Shadowplay – Nvidia’s play to capture the capture market

Have you heard of Shadowplay? Until NVidia gave me a quick demo, neither had I. If you are the kind of person who captures video from their PC, whether that be for reviews like we do at Gaming Trend, or if you like to stream your latest kills to Youtube or Twitch, you likely are very familiar with capture hardware and software. Currently the big player in that arena is FRAPS. Well, NVidia would like to take their lunch.

The carrot for Shadowplay is that you already have it. If you have a GeForce GTX 650 videocard or better, you can use it right this very moment. Shadowplay is part of the free GeForce Experience software that you can download from the official site. But how good can it possibly be if it’s part of a free upgrade for existing Nvidia chipsets? Is this just a feature that looks good on a box, but won’t hope to dethrone the current screen-recording king?


To demonstrate Shadowplay and why I might suddenly be switching capture software, NVidia fired up World of Warcraft. Given that we are getting this demo at BlizzCon 2013, it made a bit of sense. Popping open the GeForce Experience, we used the “Shadowkey” (that’s a fancy way of saying keybinding) to set up the plus key on the keypad as our capture enable. What happened next was pretty fantastic.

My demo driver hit the plus key on the keypad and…nothing happened. At least, nothing I could see. Shadowplay runs in the background all the time and captures up to 10 minutes of continuous loop with only a 5-7% hit on performance. If you’ve ever hit your capture key on FRAPS and watched your framerate suddenly cut in half, you’ll understand immediately why that’s important. In fact, using H.264 compression, Shadowplay is able to capture roughly a minute of play per 375mb of space consumed at 1080p and at 60fps. After 10 minutes on Windows 7 or 20 on Windows 8 (there are hardware and software limitations within the OS that aren’t within the scope of this writeup), Shadowplay will simply create another file that you can stitch together using your video editor. If you want to push past these artificial limits you can simply initiate the capture manually and bypass them completely.


While I’ve not tested it on my own rigs (this is an NVidia booth demo – you can imagine the jaw-dropping hardware surrounding me), the free software performed shockingly well. The team at NVidia has already put in a tab marked “Streaming” to integrate things like Twitch livestreams in the future. In the beginning of the demo I thought it would be the price tag, but in the end performance was king. Don’t take my word for it though – download the beta yourself!


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