Gaming Video Capture

There are lots of people, including me, that post gaming videos on YouTube. The trick is to figure out how to capture the video. On a PC, we can use utilities like FRAPS to capture frames and make a movie from it. This works, but burdens the system a bit while you are playing the game. Another option is a capture device to capture HDMI or component video (we’re talking HD here, none of that low-res SVideo or composite junk). An internal card, like the Blackmagic Intensity Pro, can capture either HDMI or component and has a pass-through so you can play the game with no delay (capture devices always add a delay because they are busy compressing your video), but the HDMI capture is not useful for PS3 (or Blu-Ray players) because of HDCP encryption.

I chose an external USB device, the Hauppauge HD PVR 1212, which has component input and pass-through, as well as optical audio in and out, SVideo and composite inputs, and front and back analog audio inputs and pass-through). It captures straight to H.264 compressed video with 3 different wrappers, one that plays well on XBox 360, one for PS3, and one for general video editing. The software can apparently make DVDs that will play back HD in Blu-Ray players, though I haven’t tried that. The unit itself is a plastic rectangle a little bigger and taller than a Mac Mini and it has funky blue “bling” lights that glow when recording (can be turned off). The software is minimal, but seems quite functional, and that’s what matters. The great thing is that the hardware does the compression into H.264, so you can use a laptop or other weak PC to control the unit. I’m using an Atom&Ion-based “Nettop” computer to record the files from the HD PVR and it works great.

I also discovered that my NVIDIA GTX 280 card in my PC has component video output, so the HD PVR can record 1080i from my PC. I am uploading videos as I write this showing the results. They aren’t great, because of the analog capture and interlacing, but they seem pretty good and it didn’t slow my PC like FRAPS would have. I do think the captures from the PS3 look better than from the PC, perhaps because of better cabling or perhaps because the lettering and such on the PS3 are made for TV viewing so are bigger and smoother, while PC text is small and sharp on a digital monitor, but not as great on analog component video.

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