Since late 2006 when I had expanded to doing visual walkthroughs for game consoles, I have been using an Epiphan DVI2USB to capture my screenshots. This expensive device has served me well these three years, but I recently discovered a newer device that is cheaper, records at a much higher frame rate, and makes capturing audio very easy.
The device is the Hauppauge HD PVR, also called the 2112. At about $200, this modern miracle costs 1/5 that of the DVI2USB, yet can record HD video, including audio, up to 1080i. This is a huge leap forward. With the Epiphan I would record my gaming sessions at about eight frames per second, with no audio, then go back through these images on my Mac and look for the perfect screenshot. Without audio, I'd sometimes have to replay a section to remember the scene exactly. It can be important to document whether I was being taunted by Dr. Breen, pursued by an unseen Splicer, or perhaps overhearing a startled member of John Brown's Army behind me. I like to include these elements in my walkthroughs but they are details easily forgotten when reviewing silent screenshots. With full audio I am able to better craft a narrative that captures these moments.
Image quality is outstanding. A frustration of the Epiphan had been the tendency for the image to be washed out. I would sometimes spend much time in Photoshop trying to get the captured image to look more closely like the original gameplay. With the HD PVR a quick auto-contrast adjustment is usually all that is necessary. Reliability is much better, too. I suffered many frustrating moments realizing that my perfect gaming session was wasted because the Epiphan had one of its many hiccups and failed to capture the session.
I still haven't determined how much video to incorporate into the walkthroughs. Most times I think video is too fast for walkthrough purposes; the critical moment comes and goes before you can absorb important information. Still, there are times where video adds value, and I expect to be using more video in the future.
Here are some sample videos so you can judge the image quality for yourself. These files are exported directly from the device using Elgato's EyeTV software. Other than cropping to the selected clips, no processing of these files has been done by me, although depending on your settings and bandwidth your image quality will vary based on compression done by YouTube. In the interests of saving space and bandwidth they are available in their native 720p, but I could also have recorded these in 1080i. This device is a real boon to gamers.
- Mike Mangold - 02/03/2010