Capturing game play to share with the world is truly becoming a phenomenon. Everyone wants to record their best Call of Duty match, or even stream their tournaments in Injustice. We here at ZTGD are also in love with recording videos for our users to view of us being generally terrible at video games. We have been using Hauppage devices in the office for a couple years now with pretty excellent results, but the lack of HDMI inputs is starting to be a real drag. With the Hauppage HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition Plus (longest. title. ever) all of our dreams have come true. We can now record in crisp 1080p from HDMI with pass through. That is of course if we are recording anything other than PS3.
Let’s get this out of the way upfront. The PS3 uses HDCP protection, which essentially means that trying to capture footage through a device such as the HD PVR cannot be done. This is a copyright issue, and one that cannot be avoided. Thankfully this device comes with the necessary component cables specifically for PS3. What this also means is that I could only capture up to 1080i for anything PlayStation related.
Capturing anything else through HDMI is a snap, and gorgeous to boot. I tested out PC and 360, as well as pushing the possibilities of SD streaming with a little N64 action (Blast Corps still looks blurry), but everything worked, and outside of a loss of sound in the pass through on SD recordings, it all turned out fantastic. The only device I could not get to work was an off-market two-in-one machine I had that plays SNES and NES titles, but I can live with that. The real treat is just how customizable the HD PVR is for videophiles.
1080p captures are limited to 30 FPS, but anything lower and I could snag 60 if I was willing to deal with the file size. The software bundled with the HD PVR 2 is ArcSoft’s Showbiz, which can be clunky at times. It gets the job done, but seeing it stutter on my blazing rig is disheartening. The final product is still gorgeous, and the options are insane. I could customize just about anything from delay time, to the encoding of the audio on-the-fly. By bringing up the settings menu, I can tweak just about any facet of the broadcast, either on the pass through, or the capture. The same goes for outputting the final file. While only AVI, MPG and WMV are available, the options for bit rate and max frame rate are appreciated.
When it comes to adding our own commentary to the footage it becomes a little hectic. There is no easy solution. I ended up running two programs; one to capture the game play, and another to capture audio. Then I had to mix them together in a separate program (Showbiz is just too clunky) and render the video again. It is an extra step that could be avoided with better software, but as far as I can tell no one has quite mastered the technique quite yet.
One new feature for this particular edition is the ability to now capture 5.1 audio. The device has an optical input on the back that can be directly plugged into. Personally I have never found this necessary seeing as I dub commentary over gameplay, but I can see where it would come in handy for capturing the most complete vision of a game.
The new Plus edition also comes with a streaming option for players to share their game play live. It offers up three default settings: low, medium and high, and worked fairly well in my tests. My broadband upstream isn’t the greatest, but I was able to get by on medium with little artifacting. Sadly, there is no option for commentary, either on streaming or capturing, so for those looking to broadcast their game play with voice over, this may not be the best option. It is also worth noting that free software Open Broadcaster does not support this device properly yet.
What I have always loved about Hauppage’s HD PVRs is that all the processing is done within the box itself. What this means is if you want to snag the capture to a laptop, that is entirely possible. The system resources required are not that demanding. Hard drive space becomes an issue though when capturing multiple files at 1080p, so make sure to have plenty of space. Another really cool feature added to the HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition is the manual record button on the actual device. I could switch over to my pass through feed, and just tap the button on the unit to begin recording instead of dealing with the software. This is great for those that are not near the PC when they begin recording, plus it is ultra convenient.
Those using a MAC should also take note that Showbiz is only for Windows PCs. The HD PVR supports MAC use, but through a separate program. I definitely recommend checking out HDPVRCapture as the best source for MAC users. There is a free trial, but to own the full version, money is involved.
The box includes everything you need to get setup, including the component cables for PS3 (and any other SD/HD device that doesn’t use HDMI) as well as the disc to install drivers and Showbiz. For around $160 you can grab a great capture device that will deliver the best quality outside of modifying your PC. I have been extremely happy with the two Hauppage devices we have been using the past two years, and it will likely remain the default capture device for the site. If you want to snag your best game play moments with little fuss, this device is definitely the one to get. Now if they could just master commentary I would be ecstatic.
Review copy of hardware provided by publisher.