Creating and cutting videos can be extremely time consuming. For those who have been doing it for years, it's like second nature -- all of your advanced equipment ready to go, and all you have to do is press a button to have live audio and video running at a moment's notice.
But for everyone else, breaking into the streaming game can be daunting. The barriers of entry may include a higher-quality PC and knowledge of basic video and audio software, as well as video compression parameters. After testing out the Elgato Game Capture HD however, I can honestly say that a lot of the work has been cut out completely.
Product: Elgato Game Capture HD
Input: USB, HDMI, Component
After opening the box for the Elgato Game Capture HD, I was really surprised at how minimal the presentation was. The unit itself is tiny (2.9 x 1.0 x 4.3 in, with a weight of 5 oz), and extremely portable. The entire package includes the unit, a quick reference guide, a USB cable, an HDMI cable, a PS3 cable, and a component adapter.
Now, I don't want to sound like an advertisement, but I was literally up and running within five minutes. All you have to do is plug an HDMI cable (or AV for PS3 -- more on that later) from the source into the "in" part of the unit, plug another HDMI cable from the TV into "out," and hook up the unit to a PC via USB. That's it. There's no giant bulky power source, since USB handles power and data. Once you've downloaded and run the software, the unit automatically configures itself and starts previewing your captured video for up to 1080p recordings, in addition to support for 720p, 576p, 576i, 480p, 480i, 288p, and 240p.
But it also does a whole lot more than show your game in a preview pane, as the last 10 minutes of your session are automatically captured and cached from the moment you start running it. This is especially useful for competitive gamers who need to capture that perfect kill or amazing escape, but weren't actively recording at the time.
Once you've captured your raw footage, you can either keep it uncompressed, or have the program automatically compress the video into a codec of your choice. All of the sample videos at the bottom of this review were compressed with the default settings, so you can see the results for yourself. The speed is extremely fast, and from the moment I hit "stop" it only took me a few minutes to put a short clip onto YouTube, including compression and upload times.
The actual software suite is very easy to read, with huge buttons and a blue/black user interface that's easy on the eyes. All of the video's parameters (recording and compression) can be set through the options menu, and all of the pertinent info is readily available on the main menu. To record, you just hit a big red button, and to stop, you hit it again. Cutting and editing video can also be done in-house through the edit tab, but it's fairly rudimentary and will only suit less experienced content creators.
Live commentary is supported, and like setting the unit up in general, took no time at all to get sorted. You can have the game's audio automatically lowered when talking as well, which is a great touch for those who are new at creating Let's Plays and don't want to mix audio. If you're not keen on letting the software decide for you, you can easily turn off all these options and just edit it in post-production.
Streaming is possible with the device, and the software makes it pretty simple to utilize. You can stream to Twitch with live commentary, as well as use XSplit, which is fully supported. There are also easy buttons to share on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter (as well as via email, iOS, Apple TV, and Windows Movie Maker).
The 360 is the probably the easiest device to connect, and recording is practically a plug-and-play affair. Because the PS3's HDMI port is encrypted, you'll have to go another route with the included AV cable, but don't worry -- it still captures in HD at 1080i if the game supports it. The Elgato also works on other devices like the Wii U, which instantly connect just like the Xbox 360, and older devices are supported by way of the packed-in component cable.
If you're thinking about getting into the video side of the gaming world and hate all of the technical aspects that come along with it, the Elgato Game Capture HD is a really solid option. Between the ease of use of the software and the simplicity of the device, pretty much anyone can record a bit of gameplay and have it up for the world to see.