Your Complete Guide to VGA and VGA Capture

October 6, 2008 by Victor · 1 Comment 

Whether your application involves creating IT instructional manuals, recording from high resolution security systems, sharing a presentation with people from around the world, or printing handouts directly from any computer screen, you are looking at VGA video capture or VGA signal capture as a mean to achieving these goals. This article will explain in-depth how VGA signal capture works and what you need to know in order to capture such a signal.

The VGA Plug

VGA connector

Unlike DVI or HDMI, which are both digital standards, a VGA signal is purely analog. The differences between VGA, DVI, and HDMI are described in detail in this article.

“VGA” is short for Video Graphics Array and has been the most common connector/plug for analog video on computer equipment and various electronics with an analog video output since the introduction of personal computers (PCs). VGA carries a RGB (red-green-blue) signal and is sometimes referred to as “D-Sub” due to its’ 15-pin “subminiature” connector. The term “VGA” also refers to the VGA standard graphics resolution – 640×480 pixels.

A detailed VGA pinout is shown below to help advanced users understand how VGA works. Source.

VGA Video Connector Pinout

Pin # Signal Name
1 Red
2 Green
3 Blue
4 No Connect
5 Ground
6 Ground
7 Ground
8 Ground
9 No Connect
10 Ground
11 No Connect
13 Horizontal Synchronization
14 Vertical Synchronization
15 DDC Clock


VGA Frame Grabbers and How They Work

The only true way to capture and record a VGA signal is through a VGA-compatible frame grabber. A VGA frame grabber can be defined as a device that proccesses analog VGA signals and converts them into digital signals readable by computer equipment. While frame grabbers are described in slightly higher detain in this Wikipedia article, these three main internal components determine a VGA frame grabber’s performance:

  1. ADC (analog-to-digital) converter. This is the circuit that transforms the analog signal coming from the source VGA signal into a digital stream that can be read by the target computer.
  2. RAM (random-access memory). Also referred to as buffer memory, this memory is vital in storing the captured image for a short period of time on board the actual frame grabber.
  3. FPGA (field-programmable gate array). This is the heart of the frame grabber and is analogous to a processor inside a PC. It is a part that is entirely programmed by the manufacturer of the frame grabber.

Some frame grabbers, like the PixelSmart VGA Master have no on-board RAM buffer memory. This fact alone, besides leading to a lower-quality image, lowers the maximum possible capture rate (also referred to as frame rate) achievable by the frame grabber. Frame grabbers without on-board RAM are sufficient for the capture of presentations with lots of static slides or any other static imagery, like capturing screenshots from the computer’s BIOS. On the other hand, if you are capturing a high-resolution image and/or are capturing from a source with a high frame rate, like a video game console (ie XBOX 360) or medical equipment (ie: ultrasound), a frame grabber with at least 16MB RAM would be preferred.  The VGA2USB Pro by Epiphan Systems, for example, has 32MB RAM memory and is able to capture at a whopping 60 frames per second in some resolutions.

PixelSmart’s Internal PCI VGA-Master


Epiphan Systems’ external USB-based VGA2USB Pro frame grabber

While RAM is important in defining the characteristics of a frame grabber and the quality of the image it outputs, another important factor is the way that the FPGA, or processor, is programmed. You will notice that the higher-end frame grabbers, like the VGA2USB Pro pictured above, have built-in features that some of the more basic frame grabbers, like the PixelSmart, do not have. A quick look at the Epiphan Systems webpage reveals the following features programmed via the FPGA processor: On-board cropping, Color space conversion, USB Transfer Accelerator™, Compression Booster Filters™. All of these software/firmware features allow the frame grabber to achieve extremely high quality and transfer rates without increasing the frame grabber’s size.

Please refer to our complete Frame Grabber Specifications Comparison Table for detailed and complete specifications on every VGA frame grabber on the market.

Applications for Frame Grabbers

Frame Grabbers, while being a niche product, have many practical uses in today’s IT-oriented business environment. The five most common and prominent uses are described in detail in our Top 5 Uses for High Resolution Frame Grabbers You Should Know About article. From the gaming industry to the military, frame grabbers are used accross many fields related to computer technology. To give you a general idea, some industry-specific uses for high resolution VGA frame grabbers are described below.

Computer Console Gaming

Microsoft’s X-BOX 360 gaming console has the ability to output its images via VGA or DVI. This means that a VGA frame grabber can be used to capture and record the gameplay from this game console, and even broadcast the gameplay live over the internet for other viewers to see.

The diagram above explains how to connect an X-BOX 360 to a frame grabber for recording and broadcasting the gameplay. The X-BOX’s VGA cable is connected to a VGA splitter’s input, from which one VGA output goes to the TV, and the other to the frame grabber-equipped computer. The image can then be broadcasted to the internet using the computer.

Presentation, Conference Broadcasting and Recording

In today’s globalized business world, businesses often have partners in many different countries. When conducting an online meeting or presentation, the presenter often has the need to share his screen with viewers around the world. For this exact reason, VGA frame grabbers are useful. They allow the presenter to not only share an image from a projector, but also from a BIOS screen, an ATM machine, a RADAR device, a medical ultrasound device, a security system, or even an electronic microscope. Most of these VGA sources are not able to be broadcasted in real-time with the use of traditional software sources, and frame grabbers are the only way to properly create diagnostic-quality images and videos from these devices.

In the diagram above, the VGA source is connected directly to a frame grabber-equipped PC with access to the internet. Using any web broadcasting software, the user is able to relay the images and video captured by the frame grabber to his or her audience.

Security System Surveillance Recording and Broadcasting

Today’s security systems and cameras are able to support digital formats as well as high resolutions required for complex security solutions. Of course, as solution is needed to record the outputs from the security system, store it in a digital format, and provide access to the files from remote locations. All of this can be accomplished with VGA frame grabber-based technology, such as the VGA Recorder, which have ample space for recording video files (up to 500GB), are able to directly transmit recordings to a remote FTP location, and give access to the recorded files through a web interface.

The diagram above, borrowed from the Epiphan Systems website, shows how easy it is to hook up a security system’s VGA output to the VGA Recorder. Everything can be set up in minutes, and the VGA Recorder is able to archive hundreds of hours of digital compressed video data to its internal hard drive.

Telemedicine and Remote Guidance

Telemedicine, also known as Remote Guidance, is an expanding field in which doctors are able to, through the internet, diagnose patients and provide advice. Telemedicine has many practical applications but some of the more notable ones are the delivery of expertise to areas in which it is not practical to have a qualified doctor at all times. For example, lets suppose that a player on a sports team gets a knee injury. Through telemedicine, the coach can use a portable ultrasound device like the Logiq Book XP and, with the aid of a frame grabber, relay the images from the Logiq Book directly to a qualified radiologist who can then make a decision on the severety of the injury.

The diagram above shows how any equipment with a VGA output, such as the ultrasound device, can be connected to a frame grabber, and the a computer. The images are then relayed to the qualified radiologist or doctor through the internet or a satellite uplink. If you would like to find out more about the field of remote guidance,  then this website is a good start.



The VGA signal is the most common format used on today’s electronics and computer-based equipment. When this equipment is coupled with a VGA frame grabber, the possibilities are endless. Using a frame grabber, which is a relatively inexpensive device, organizations can not only significantly cut costs, but can also improve their productivity.



Sony PSP 5.0 Firmware to Include Screen Capture Mode

October 1, 2008 by Victor · Leave a Comment 

Capturing the screen of the portable Sony PSP gaming console has so far been difficult. Gamers have been limited to using the TV-out on their PSPs (PSP-2000 model only) and then using a TV capture card on a capturing PC. All this is supposed to change with the upcoming release of the next Sony PSP model, PSP-3000. Besides releasing the new device, rumors are that Sony will also offer the 5.0 version of the PSP firmware, which will include things such as direct access to the PlayStation store, better RSS feed integration, and, of course, in-game screen capture.

So, if you want to be able to capture your pocket PSP action but haven’t been able to do so, hold on to your hat. The 5.0 firmware will most likely be released alongside the PSP-3000 model on October 14th in the US and October 19th in Europe.

Source: PocketGamer

Take Screenshots in Firefox with New Add-on

September 30, 2008 by Victor · Leave a Comment 

Have you ever wanted to quickly capture a webpage that you are visiting and save the screenshot or send it in an e-mail? What if you need to share your screenshot online with many users (for example, on an online forum)? Maybe you want to create instructions to show users how to navigate a web page and do not want to spend a fortune on special screen capturing and annotating software like Camtasia. If you answered “yes” to any of the previous questions, then this free add-on to Firefox should be something to be looking into.

The FireShot Add-On for FireFox is 100% free and is compatible with Firefox 2 and Firefox 3. It adds the following functionality to your Firefox browser:

- Instantly upload screen captures to FREE public screenshot hosting
– save screenshots to disk (PNG, GIF, JPEG, BMP)
– print screenshot
– copied to clipboard (similar to PrintScreen button)
– Attach screenshot to e-mail
– Annotate and add text and instructions to screenshot

The image above describes the features of the FireShot add-on screen capture editing and annotation tool. As you can see, the add-on has a good array of features and should be sufficient for any sort of simple editing and annotating.

What’s more, FireShot has the ability to add effects to the captured screenshots. This is especially useful if you would like to emphasize a particular section of a webpage or want to hide part of the webpage from the screenshot (if there is a user name or revealed password, for example).

FireShot is accessible both by right-clicking on the webpage that you are browsing or by clicking on the “S” icon beside the address bar.

FireShot can be downloaded here. This add-on is recommended for anyone that regularly needs to take screenshots from their browser or for those that need to create instructional manuals related to the online world.


Capturing screenshots and data from Garmin GPS devices

August 12, 2008 by Victor · 5 Comments 

The market of navigational products is cluttered with a multitude of manufacturers, solutions, and products. Historically, Garmin came out as one of the most popular manufacturers of portable handheld GPS devices.

While industrial and military consumers tend to use high resolution frame grabbers in order to capture the screen from advanced GPS devices with VGA outputs, this is not an option for those users that have small personal GPS receivers.

There are several ways to capture the screen of a Garmin GPS device for free:

  1. Using xImage software supplied by Garmin. (last update in 2005)
  2. Using G7ToWin software developed by Ron Henderson. (last update in 2008)
  3. Using the DNR Garmin application written by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. (last update in 2008)

Due to the fact that there are a lot of different Garmin GPS models, not all software programs will work with all Garmin devices. The G7ToWin application also has limited functionality with Magellan GPS receivers. All of the software packages listed above are available as free downloads.


Installation of the xImage software is easy. Download the last release from here, launch the file, and follow the on-screen instructions. You can the launch the xImage application from the Garmin submenu in the Windows Start Menu. The GPS must then be connected via USB or serial port for the software to be able to locate it.

Follow these instructions in order to capture a screenshot from your Garmin GPS device. Remember that the GPS must be connected to the capturing computer at the time of the screen capture.

1. Connect your device to your computer.  Verify that you have selected the ‘Garmin’ I/O format on your GPS unit.  See your GPS unit’s owner’s manual for more information.

2. Open xImage and click Next.

3. After a few moments, your device should be listed in the Device Settings window.  If not, click Find Device.  xImage finds the connected device.  If you have multiple devices connected to your PC, select the desired device from the drop down list.

4. Click Next.

5. Select Get images from the GPS, then click Next.

6. Select ‘Screen Shot’ in the Image Type field.

7. Verify that the desired screen is currently displayed on your GPS.

8. Click Next.

9. Select the desired location on your PC, enter a file name for the screen shot, and click Save.  The screen shot is saved as a .bmp file on your PC.  xImage displays a preview of the screen shot.

10. Click Finish to close xImage.

NOTE: You can also click Back to return to a previous screen and perform additional tasks.


Download G7ToWin from here and install by following the prompts. Once the software is installed and your GPS device is connected, the G7ToWin software will bring you to a main screen that displays all of the waypoints saved in the GPS.

From here, the “Get and Show Display Bitmap” option must be selected from the GPS menu. This takes a screenshot of what is currently being shown on the GPS and saves it to the local hard drive. As well, the Ctrl+D keystroke combination may be pressed to grab the GPS’ screen at any time.

DNR Garmin

DNR Garmin may be downloaded from here. This application was created by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for their internal use, but the department also released the software to the public as a free download. This software is designed for power users and has many advanced functions.

Once the software is instalelled and the GPS receiver is synchronized with the DNR Garmin software, taking a screenshot is as easy as going to the GPS menu, and selecting “Garmin Screen Shot”. The program will then prompt you for a location of where to save the screenshot .bmp file.


xImage, G7ToWin, and DNR Garmin are all capable of saving the contents of the Garmin GPS’ screen to a BMP file on the computer the GPS is connected to, whether it be through a USB or serial port. Note that it is not possible to capture a screenshot of the GPS device when it is not connected to a computer on which one of these software packages is installed.

Using this software, there is also no way to automate the capture proccess or have the GPS screen’s output captured as a movie. This would be useful for archiving or creating instructional videos, for example. If real-time and automated screen capture is required, then a device with a VGA or DVI output coupled with one of these frame grabbers would allow the user to have that functionality.

New free software allows users to turn screenshots into mobile phone wallpaper

August 11, 2008 by Victor · Leave a Comment 

How often have you seen a photo or picture online that would look great as your cell phone background/wallpaper? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just press one button and any picture on your PC would be formatted to the size of your cell phone’s screen?

Traditionally, one would find out the size of their mobile phone screen and then resize or crop the picture using image processing software. This can be a difficult task if you don’t know the size of your mobile phone screen in pixels.

This is where Weys comes in. Weys stands for “WhatEver You See” and is a completely free software program that allows the user to take a screen capture of their desktop PC and save it as an image the size of their mobile phone screen. The user can then upload the saved image to their mobile phone from their computer. Think of it as doing a PrintScreen to cell phone.

Screenshot of Weys in action

When the software is launched, a prompt comes up asking for the model of the mobile phone or the phone’s screen size in pixels. From there, you are able to select an area of the screen the size of your mobile phone’s screen and save it as a picture file (JPEG).

Weys can be downloaded here. This software is available for Windows only.

Jing Project

July 30, 2008 by admin · Leave a Comment 

Jing Project is a free screen capture software package that is distributed online by Techsmith, the creators of SnagIt and Camtasia Studio. It is available for Windows and Mac OS X.

Jing takes screenshots or video of your screen and then stores them or uploads them. Jing is also able to record voice from the computer’s microphone input while videos of the user’s screen are being recorded.

This critical review will look at this piece of software to try to determine its usefulness and functionality.


If installing on a Windows machine, Jing will prompt you to install .NET Framework 3.0, if you do not already have this installed. At the end of the installation, Jing will ask you to create a username and password. The software will not work without the creation of this account.

The software will start as soon as it is installed. You will notice a small yellow semi-circle at the top of your screen. Dragging your mouse over it will reveal Jing sharing options.


Start by dragging your mouse over the yellow bubble and then clicking on the capture crosshairs.

You will now be able to select what area of the screen is to be captured/shared.

Notice how a rectangular option window pops up in the lower left corner. This allows you to choose the capture format (image or video).

After the video or image is recored, Jing will show a preview (if it is a video) and will prompt the user as to what to do with the recording.

Unfortunately, Jing Project is only able to save the video as a flash .swf file, which means that there are no easy ways to share the recorded content. SWF flash files are great for webmasters who would like to post the recording to their site, but video sharing sites such as YouTube, Veoh, and others do not accept this as an upload format. For many, this makes the saving feature quite useless. The recording that was made via the Jing save feature is shown below:

Note that scrolling was very slow, meaning that the capture rate of Jing project is only a few frames per second. The image resolution, on the other hand, was exactly the same as the capture. Jing does not provide the user with an option to resize the output, which makes embedding high resolution flash videos into websites a pain. The video above had to be cropped on both sides due to the fact that the width of the recording made by Jing Project was unable to accommodate the width of the actual webpage. Functionality and Review

The other thing about Jing Project is that it gives you access to, TechSmith’s content sharing portal. Think of it as a YouTube-like site for people sharing their captures. Clicking on “Send to ScreenCast: URL” will automatically upload the recording to the ScreenCast account that you signed up for earlier. Once the upload is finished, Jing Project will automatically paste the URL of your uploaded video into the Windows clipboard. You must paste it into a browser (press Ctrl + V) to reveal the link.

This is the capture that was made by Notice how there are no options to embed or share the video (like on popular video sharing websites such as YouTube or Veoh). Another disappointment is the fact that there is no option anywhere that will allow you to resize the video being viewed from its original size. This means that your audience must have monitors of your size or bigger in order to be able to view the recording in all its size and glory.

In fact, even a video of the same laptop screen did not fit into a full browser window when later being viewed on the laptop that was used to make the recording.

There is one thing to be happy about, however. Even though it looks like is an oversimplified and not fully worked out website, the absence of advertising (except for ScreenCast themselves) is always a welcome thing for a free product like Jing Project.

The Verdict?

Jing Project is an easy to use software with a very clean and intuitive interface. It does a pretty good job at capturing the area of the screen that it is told. The user is also given the option to record voice over the recorded video using a microphone. This, however, is where the good ends and the bad begins.

Videos can only be saved locally as an SWF file, which severely limits the user in options as to where to upload the video. Of course, the user can always use a 3rd party software to convert the SWF video to a format like AVI, but that complicates the proccess.

What’s more, the player is just that – a simple player. There are no options for the viewers to resize the resolution of the recording to fit the screen, and our tests showed that a bigger screen (or a higher resolution) is required to properly view a screen capture uploaded to There are also no visible options for sharing or embedding, although this has become a standard amongst today’s content sharing websites.

The Jing Project seems like a piece of software created by TechSmith in order to get users that require more functionality to look into their other products. Specifically, Camtasia Studio, a $300 software program that pretty much extends Jing Project’s functionality and is also made by TechSmith.

Overall however, Jing Project is a decent software for those wanting an easy way to share their screen contents and store them without paying a cent. At the same time, those users that are serious about webcasting the content of their computer monitors are advised look elsewhere.

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