Sunday, November 7, 2010

Leaked sex-tapes!

With that title, I'll probably have 10 times as much hits. But no, let's talk about recording games.

Well... what a drama. I should have know it. Anti-climax. Done with programming(almost), 3D models ready, everything works... except the recording part. There are quite some tools on the market that will capture video and audio while playing a game. FRAPS, KKapture, ZDSoft recorder, Wegame, xFire... and probably I forgot a dozen more. From what I read, FRAPS belongs to one of the best options, although it costs a few bucks ($37 dollar, fair enough). My first attempts to record something were awful though.

KKapture didn't work right from the start. Maybe because the game isn't actually full screen yet (embedded view in the Editor). Wegame works pretty well… except that the keyboard input is suddenly missing. Now that is kind of a problem. Then there was FRAPS. Three issues:

- Sound crackles. A bombarded world war I gramophone player sounds better.
- The file quickly becomes 4 gig... which will halt the record because my old FAT32 file system doesn't allow bigger (same issue as with the maximum 4 gigs of RAM on a 32 bit system). FRAPS doesn't compress much to safe speed and quality, so that means massive files.
- Performance... Scientists calculated that
"heavy duty game + recording = 300 KG lady rolling in sirup".
The framerate dropped to 18, maybe 20, at it’s best.

Now what? Record it with the handycam from screen? Maybe I'll do that if this game will ever reach the E3 or something. To create a hype with so-called “illegal recorded content!” :). Nah, that's not going to work. So, if you are in problems, then who are you going to call? Ghostbusters? No the A-team of course, Fool. Here some advice:

- If you are missing audio, make sure none of the related Windows volume bars are muted.
- Reduce the volume bar(s) used for recording. This can take away quite a lot crackles. Just prevent very loud noise.
- Stream the video to a fast hard-drive. If possible, another drive than you are using for the game, Windows, virtual memory, etc.
- 20 or 25 frames per second is enough to create a movie. It won't be HD or anything, but yet better something than nothing at all.
- If the 4 gig limit is a real problem, you may want to step over on a NTFS file system instead of FAT32 (if you are not already using it).
- And my true savior; run the game at a lower screen resolution. 1024 x 768 for example. Less pixels = smaller video files, less recording requirements, and maybe even a somewhat faster game, making it easier to control the whole thing. Someone still has to ride the camera right? Yes, the quality will be lower, then again pixels are smeared/blurred after compressing anyway.

With these tricks, I can let FRAPS record "good enough". Still a little bit jerky and low quality sound (especially for high-volume stuff), but it is somewhat acceptable. I'm no expert with this stuff, but tools like VirtualDub may help you to filter out some of the crap further afterwards.

Part of the movie is a proper flow of events of course. At 00:32 Jean Claude van Damme walks in, etcetera. The debug-text is to see which triggers went off. Ow, if you wonder who "Johny" is, I had to give that poor guy a name. Sounds more comfortable than "monster1" or "beast_on_hook"

A real good solution would be recording via an (external) device of course. Unfortunately my "studio", erm, little corner in the living room, doesn't have such professional hardware. Except for the 50 year old tape recorder I got from my father once. Mom and dad DO have a DVD recorder though. So I was thinking...

My videocard, GeForce 8800 GTS 640 MB, has a DVI output. The recorder, which normally picks its signal from a television, has SCART. Youtube & Google "dvi to scart" gives all kind of ideas to try out. Maybe I can directly connect the recorder with the videocard & soundcard output. Or otherwise indirectly via a (modern digital) TV. That is certainly worth a try. If it succeeds, I'll tell how I did it.

Now, let's hope I can put a movie here next week. It’s about time don’t you think? I’m already practicing the script (the route I’ll walk, and where to look at).

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