Difference between CCTV and HTPC cards


Active Member
I spent last year planning the lowest level of my HA system (security) and by now the design of this layer is about completed. The implementation is about 70%. As we say, this is a hobby and we always find areas of improvement. <_<

So now I'm thinking about the higher levels. I dont have anything in specific next, but with my child's addiction to TV and movies, an HTPC looks like a good candidate. I'm also interested in security (outside) and convenience CCTV (like monitoring by baby's room).

So my question is, what is the difference between CCTV and HTPC/PVR cards? First, I'm assuming that a PVR and a HTPC is the same thing, so please correct me if I'm wrong.

Second, aren't those two cards simply video capture cards? Shouldn't they be the same thing? If not, what are the differences? What are the charasteristics that make and HPTC and a CCTV cards better than a simple video capture card? What should I look for when shopping an HTPC card? What should I look for when shopping a CCTV card?

In my TV, I use DirecTVLA (Latin America) so I need my HTPC system to control my box via IR and capture the decoded signal from the box. I might combine this with regular local TV stations.

For CCTV I most probably use regular cameras since they provide the best selection and value - so I'll need analog CCTV cards. Ethernet or wireless cameras are very convenient (specially in my 100% concrete old house) but today they are expensive and don't provide the same quality.
Many of the cards can be used for both CCTV and HTPC. For many years I used a Hauppauge Tv card for HTPC, then later used it for a security camera. The main difference between the cards though are the type of connections, and which software works with them.

HTPC cards tend to have higher quality audio and video input connections. Some of them include hardware MPEG encoders to take the load off the CPU. If you are going to use Windows Media Center for your HTPC (which I really like), you should get a card that is supported by media center. Changing channels on the Directv box is something that is done by the HTPC software and IR controller. Your HTPC software has a specific list of IR controllers that work with the software, so I would avoid buying a video card that comes with a remote control.

CCTV cards tend to have multiple video inputs (usually BNC connectors), and maybe one or audio input. Some cards have onboard compression that only works with special software.

I would recommend getting a CCTV card with twice as many camera inputs as you think you might need. Set it up in a secure place, then use a channel modulator to send the video from the CCTV computer to your HTPC and to other TVs. That way you can tune into your own channel to keep an eye on the baby (even better, put it a PIP window)