and YPbPr(component) that are different rather than home-brew systems. If you have these tapes, then you can capture better quality. If the cable port have only BNC connector, then you need to Y/C 2BNC-to-1 Svideo or 3BNC-to-component RCA gender.

Recommended device : One of thing listed would be needed.
PCI/PCIe TV tuner card included composite/S-Video RCA input
USB capture device included composite/S-Video input
Home-brew TV tuner box included HDD for standalone type device
PCI/PCIe type Composite capture card

      - Retro console : 240p for RGB / 480i for Composite/S-video/Component

A retro console game gear, such as famicom(NES), super famicom(SNES), MSX, Megadrive, Sega Saturn, Playstation, that has pseudo-NTSC(vertical 240p) resolution. Old famicom in which has only RF output, that has compatible to TV tuner spec, that screen has very terrible quality. I recommend the modifying to add composite/S-video output then It would be bring you increased quality of screen. See the detail about this articles.


While the best quality output connector is RGB, it is difficult to capture of it. Fortunately, some game machine such as Megadrive has both composite and RGB output so no need to modifying output. The composite/S-video signal those are no problems to capture of it because of industry standard so that can be easily get it. In RGB case, you need more complicate knowledge, skill and specific device.

The Sega Dreamcast / Playstation 2, both has 480i/480p output resolution from all kind of inputs (480i/480p) or D-SUB VGA(480p only). For better quality, I recommend at least these must be capture as component or RGB/VGA output. And it is better quality of 480p than 480i resolution, as possible as you should be able to enable progressive mode by game.

Recommended Device for Composite/S-Video/Component output (480i)
** for playing and recording, you need AV splitter. Here I recommend the AV splitter for typical input, follow this link.

PCI/PCIe type Composite/S-video input capture card
USB type Composite/S-video input capture device
Standalone type Capture box

Recommended Device for RGB output (240p, 480i, 480p)
** RGB capture of retro console game must need both capture device and composite sync separator.
** RGB splitter with signal amplifier may be need for capture/on-screen simultaneously.
** Some very expensive cards does not need the sync separator that has capable not only RGBHV but also RGBS, RGsB.

The reasonable price of capture devices are only exist few devices.
PCIe Capture Card : Micomsoft SC-500N1/DVISC-512N1-L/DVI, Startech PEXHDCAP
Avermedia Game Broadcaster HD (Only acceptable for 480p as DSUB)
USB portable Capture device : Micomsoft XCAPTURE-1
Sync Separator : Sync Strike, Micomsoft XSYNC-1

Note that both "SC-500N1/DVI" and "PEXHDCAP" are same product by yuan-high tech. OEM. Both capture card can be record many of RGB source  (240p, 480i, 480p) include HD resolution.

Note that Avermedia Game Broadcaster HD as DSUB-480p only acceptable for RGBHV, NOT RGsB (Sync on Green).

      - Present console game : Resolution 480i to 1080p
      - Present PC : Resolution 480p to 1080p

Many of products are now on-sale by market and easily capture for game, personally I suggest some devices.

Recommended for internal devices :
Micomsoft SC-500N1/DVI, Startech PEXHDCAP (from 240p to 1080i, 1080p24f, 1080p30f, SW)
Micomsoft SC-512N1-L/DVI, (from 240p to 1080p60f input/record, SW, Passthrough)
Avermedia Game Broadcaster HD (from 480i to 1080p60f input, record 1080p30f, SW)
Regia Regia One (from 480i to 1080i, 1080p24f, SWHDCP, Passthrough, Px)
Avermedia Live Gamer HD (from 480i to 1080p60f input, record 1080p30f, HW)

External devices :
Elgato Game Capture HD (from 240p to 1080p60f input, record 1080p30f, SW)
Avermedia Live Gamer Portable (from 480i to 1080p60f input, record 1080p30f, SW/HW)
Avermedia Game Capture HD II (from 240p to 1080p60f input/record, HW)

Professional level devices (Expansive!)
iEi HDC-302e (480i, 720p, 1080i, 1080p60f, HWHDCP) ~$700, internal
Matrox Monarch HD (from 480i to 1080p60f input, record 1080p30f, HW) ~$1000, portable

Note that initial
SW means "Software encoding by CPU"
HW means "Hardware encoding by codec chip that produce low-CPU consumption"
SW/HW means it supports both software and hardware encoding methods.
HDCP means it supports HDCP signal capture as HDMI.
Px means few pixel as digital signal (DVI/HDMI) does occur cut the edge side.
** HDCP does not support of above list. It must be blow up by specific methods.

Typically, Hardware encoding capture card would not be support for directshow compatible software except "Avermedia Live Gamer Portable".

     - Arcade PCB game

These are difficult rather than other sources because that are using non-standard and unfamiliar resolution. In addition, the '80~2000 retro PCB games using JAMMA or before JAMMA spec connector needs some electronics knowledge. We can relatively easy (but not easy) to play by supergun (control box as JPN, コントロールボックス).
They were used horizon frequency 15k (224p, 240p or 480i RGBS signal), it's not like PC signal!! Even if they were 224p or 240p resolution, I said it was not industry standard so that might be difficult to capture of it. Some games are relatively easy, some games are not compatible of your capture card. The control box or supergun, has both RGB output and composite / S-Video output. DO NOT THINK ABOUT IT EVEN IF YOU ARE USING composite or S-Video. The RGB capture directly, I think only few capable devices could be capture the games. Even if we got the screen, it might be perfect or not. Here's the list.

Micomsoft SC-500N1/DVI
Micomsoft SC-512N1-L/DVI
Micomsoft XCAPTURE-1

Composite sync separator (The S, mixed H and V sync, signal would be change to separated HV)
Sync Strike (for SCART pinout, EU)
Micomsoft XSYNC-1 (for RGB21 pinout, JPN)


**For DIY the Sync separator, you might be needed each LM1881 or CX1645 semiconductor chips.
**Video/Audio signal as JAMMA harness has very high voltage so it need to be level-down device, such as Hi-Low converter or DIY. 500ohm Variable Resistance for RGB, 1k ohm for composite sync signal, 10k ohm VR for audio signal.

Sorry I have no-brain, then I recommend this device. Just wiring it then you can enjoy. This device has capable for both retro console and arcade PCB game.
Micomsoft XAV-2s (for RGB21 pinout, JPN, no need for voltage-level down)
Micomsoft XRGB-3 or Framemeister (for RGB21 pinout, need for voltage-level down)

     - Legacy PC : Resolution < 480p 

IBM 8086, 80286, 80386, 80486 or NEC PC-9801, blah blah...CGA EGA.
Actually these are also difficult to capture in this time, maybe we cannot or it work (but not perfectly). Here's the list.

Recommend devices:
Micomsoft SC-500N1/DVI
Micomsoft SC-512N1-L/DVI
Micomsoft XCAPTURE-1

We have been discussed about the "targeting source". the next post would be discussed about

b. Choosing the devices
c. Choosing the software tools

I'd like to feedback for any question or comment from you :D