I'm a neuroscientist trying to set up a small platform to make video recordings of people grasping different objects on a table. To realize this, I want to connect four webcams onto one notebook that records all four streams eg. with MATLAB.
Problem: I assume not every notebook with four USB slots is able to handle four video streams at 640x480. Bottlenecks I could imagine are:
1) USB bandwidth
How many real USB controllers should the notebook have? Two should be enough, right?
Can notebook CPUs handle synchronous encoding of four streams nowadays or do I have to aim for a specific CPU (what about hardware-encoding)? I could also just abandon the idea of compressing the video while recording and do it later. Would that solve the problem?
3) HDD bandwidth
As I need lots of memory I cannot afford to use an SSD. Do I have to worry that the HDD is too slow?
I am very flexible on which hardware, operating system, encoding etc. to use. Are the above mentioned things actually an issue or is the task a piece of cake for an average 800$ notebook?
This SuperUser question/answer reports 14Megabit usage of a single USB camera at 640x480, finding an HDD that can handle sustained 76Megabit write speeds may be challenging; however that may be doable.
If you have no further luck here, DIY-home-security-system-type forums could provide another perspective...