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2.3 Video Capture Devices

The next step in getting set up for online video chat is getting the camera’s video signal into the computer. In this lesson, you will learn which video capture devices will work best for your platform.

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2.3 Video Capture Devices

The next part of this process is to get the video from the camera into your computer. And in this lesson, you're gonna learn what video capture devices are going to work best. Several months ago, I was working for a client, and he asked me to set up a really nice-looking video streaming system for him. So, I was looking around at all the various ways I could get video into the computer in a very stable way and one that would work on a lot of different systems in case he was on the road and he had a different laptop, or a different system. What I first started looking at was the Blackmagic Design products. I've always been a fan of their products. I think they make really great stuff. And there was one product that looked like it was going to work very well called the Blackmagic Design Intensity Shuttle. Now there's two variations of this product. There's a USB 3.0, and there's a Thunderbolt version. Now my client at the time was not interested in getting a Mac, so I was looking at the USB 3.0. And the price seemed pretty good for really both options. The USB 3.0 was $200, and the Thunderbolt version was $240 USD. When I started to look at this option in more detail I found some pretty big problems. The USB 3.0 version seemed to be very picky in what kind of chip set the motherboard on the computer had, whether that was a laptop or a desktop machine. Now sometimes it can be quite difficult to find the chip set information on a new laptop, and I was getting a new laptop as part of this process as well. The other thing that I found is that as the intensity shuttle worked for some streaming applications, but it didn't work for all of them. So I was a little bit hesitant to go that route. So I started looking at other options, and there weren't very many. In fact, I only really found one that looked like it was going to be a reliable solution to get HDMI into a computer over USB 3.0. And what I found was this right here. This is a Magewell XI100D USB HDMI. It's a super long, crazy model name, but it happens to be a very cool product. It's very simple. It only has two connections. There's an HDMI in and a USB 3.0 out. There's no buttons. There are two lights here to tell you when it's connected or when there's a kind of signal or it's doing something on the little capture device here. And the best part is that this is a plug and play device that requires no software, and it works on PC, Mac, and Linux. That is pretty incredible. It also works with a variety of resolutions all the way down to 640x480, and all the way up to 1920 by 1200, which is larger than HD, at frame rates up to 60 frames a second at 1920 by 1200. It also handles different frame rates, so it'll do 60 frames a second. It'll do 59.94, it'll do 50, 30, 29.97, and 25 frames a second. It also handles D interlacing of the HDMI input. And that is a very important thing because a lot of cameras will send the video signal, no matter what the frame rate actually is, as 60i. And then it has little codes, or little flags, in the HDMI signal to help the device on the other end basically decode that and put those 60 interlaced frames together in a progressive way, the way that the sensor is actually capturing information. And this is because 60i was kind of the old legacy video format at the time. And so camera makers developed different ways to get things like 30p and 24p over a 60i signal by kinda breaking it up and sending it in this way. But this little device takes care of all of that, and you don't have to worry about anything. Basically any frame rate that most cameras will shoot from 60 frames per second down, this will handle. It'll do the de-interlacing, and to the computer, it just looks like a video imaging device. It looks like a web cam. There is no software. There is no drivers. So that makes it work with almost every software or streaming application out there. Basically any streaming application that will work with a web cam will work with this because it shows up as a webcam in your computer which is fantastic. Now what about the video quality? The video quality is very, very good. It's essentially uncompressed with 422 color, and that is very high quality. That's something that you only find on more professional level cameras. So it can take that really great looking HDMI output that is uncompressed in 422 color, which has more color information than when you record on these types of cameras. And it preserves that quality all the way through to your computer. You can also use more than one of these USB 3.0 to HDMI capture devices on the same system. Which means you can use different software applications that use multiple cameras because you can use multiple of these little guys here, and then you can set up multiple cameras. But perhaps maybe you wanna go a step further, and you wanna get a real HDMI production switcher to do multiple cameras, computer inputs, green screen, lower thirds, bugs. You can do that, and all you have to do with just one of these is add an HDMI production switcher. So it's very easy to go from a really great looking video stream to a full blown television studio with multiple cameras with the addition of some more hardware. Because this gets the video into your computer in a very, very high quality way. Now in addition to this working for all of the streaming applications out there, you can also find software to record the video stream on your computer in a higher quality than you can on the actual camera. So on these cameras you're going to be recording at AVCHD, which is H.264. And that's going to be throwing away a lot of color information, and it's not going to look as good as the HDMI signal. With this you can get that HDMI signal, and you can record it in your computer. And you can use a lossless video codec so that you can essentially preserve all of the video quality, which is much, much higher than you can get with any of these consumer cameras. The only downside to this is that it is a little bit expensive. This one little dongle here is $300. Now, that may seem like a lot, but there are really not a whole lot of options when you're looking at getting HDMI into your computer. In fact, there's not a lot of options to get HD video into your computer in a format and in a way that you can stream and have it look like a webcam so that it works with all of the streaming software. There may be some other options that do some compression or kind of encode the video, but this is the best quality, the best looking device that I've found. And unfortunately, it does come at a little bit of a price of $300. Now, the one downside to this if you're on a Mac is that the audio coming in over the HDMI gets compressed, and the quality is not super great. If you're trying to use a microphone with your camera and then get the video and the audio to come in on one stream over the HDMI and then into USB 3.0 to your computer and you're on a Mac, that might not work out so well, because the audio doesn't sound that great on a Mac. However, there's a very easy solution to that, which we're going to look at coming up in another lesson, and that's just using a different audio interface. Because all of these streaming services let you pick the video source and the audio source separately. So, you can use this for your video, get the high quality video. And then you can pick something else to use as the audio input, and that's great on a Mac. But on a PC it works perfect, and you get great quality audio with the great quality video over the HDMI and then into the computer via USB 3.0. And this is gonna work for Mac, PC, and Linux. Did I mention Linux? It works for Linux too. That is crazy for those one or two of you out there who use Linux. This is gonna work for you too, and it's gonna look great. You're gonna see how great it looks in an upcoming lesson. But for now we need to talk about how to set up the lights to make you look great, and that's coming up in the next lesson.

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