4ch video capture - USB or PCI?


Senior Member
My cheapo PCI video capture card is starting to flake out and cross-talk the channels (laying one camera on top of another). It is a $10 Pico2000 or clone. I wouldn't mind getting another one, if anybody has a good source that doesn't want a fortune for shipping from Hong Kong.

Has anybody tried the $60 or so 4ch USB capture devices on eBay? Are they CPU and/or USB hogs? Anybody got a source to suggest?
make sure it is USB 2.0 or it won't work well as USB 1.0 is just too slow for this kind of stuff. If you did find a nice and compatible DVR/4 input card, let Martin know, maybe he can get a better deal (if he doesn't carry them already).
Yes, sorry, I would only consider USB2.0. I should have clarified that.

For the price I am paying, I don't expect amazing software, but I do expect whatever hardware I buy to come with at least SOME software. The old PICO2000 software wasn't the greatest, but it worked for me. I am mainly using it for security purposes, streaming to the web is mostly just a bonus at this stage. Some of the 3rd party capture/stream software is more bucks than I plan on paying for hardware AND software. I don't mind paying more for good stuff eventually, but right now my cameras are not that great and I would want to know that a more expensive solution really does everything I want it to. Cheap stuff I can afford to gamble and learn with.

I would also like to be able to snap a pic and/or capture video when a contact closure or alarm or something else occurs. I guess this is one of the big selling points of the HS cam plug-in, but I wasn't sure I wanted the cameras on my HS machine.

Martin carries the Grandtec GXG-4000 at $85, but there are cheaper no-name, no-support ones on eBay. I don't know if Martin wants to get into cheap generic stuff like that.

BTW, how come notifications on this board are so intermittent? I would have replied sooner if the board sent me the requested email notifications that there was a reply posted.
Keep in mind that some of the cheaper cards will only work with Windows 98 and such, and that most multi input cards are NOT WDM compatible, so you can't just use any webcam software. If you do find a cheap card which has multiple inputs and supports win2k/xp and is WDM compatible, please let us know! As for the software end, there are tons of other webcam software packages out there (I really really really have to finish that webcam matrix lol), some of them support trigger by contact closure, I believe Home Watcher is one of them, so you wouldn't have to keep the hardware on your Homeseer machine. I am however getting close to writing my own camera software, which will do all this and much more, I just need some time :(
Don't buy a GrandTek card. Their output is viewable over a network, but only if you run THEIR software on your clients, and even then you can only have 1 client connect at a time. I have one that I'm returning.

Martin speaks highly of the SECOM 4 ch cards he carries. Perhaps you should look into them.

Personally, since I'm not looking for super-quality video, I'm probably going to go with a mix of USB (w/in range of my server) and IP cameras. You can find wired IP cams for $79 and wireless models for $99. Once you factor in the cost of cameras plus capture card, there isn't much of a price difference. Of course, if you need high quality in low light conditions, then IP or USB probably won't do.

EDIT: Here's a wireless IP cam for $95: http://www.pagecomputers.com/cgi-bin/page/B0804438.html
Well, I guess I had my head twisted about USB. The stuff I am looking at is really USB1.1... I got twisted when it said it would work with a USB2 port (D'oh). But when it says it will work with USB 1.1/2.0 then I know the device is really just 1.1. being retired/rebuilt with XP soon. But it appears that the Pico2000 cards claim to work on XP & W2K. None of the eBay listings mention "WDM". Would they claim to support So, will one of these 1.1 devices plugged into a USB2.0 port work? or is the USB1.1 bottleneck gonna kill the framerate? Since the computer port is 2.0, I assume it will not be a bottleneck or processor hog?

Well, I am using my Pico2000 card on an old Win98 machine, but that machine is WDM if they supported it or is there some other magic words to look for?
Looking through your other Grandtec thread, it looks like you need the WDM drivers that Electron mentioned. I have never messed with anything other than the default drivers for my BT878 card & Pico2000 software cuz it worked for me out of the box.

Try these sites for WDM drivers:

It appears that these WDM drivers would let a lot of hardware work with most of the webcam software, right?

I will research the Secom cards, now that I found them. But those aren't cheap cards. They are on a different page that the Grandtec capture card, just to confuse me. Everybody calls these things something different... makes Google & eBay searches harder.

Right now I have functional cameras wired & working, so I don't really want to add IP cameras in this house. And lots of the IP cameras are CMOS. I thought we wanted CCD cameras for good quality?
CCD is what you want when it comes to surveillance cameras (in most cases). The WDM driver is a 'standard', so pretty much any webcam software would work with the capture card.