Review of Elgato Game Capture HD

Posted: July 15, 2013 in Programming, Unity3D

51OEmPjLWkL._SL1500_One of the things an iOS developer needs to do is to capture screen shots for iTunes connect. Another is to create a gameplay video. They’re both annoying tasks.

Screen shots from an iPhone or iPad mean that you have to be able to play your game and also be able to press the front panel button and the on/off button at the same time. You need four hands. Maybe your game’s hero or a NPC has four hands, but you don’t. It’s a P.I.T.A.

Trying to capture a gameplay video ought to be easy. Theoretically you can use AirPlay to stream your game to a PC or Mac using one of several programs that will capture your video and save it to a file.  While I’m not going to disparage any of these programs, I did try the most commonly-used one and found the results to be sketchy. The problem is that you’re doing this over your wifi network and I was never able to get a video that would be visually glitch-free for more than a minute or so.

So I started to look for hardware solutions. Fortunately, Apple sells adapters (cheaper on Amazon…) that let you connect iPads and iPhones to HDMI. Web-searching and review-reading led me to the Elgato Game Capture HD. It had mostly good reviews on Amazon ( http://amzn.to/15xHwru ) and to make a long story short, I found it to be a great solution for BOTH the screen shot and video tasks. It’s not cheap (currently about US$ 160 on Amazon) but if you value good results and not wasting your time then it’s a no-brainer IMO.

My experience with it was total plug-and-play. You install the software, plug one end of the USB cable into your PC and the other end into the Elgato unit. You plug an HDMI cable between the iOS device AV adapter and the Elgato unit. I didn’t test it only my Mac Pro but it’s allegedly designed for both Mac and PC.

The software shows you an view of whatever your iOS device is displaying. There’s a delay of a second or two but that’s neither surprising or any sort of issue. The delay is constant so it’s processing and not buffering, which is exactly what you want.

There’s a setup page where you can set options like quality, matching aspect ratio for iPad or iPhone (or Xbox or PS3), and so on. Then you just click a big red record button.

When you’re done capturing, the software takes a few minutes to produce the output file. The Elgato software does have a video editor and that does appear to let you save a screen shot.  I created my videos and screen shots using Adobe Premiere Pro CC. So I can’t comment on the Elgato software editor.

Whatever software that you want to use to work with the video, the Elgato box was able to save a 10 minute video from an iPad 3 without a single glitch or visual artifact of any kind. And that’s great!

Here’s the video. OK, it’s not Hollywood….

 

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