What Is a Capture Card? & How to Set It Up? [Full Guide]

Jane Zhou updated on Dec 13, 2023 | Home > Glossary and Terms

If you are searching for ways to stream gameplay, you might know the "capture card" term. But what exactly is a capture card? On this page, we will show you what a capture card is, how it works, and other information you might want to know. Without further ado, let's get started now!

what is a capture card

What Is A Capture Card?

A capture card is a device that is used for capturing videos and audio and then converting them into digital signals that allow them to be shared across internet platforms. It has two main features: 

  • Provide support as a pass-through, allowing video streams to be displayed on the monitor, such as streaming Switch on YouTube.
  • Relay a video stream to a PC for processing

With a capture card and other accessories like HDMI cables, it can help you stream, capture, and share the entire game from a console, like PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and more.

On the market, the video capture card can be divided into two groups: internal and external. The former will be installed directly into your computer, and it is referred to as a Peripheral Component Interconnect Express expansion card.

However, the latter is connected to your device on the outside, like with a USB. For this one, you will need an available PCle slot on your PC's motherboard. Besides, a UBS cable and HDMI cables are also necessary!

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How Does A Capture Card Work?

It works in a very similar way to screen recorder software by accepting video signals and recording them.

Generally speaking, a capture card will take the video signal from another device (Sony PlayStation or other devices), and then encode it into a format that will be streamed or recorded. Then, the encoded video signal is sent to a computer, where it can be streamed live or recorded.

Usually, you need to plug the capture card into the device that you want to stream or record from and then connect to another computer to output the data for recording or streaming live.

Do You Need A Capture Card?

It just depends on your needs and budgets. If you only want to record gameplay on Switch, PS4, Xbox Series, and other consoles, you can easily complete the task with the built-in tool (remember that there is a time limit for streaming and recording). So, you might not need a capture card.

However, if you want to stream or record professional-quality video content and have enough budget, then a capture card is necessary.

How to Set Up A Capture Card

For novices, it's a little difficult to set up a capture card for streaming and recording. So, this section will show you the steps.

Step 1. Connect the video capture card and your console with the HDMI cables.

Set up capture card

Step 2. Connect the HDMI out port of the capture card to your TV or computer with an HDMI cable.

Step 3. Connect your PC or Mac device with a capture card by using the USB cables.

The Bottom Line

A capture card is used widely in video streaming and recording. Here, we make a basic introduction to a video capture card, and now you may have more knowledge about this device. If it is helpful, don't forget to share it with others!


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Updated by Jane Zhou

Jane is an experienced editor for EaseUS focused on tech blog writing. Familiar with all kinds of video editing and screen recording software on the market, she specializes in composing posts about recording and editing videos. All the topics she chooses

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