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How To Record Video Games On PC And Consoles

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Video games are bigger now than they have ever been. It's not simply about how many people are playing, either: entire media networks are based on the idea that gamers want to watch other people play games.

Whether it's to learn new strategies or watch someone funny, more people are watching game footage than ever before.

Of course, it wasn't always this way. Back in the days of the original Xbox and PlayStation 2, the only way to record video game footage was to plug a game console into a VCR and hope that the TV set had the right inputs. Video quality was predictably terrible, and only the most dedicated of fans were able to produce something worth watching.

Thankfully, that's no longer the case: recording a video game is actually pretty simple, provided you know where to start. It's less about finding a workaround that won't ruin your tech, and more about getting things hooked up quickly. Whether it's recording a PC program or one of the current-generation consoles, capturing footage is something that just about anyone can do.

Generally speaking, recording video game footage is split between computers and consoles. One is a bit more complicated (and expensive) than the other, but don't worry — this guide should put you on the right path to capturing your greatest gaming moments.

PC Recording

Recording PC footage is, for the most part, relatively simple. There are several different programs to choose from, including a few free programs for those who don't have a lot of extra cash lying around.

When it comes to sheer popularity, FRAPS is hard to beat. It's extremely easy to use (recording only requires a single button press), it works with nearly every PC operating system and setup is almost nonexistent. The biggest selling point, however, is the video quality. FRAPS works with uncompressed files, meaning that your video will look exactly like the game.

However, uncompressed video means that FRAPS also uses a lot of power, so you'll need a relatively powerful PC to use the program. FRAPS files can also be ridiculously big, so make sure to have some extra storage space before you start recording.

Otherwise, FRAPS is easily one of the best PC recording programs available today — and at $40, picking up a copy won't break the bank, either.

If your computer has trouble running FRAPS, Bandicam is a great alternative. In a lot of ways, the program is more flexible than its competition: recording a game or specific window is a breeze, and there are a ton of different video and compression options from which to choose. That being said, these options do make Bandicam a bit more complicated to use, so it might not be the best choice for first-time users.

There's also the issue of reliability: while the problems aren't necessarily widespread, enough users have complained about Bandicam's stability for it to gain something of a reputation. However, we haven't noticed any issues during our time with the program — and if you've got a less powerful PC, Bandicam may be your only realistic option.

Thankfully, it's not all that expensive: much like FRAPS, a single-PC license can be purchased for $40.

OBS (or Open Broadcaster Software) may have started out as an easier way to stream to Twitch, but it's quickly gaining ground as a way to record video as well.

Unfortunately, OBS isn't the easiest program to use. Unless you already know how to set compression rates and color profiles, you may want to hold off on using it: all video recording settings must be set manually, and the default options don't look great. On top of that, the recordings aren't always consistent, with some users running into issues like dropped frames and serious compression artifacts.

All that aside, OBS can be a great program when it's working properly — and considering the program is absolutely free (including most plug-ins), it's easily the best way to go for anyone with a tight budget.

Console Recording

With the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, both Sony and Microsoft tried to make recording gameplay footage more accessible. Unfortunately, without hardware specifically dedicated for capturing footage, the resulting clips are less than ideal for editing.

Thankfully, capturing console footage is easier than ever. A few years ago, recording a video game console required hugely expensive capture cards, which needed to be installed directly into a computer's hardware. It was expensive, unintuitive and needlessly complex.

These days, however, most console-based recording is handled by dedicated capture devices — small boxes that sit between the console and television. They're typically small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and only require a few cables to get everything up and running ... but they are quite a bit more expensive than any of the aforementioned PC options.

The most popular capture device on the market now is the Elgato HD60. At $180 retail, the HD60 is definitely expensive, but it's hard to argue when the footage it produces looks so good. Elgato's premier box can output full 1080p video at 60fps, and a number of different compression options means that your video will look great without taking up all of your storage space. Plus, the new HD60S features a USB-C output for lower latency, and at the same price point as the original.

There is one small caveat, however: the software that the HD60 uses to record uses a ridiculous amount of power. If you've got a beefy PC, it shouldn't be a problem, but anyone with a run-of-the-mill PC will probably have to deal with occasional corruption issues and crashes. These stability troubles aren't enough to ruin the HD60, however — just make sure to keep an eye on the recording, or you might end up losing some footage.

The Razer Ripsaw is a relatively new competitor, but if you're streaming to something like Twitch or YouTube Gaming, it's hard to beat. It performs similarly to the Elgato HD60, though there are a few on-board additions — such as built-in audio mixing — that can give it a slight edge over the competition.

However, the Ripsaw definitely focuses more on live-streaming than actual recording: Razer makes use of other external programs to record rather than providing its own software suite. Again, it makes streaming a breeze, but traditional recording will require a separate set of tools.

Much like the HD60, the Ripsaw is relatively expensive: Razer's latest capture device retails at $180. Even so, if you're planning on live-streaming, the Ripsaw is hard to beat.

Finally, there's Roxio. While the company may have helped popularize the dedicated capture device, Roxio isn't really at the forefront of the technology anymore. To be fair, the Game Capture HD is a solid piece of tech, especially for anyone who's trying to record older consoles, but it's not as advanced as the HD60 or Razer Ripsaw. Couple that with some serious software issues, and it's clear that Roxio capture devices will only appeal to a select few users.

At the very least, the Game Capture HD is cheap — at $120 retail, it's the least expensive option of the big three.

Of course, these are only a few suggestions for getting started: there are a ton of different capture cards out there, so make sure to look around and see which card will fit your needs best.

As previously mentioned, recording and editing gameplay is easier than ever. True, it may take a bit of time, effort and cash, but if you've ever wanted to take a stab at creating your own gaming videos, now is definitely the time to do it!

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