What Is a Video Card?

A video card is an "expansion card" for your computer... If you're serious about video editing a good video card can increase the power of your video editing computer tenfold…!

Find out more below…!

* A video card is also known as a… Video Adapter, Graphics Accelerator Card, Display Adapter, Graphics Card. It is designed to to give your computer a big boost in its ability to process and display video images on your computer monitor.

You install it into your computer by using one of the expansion slots...

Normally the  AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port), PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) or PCI Express slot that are on the motherboard of the computer.

The components on the card itself consist of the...

  • Video BIOS (Basic Input Output System),
  • Physical Memory (Video RAM),
  • GPU (Graphics Processing Unit),
  • RAMDAC (Random Access Memory Digital-to-Analog) and...
  • Video Inputs/Outputs.

Graphics cards help take the processing load off the computer's main processor unit (CPU) and can contain their own memory to take the strain off the computer system's RAM.

"Integrated" (Video Adapters) Versus "Dedicated" (Video Cards)...

Almost all PCs come with an Integrated (on-board) Video  (graphics) Adapter  built into the computer's motherboard.

They are usually referred to as a...

  • Video Controller
  • Graphics Controller

Integrated video (graphics) adapters are powerful but...a  dedicated (add-on) video card  has a lot more power!

Integrated video graphics adapters depend on the computer's processor and RAM to process video images making the computer slow down and work much harder.

A dedicated video (graphics) card has its own  processor and RAM specifically for processing video and doesn't slow down the computer by draining its resources. For high volume video editing you will need all the power you can get! You'll need a dedicated video (graphics) card (or two) installed in your video editing computer.

The Basics... Individual Video Card Components...

Here are some of the basic components that you'll find on a video card...

Video BIOS (Basic Input/Output System)...

BIOS is an abbreviation for Basic Input/Output SystemThe primary function of a computer system's main BIOS is to check for and set up the computer's hardware and load the operating system when you start (boot) your computer.

Most hardware components on a computer can wait for the System  (computer's) BIOS to start them but... The graphics (video) card needs to be active very early during the computer's boot process so that you can see on the monitor how the boot process is progressing. This requires the graphics card to be activated before the computer's operating system begins loading and this is accomplished by the graphics card onboard Video BIOS.

The Video Card's Physical Memory... Video RAM...

Modern graphics cards contain their own processor (GPU) to boost performance levels.

To support the card's processor and also put less strain on the computer's CPU and RAM the video card has it's own Video RAM built-in for the graphics cards GPU to use.

Specialized Processing... The GPU (Graphics Processing Unit)...

A GPU is a powerful specialized logic chip - a dedicated processor optimized for accelerating the computing of graphics data.

The GPU computing power is orders of magnitude higher than that of the computer's main CPU. It frees up the computer's CPU to execute other commands while the video cards GPU itself is handling graphics computations.

The more sophisticated and faster the graphics card's GPU is... the more realistically images are displayed on the computer's monitor.

Converting the Video Signals… RAMDAC (Random Access Memory Digital-to-Analog)...

The RAMDAC chip on the graphics card converts digital signals to analog signals for use by an analog display such as CRT monitors.

All current LCDsPlasma displays and TVs work in the digital domain and do not require a RAMDAC. But... there are still CRT monitors and there are a few remaining  legacy LCD and Plasma displays that feature analog inputs such as:

  • VGA 
  • Component Video
  • SCART etc

The digital displays that still feature analog inputs require a RAMDAC but... they must still reconvert the analog signal back to digital before they can display it... With... I might add...

An unavoidable loss of quality stemming from this process of digital-to-analog-to-digital reconversion.

Connections to Your Display... Video Inputs/Outputs...

The video inputs/outputs are the connection terminals between the graphics card and the computer display.

Some of the most common connections are:

  • VGA
  • DVI
  • HDMI

Three Important Things to Know about Video Cards...

Here are three important tips that you can use to make sure that your video card gives you the best performance possible...

Know Your Card's Power Draw Specs…

* Because of their tremendous processing power...high-end graphics cards tend to demand a great deal of power from the computers power supply. They may be the biggest energy user of any component in your computer.

  • An inadequate supply of power can ruin a graphics card... and will cause problems for your computer as a whole.

If you are installing a new graphics card into your computer you must insure that your power supply can handle the load.

Heat and Cooling...

* Graphics cards use a lot of power, which creates lots of heat.

Heat will damage a graphics card if it is not properly dissipated. Three types of devices are used to cool graphics cards:

  • Heat sinks (most common)
  • Fans (which can also be used with a heat sink)
  • Water blocks (a heat sink that uses water and not air to cool)

Proper computer case cooling is also helpful to keep a graphics card from getting too hot.

Multiple Graphics Cards..

* To increase graphics processing power and use multiple monitors, you can install two graphics cards on most desktop computers.

Just make sure you have a powerful enough power supply installed in your computer to carry the added power load. It will be a lot!

I hope this helps you understand a little more about graphics cards..!

A good one can really increase the power of your editing computer!

Have fun...!  Dan (Editor)

(Top of Page)

  1. Home
  2.  ›
  3. Video Editing Computer
  4.  ›
  5. Video Card