Basic streaming from devices/computers
- Budget capture cards
- Premium capture cards
- Retro console options
One of the biggest barriers to new people getting into content production is not knowing where to start with gear. So, in this new series, we’re going to discuss the basics you need to start, and where to go with upgrades, specifically with regards to audio, video, lighting, and game capture. Today, we’re gonna take a look at game capture.
We hear a lot of talk about capture cards. Do you really need a capture card to start streaming? Well, a lot of that depends on what platform you are trying to stream from, but on PC and some modern consoles, you actually don’t need a capture card for basic streaming! If you’ve got a good PC, you can stream directly from your game PC through software like OBS or Streamlabs. XBOX One, PS4 and PS5 users can stream directly from their consoles, and can use Lightstream to add layouts, effects, integrations and more. Lightstream, unfortunately, isn’t free. It costs anywhere from $7-50 per month, depending on what you need, and how you pay. Lightstream is a great option, but depending on how advanced you get with it, it will end up costing more than a capture card in the long run. Not to mention, capture cards give you flexibility to capture from other consoles, such as the Nintendo Switch. You can learn more about Lightstream at golightstream.com.
Now, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “you get what you pay for.” Nowhere else in this series has this rang more true than with capture cards. You can get on Amazon right now and find capture cards for less than 20 bucks? Cheaper capture cards are unreliable at best. They often are built cheaply, leading to hardware issues. A bigger issue is software. Assuming it even comes with any, it is often unreliable, and can lead to a host of capture quality issues. With that said, there are some halfway decent sub-$100 options out there, including entries from EVGA, Mirabox, and AVerMedia. While we’re going to stop short of recommending them, they do pose as decent options if you are unable to save up for a nicer capture card. As always, just make sure you’re doing your research and reading reviews, especially when it comes to these cheaper models.
So, let’s talk about premium capture cards. We can’t even begin to have this discussion without the Elgato brand, which has pretty much become the industry standard these days. They currently offer a range of cards costing between about $150-400, depending on what you need. They are capable of 4K HDR output, and can handle any modern system. Not only is this hardware going to be better made and more reliable than “el cheapo”, it comes with far better software that can be used as standalone capture software, or fed into programs like OBS. There are other brands out there making premium capture cards, including Razer’s Ripsaw series cards.
Every single capture device listed above requires an HDMI source to work. But what if you absolutely need to fire up the N64, and want to play some GoldenEye with your friends on stream? You’re gonna need some different hardware. Fortunately, there are a couple of decent pieces of hardware out there for retro consoles. If you’ve been in the gaming content sphere for a long time, the word “Dazzle” might send a shiver down your spine. The Dazzle series of capture cards used to be the industry standard, prior to the rise of Elgato. The Dazzle always got the job done, when it wanted to work. Fortunately, the Dazzle DVD Recorder HD is a bit more reliable than it’s old school predecessor, although the software still isn’t great. Fortunately, Elgato released their own version, the creatively named Elgato Video Capture. It’s equally reliable to the current Dazzle, but it benefits from Elgato’s capture software. Both devices can be found under 100 bucks, and require either component video or S-Video output, so you may need an old school RF converter for really old consoles, like an NES.
Dealing with equipment can be intimidating, but it’s not insurmountable. In this article, we discussed game capture, from basic to advanced. Have questions about capture? Need help troubleshooting your setup? Ask for help in the #streaming-tips channel in our Discord! Not already a member? Grab the links to our communities at NerdsBelongHere.com! And as always, stay tuned to this blog for more great tips and tricks!