Taking Video

One of the best things to do to showcase your game is to make a video trailer.  I really didn’t know the best way to go about doing it, nor did I really want to make a big investment.  I basically deduced that there are 3 ways to take video, each with its own pros and cons:

  1. Get an HD video capture card. The benefits of this are that the capture card is the best device for getting a high definition stream into the PC and recording it to disk.  It is the most efficient of any of the techniques.  On the downside, this is also the most expensive.  Most of these cards are $300+ in price.  I didn’t take this option when making my trailer for War of Words, mostly because of the cost.
  2. Use a Hava or SlingBox. There’s some articles out there on the web describing how to take video of your XBox 360 exploits using a hava or slingbox approach.  In a nutshell, these devices work much like a capture card but they are a little cheaper and can be used for other things too.  They take a video signal and transmit it over a network to which your PC is connected.  Then, you capture the frames of video and write to disk much like a capture card.  There’s a little lag, but it works I’m told.  The disadvantages of this technique is that you still have to make a financial investment over $100 and the resolution of the recorded video is hardly pure HD (if that is important to you).  I also didn’t take this option for my game trailer.
  3. The third option is to use Fraps (or similar software). Fraps can capture video of any DirectX window on Windows.  It does this purely in software without a device to purchase.  It costs only $37 for a full registered copy and can be used to record any PC game.  This is the route I took to get my video.  A few downsides should be noted though:  you need a fast PC to get 60fps at 720p, you must have a Windows build of your game that looks identical to the XBox version, and it still costs some money (but not a lot and is a good deal if you ask me).  Also, Fraps can’t compress video (there’s just not enough time or horsepower on the PC to capture frames and compress simultaneously).  This means that a capture of 720p video at 60fps can easily go over 1 GB for just 1 minute of video.  You can use other software to compress the videos down to size but you’d better have a lot of disk space available for the initial capture(s).  I also found that Fraps introduces some overhead so it can drop your framerate a little.  Again, you need a fast PC to do this well.  You can also choose any framerate you want, so if you want to record at 30fps, you have that option to reduce the size of the capture.

After the capturing, I just used Windows Movie Maker to splice together my various captures.  I found that adequate for my needs but it certainly isn’t as powerful as Adobe Premiere (but its free!).  In the end, I was happy with my trailer and I’m glad I bought Fraps.  It really is useful for getting videos and that helps show off your game in a way that screenshots can’t.

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