roxio game capture hd pro Problem Solved!  Roxio Game Capture HD Pro Review

As a member of the press it is our job to write about the amazing efforts of game developers.  We paint a picture that gives you the reader an idea of what to expect when a game is released, detailing graphical fidelity, voice work, animation, and overall polish.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I assure you that video is worth far more.  That pursuit has been a pain in my ass since I was playing games on my VIC-20.  Nothing is worse than saying “You should have seen the thing I just did!!” and have no way of actually capturing the event to share it.  On the PC this was eventually fixed with programs like FRAPS, but on the console side this issue persists.  Some games like SKATE and recent iterations of the Call of Duty series have tinkered with this, allowing the player to capture footage and throw it to Youtube, albeit at a lower resolution than I’d like.  Some companies have cobbled together PVR-like hardware, but speaking from direct and frustrating experience, the software was something beyond cumbersome and awful.  Put plainly, nobody has made a simple and easy-to-use capture system that can work on all platforms.

The Roxio Game Capture, a system released several years ago, seemed to be aimed squarely at filling that need.  While it was indeed simpler to use, it carried a $100 dollar price tag and a handful of frustrating limitations. (Amazon link for the Roxio Game Capture HD PRO Problem Solved!  Roxio Game Capture HD Pro Review)  It featured only component connections as inputs and outputs, and the software that shipped with it was riddled with bugs. Most shockingly, the system would only capture at 480p regardless of the fact that it would pass video through at 720p.  It was a good start, but we are in the High Definition age – we wanted better.

Roxio has taken another swing at video capture with the Roxio Game Capture HD Pro, and I’ve had the chance to take it for a spin.  Roxio’s newest offering comes in at $150 bucks and according to the PR-speak, aims to solve literally all of the issues with the previous product.  I’ve put the product through its paces, and in the following breakdown we’ll take a look at what this iteration has to offer..

Cabling:

When looking at hardware, you can’t help but look to see how the product compares to its competition.   The Hauppage HD-PVR and the “Gamer” version of the same is an entirely component cable (YPbPr) affair.  That is to say that for cabling up that rig you need a 5-part audio/video cable for output and the proprietary component cables for each device type. The multiple sets of cables and the Apple TV-sized case make it inconvenient to carry, and this is compounded by the need to also carry an external power supply.   It was great to see the advancements in the Roxio Game Capture HD Pro.

The Roxio Game Capture HD Pro runs entirely off of the USB connection to your PC.  That is to say there is no need to use an external power supply.   Additionally, it supports both component as well as HDMI for input as well as output. This means you can capture with HDMI from your Xbox 360 or PS3 or Wii U, but you can also capture from the original Wii or launch Xbox 360 – both of which do not support that connection type. There are some caveats, but the great thing is that you can also mix and match to a degree, allowing you to do component-in but HDMI-out.   I personally used this functionality to pipe the output back through my Onkyo receiver to push audio and video back to the TV / surround sound system.  Limitations exist with HDMI as it is a protected connection type.  That means you can capture anything up to 1080i on the Xbox 360 or Wii U using HDMI, but for the PlayStation you’ll be forced to use component.  Why?  Well, Sony has protected the HDMI signal with a HDCP protected video token, preventing video capture over HDMI.  It’s not Roxio’s fault, but actually a limitation of the hardware itself.   Of note, the PlayStation 3 debug kit has the ability to turn off this HDCP token, so if you are press and reading this, you’ll be happy to know that you can bypass this limitation neatly by unchecking a box.

The whole operation is plug and play.  The device is only a little larger than a deck of playing cards – just enough to fit the component connections, the hdmi port, and the USB cable to connect it to your laptop or desktop.  It really is that simple.

Gran Turismo 5 Capture and Edit
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Ee15TEONZlo[/youtube]

Software:

If there is one thing that usually falls short, whether you are talking about video cards, capture rigs, cameras, or other hardware it’s the software.   Either you get a trialware version of something good, or you get a neutered version of the same.  Included with the Roxio Game Capture HD Pro is a full version of VideoWave, a relatively decent Windows-based capture and streaming software that can tackle basic editing.  When I say basic I mean adding voice work, simple effects and text, as well as transition elements to your captured video.  Clicking the “Edit and Share” button takes you to a drag-and-drop control panel that is very intuitive.  As simply as pulling a video on top of the numbered boxes imports them so you can start tinkering.  Adding video transitions, background audio, overlays, text, and even voice is as easy as clicking an icon or a dropdown.   Video effects like blur, mirror, spins, negatives, and other transitions are all included, though they all do remind me of somebody’s vacation or amateur wedding videos when applied.  Sticking to the traditional left/right wipe, coin flip, fade in and out, or the other 256 varieties of transitions should achieve the same results, especially when you are splicing scenes together.

Capturing video to edit is really as simple as clicking the giant green “Capture” button, though there are some additional options once you’ve got the hang of things. In this screen you’ll see two more buttons to take care of your video needs – Capture and Live Stream.   Capture is simply dropping the video onto your hard drive for you to tinker with, but Live Stream (when linked with a Twitch.TV account) allows you to drop into your channel as you play.  Tinkering in the options gives you the Live Stream tab which lets you tweak the quality against your available upstream bandwidth options (something you can measure with the Check Bandwidth option) but otherwise it really is that simple.   For reference, a stream at 480p will take up roughly 2.4 Mbps of upload speed, and roughly double to triple that for a clean 720p streaming experience.   At 720p the Game Capture HD Pro chews through roughly 1GB of hard drive space per 10 minutes of captured video. On standard hard drives (HDD) where capacity sits in the terabyte range, this should be a non-issue.  if you rely on solid state drives (SSD) only, then you’ll need to be mindful of your space consumption.

There is certainly room for improvement as there was one feature I would have expected in the Game Capture HD Pro.  During a standard capture you cannot integrate a voiceover as you pull video.   While you can add them in post-production, it does feel like an easily-fixed oversight.   That said, dropping our Snowball microphone into a USB port and live streaming allowed us to produce our recent Hit Points on Aliens: Colonial Marines – a feature only found in the Live Stream portion of the software.  The game is beyond awful, but capturing the video and audio together was literally as simple as hitting a dropdown and clicking “Live Stream” – beautiful.

I honed my video chops on Cyberlink Powerdirector 11 so I was pleased to see that the output is .m2ts – one easily manipulated by nearly any video editing software of note. It’s not like you need to run out and buy software though as the basic software is more than sufficient to cover things like “OMG, check out this crazy race!” in Need for Speed or “Look how over-the-top cute these critters are!” in Ni No Kuni;  the included VideoWave software takes care of it nicely.

In practice:

Using the Roxio is incredibly simple and requires literally no knowledge beyond how to plug in cables and click giant and obvious buttons.  To put it through its paces properly I didn’t install or use any third party software.  Grabbing the video for Dark was extremely simple, giving me a clean capture from my Xbox 360 debug kit through component (it’s an older unit) and pushing the output through HDMI to my Onkyo sound system.  While the preview pane shows a slight delay (it’s not advisable that you play in the preview window for this reason), the TV showed no signs of video or audio lag, giving me a completely pass-through solution with no latency.  Similarly, we pulled video from Need for Speed from a Wii U, a PlayStation 3, and a retail Xbox 360 without a single issue.  We’ve livestreamed to our Twitch.TV channel with multiple games, again without incident.

Dark: Combat Tutorial

The (near) perfect capture rig

With no guessing at odd frame/resolution combinations, no strange video format outputs, and no obtuse editing software, Roxio has designed this device to be as simple as it looks.  In this case, it’s perfectly acceptable to judge the book by its cover.  The Roxio delivers beautiful uncompressed video in a format that you can use with any video editing software.  While the included software is extremely simple, it does have Twitch.TV support built in, and it is robust enough for simple video overlays, voice work, or most any other amateur effort.   If you intend to take it to a higher level (multiple audio tracks, webcam support for picture-in-picture, etc.) you’ll have to pony up cash for some third party software.  I can still heartily recommend this device, even with the announcement of the PlayStation 4’s streaming capabilities, and the rumor of the same for the Next Gen Xbox.  Why?  Simple – with this you can capture anything you want.  Since developers can reportedly disable the PS4’s streaming system on a whim, that becomes important to guys like me.  When coupled with a current price of $115 bucks on Amazon, it makes the Roxio Game Capture HD PRO Problem Solved!  Roxio Game Capture HD Pro Review an easy choice.