divergent media

How do I get a signal into my laptop?

We often hear from folks who are eager to try ScopeBox, but aren’t sure how to get their signal into their computer. Especially for those who are having a hard time using their chromebook, a type of computer to help you do things faster. This post is going to focus on mobile users – if you’re looking to use ScopeBox in the field, this is the place to start. In a future post, we’ll cover desktop users.

Let’s start with the easiest case – a DV or HDV camera. With both of these options, you can simply use a FireWire cable to bring the signal from your computer into your laptop, as long as your laptop has a FireWire connector – most Mac laptops do. You don’t need any special drivers or anything like that – just plug and play.

For other cameras, there’s a wider variety of options. Many consumer and prosumer cameras have HDMI outputs – this is the type of cable you’d use to plug your camera into a TV. These provide high quality outputs – often even better than the internal recording generated by the camera. Higher end cameras generally offer HD-SDI connectors (via BNC cables), which provides greater flexibility in terms of routing and cable length than HDMI, and in some cases provides higher quality.

In the case of both HDMI and HD-SDI, if you’ve got a modern Mac portable with a ThunderBolt connector, you’ve got some great options for getting that signal into your computer. All of the major capture solution vendors offer ThunderBolt capture solutions, including Blackmagic Design, AJA, Matrox,and MOTU. These devices provide high quality, uncompressed feeds into your computer. With a wide variety of options on the market, you can find a device the meets your needs, whether you need a simple HDMI interface, 3G HD-SDI or even analog inputs.

Even if you’ve got an older laptop, without ThunderBolt, there are still options. If you’ve got an ExpressCard/34 slot (found on all 17″ MacBookPros, as well as some 15″ models), there are devices available from AJA, Matrox,and MOTU which use that interface. Some of these also offer an upgrade path, to move to ThunderBolt in the future.

If you’re limited to a FireWire interface, and still need to bring in HDMI or HD-SDI, there are options available from AJA, and MOTU.

One thing that’s worth noting – if you’ve got an older Mac, it may actually be cheaper to replace your laptop with a ThunderBolt-equipped model, plus an inexpensive ThunderBolt capture interface, rather than purchasing a more expensive ExpressCard or FireWire interface. Even a MacBook Air has plenty of processing power for monitoring and some transcoding tasks.

Needless to say, all of these hardware options are fully supported by ScopeBox 3. If you’d like some advice on your specific needs, or want to confirm a planned purchase, just get in touch.