Sunday, 14 August 2016

Update: August 2016 and Opinions on capturing etc

Been awhile since I posted so just thought I'd give you all a heads up.

Early this year I moved to a laptop so the amount of cards I can review narrowed significantly. To be honest there hasn't been much in the way of capture card production in coming up a year now. The only new offerings of note stem from Elgato which I already reviewed and the more recent PEXHDCAP2 (did anyone else notice StarTech stopped support for the PEXHDCAP? The page is no longer listed). I'll try and get a new desktop soon and review that if I can.

I'm still shocked that Yuan or Micomsoft has not put out a new driver to correct RGB capture on the latest drivers. That's been what... a year now? It's not as if they don't know about it that's for sure.

It makes me think and I hate to say it... but it's probably on purpose. I'm more than certain that the SCART RGB capturing process was hurting XRGB Mini sales (this is probably why the XCAPTURE Mini was introduced). You have to do something very severe to completely destroy a feature on a capture card like that. Not even AVerMedia has been that bad... yet. :D

Anyway, see you all soon hopefully

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Elgato HD60 S Review

Some months ago I was wondering if Elgato was ever going to tackle an external USB3 card, I got my answer some weeks later. I've had the card for about 5 weeks now, enough time to give a good insight into it.
So what exactly is the HD60 S? Well to put it in simple terms, it's an external Elgato HD60 Pro that I recently reviewed. It's really great for the laptop market or for those who own a desktop but don't want to fiddle about with internal installation.

The build quality feels really nice and what you would expect from Elgato. It's slightly smaller than the original Game Capture HD design and seems equal to the original HD60.

System Requirements

I want to quickly discuss the official system requirements from Elgato as there are two main points I want to talk about.

PC: Windows 10 (64-bit)
4th generation quad‑core Intel Core i5 CPU (i5-4xxx or comparable)
Intel HD or NVIDIA GeForce 600 series graphics (or better)
4 GB RAM, built-in USB 3.0 port

Those are not particularly high specifications for most systems these days but they are still modest. The reason for this is the HD60 S does not feature an on board H.264 encoder like the HD60 Pro so the encoding is done on your system.

Some people might be confused about the OS compatibility. Windows 10 is preferred but it will also work fine on 8.1 and 7. In fact I was using 8.1 so don't feel like you need Windows 10 to use the card.

Software and video quality

The Game Capture software hasn't changed much from the HD60 Pro, solid and steady as ever with the HD60 S. It's just simple and easy to understand that will take you maybe 10 or 15 minutes to get the hang of.

One thing I found interesting is that they chose to change the maximum bit rate to 40Mbps when the Pro was 60. They probably did this due to on board encoding as discussed previously.


Like other Elgato cards, you are still stuck with YV12 (4:2:0) capture but this really doesn't mean much when most media you create is streamed in YV12 or converted to YV12 by YouTube anyway. If you really want YUY2 (4:2:2), you would need to look into using the DirectShow driver described below. Here is a 1080p60 40Mbps sample from the Elgato software for your viewing pleasure.

Although the card is basically made for 1080p60, they have not forgot about other common resolutions. The HD60 S officially supports 1080p60, 1080p30, 1080i, 720p60, 720p30, 576p, 576i and 480p.

One really cool change in the software since 3.10.65 has been the non splitting of .ts files once the file size hit 4GB. I should note that file splitting still occurs if you use flashback recording.

The HD60 S also has support for Elgato Sound Capture and you know how much I love that.

Drivers and OBS/XSplit Compatibility

Like the HD60 Pro, Elgato is supplying two drivers for the HD60 S. One is tailor made to add functionality on a product by product basis and the other is a run of the mill DirectShow driver that unlocks the YUY2 functionality as described above. I see no reason to use the DirectShow driver as the one they bundle with the Game Capture software will work with OBS and XSplit anyway. You would only really be missing out on AmaRecTV support.

As of writing, the HD60 S comes fully working with OBS using either driver. However, XSplit will require an update to be used with the non DirectShow driver. If you require immediate access to the HD60 S in XSplit, I recommend you install the DirectShow driver by clicking here. I'll update this when XSplit has rolled out support for it.

Click to enlarge
USB3 Bandwidth and Preview Latency

The HD60 S seems to be using the CY3014 USB3 chipset and I'm glad they did. It has shown how stable it is at processing 1080p60 video on other cards using the same chipset (XCAPTURE-1 and the USB3HDCAP). It was a good decision to keep it and not go down the road of other devices plagued by issues such as the Intensity Shuttle.


Due to this, preview latency is kept as low as most internal cards. For my Asus laptop, it seems to be always 2 frames and should be fine to play from. Of course this number depends on your system so it might be 3-4 frames on slower systems or closer to 1 on high end rigs. You definitely won't need to fiddle with microphone offset that's for sure.

Conclusions

A shorter review than normal but that's my style with reviews. I want to give a quick description of the product and then highlight any key points or things I think need improved. The fact this review is short shows how good the card is. If you do consider buying this, you are getting exactly what you pay for. A USB3 external card capable of easily capturing 1080p60 video and anything in between. 

Friday, 25 March 2016

Elgato Sound Capture

I've never really took much consideration into sound capture, never felt the need until about 2 weeks ago. 

So I was organizing a PC Co-op Speedrun with a friend over Skype and I couldn't figure out how to only record the game audio and not feature his voice on the recording using the Elgato card. After about an hour on YouTube, I came up with the only decent solution, use Virtual Audio Cable. You basically want to set a cable in Control Panel (Line 1) and use that for what you hear in OBS/XSplit. You then want to set Skype or the equivalent to your headphones. That's the simplest way of recording only your PC audio without commentary from friends that I could find that I felt like I had control over.

I then stumbled upon Sound Capture from Elgato and oh my is it good.

Click to enlarge
In a nutshell, it's basically a way easier to use (and free to everyone) Virtual Audio Cable. It should be self explanatory but I'll quickly explain the program. It runs adjacent to the Game Capture software and controls what you want your stream or recording audio to feature. Want that team audio included? Set up team chat with the tutorials Elgato has kindly laid out. Want music and other audio playing on your recordings? Click the music button. As you can see, you also have control over the volume that these have on your recordings.

The PC gaming button is the best one by far. I'm probably stupid but I couldn't find an elegant solution to output HDMI from my PC so my capture card can get audio while I myself can hear it using my PC headphones (needed it so I can hear Skype conversations etc). The sound capture program makes me feel smart again. I click the PC gaming button and my card can capture PC audio while hearing it on my headphones. It's as easy as that and very smart development by Elgato.

If you want to streamline your audio capture needs, I highly suggest looking into and getting Elgato Sound Capture. It's honestly hard to convey just how absurdly good this software is and how far it is taking console and PC capture. If I was to rate software on a scale of 1-10 on how much it has/will impact the video game capture scene, this would be my verdicts:

1. AmaRecTV - 9/10
2. Elgato Sound Capture - 8/10
3. OBS - 7/10

Yes, I really rate Sound Capture that highly. For a tutorial on each setting and how to set them up, please visit Elgato's page by clicking here.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Friday, 22 January 2016

Elgato HD60 Pro Review

I've been wanting to review this for quite awhile and thanks to the kind folks at Elgato, I was supplied a review unit.

Originally when this was announced, I was pretty sceptical about a card that only accepted HDMI. I found it very weird that they dropped Composite/S-Video/Component support from the original Game Capture HD design.

After having time to reflect on it, I think Elgato has chosen wisely. The future is HDMI and this card is meant to cater to that. Recently I've been getting into PC and PS4 gaming so keeping around older consoles like a Super Nintendo doesn't mean much any more. Time to move on and embrace the new! Eventually some hardware based solution that doesn't suck (Retron 5 etc) will come out and we can all enjoy the glory of HDMI even with our older games.

Packaging and contents



Elgato have gone with a similar packaging design to the original Game Capture HD and who can fault them. It looks really nice and is very practical. Inside is the capture card itself, an Elgato Gaming case badge, a mini PC bracket and at the back is a HDMI cable.

I personally like the approach of not supplying driver CDs with computer products. They are almost always out of date and pointing the user to grab the latest from the internet is always the way to go. The card is surprisingly small compared to other cards I've used. It's basically nearly half the length of the SC-512 and it should have no issue fitting into any case.

The build quality is also really solid and sturdy. You can tell they really put care and effort into this card. I like that they label the input and output ports very clearly. Too often have I stumbled with this on other capture cards and been scratching my head for a minute or two as to why I don't have a signal (I'm looking at you Blackmagic).

Software installation, usage and owning a capture card, worth it?

The latest drivers and software can be downloaded from here.

Click to enlarge
The software supplied is as user friendly as it gets and anyone regardless of technical knowledge should be able to use every feature after 10 minutes. One of my main issues with the USB version of the software was that changing any setting hanged the video preview for 5+ seconds. With the internal offering, this is cut down to maybe a second and is much more responsive because of it. You are also easily able to record commentary over the game and individually tweak the volumes which is good when making tutorials or an actual "Let's Play".

The flashback feature basically allows you to record without recording. Missed an awesome moment? Just slide it back and hit record. Can't say I would use this much though and this is where the line between owning a capture card and just using the built in PS4 recording comes into question.

Most of the normal gamer user base is going to be fine with the 15 minute PS4 record limit if they are doing a Let's Play or whatever. They can technically get around that and have unlimited time if they stream it on Twitch and then upload the highlight to YouTube. I guess that approach is okay but what does that suffer?

1. Actual 1080p quality recordings are missed and depends on the users internet connection
2. Editing that video is going to be troublesome rather than having offline MP4 files
3. Lack the ability to record other HDMI consoles without the PS4 feature
4. The PS4 stream layout is always like everyone else who does it, nothing unique. You can't put up splits if you're doing a run or set up the scene how you would like

I'm still 100% sure it's way better to own a capture card than using inbuilt console recording. Maybe in the future this will change but that is probably still years away.

Video quality and DirectShow drivers

Obviously the main selling point of this card is 1080p60 so let's try and focus on that. On the original Game Capture HD, Elgato limited the capture bit rate to 30Mbps when other USB2 solutions were offering 60Mbps. Thankfully it looks like Elgato have changed this for the HD60 Pro and 1080p60 at 60Mbps is the top offering. Here is some Elgato software 60Mbps recordings of what you can expect: Beyond: Two Souls and The Last of Us (make sure to locally download for an optimum viewing experience). The software records video in YV12 (4:2:0) mode which is to be expected. The lowest capture bitrate is 14Mbps if you were wondering.

I didn't actually find out until yesterday from Elgato that the HD60 Pro has a DirectShow driver! They have kept it low key as they believe "it can create more issues than it solves". I don't personally believe it does. Its made adding the card to programs like XSplit and OBS as easy as it should be. You can get the driver here.

Fortunately for us, someone at Elgato has been paying attention and has released the DirectShow driver with YUY2 support. It is possible to record from this card in lossless YUY2 mode. Needless to say I was quick to open up AmaRecTV and test this out.


A quick configuration to 1080p and away we go!


It works just like the SC-512 would when recording YUY2 video. It's really fantastic and what you would expect from the card. Below is a YV12 vs YUY2 comparison if you are interested (madVR is used as the renderer).
Lagarith/x264vfw Lossless YUY2
Elgato YV12 60Mbps
As you can see there is basically no quality loss. The 60Mbps strikes a great balance between quality and compression for such large resolutions and frame rates. The Elgato YV12 encoder is really performing well even against lossless files.

As for audio, the Elgato software limits audio capture to AAC since it outputs TS and MP4 whereas the DirectShow method is your usual PCM. Elgato should maybe think about implementing 5.1 audio support somewhere down the line. I know of 2 or 3 people who have bought the more expensive Magewell offering since it boasts 5.1 support.

It's really hard to give recommended source bitrate configurations since it depends what type of games you are playing. Anything slow without much action (think Beyond: Two Souls) seems to like ranges between 40 and 45 with anything above that being superfluous. The more visually demanding games will need around 50 and 55 Mbps to stay consistent in quality.

XSplit and OBS Support

The HD60 Pro is supported in each main streaming program with the DirectShow driver. Below are my OBS settings.



XSplit was a tad more difficult to set up. I had to manually specify the audio source within the capture card properties in XSplit. Hopefully in later XSplit versions this is automatically detected like it is for the AVerMedia cards or the Blackmagic Intensity Pro.


Limited and Full Range DirectShow Support

One of the issues with the DirectShow driver is that it is not clear how the user is supposed to toggle between HDMI ranges. The only way I could figure out how to do it was similar to the AVerMedia LGX method I came up with where you open up the Elgato software, toggle the range you need and then reopen AmaRec/XSplit/OBS. Here is the difference it can make so make sure you do it properly! I'm outputting full range 0-255 video in these screenshots.

16-235 toggled on
Proper full range 0-255 toggle
Conclusions and recommendations

This is a really solid offering from Elgato. Anyone in the market for a HDMI/1080p60 solution should probably pick this up. Obviously the main competitor is the Micomsoft SC-512 which has more inputs but like I said in the introduction, that really means nothing as time passes. If you do care so much about capturing your retro consoles you already should have an XRGB Mini which outputs HDMI and you guessed it... capture it with the Elgato HD60 Pro. You can even reinvest the money you saved in buying the HD60 Pro into an XRGB Mini.

The only real recommendations I can make to improve this is implement 5.1 audio support which should be well within the bandwidth requirements. I also find it weird that the software is limiting the user to capture audio at 224 kbps. Audio is so small in comparison to video data that I'd like to see configurable options for audio such as a slider that the software currently uses for configuring video quality. A range from 224 to 320 should ensure great quality stereo audio.

As mentioned above, an easier way to toggle HDMI ranges when using DirectShow should be implemented for future versions.

Thanks for reading. Any additional questions about the card you can contact me using the form on my blog or leave a comment below.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Update on the blog: November 2015 and beyond

Hello readers

Been awhile since I put anything up but there is a couple of good reasons.

1. There is virtually nothing going on in the capture card world for me to write about. All the major companies are probably content with their offerings.

2. Not exactly got the funds to continually buy new stuff when it does come out (e.g. Elgato HD60 Pro)

When something big does come up I'll be sure to post about it.

Later.