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How and Why to Use a Video Capture Card for Game Streaming

How and Why to Use a Video Capture Card for Game Streaming

If you want to start streaming your own gaming content, you’ll need to know about video capture cards. Find out what a video capture card is, why you need it for streaming, and how you can use it for your Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch-streaming shenanigans.

What is a video capture card, and how does it work?

A video capture device, which is often just called a video capture card, is a piece of hardware that’s essential for any game streamer. Its job is simple: to convert in-game footage of you pwning n00bs into digital data that your computer recognizes.

The video capture card does what it says on the tin. It captures the on-screen action and encodes it for playback on your stream, or a high-quality video file for you to meddle with and post later. It’s the broker between your gaming console and video player, allowing you to broadcast gaming on platforms like YouTube, Twitch, and Discord.

Why should I use a video capture card?

If you’re starting as a streamer and are strapped for cash, you can get started with some basic streaming software. We’ve put together a guide on the best streaming software here, and if you’re only streaming games from your computer, the linked recommendations should do just fine.
How to use a video capture card

People used to grumble about software impacting the overall performance of your stream, but nowadays, it’s sophisticated enough to make no real impact. However, if you want to stream from a dedicated gaming console like PS4 or Xbox One, you’ll need a physical capture card.

How to use a video capture card

Even though a video capture card is an external piece of kit, it’s not very fiddly. For ease, we’ll refer to OBS Studio/Streamlabs OBS as your streaming software of choice. Here’s how to set yourself up!

How to use a capture card for Xbox One

Requires Xbox One, computer, capture card, OBS program, 2 HDMI cables, TV/monitor, and a USB cable.

  1. Download all the necessary software required for your capture card. You’ll be prompted to do this when you set up your capture card, and won’t have to leave all this stuff running once you’re streaming. Your computer will do the work for you!
  2. Connect the Xbox’s HDMI output to the capture card’s HDMI input with your first HDMI cable. Then, with your second HDMI cable, connect the capture card’s HDMI output to the TV or monitor you’ll use to play the game.
  3. Connect the capture card to your computer with a USB cable, then turn the Xbox on and open your OBS program.
  4. Click the ‘+’ button in the ‘Sources’ box in OBS, then select ‘Video Capture Device.’ Name the device something memorable (just punch in the capture card’s model, so you remember it,) then select that from the following dropdown menu. The Xbox automatically handles the audio, so you’re now hooked up and ready to stream or record your game!
How does a capture card work

How to use a capture card for PS4

Requires PS4, computer, capture card, OBS program, 2 HDMI cables, TV/monitor, and a USB cable.

  1. Download all the necessary software required for your capture card, just like you’d do for the Xbox.
  2. Connect the PS4’s HDMI output to the capture card’s HDMI input with your first HDMI cable. Then, with your second HDMI cable, connect the capture card’s HDMI output to the TV or monitor you’ll use to play the game. Same shtick as the Xbox!
  3. Connect the capture card to your computer with a USB cable, then turn the PS4 on and open your OBS program.
  4. Disable the HDCP setting on your PS4. This setting prevents gameplay from being recorded by external capture devices, so you need to turn it off to get your stream going. If you leave it on, your capture card can’t read and convert your gaming to your computer. The HDCP setting is super easy to find on the PS4, though – it’s just under ‘Settings,’ then ‘System.’
  5. Click the ‘+’ button in the ‘Sources’ box in OBS, then select ‘Video Capture Device.’ Name the device something memorable like with the Xbox, then select that from the following dropdown menu.
  6. Hook up your audio. This isn’t automatic like the Xbox, so you need to click the Audio Mixer in your OBS program, next to the ‘Sources’ box. Click the little cog icon next to the Mixer, and select the dropdown menu next to your Capture Card. Click ‘Monitor Only’ to mute the output when it streams, or select ‘Monitor & Output’ if you fancy having your viewers hear everything going on in the game. These options depend on what kind of content you stream, and what type of relationship you have with your viewers.
How to use a video capture card

How to use a capture card for Nintendo Switch

Requires Nintendo Switch, computer, capture card, OBS program, 2 HDMI cables, TV/monitor, and a USB cable.

  1. Download all the necessary software required for your capture card, just like the Xbox One and PS4.
  2. Connect the Switch’s HDMI output to the capture card’s HDMI input with your first HDMI cable. Then, with your second HDMI cable, connect the capture card’s HDMI output to the TV or monitor you’ll use to play the game. Same deal as the PS4 and Xbox One.
  3. Connect the capture card to your computer with a USB cable, then turn the Switch on and open your OBS program.
  4. Click the ‘+’ button in the ‘Sources’ box in OBS, then select ‘Video Capture Device.’ Name the device something memorable like we did with the previous consoles, then select that from the following dropdown menu. The Switch sorts the audio out for you, so you’re good to go!
Video capture card

What is the best capture card for streamers?

There are too many options to count, but we’ve picked three lower-budget capture cards to kick things off.

Elgato Game Capture HD60 S

It’ll only cost you $189.99, but Elgato’s often recommended for a reason. The HD60 S is compatible with PC, Mac, Xbox, PS, and Switch, and is renowned for its plug-and-play efficiency. It also captures a crisp 1080p60, so the lower price doesn’t reflect the quality. You can read all about the HD60 S here.

Razer Ripsaw HD

The Ripsaw HD’s even cheaper than Elgato’s offering at $159.99, delivers the same 1080p60 quality, and offers 4Kp60 passthrough – snazzy. It doesn’t have its own proprietary capture software like Elgato, but that shouldn’t be an issue if you’re using something like OBS. There's more information about the Ripsaw HD here.

AverMedia Live Gamer Mini

The Live Gamer Mini is an absolute treat if your budget's stretched. It’ll set you back $79.99, and boasts the same 1080p60 quality as the other two capture cards we mentioned. AverMedia offers a range of awesome gadgets, but the Live Gamer Midi is tough to beat as a first step. You can check it out here.

Now you’re set up, it’s time to get some royalty-free bangers to soundtrack your streams.

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How and Why to Use a Video Capture Card for Game Streaming
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