What Is a Video Card?

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…!

Definition: Video Card

* 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 it's 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)...

Integrated Video AdapterIntegrated Video Adapter
Video CardVideo Card (add on)

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.

VideoEditingSage – Video Card Tip

*  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)...

Video card BIOS

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. The video BIOS has that same purpose.

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...

Video RAM

Modern graphics cards contain their own processor (GPU) to boost performance levels and their own RAM (called video RAM or VRAM.

The VRAM is used to support the card's processor and also put less strain on the computer's CPU . The card having its own RAM means that the video signal is rendered faster and more reliably than if you were just using the computers RAM. This is very important, especially when you're trying to render your video project as there is a ton of data the process!

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

Video card GPU

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)...

Video card RAMDAC

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 requireRAMDAC. 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...

Video card input/output

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…

Computer power supply

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.

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

VideoEditingSage – video card power supply Tip

* An inadequate supply of power can ruin a graphics card... and will cause problems for your computer as a whole. Always make sure you have enough power for everything you're running!

Heat and Cooling...

Video card cooling methods

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.

VideoEditingSage – Video Card Cooling Tip

* Graphics cards use a lot of power, which creates lots of heat! Make sure the heat is being dissipated and your card is being kept cool and you should have no problems!

Multiple Graphics Cards...

Installing multiple video cards

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

VideoEditingSage – Multiple Video Cards Tip

* Just make sure you have a powerful enough power supply installed in your computer to carry the added power load and that your computer is well cooled! There will be a lot of heat and a lot of power draw!

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)

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