Capturing video over HDMI

Reader B.L. seeks a way to capture the menu from his new digital camera via the camera’s HDMI port. He writes:

I want screenshots of the menu system of a camera. I usually take the video out of the camera into a device that has a component video input. The video then shows up in a window on my Mac, and I can simply do a screen capture of it. It’s much easier than trying to photograph the screens. However, all of the new cameras have HDMI output, so I’m wondering if there’s some kind of gizmo that will accept HDMI input instead of composite, and thus give me a better resulting image.

There is such a gizmo. It’s Blackmagic Design’s $199 Intensity Pro PCI Express card. This card is compatible with both Windows and Intel Macs with PCI Express card slots—meaning a Mac Pro. In addition to being able to capture DSLR menus, pictures, and videos from cameras with an HDMI port, it can import uncompressed video from HDV camcorders. And it captures not only digital video via its HDMI input, but also analog component video and S-video. Supported HD formats include 1080i50, 1080i59.94, 720p50 and 720p59.94.

If the Mac Pro requirement wasn’t enough to put you off, bear in mind that in order to capture this uncompressed video you’re going to need a fast disk array—uncompressed HD video consumes massive amounts of storage and you need storage fast and capacious enough to deal with it. Also, this card won’t capture from devices that use HDCP (High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection), so you can forget about using it with a Blu-Ray player or HD set-top box.

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