Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been documenting my life as it has become with the addition of the marvelous Elgato Game Capture HD. My first post in the series was all about the decision that led to me getting the Game Capture HD. My second post highlighted my experience using the device to capture from the PlayStation 2 and GameCube. And here, in my third and final post on the matter, I will be discussing my experience using the Elgato Game Capture HD to record from PC, and by that I mean my laptop.
My laptop, which I purchased a few years ago, is nothing special. It’s a Toshiba Satellite AMD A8 something or other. It has a decent sized memory, a plain AMD Radeon graphics card, and a number of USB ports and one HDMI port. It came with Windows 7, and I’ve since upgraded to Windows 10. It’s intended use was just as a regular household PC, something for me to use for keeping track of house stuff, finances, and to use for blogging. I never planned on using it for gaming. I simply didn’t think it was powerful enough to handle games.
When I joined Steam in late 2012, my laptop’s purpose almost immediately flip-flopped. Much to my wondering eyes, my laptop dealt with games quite well. In fact, better than I could have hoped. From small, simple games like LIMBO to large, complex games like Saints Row IV, my basic laptop has risen to the challenge. So naturally, when I first considered getting a game capture device, I figured it had to be capable of recording directly from my laptop, because my ever-growing (and somewhat ignored) Steam library demanded it. Just as it did with capturing from older consoles, the Elgato Game Capture HD fit the bill. At least it did…on paper. As I came to discover, the path towards PC recording with the Elgato proved to be littered with obstacles.
A quick note: my experience here is with playing on and recording from the same PC, NOT recording from one PC to another PC, which I suspect would be quite similar to recording from a console.
The setup for recording from a PC to the same is actually quite simple. (Full details are on Elgato’s site.) You run the HDMI cable from your PC to the HDMI input on the Elgato, then connect the other end of the Elgato’s USB cord to a USB port on your computer. Then head to your monitor’s display settings and select the setting that duplicates the display. When you open up the Elgato’s software, make sure that the capture device is set to record from “Other” (just like with retro consoles). If all went well, then eventually you’ll see the software display infinite screens. It takes a few moments to open, and once it does, there will be a delay between your actual screen and what the software picks up. So if you move your mouse around on the screen, you’ll see the same thing happen with a few-second delay in the Elgato software. From there, simply hit the “Capture” button, open up the game you want to play, and proceed. Once done, simply close the game, click off the “Capture” buttons, let the video process, and then go forth and edit.
For me, this setup worked…sort of. You see, when I followed this process to the letter, I ended up capturing only video and not sound, which was a problem. Thankfully, Elgato’s site and the Internet had a solution. The in-depth instructions can be found here, but basically I had to adjust my laptop’s audio settings to “Stereo Mix,” which enabled the Elgato to record any audio coming from the PC, as well as allowed the laptop to play sound through its own speakers. Once done, it was a matter of going back into the Elgato program and…success! I managed to capture a game video direct from my PC with sound.
But the road didn’t stop there. Next it was a matter of figuring out how to record gameplay audio and live commentary. This was a whole other beast of a problem, and one that, for a time, I just couldn’t seem to solve. I spent the better part of a day just going back and forth between the Elgato and my audio settings. When I got things set up to record game audio properly, it didn’t pick up my commentary. And when I got things working with the audio commentary, it didn’t pick up the game. Remember that story I told about my laptop not being a gaming laptop? Well, a quick lesson on graphics cards reinforced the fact that the basic card in my laptop simply didn’t have the capacity to handle what I asked of it – to record internal gameplay sounds while also recording from an external headset microphone, and also send game audio to the headset.
At least it couldn’t through the HDMI port.
As I already discussed, the extremely nice thing about the Elgato is that it comes with a swanky component adapter. On that component adapter are red and white audio outputs. Thanks this helpful video I learned that, when recording from and to a PC that can’t stream audio through HDMI, the Elgato allows users to capture video via HDMi but audio via analog means. After digging through our big box of cables, I found exactly what I needed: a RCA audio to 3.5mm stereo jack adapter…
…and a 3.5mm stereo jack splitter.
The results are not pretty, but here’s the setup:
- Connect the Elgato to the PC twice – HDMI-out on the PC to HDMI-in on the Elgato, then USB-out on the Egato to USB-in on the PC.
- Plug in the component adapter to the Elgato.
- Plug in RCA audio to 3.5mm stereo jack adapter to the red and white connectors on the Elgato component adapter.
- Plug 3.5mm stereo jack splitter into headphone-out on the PC.
- Into one end of stereo splitter, plug in headset mic.
- My headset mic allows for connections via stereo and USB, and I also had to plug in the USB connection for commentary
- Into the other end of the stereo splitter, plug in the RCA audio adapter.
- Back in the Elgato software settings, check that the video input is set to HDMI and the audio input is set to Analog.
- In the Live Commentary section, check that headset mic is selected.
With these steps in place, I was indeed able to record game clips with game audio and live commentary! However, I’m still very much in the testing phase with this. Recently, I had to change the audio settings on my laptop for an unrelated project, and having to go back and reset them for the Elgato and PC recording was a pain. Also, while the setup works, it’s not very reliable (again, I’m pretty sure this is due to my vanilla graphics card). Not to mention that the mess of cables is rather unsightly and is a dangerous tripping hazard! The good people of At the Buzzer recommended a program called Bandicam, which, as I’ve been playing around with it, is a relatively hassle-free way to record anything from your desktop, including games. I like it, but I have to admit that stubborn me wants to make the Elgato submit to my every whim!
Well, we’ll see how things go.