Friday, August 30, 2013

Q&A All About HD Video Capture!

I'm going to do another brief questions and answers post. And because I still get asked quite often about HD video capturing—including what my setup and equipment are and my process, I'm going to dedicate this Q&A exclusively to HD video capturing!

Q: What are your current video game capturing setup and equipment? 

A: I have owned and used the same setup and equipment since I started uploading HD videos in YouTube, way back in 2008-2009. So right off the bat I won't say it's the absolute best setup and equipment, but it is still incredibly high quality and efficient till this day.

For capturing hardware, I use a Hauppauge HD-PVR. Not the HD-PVR 2, as there's really no difference between the two besides the added benefit of HDMI (which is mostly worthless to my videos anyways, as most of them are on PS3 and it has HCDP aka "copy protection").

HD-PVR Front


 I also think owning the original HD-PVR opens up a lot more options for me. For instance, I can configure the HD-PVR so it can capture all my videos using a simple DOS command prompt. If you have ever used the supplied Total Media software to capture, you'll know how much of a strain it can put on your CPU. Capturing through the command prompt uses absolutely zero percent CPU use. Remember to hook up your component out to your HDTV of course, unless you want to do blind capturing. If you want to learn how to do this and have the first generation HD-PVR, e-mail me!

The HD-PVR is connected to a laptop with a dual boot of Windows 7 and Mac OS X.

For software, I use literally too much, but then again using that many allows me full control of everything. But the most often I use are the three of: DGAVCDec for demuxing the .ts output file; AVISynth to enable the opening of the video file in VirtualDub and for basic trimming/fades; and VirtualDub for filtering and encoding/compressing.  For more advanced videos where serious editing, filtering and joining is required, I will additionally use Sony Vegas Pro.

Sometimes I will also use iMovie and Final Cut Pro X, depending on how fancy I need things to be.

Q: What are your steps to creation of a video for YouTube? 

A: Here is a brief summary of what I usually do >
  1. Capture footage using HD-PVR through rcTVCap (DOS based capture).
  2. Demux the .ts output file in DGAVCDec.
  3. Edit my AVISynth script file, add a fade in/fadeout if necessary, add trim points if necessary.
  4. Open the video file using the AVISynth script file in VirtualDub.
  5. Apply my filter and compression presets for all my HD videos in VirtualDub.
  6. Encode/compress the video using x264 codec (H.264). 
 If you don't understand that, then it's perfectly fine. It's quite advanced!

Those steps however are only the case if the video in question doesn't require serious editing and filtering, in which the steps will be a little different. I usually will just encode the video file in VirtualDub as uncompressed and edit it further in Sony Vegas Pro.

Q: What would your future video game capturing setup and equipment be, or what do you suggest would be the best one out there? 

A: If you truly want the best; meaning the best quality, the best audio and the best efficiency, your only option would be capturing uncompressed through HDMI and perhaps optic audio.

At the moment, there are quite few video capture devices on the market that can capture uncompressed and these are usually ones that are tailored to the professional market. The only ones that springs to my mind are any of BlackMagic's Intensity products.

So why does capturing uncompressed matter anyways? It matters because when you capture uncompressed, you are actually capturing the footage in its pristine, pure, natural state, with zero added compression of any kind. That means ZERO compression pixelation! More popular consumer capture devices (HD-PVR, Elgato, etc.) will force your videos to all go through its hardware encoder/compressor (usually H.264).

H.264 is an awesome codec and should be used on every video, but it's not so awesome when you want to use it for editing and have to recompress again. Recompressing H.264 with H.264 over again can degrade your video quality.

On the other hand, if you upload your captured videos the instant it comes out and never need to edit it, then a H.264 type capture device would be an easier, more affordable and better option. Then again, you may not care too much about the quailty either.

After you captured your uncompressed footage, you can then bring it into a video editor, edit it and then encode/compress it to H.264 at a HIGH bitrate. This results in the most minimal amount of quality loss and compression pixelation possible. Don't try uploading uncompressed videos directly or even use them for long term storage, as they can take up as much as 180MB per second!

Another added benefit of using uncompressed videos is that video editors tend to work much better with uncompressed videos than compressed video. If you don't believe me, just try to edit a H.264 video file then an uncompressed video file in Sony Vegas Pro.

The biggest downside to capturing uncompressed is the significant demand on your PC/Mac hardware. If you don't have either a huge SSD or hard drive RAID setup, don't even bother.

To answer the actual first part of the question—yes, I will change to an Intensity Shuttle Thunderbolt soon, along with a new desktop computer to meet the demanding needs of capturing uncompressed.

Q: Any thoughts on what you believe is the best video editing software? 

A: I have always liked and recommend Sony Vegas Pro or Sony Vegas Movie Studio to others. It's timeline based editor and interface is one of the best and easiest to use.

I also enjoy using iMovie and Final Cut Pro X on Mac at times, when I need to do some more cool looking visual effects and transitions (Sony Vegas doesn't come with a whole lot of awesome, jaw dropping visual effects and transitions).

Like I mentioned earlier, if you just want basic editing including trimming and light filtering, AVISynth and VirtualDub together makes an awesome combination.

Q: HDMI vs Component. Is there really a quality difference? 

A: Nah, not really. I tested both and at most you'll gain a 5% quality increase with HDMI compared to component, most being HDMI being a tiny bit sharper. Another benefit of HDMI is that its completely digital instead of analog like component. So if you live in an area that has a lot of analog interference, HDMI can completely get rid of these for you.

The only prominant reason to have the need to use HDMI is if you plan on capturing in 1080p. Then again, most PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U games today aren't even 1080p native. What you are essentially doing is forcing the game to stretch to that resolution.

Capturing through HDMI with the PS3 also doesn't work because of the so-called HDCP copy protection. There are ways around this, but they usually involve converting the HDMI signal to component. What's the point?

Q: Any tips for HD video capturing? 

A: I have lots of tricks and tips in this post I made in July!


  1. Hey thanks for this write up, it really helped me decide what to get and what to use for recording gameplay for YouTube. I want to be as good as you are one day lol!

  2. Good post!