Hauppauge have been in the PC-based video capture business for years. With a wide variety of products, they have always provided a device to capture the latest video standards at a consumer-level price point. The software side has tended to be a bit of a mine-field though, and the HD PVR is no exception to this. Hopefully this guide will lessen the pain for anyone who just wants to record some beastly gameplay from their HD games console.
Let’s get this out of the way: The only difference with the Gamer Edition is the looks of the unit. The LED lighting (to show the device is recording) is green instead of blue and the plastic case is a darker grey. It seems to run about £20 dearer on best price comparison. Don’t be convinced of anything otherwise…
Now to business.
To capture the video and audio from the HD PVR you need a piece of software on your computer. If you use Windows, like I do, the official software is ArcSoft’s Total Media Extreme 2. This is a complete video editing suite that is bundled with the Hauppauge capture box – it can also be downloaded separately from the ArcSoft website.
Unfortunately, it is quite cumbersome to actually get some video recorded on to your computer, as the capture software is part of the whole TME2 suite of software.
Firstly, the device needs to be connected to both a computer and the device you are recording. No matter how powerful your PC is, there will always be a noticable lag between your TV or monitor and the capture software. You cannot reasonable play a game via the Capture Module. Luckily, the Capture Software can run happily from my girlfriend’s netbook, which means I can avoid lugging my main PC into the living room. I can then transfer my recordings to my main PC via my network, where I can edit them. Even though I can’t play or edit the resulting video on the netbook – there is no effect on the quality of the recording.
Secondly, actually finding how to launch the application is a nightmare. You have to launch the main dashboard interface, browse to the correct section and then click “Record Video”. Then, after knowing where to find it, you are not given a shortcut to get to it again. After scouring my hard drive I found CaptureModule.exe, but clicking it did nothing (the program closes instantly). A bit of searching on the internet yielded the result – you need to launch it with the parameter /@RecordVideo@. You can view the post I found: here.
An example command would be:
“C:\Program Files\ArcSoft\TotalMedia Extreme 2\TotalMedia Studio MV\CaptureModule.exe” /@RecordVideo@
You can now create a desktop shortcut to the Capture Module itself, so that you don’t have to wait around before you start capturing your gameplay. You can also choose to only install TotalMedia Studio, if you don’t intend to use any of the other features of TME2 beside the Capture Module.
For reference, I am using the version of TotalMedia Extreme 2 downloaded from the ArcSoft website (with the latest update also applied). I have not needed to register the software to continue using the Capture Module only.
The trial version available currently for download from ArcSoft is: totalmediaextreme2_retail_tbyb_all.exe (version 184.108.40.206 @ approx 269MB)
The first time you launch the software it prompts you to download the latest update. This is the following file: totalmediaextreme_2.0.6(33).2_2.0.6(33).6_update_all.exe (version 220.127.116.11 @ approx 222MB)
It is downloaded to the TEMP directory if you would like to archive it for your own ease of use, at a later date or on another machine.
Thirdly, the Capture Module has quite a few settings. It can be difficult to know what to select to get the best quality recording.
I recommend setting the media container to .m2ts (MPEG-2 Transport Stream) if you intend to edit the video. It is the superior of the 3 available choices – the descriptions of Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and AVCHD only refer to playback on those devices. If all you want to do is watch your recordings on your console of choice then use the described platform, otherwise always select Playstation 3 (.m2ts) for maximum compatibility.
Don’t use 1080i! (or any other i for that matter, if you can avoid it)
If you want the best quality this device offers – stick to 720p. This gives you progressive video, rather than interlaced. If video is interlaced then every other line of pixels, in every frame, is skipped to save bandwidth. This makes your video appears as if it were recorded through a set of very thin open blinds. De-Interlacing is possible, but the results are rarely close to an original progressive image – in this case, you definitely can’t recreate something out of nothing. If you are interested in finding out more about interlaced video on your computer and the concept of de-interlacing, 100fps.com is a very good place to start.
You need to set your console to the resolution you want to record at. If you usually use 1080i or 1080p you will need to change it to 720p. If you need help: go here for Xbox 360, and here for PS3. Please bear in mind that 1080p video cannot be recorded at all with the HD PVR. This is due to the bandwidth limitation of component video.
To get the best available quality via the AVC/H264 codec settings – set the bitrate to variable and put the slider up to the max (13.5mbps). This will actually give you an allowance of about 20mbps at peak quality, whilst always giving you as small a file as possible; my files tend to fill 3.75GB an hour. If you are recording at 720p you should also set the Luma and Chroma filters to zero (off). If you are recording from a lower quality source you should leave these at least at the default of 3.
I would recommend AC3 as the audio codec – but this is more of a personal preference to avoid Apple and Microsoft codecs. Sony Vegas Pro does not support AAC encoded audio within .TS or .M2TS files – so if you are using Vegas Pro (and M2TS like I recommend) you should definitely use AC3 as the audio codec.
You shouldn’t need to change any of the device settings if you are recording from a 720p source. There are brightness/contrast etc settings that you can change – but the default will give you a clean and natural recording. Any colour correction that you want to use can be done in your preferred video editor.
Once everything is set up, you can click the ‘Capture’ button and you are away! I tend to try to keep my files to about an hour max – but there shouldn’t be any technical problems in this regard (unless you are using an old operating system or old hard drive architecture – but then you probably wouldn’t be able to play the video back anyway).
If you have read through this and still feel you have some issues, please voice them in the comments below. I am interested in finding an alternative to TME2 for capturing from the HD PVR – I will update this article when I have found something suitable.
– – –
Side Note: There was a problem with the last set of drivers. Progressive Video recorded with driver version 1.6.29353 into a .TS or .M2TS container registers at double the frame rate in Sony Vegas Pro and caused it to crash with great ease. You can fix videos with this problem by remuxing the video and audio through ffmpeg into a .mov container. Check out this forum post here for further instructions.
Prevent this problem from happening by using driver version 18.104.22.168059 or above.