Looking for a device to record my PC games

Hi all, I use Fraps to get footage of games on my PC, but I’d like something independant from the pc that is running the game. I thought that was called a DVR, and I’ve even found a few that look good, but most require to be connected to a PC, which kind of defeats the purpose.

Is there a device that takes an HDMI input, encodes the feed and saves it, on an external hard drive for instance ?

I used to run my Amiga output through a VHS machine :slight_smile:

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That’s not very HD ^^

Something like this?


or this

have no experience with either, though.

I certainly won’t deny the existence of dedicated capture appliances, they do exist; but the people who want them tend toward the ‘Pro’ end of the spectrum, with prices to match. Sure, genlock and HD-SDI support and stuff are cool; but they aren’t cool enough to justify the expense. It doesn’t help that the DVR market caters heavily to the demands of TV, and so either wants analog outputs of some flavor, is hobbled by DRM, or is designed to ingest cable/OTA feed directly and pull the MPEG-2 stream from that.

Honestly, I’d be somewhat surprised if you can find anything ‘dedicated’ that’s cheaper than a lowish end computer with one of the PC-attached capture devices connected. It’s slightly shocking how cheap power has gotten (it was surprising enough when P4s were being tossed because it was uneconomic to repair them, now Core2s are getting the treatment…) Plus, the PC will certainly have the greatest versatility in terms of disk configuration and so on.

Out of curiosity, what issues is Fraps giving you that you are looking for hardware?

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I don’t have any issues with a simple Fraps setup, really, except for the performance hit as my PC is average, not a crazy gaming computational beast.

I feel It would be better to have something independent though, for a few reasons :

  • I once had a game really slow down and become unresponsive. While I got the audio recording from a voip conversation with a friend, Fraps stopped recording when the game was having issues.
  • With an independent machine, I could go to a friend’s house, plug it in and start recording with minimal setup.
  • in a broader view, I’ve started “separating” the different uses I have for my computer. Using the same machine for coding, surfing, playing games, video editing, etc. has become unsecure and unmaintainable.

I also like having dedicated machines that do things well, instead of a single computer that does a bit of everything.

I don’t want to pander by quoting @codinghorror, but as the great Jeff Atwood (praise be upon him) would say :

The only truly sublime end-user experiences I’ve had have been with computers that weren’t computers-- specialized devices, such as Tivo, the original Palm Pilot, the Nintendo Wii, and so forth.

“Because They All Suck”, codinghorror.com, February 20, 2007.

Elgato Game Capture HD enables you to record and stream Xbox or PlayStation gameplay and share it with your friends and fans. With advanced hardware H.264 encoding, you can capture in stunning 1080p Full HD quality, while keeping the file size low.

The gameplay is passed through to the TV via HDMI – in pristine quality, without delay. Elgato Game Capture HD doesn’t need a lot of cables or even a power supply to record your game: With direct Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 input, you can use a single cable to connect it to your console.

That seems more than fair. You’ll certainly have better reliability if the recording device’s odds of failure are uncorrelated with the (notoriously excellent) game-related software out there.

To the best of my knowledge, your independent device will still have to be a PC in its own right. On the plus side, the CPU requirements of supporting a capture device(USB or PCIe) are comparatively modest, so you might be able to get away with one of those nice little cheap and compact AMD APU boards, maybe even one of the less crippled Atoms, though those tend to be pretty weak on storage, which isn’t good for a video recording box.

Especially if use at multiple sites is a consideration, you could put together a nice little build based on a variant of the ‘performance miniATX’ stuff that has become popular with the LAN party crowd. That’s a small, portable, case; but with enough PSU for a few HDDs, enough airflow for everything, probably even enough space to mount the capture device internally and bring just the capture and passthrough connectors to the exterior of the case.

(Not strictly related; but also of note if you want portable: the old Motorola Lapdock provides a 1366x768 display, HDMI-fed, touchpad, keyboard, and enough battery to power the lot for multiple hours in a reasonably attractive laptop-like package. Conveniently, the product was largely a failure, and now infests ebay at and sometimes below $50. Guides for using them to control devices that aren’t the one Motorola cellphone they were supposed to work with abound. Dragging around the mouse, keyboard, and monitor has traditionally been a real sore point for portable/secondary PC builds, so you might want to check one of those out if you end up building a freestanding capture box. They aren’t very pleasant as a primary set of peripherals, or at least I’m spoiled; but I have a few that come in very, very, handy for rPi, beaglebone, and assorted similar ‘just need some sort of console without sacrificing large amounts of desk space or shelling out for a non-VGA KVM switch’ applications.)

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Thanks for the Motorola Lapdock tip, I had no idea this existed :slight_smile:

A French magazine recently did an article about the topic, and they (also) decided on the Elgato Game Capture HD, with it’s “time shift” feature that I hadn’t thought about, but now want absolutely ^^.

They added that some Nvidia cards have a feature called “Shadow Play”, that can record the output, and that the newer consoles (xbox and playstation) both have streaming and capture functionalities (of course, you cannot get the footage out of the boxes, and I guess they can forbid recording on any title they want ^^).

Oooh, I like the ‘time shift’ feature. It has all the hallmarks of a good idea: before you mentioned it and I read about it, I wouldn’t even have thought to look for such a feature. After reading about it, I can hardly imagine how it wasn’t always obvious, or why all capture products don’t offer it (assuming you have a decent chunk of RAM, and aren’t at the ragged edge of being too slow, automatically starting to capture, and storing the last X minutes in case the user asks for them is just a dash of extra software, not even any additional hardware needed in the capture device).

No obligation, obviously; but I’d be interested to hear what configuration you end up putting together for your recording.

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