Now that you are reading this text on your monitor, you are a typical content consumer. And you are very likely to be one most of the time you're spending at your computer. But sooner or later you may want to share the contents of your display with other users. What would you do then? You can invite them to your house or make a screenshot or even make a picture of your display with a camera and email the result. However, this solution doesn't work always. You can’t show your computer to everyone in person whereas screenshots, photographs and video clips may turn out to be of inferior quality. If that’s your problem, you have to resort to specialized solutions that capture display contents right from the video output of your computer (or any other digital device that uses a monitor or TV-set as a display). One of such solutions will be discussed in our review.
A few years ago video capture devices were a popular and well-recognized class of computer components but today they are quite difficult to find. They seem to have died out together with floppy diskettes, dialup modems, tape drives and other such dinosaurs. Well, that’s what it looks like on the surface. In fact, the market of hardware image/video capture solutions has just gone through a dramatic transformation. Such devices do exist but not as consumer-class product. They are now meant for professionals.
The main reason for such dramatic changes was the massive transition from analog to digital video in terms of storage and transmission. Analog video used to be widespread in consumer applications (e.g. in television and VCRs) but now it’s digital everywhere. Today, there is no need to convert analog video into digital format, which was the main purpose of video capture products. Every camera can produce digital video now, and video materials are stored and shared in digital formats only. That’s why the majority of users do not ever need any special means of capturing images and video directly from the video source.
That said, video capture products can still be useful. Theoretically, every image sent to the display is already in digital format and can be easily saved for further processing, but there are a lot of practical obstacles. Many devices that output, process and visualize video signal work in real time without providing any means to save an instantaneous picture or a video stream. You may have encountered such problems yourself if you’ve ever tried to record a video from your gaming console or media player or make a BIOS Setup screenshot. Most users don’t need that, though, and that’s why video capture products aren’t popular these days.
They are, however, needed for specialized applications, for example for professional equipment which can deliver video signal in digital format but cannot save it for further processing which may be necessary for building data archives, conducting video conferences, preparing presentations, etc in different fields (medicine, transportation, scientific research and many others).
Hardware reviewers also need this kind of products capable of capturing pictures and recording video from a computer's digital video output. In our labs, for example, we use them to make screenshots of firmware interfaces (like a mainboard’s BIOS) and to record video clips showcasing the behavior of a tested device in various situations. Moreover, external video capture hardware helps when we need to record videos from ordinary Windows-running PCs because software tools (like FRAPS) provoke a performance hit and interfere with benchmarking results.
It must be noted, though, that today’s video capture products are quite different from their analog predecessors. Having moved from the consumer to professional class, they now have to comply with stricter requirements in terms of performance and image quality. The major manufacturers have changed, too. Companies that used to develop and produce inexpensive analog video capture devices have given way to those that offer top-performance multifunctional digital solutions capable of not only recording video but also broadcasting it over the local network or the internet.
So today we are going to tell you about one such product which has been successfully used in our test labs for a while. It is the DVI2PCIe card from Epiphan, a company specializing in developing and manufacturing various digital image capture devices.