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Sharing your game playing sessions is all the rage nowadays, as the rise of Twitch.TV has shown. Every moment of the day, there are literally millions of people just watching other people play – it’s really quite astonishing. Broadcasting professional tournaments has become such a phenomenon that the creators of Call Of Duty even decided to add a CoD Casting feature to their latest iteration, a special mode that pits you in the role of an all-seeing game commentator.
But most games don’t have these features, and that’s why we need a device like the Roxio Game Capture HD Pro to record and livestream our fun to a breathlessly awaiting audience. To kick off Gaming Month, we’re giving away 5 Roxio Game Capture HD Pro units valued at $750! But first let’s find out what they can do.
Check out the other giveaways we’ve organised this Gaming Month!
Introducing Roxio’s Game Capture HD Pro
This is a small, affordable $149.99 hardware device that hijacks the HDMI signal as it’s sent out from a video source (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3) to your TV or monitor. As previously mentioned, it is able to capture/record video to your computer, or stream it live online. Similar devices include the $179.95 Elgato Game Capture HD; and the $199.99 Hauppage HD-PVR2. So the Roxio Game Capture HD Pro sits nicely at the budget end. Roxio also offers the Game Capture Standard for $99, which however, is only capable of capturing in 480p and doesn’t support live streaming.
The Game Capture HD Pro has an h.264 encoder built right in, so you won’t need any lengthy encoding tasks once it’s actually on the PC – you can get right on with uploading or editing your creation. It’s bus-powered and therefore, requires the USB cable to be plugged in and powered at all times, even if you’re not wanting to use it for video capture or livestreaming. There is no “unpowered pass-through” mode.
The device is supplied with only a USB cable; and to complete the connection from the console to your display, you need to provide an additional HDMI cable yourself. The only thing I found rather obnoxious about its design was the fact that the inputs go in one side and the outputs come out the other, rather than the traditional plethora of sockets on the back. The sleek design and glowing purple LED shout, “Put me somewhere prominent and show me off!” yet the cabling arrangement screams, “Hide me away and careful not to trip over me!”
Setting up the Game Capture HD Pro
Although the quick start manual gives the impression that plugging in the HDMI cables (for an Xbox at least) is the only setup needed, my experience was a little more complicated.
In my home theatre setup, I have an AV surround sound receiver that sits between the devices and the TV. I assumed that placing the Game Capture HD Pro on the output from that would work. Although the Game Capture HD Pro was able to receive video just fine – even from my TiVo box and anything else connected to it – no audio was received or recorded in either live streaming or basic capture mode. I suspect the AV receiver was stripping the audio (since the TV had no need of it); so this certainly isn’t a fault of the Game Capture HD Pro, but just something to bear in mind if you’re setting one up – always connect it directly to the source.
Next, I tried plugging the Game Capture HD Pro between the Xbox 360 and the AV receiver; this resulted in no signal at all initially. After reading up on supported modes, it appears my Xbox set to the highest quality i.e. 1080p at 60 fps, while the Game Capture HD Pro only supports 1080i at 60 fps, or 1080p at 30fps. It turns out that my AV receiver had actually been downgrading the signal, which is why I was getting at least video before. Suffice to say, switching the Xbox to 1080i resolution did work and since then, I’ve had no problems.
It should also be noted that connection a Playstation 3 is only possible over component cables (YPbPr), not HDMI, due to the signal from the Playstation being HDCP protected (a DRM requirement of having a BluRay drive). Never fear though, as component cables are also capable of full HD quality. A nice upshot of the device also having component input is that if you have an older HD device which doesn’t have an HDMI connection, you can run it through the Roxio Game Capture HD Pro and get HDMI out. This is particularly useful if you’d like to connect it to a desktop monitor.
Roxio Game Capture Software
The capture software included – which requires a supplied CD key to install – is barebones functional at best. There are two modes of operation – capture, and livestream (which we’ll get to later) – unfortunately, you cannot do both at the same time.
Assuming the video preview is working fine, capturing clips is a one-click affair: hit the capture button. I had no trouble capturing full quality HD on a fairly modern PC. In terms of file size, you’re looking at around 100 MB per minute at top end, so a 10-minute game will result in a 1 GB video. Here’s a sample recording:
Capture mode is severely limited by the inability to add either webcam overlay or audio commentary; you can only add audio commentary through post-production edits. Though the software did initially work on my Windows 8 64-bit machine, it mysteriously stopped working a week later and just decided to crash immediately upon launch, with no explanation. Reinstalling the software from the Roxio disc didn’t solve the issue, so I completed this review on a fresh Windows 7 PC, where I’m happy to report everything went smoothly. I do test a lot of software though, so it’s possible a conflict was introduced into Windows 8 somewhere. But as yet, I’ve been unable to figure out the cause. The hardware itself was functioning fine (confirmed with XSplit – see the bit on third party apps below).
Another small bug I found at one point: the splash screen told me to click Help->Updates to download the 1.1 software patch, but clicking that resulted in a constant “You’re not connected to the internet” error. Of course, there was nothing wrong with my Internet connection, so perhaps Roxio’s update server was actually down. After manually downloading the update from the website (for which you need to be registered), I was informed I was already at the latest version and there was no need to update. Sigh.
Editing captured video
Basic editing software – VideoWave – is also supplied. As someone who’s used to iMovie workflows – I found the interface somewhat frustrating, but it is certainly a competent video editor for splicing together lots of clips, with transitions, effects and text. One feature you might really appreciate is the ability to add voice changing commentary to your videos – each recorded clip can only have one commentary track though. Adding effects – video or text – is simple enough too; just drag and drop the named effect while the preview window is at the correct start point and it’ll be applied with a default length.
On a 60 mbps down/5mbps up connection (supposedly), I had no initial trouble streaming in 720p HD to Twitch – it used about 1.5 mbps.
During livestream mode, it’s possible to add an audio device for live commentary, and I found a USB headset to be a better option than my podcasting mic. You will need to mute the games preview audio too, or you end up with a delayed echo effect from the TV. Finally, you cannot do picture-in-picture for webcam on a live broadcast either.
Third Party Apps
Though the Roxio software is limited, there are third party apps available that handle game streaming much better. There are two popular apps used for this purpose: XSplit and FFSplit. The bad news is that FFSplit doesn’t work with the Roxio Game Capture HD Pro; however, some people have used it by capturing the preview area of the screen. I don’t really think of this as a viable solution though, especially given the laggy preview. The good news is that XSplit works, but not the free version. In order to use the direct hardware interface, you need at least a personal licence which costs around $5 per month. The interface and feature set of XSplit is amazing compared to the Roxio supplied software; you can overlay your web camera (or any number of other sources) and even set up scenes to cycle through, like a professional broadcasting solution. Here’s a demo video of recording from the Game Capture HD Pro into XSplit:
The hardware is superb; for the most part plug-and-play, and the quality is stunning. It’s shame it can’t be used with the free (and superior) FFSplit, but I’m happy to use XSplit broadcaster instead. In general, the software supplied by Roxio feels a little buggy and somewhat lacklustre for live streaming. If your aim is to capture moments of gameplay and splice them together with a few effects, I think you’ll be more than pleased.
I also have some long term concerns about the device. It’s been announced that livestreaming and sharing capabilities are to built into the PlayStation 4, which might render devices like the Game Capture HD Pro somewhat redundant. And we don’t yet know what capabilities the Xbox “720” or whatever it’s going to be called, will have. However, until that point – Roxio’s $149.99 Game Capture HD Pro represents tremendous value for money.
Buy it, for recording Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 gameplay.
We’re giving away 5 Roxio Game Capture HD Pro’s. Here’s how to be in the running to win one.