Almost year ago I stepped into the capture card ring with the Elgato Game Capture HD. It was a crazy idea, frankly…when in the world was I going to find time to make game videos?! But with UWG’s YouTube channel just finding its legs, it seemed like the perfect time to get in on the ground floor, to experiment and see what I could accomplish with the limited time that I had. Since then, I’m happy to report that the year has not been a complete wash! The good news is that the Elgato is making it possible for me to keep up my video contributions into the foreseeable future. The bad news is…well, is there any bad news to report? Read on to find out!
Last October, I reported on my new experiences using the Elgato Game Capture HD (GCHD) to capture media from three systems: the PlayStation 2, the GameCube, and the PC. In fact, the whole reason I decided to go with the GCHD over a different Elgato model or another brand entirely was because promised to be able to capture from systems old, really old, and new. And the GCHD came through with flying colors when it came to capturing from the PS2 and GameCube. The resulting video was crisp and clear without any hiccups, audio wobbles, or missing footage. (I have had resolution issues with my latest recordings using the Game Cube, however, that’s a rendering problem and not related to the GCHD’s output.) The only hassle in using the GCHD at first was that I had to pick up some composite splitters in order to capture video from the non-HD/non-HDMI TV that I was using at the time. Since then, I’ve switched to a newer TV that has HDMI hook-ups, making the connection process simpler (as it was meant to be). If you want to capture game video from old consoles, I’d highly recommend the GCHD.
When our PS2 died, I started using the GCHD to record from the PlayStation 3, and I have to say that it’s been fantastic. You have to go through a couple extra steps and use another special cable (included, not purchased separately…thank you for that, Elgato!) in order to get the GCHD working with the PS3, but the results are worth it. Outside of a couple minor stumbling blocks (that I’ll discuss momentarily), I couldn’t ask for more. The video looks great, the commentary sounds good, and it all comes together beautifully in raw form that’s easy to edit. The same goes for the Wii U to which the GCHD is now connected. (Got a new project in the works; look for it later this year!) The video and audio output has been nearly flawless.
Bringing it all together is Elgato’s game capture software, which is easy to use and is regularly updated. The layout is sleek, simple, and very legible. At the bottom of the screen are the recording features; and when you set up to stream, that feature now shows up as well. On the right you have your settings, from settings in which you tell the program from what console you’re recording and what resolution you’d like to record at, to volume, streaming, and uploading settings. Since the software receives regular updates, new features occasionally show up, like Elgato Sound Capture, which just appeared during my most recent update (or maybe I only just noticed it…) where you can add chat and music to your PC streams. And in addition to capturing, the software features a basic video editor. Though it only allows you to cut, trim, and trash video, I’ve found it very useful in making “first cuts” of raw videos before exporting them to video editing software, which I then only have to use for effects and clean-up.
Now it might sound like the GCHD and I are a match made in heaven, but the road between us has not been without a few bumps. I have had a couple instances of sound and video loss. Nothing major, but at the times I really could have sworn that the GCHD was working perfectly, so I’m not sure of the causes. I’ve also found a challenge in obtaining a good balance between game audio levels and commentary levels. It’s not like once you find a good balance for one system/TV that those same setting will work for another system/TV. More than once I’ve found myself re-recording something because either the game or my voice was too loud or too soft. And even though I’ve now written down what I think are the proper settings for whatever I’m recording, they don’t always hold fast. Really, it’s all very much a work in progress!
Another hiccup I faced was using the GCHD to record from PC. Yes, Elgato has wonderful instructions on this process using a modern TV, but I wasn’t using one early on, so I went through the rigamarole of trying to connect things properly using a million or so extra cables. I managed to get it working once, and I was like huzzah! and stuff. But then I had to disconnect the setup in order to do some console recording. When It came time to work on my Sam & Max Hit the Road series, despite the fact that I had written out all the connection instructions, I simply had no luck in repeating my one-time success. After far too many days spent agonizing over my lack of technical skills, I moved on and used a different program (OBS) to record Sam & Max. As I mentioned, I’ve since upgraded to a modern TV, so I’ll have to retry the process again. The moral of this story is that sometime you just have to upgrade lest you become mired in a veritable spaghetti of cables.
All in all, I’m very pleased with the Elgato Game Capture HD. I know there are bigger and badder capture cards out there, but the GCHD is as big and as bad as I need right now. It’s affordable, easy to use, and produces wonderful and workable results. It’s one of the best gaming-related items in my arsenal.
Now…if only I could find something that gave me more time to record…
If you’re into capturing gameplay, what capture device or software do you use? What are its pros and cons? What device would you recommend to new players?