What makes software packages like Adobe Connect Pro, Cisco WebEx, and Microsoft Live Meeting useful is the ability to broadcast anything that is visible on the computer screen as long as you have one of these applications installed and running. However, there are situations where one cannot install a web collaboration/presentation software on a computer but still needs to broadcast the image from it. It is also possible that you are using a device or operating system that is incompatible with your favorite webcasting software. Perhaps you would like to broadcast from a document camera pod with a VGA or DVI interface.
Some situations where an external frame grabber is useful:
- When a network connection is lost, the presenters screen is still being recorded.
- There are not enough system resources to run Connect Pro, or the computer does not allow the installation of Adobe Connect Pro.
- Switching layouts- Once a layout has been switched, the computer sharing the screen in the previous layout needs to be activated again.
- Audio – When working with demos, the demo machine’s audio needs to have the Connect Pro audio installed, but muted (through the voice and camera pod) otherwise the session’s audio will echo.
- Bandwidth – Each demo computer needs to be logged into the Connect Pro meeting. When many computers/devices are connected to a Connect Pro meeting, too much bandwidth is “eaten up”.
- Unsupported devices – Since Adobe Connect Pro is normally only compatible with Windows and Mac OS X, adding a frame grabber allows you to use Connect Pro on any device with a VGA or DVI port.
In order to accomplish this, you would need to use a frame grabber connected to a Connect Pro capture computer. You would then launch the application that comes with the grabber on the computer with the VGA grabber and share it with Connect Pro. As long as the VGA source is connected to the grabber itself, then you’re ready to broadcast the image from it!
What frame grabber works best with Adobe Connect Pro?
There is no universal answer to this question and it really depends on what your capturing needs are. If you are looking for something cost-effective and do not need to broadcast an image with as lot of movement, then the Epiphan Systems VGA2USB will be enough. However, if you need to broadcast an HD or other high-quality imagery, then we suggest to look into the NCast DCC3.1, Epiphan VGA2Ethernet, or DVI2USB Duo.
For a detailed comparison and description of the most advanced high-resolution frame grabbers on the market, please refer to our frame grabber comparison table.
Almost all computer equipment sold these days supports DVI. This can range from modern computers and projectors to game consoles like the Microsoft X-Box. Of course, this means that high end hardware solutions for DVI capture are now becoming readily available.
The first thing that you must determine is whether your DVI signal is a true digital video signal or a traditional analog source. The easiest way to tell if a digital or analog signal is running through your DVI port is to look at he connector that you are using and match it with the diagram of the DVI connector below.
If either your DVI plug or connector are DVI-D (DVI-Digital), this means that a 100% digital signal is being used. For this kind of signal, you absolutely need to use a DVI frame grabber.
If the connector or plug is of the DVI-A (DVI-Analog) flavor, then you’d be able to use a DVI to VGA adapter and a VGA frame grabber. DVI-A supports analog signals only is and is identical to VGA but with a different pin placement.
If the plug is DVI-I (DVI-Integrated), this means that it is capable of running both an analog and digital signal along the cable. Thus, unless you know if the signal is analog or digital, you would need a DVI-capable frame grabber to capture the signal.
As stated earlier, a VGA frame grabber would do the job for DVI-A and analog-only DVI-I signals. Before a VGA grabber can be used, the DVI signal needs to be converted to a VGA one using a DVI-to-VGA adapter, which costs roughly $10 (pictured below).
You can now follow the same procedure as you would when recording a VGA signal with your VGA frame grabber.
Digital Signals (DVI-D and DVI-I)
If you have determined that you have a digital DVI signal that needs to be captured, a DVI-specific frame grabber must be used. Before choosing a suitable frame grabber, you must determine if the DVI signal is single link or dual link.
A single link DVI signal can support, at a refresh rate of 60 Hz, a maximum resolution of 1915 x 1436. If your DVI cable supports a higher resolution at a refresh rate of 60 Hz, then you are running a dual link signal. Dual link DVI is used primarily on large LCD monitors, such as the Apple monitor or the 25″+ Dell monitors.
If you need to capture a dual link DVI signal, then your choice of frame grabber is limited to one model, the Epiphan Systems DVI2USB Duo (pictured below), which captures single and dual link digital DVI signals only.
Unfortunately, the DVI2USB Duo is a very specific high-end frame grabber that does not have the ability to capture an analog or VGA video signal. However, the DVI2USB Duo is a blessing for those with dual link DVI capture requirements. You can see how the DVI2USB Duo stacks up against its competition in this table.
If, however, you need to capture a single link DVI signal, then your choices are much greater. If you are looking for a PCI-based card, then you have a choice of the EMS Imaging Xtreme RGB, NCast DCC 3.1 or the Unigraf UFG-03. If you are into external USB-based solutions, then Epiphan Systems offers the DVI2USB, which is an external dual-mode VGA and DVI frame grabber or the DVI2USB Solo, which can capture a single link DVI signal only.
There is no one ideal frame grabber that does everything. Your choice of a DVI capturing device should depend on your needs, as outlined above. If you wish to find the specifications of each frame grabber featured in this article, then this would be a good place to start.
High resolution frame grabbers are devices that are used to capture the signal from a VGA or DVI stream and convert it into a readable computer format. In other words, frame grabbers take a high resolution video signal and relay it to the memory of the computer as digital data. What you do with that data, however, is entirely up to you. This article will list the top most useful applications for modern high resolution frame grabbers.
1. Archiving Images and Video
This is probably the most common use for frame grabbers today. All high resolution frame grabbers come packaged with an application that allows you to capture the VGA/DVI signal to old fashioned MPEG or AVI video as well as common JPG, BMP, or GIF images. Some applications even have support for live resizing of the captured output in order to decrease file size.
As well, if the frame grabber has WDM driver or Video4Linux support, the computer sees it as a high resolution camera, meaning that you can use any application, such as Windows Encoder, QuickTime Broadcaster, or Adobe Premiere to capture from your VGA or DVI source. Furthermore, SDKs and APIs released by manufacturers allow one to create custom applications and integrate the frame grabber into existing solutions, therefore automating the archiving proccess.
This diagram, taken from the Epiphan Systems website, shows how to use a frame grabber for recording images or video from any device with a VGA output while keeping the device’s monitor. The monitor can be omitted if the user does not need to view the output from the device.
Broadcasting isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you are thinking of frame grabbers. It is, however, one of the top uses for high resolution frame grabbers. You may not know it, but pretty much all manufacturers that sell boxes for broadcasting a high resolution video signals have integrated frame grabbers inside their devices.
In fact, you can build an equivalent to one of these video/VGA/DVI broadcasting boxes yourself at a fraction of the cost by combining any high resolution frame grabber with a PC. As an example, this process is described in the “Broadcasting” section of our Epiphan Systems VGA2USB LR review.
The simple diagram above explains how the broadcasting process works with a frame grabber. The VGA signal is digitized in real-time using the PC with PCI or USB frame grabber. Then, using webcast programs such as Wirecast, Windows Encoder 9, or QuickTime broadcaster, the digitized real-time video from the frame grabber is relayed over the internet to viewers worldwide.
This is an example of combining a technology that has been around for as long as computers existed (digital printing) with a fairly recent technology (frame grabbers). Why would you want to print to paper from the VGA or DVI output of a device? Often, a “hard copy” provides to be the most secure way of storing something.
Consider a situation where you are giving a presentation and would like to produce handouts for everyone on the spot. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just press a button and the contents of your screen got printed right away? Some manufacturers provide this feature in their software, while others (primarily Epiphan Systems) go as far as separate stand-alone devices dedicated to printing from a VGA screen.
The diagram above, taken from the Epiphan Systems website, shows how a frame grabber based VGA printer is connected to the source device. The VGA printer, shown in a black enclosure, can be replaced with a PC and frame grabber combination.
4. Web Conferencing
Distance collaboration forms the basis of many partnerships in today’s complex business environment. Several characteristics define a good web conferencing solution – reliability, ease of use, effectiveness.
Pairing a frame grabber with your conferencing software of choice can give you these three characteristics and more. Solutions like WebEx allow the user to share his or her webcam. Since most frame grabbers register as a high-resolution camera in Windows and Mac OS X, the user can simply point the program to transmit images from the frame grabber instead of from a webcam. This can be extremely useful when you want to share images from an external source other than the computer being used for the web conference. This can include anything from X-Ray imagery, live ultrasound scans or live GPS info to relaying live screenshots from a server or computer.
Epiphan Systems makes the VGA2WEB, which is a one-of-a-kind web conferecing solution with the primary goal of sharing a VGA signal. If VGA signal broadcasting and conferencing is critical to your application, then this may be a product you should seriously consider.
This diagram, taken from Epiphan Systems, shows how a presentation is broadcast in real-time to viewers on the web. The setup for web conferencing is identical to the setup for broadcasting. In the case of conferencing however, the user has a medium in which he/she can give feedback to the presenter.
5. Monitoring of Critical Systems
Most of today’s IT equipment has VGA or DVI outputs, many of which need to be monitored as they are critical to the functions of the organization which they support. Traditional methods of using VNC, converting the VGA to composite video, or having a separate monitor for each output have proven to be not only costly, but also not very reliable.
Unlike substitute solutions, high resolution frame grabbers are very scalable, meaning that many of them can be installed on one computer with one monitor output that will be used for central monitoring. Frame grabbers can also be mounted into a rackmount system and you will find that some manufacturers are ready to custom-build a rackmount frame grabber for you.
In the diagram above, several frame grabbers, each of which are connected to separate VGA sources, are attached to one computer. This computer displays the output from each VGA source on one monitor. As well, the computer can record, broadcast, or print from each of the sources in real time.