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How To Record Video Game Footage

A question often asked is "How do you record video game footage?". There's a handful of options out there, each with their own pros and cons. If you want to record commentary along with your videos, the process can get even trickier. Here are some common methods.

Console Direct to Digital via Camcorder

This is the RX method of choice.
Our camcorder has the very nice feature of letting us plug the game console directly into the camcorder and recording everything straight on to a mini DV tape. Obviously we can't play a game on the mini LCD screen of the camcorder, so we use a splitter cable to output to a TV at the same time. This is all that's required to record the game itself, making it a very convenient option for recording tournament videos.

So what about the commentary you ask? Any microphone of choice can be used for recording the commentary, depending on what the camcorder supports. Believe it or not, we use our old Hi8 camcorder for recording commentary simply because it does an excellent job at capturing all the sound in a room with no mic hissing or other undesired noises.

As for the camera...this is the kicker: most camcorders that support direct video input are high end. Ours cost around $1500 on Ebay (Panasonic AG-DVC60). It converts an analog signal from the console seamlessly at 720 x 480 resolution, and it records on to miniDV tapes, allowing us to transfer footage over to the computer later on at our leisure.

With its high price, sadly, this solution isn't for everyone.

PROS: Camcorders do an awesome job at digitalizing video through this method. Able to record our commentary in perfect sync with the video.

CONS: Price!

Console Direct to Digital via Capture Card

This is another method we've used. We plug the console directly into a capture card inside the computer that creates a digital file while we play.

The choice of capture card is crucial if you go with this option. Some capture cards are made moreso for people who just want to watch TV on their computer, while others won't even let you see the game at full size while recording...(kinda hard to play a game at a resolution of 320 x 240). You'll probably want to get an internal capture card - one that goes inside the computer into a PCI or PCI-E slot as opposed to a USB capture card.

If you decide to play on the computer monitor, you might be disappointed by a lower frame rate than what you're used to on a TV. Fortunately, you can use a splitter cable just as we did in the first method, to output from the the console to the TV and capture card simultaneously.

When it comes to recording commentary...this can usually be done by connecting a microphone into your computer's soundcard or even the capture card in some cases.

PROS: A very direct way of capturing. Cost-effective. Time-effective (the video file is made while you record).

CONS: If you record live commentary simultaneously, you might find syncing the commentary later on to be a challenge. Not very portable unless you install the capture card in a laptop.

The "point-camera-at-TV" Method

We started off in 2003 recording our videos with an old Hi8 analog camcorder. Digital camcorders were still a bit pricey at the time, so we had to use this thing to get the job done. One of the convenient features of this method was that we could easily record our commentary in perfect sync with the video and audio from the game.

Quality varries greatly with this method, depending on the camcorder. A nice digital camcorder pointed at a high quality screen can produce surprisingly good results.

If you still have the misfortune of using an analog camcorder, you'll need to get a capture card to go with it. You'll lose a good bit of video quality during the analog to digital conversion, so choose your capture card carefully.

PROS: Easiest way to include live commentary in your videos.

CONS: Indirect recording method relies on the quality of the screen you're shooting at. Finding a good way to mount the camcorder.

Record Using VCR

I remember the first time we brought a VCR to a video game tournament for recording matches. The lady at the front counter looked at us strangely and insisted on taking a look at the odd, black, blocky thing we were carrying. To her relief, we were not carrying a bomb - only a 1990's style VCR.

At the time, this was our only option for recording videos through direct input. As with using any other analog device to record video, you'll have to use a capture card to digitalize the video later on. VCR quality is mediocre so use this option only as a backup option.

PROS: Might work well for cases in which you can't bring your PC with you to capture directly to a capture card, but you don't want to hold a camera at the screen. VCRs are easy to find laying around.

CONS: You still need a capture card to digitalize the video eventually. Time-consuming process. Old technology.

Record Using FRAPS (or similar program)

FRAPS is a program used to record video from any game that you play on a computer. The beauty of this is that you're working with 100% digital video. This is obviously the method of choice for PC games, but what about consoles?

FRAPS is also able to record footage from any console emulator. Emulators allow you to play digital copies of the games, (ROMs), on your computer. The legal status of ROMs varries depending on the country you live in and the game in question. ROMs are primarily made for older games on older consoles that are easier to emulate; game companies generally turn a blind eye to ROM trading for outdated games. A rule of thumb many people go by is this: if you bought the game, it's probably ok to play the ROM.

If you decide to use FRAPS with an emulator to record some old school games, you'll probably be quite happy with the video quality and ease of recording.

PROS: High quality. Simple.

CONS: Only works for PC games or older console emulators. You'll need to buy controller adapters to play multiplayer games with the console's original controllers.

Article by: By Sean | May 1, 2009  - RXGAMING.NET

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