Video capture

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A Datapath VisionRGB-E2s Dual Port Capture Card.
A Datapath VisionHD4 Quad Port Capture Card.

Video capture is the process of converting an analog video signal—such as that produced by a video camera or DVD player—to digital video. The resulting digital data are computer files referred to as a digital video stream, or more often, simply video stream. This is in contrast with screencasting, in which previously digitized video is captured while displayed on a digital monitor. TV tuner cards have a television tuner with the capabilities to capture broadcast television.


The video capture process involves several processing steps. First the analog signal is digitized by an analog-to-digital converter to produce a raw, digital data stream. In the case of composite video, the luminance and chrominance are then separated; this is not necessary for S-Video sources. Next, the chrominance is demodulated to produce color difference video data. At this point, the data may be modified so as to adjust brightness, contrast, saturation and hue. Finally, the data is transformed by a color space converter to generate data in conformance with any of several color space standards, such as RGB and YCbCr. Together, these steps constituted video encoding, because they "encode" an analog video format such as NTSC or PAL.

Special electronic circuitry is required to capture video from analog video sources. At the system level this function is typically performed by a dedicated video capture card. Such cards often utilize video decoder integrated circuits to implement the video decoding process.

Use in other media[edit]

In the 1990s, and especially with the rise of increased data storage capabilities, videogames began to incorporate video. This could either be using pre-existing full motion video, or otherwise specially acted and recorded bluescreen work, which could then be turned into sprites.

See also[edit]


  • Convergence Culture. Where Old and New Media Collide, Buying Into American Idol, Henry Jenkins, 2006 New York University Press.

Capture Card Buying Guide for gamers.