The rise of YouTube and other online video sites has allowed gamers to share their experiences as never before. While actually playing games is fun, it turns out that watching other people play can be a hoot, too. And it can be informative. Would a complex game like Kerbal Space Program be as popular as it is without YouTube channels devoted to explaining it? Probably not.
While the new community of gaming commenters and reviewers has flourished, it has hardly been inclusive. PC gamers can simply download an app to record their sessions, but console gamers have fewer options. Capturing gameplay is still possible, however, if you’re willing to spend a few bucks.
External Game Capture Boxes
In most cases the only way to capture gameplay from a console is to use an external game capture box. This is a small piece of recording hardware, like Roxio’s Game Capture HD Pro, which is connected to your console via HDMI or composite cables.
Game capture boxes, though they look simple, are actually a bit complex because their capabilities vary wildly. There are several specifications you must pay attention to, which I’ll list one by one.
First is capture resolution. Inexpensive boxes will generally manage just 720p or 1080i, and a few can only handle standard definition formats. You’ll want something that can at least manage full 720p (1280×720 resolution), and full 1080p (1920×1080) is ideal.
However, there’s more to quality than resolution. You should also look up the video capture box’s recording bit rate, which is the amount of video data it can record per second. Some boxes manage bitrates in the low teens, which can introduce some artifacts and blurring to an image. A high-end box like the Elgato Game Capture HD, meanwhile, can record 30 Mbps or more. Do keep in mind, however, that increasing bitrate increases the size of the output video file, so plan your storage situation accordingly.
While you’re looking at bit rate, also check format, as most boxes will record to just a few options (.mp4 seems to be the most common).
The last important specification to check is audio format. Some boxes only record stereo, while others can record 5.1 audio. Whether or not this is important will depend on your needs; gamers who just want to show off their kills in Call Of Duty may not care, but those who intend to do in-depth “Let’s Play” videos will probably want the best audio possible.
With specifications handled, there’s just one final piece of the puzzle to consider; managing your recordings. Most video capture boxes will need to be plugged into a PC via USB while you’re gaming, and will automatically record to your computer via bundled software. There are alternatives, however; the AverMedia Game Capture HD II, for example, can record to a connected hard drive, and recordings can then be edited without a PC via a built-in editing app.
Internal Game Capture (With Next-Gen Consoles)
While external game capture boxes work with all consoles, the next-gen consoles will provide an alternative; Twitch.TV support.
Twitch.TV, or just Twitch for short, is a streaming video website that targets gamers exclusively. The site has always worked closely with game developers and now, with the latest consoles, it is also working closely with hardware manufacturers. Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will support the service.
What this means is that players will be able to send video directly to Twitch using share functionality found in the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The exact quality of the video, in terms of resolution, frame rate and bit rate, is not known at publishing time, but the convenience of this feature will no doubt make it popular with those who do live streams of console games.
So far, both console manufacturers and Twitch haven’t said anything about whether the app will allow for recording. But even if it does not (which actually seems likely, given the size of HD video files) users can simply capture their own live stream on a computer for later use using any PC video capture utility, and Twitch offers archiving of its own.
This is great news for those who want to record from next-generation consoles, as it will reduce the cost of recording and make live streams easier to operate. Unfortunately, it does not appear that there are any plans to extend this support to older consoles, which lack the multi-tasking capability the Twitch app requires.
Capturing video from a console isn’t particularly hard. Just plug it in to the capture box, then plug your TV and computer (if necessary) for recording. That’s all there is to it. The hard part is being entertaining enough to get YouTubers and Twitch viewers to watch you, and I’m afraid I can’t help you with that!