If you have spent more than ten minutes researching ‘how to Twitch’, you have probably heard of a capture card. But do you really need one or not before you go live?
Though capture cards may allow you to create more of a variety of content by giving you the ability to connect a console to your PC, they are not essential for streaming on Twitch at all. In fact, if you are looking to stream games from your PlayStation or Xbox, they have built streaming capabilities or there are even programs you can use, such as PS remote play, to connect your consoles to your PC remotely without the need for a capture card (though capture cards definitely give a more stable and quality connection).
That is by no means the only thing that you can do with a capture card though. Although you may not need it to actually stream on twitch, there are many scenarios in which having one may benefit your stream greatly. In this article, we’ll be looking at those different scenarios to help you decide on whether or not you need one for your live stream.
When Do You Need a Capture Card to Stream on Twitch?
Not every streamer needs a capture card, but most streamers could certainly put one to good use. Here is a few examples of when you might need a capture card for your live stream:
Capture cards are a great way to connect your consoles to your computer and stream a game you wouldn’t normally be able to play, such as Animal Crossing on the Nintendo Switch. Though there are walkthroughs for you to be able to stream a console to your PC, capture cards really are the best way to do so. With a Nintendo Switch, there is only one way to stream to Twitch without a capture card, and that requires you to have an Xbox… Which is a little more expensive than a capture card anyway – you might as well save the extra money if you do not already have an Xbox! So, if you are thinking about hitting up your friends for a round of Mario Golf on stream, you will almost definitely need to get your hands on a capture card.
Using a DSLR Camera
If you are looking into using a DSLR camera for your live stream, a capture card is essential. That being said, Elgato offers a capture card specifically for DSLR cameras known as the Cam Link which can even capture in 4k quality and are around $30 cheaper than a decent capture card, like the Elgato HD60. DSLR cameras are a huge improvement to the quality of your live stream and for most people, a sort of end goal in terms of upgrades.
Dual PC Streaming
Lastly, if you are thinking of streaming from a dual PC setup. Dual PC setups are a great way to take the pressure off of your gaming machine, and almost completely fix any issues with dropped frames by essentially splitting the workload of running a live stream. This means you will be able to push your hardware to its fullest potential and use the maximum graphics settings your hardware can reach, without interfering with your live stream. If you are working within a budget, you could even use a laptop to handle the load from OBS and still have your gaming PC connected via your capture card – it will still take pressure off, but your laptop will need to have the capabilities to run OBS.
What are Capture Cards Used For?
Capture cards are used to connect external media devices to your computer. This could be; a second PC, a gaming console, a DSLR camera, or even another computer. Capture cards offer quality encoded playback with no delay, unlike some apps which will allow wireless connectivity. They are often used in streaming for the functionality of connecting a console to a PC, though you can essentially connect any HDMI device to your capture card.
If you are going to purchase yourself a graphics card, just make sure to get yourself something a little more expensive than an off-brand capture card which turns out to be just a piece of string in a cardboard box. There are still cheaper options that will work perfectly for streaming, but I would recommend the Elgato HD60 if it is within your budget.
Though you might not need a capture card to stream live on Twitch, there are still certain scenarios that you might find that you need one. It might cost you a pretty penny to get something like a HD60, which will absolutely hold up the quality you want for your live stream, but it is a worthy investment. After all, you get what you pay for!