Thursday, August 2, 2012

How to record video game footage for Youtube

The RPG Fanatic Show on Youtube
I've been a Youtube Partner for several years now, focused primarily on videogame journalism with my show The RPG Fanatic. A lot of my content is video game reviews and many people have asked me how I capture video games footage for editing purposes.

This article will have all the advice I can give about the steps involved in video game review creation and how you too can make videos as good as The Angry Video Game Nerd.

How to record video game footage

For videogame console systems, I don't recommend using a video capture card for your PC unless you have a huge amount of Hard-drive space. For example, 10 Terabytes of space. And you need lots of RAM else there will be a huge delay between the gameplay and the commands you input using your controller.

I would instead recommend getting an HD capture box, like this one made by Hauppauge.

You can also be cheaper and buy a recordable DVD player. The honest truth is once you go through all the levels of compressing your gameplay footage during capture, editing and finally Youtube's flash compression, your "HD" footage is no longer truly "HD" and nobody can really tell the difference when they watch the videos on Youtube.

There are a lot of free software for ripping images off a DVD. I personally use Handbrake as it has produced the best results for me.

For PC games, fraps is the only way to go.

Editing your video

Do not use something stupid like Windows Media Maker if you can help it. The final output always looks like garbage and it offers very limited editing tools, especially when it comes to audio.

If you use a Windows based PC, I recommend the consumer (cheap) version of Sony Vegas. It's a great piece of software with some powerful audio functions.

However if you want to spend more money, get Premiere by purchasing the Adobe Creative Suite. One advantage to this is that you'll also get After Effects bundled with it, which can be used to make really great special effects for your live action segments.

I would recommend staying away from anything Avid. It's very pro software meant for high-end video editing, but the interface is so ridiculously non-intuitive you'd be better off not buying it unless you want to take film editing classes or have a friend show you how to use it.

Personally I use a Mac Pro for all my video editing, so I use Final Cut Pro. It's the only real choice. If you have a good Mac, get FCP or FCP X. Personally, I use an older version of FCP that I'm a lot more comfortable with but I've edited on FCP X too, and it's pretty user-friendly. If you've never done any video editing before it's very intuitive software.

If you are worried about how to edit a video and would like to learn some film theory, I recommend checking out any of these books about the topic.

What camera to use for recording live action segments

One thing I should point out is if you don't have a decent HD camera for recording live action segments, I recommend getting the Sony NEX-VG10 or the newer VG 20.

These cameras will give you a great picture and the built in audio mic is acceptable for product reviews (but not narratives! get a real mic and solid state audio recorder for that). Both cameras also come bundled with Sony Vegas, so you get both editing software and a great camera in one package.

However there are some cheaper cameras you can also get, though the picture quality won't be as amazing.

How to film your videos 

Film-making is the art of painting with light. Even with a great camera, in order to produce really great shots you need to either purchase a professional 3 point light kit or go down to Lowe's / Home Depot / Walmart and get three shop lights.

If you do choose to use shop lights then you'll need to tear off the metal grills (so they don't cast shadows over you). This will give you suitable lighting for making some product reviews (though the color temperature tends to be a'bit hot).

Regardless of which kind of lights you obtain, you should also buy some welding gloves because lights get insanely hot and you can easily scar yourself for life or burn your house down if you don't pay attention.

Recording good quality audio

Nothing ruins a great shot more than terrible sound quality.

You can record your audio voice over for the game footage segments by plugging a mic into your computer BUT if you do record the audio separate from the footage using something like Garageband, then you'll need to record the audio at the appropriate frequency so it will match the frame rate of your video capture.

Recording audio voice overs at the wrong frequency screws a lot of novices up. Always capture video at either 30 (29.9) or 60 frames per second and your audio at 48.0 khz.

This is the only non-frustrating way to get the video and audio to perfectly sync up....I mean, if you did record audio at a different frequency it is possible to get something somewhat synced up by doing a lot of compressing, but it's never going to be perfect. Recording your audio and video at the correct settings will make your life a lot easier.

Also realize that the least frustrating way to record audio that will match your live action footage is to do all the audio recording on the built-in mic of your camera. However, note that a consumer brand camera (such as the NEX-VG10 I mentioned earlier) will have a feature called auto-gain which will greatly degrade the quality of the audio. Basically, any time there is a lull in your voice it will crank the gain way up because the camera assumes it should be hearing something but the noise is just too low. Auto-gain on cameras results in the sound levels going up and down constantly, which creates a lot of staticy noise.

However, for a Youtube product review this shouldn't be a major problem. If you use software like FCP or Vegas you can even apply audio filters that help compensate for autogain and get rid of the static.

Which video streaming service to use?

You have a lot of options here, because Youtube has many competitors like, dailymotion and vimeo.

However I would start out using Youtube. If you don't do any marketing of your video then you'll still be publishing content into the ethers, but far more people use Youtube to search for videos than any other service so you'll still get some traffic just from searches alone.

Now it is possible to drive traffic from Youtube to something else like This works by uploading a short 30-60 trailer for your episode onto Youtube and then including a link to your full episode on in the video description of the Youtube trailer. However, you need a large fanbase on Youtube to make this tactic work. Only a small portion of your fans will take the extra time to travel from one video to yet another video to load. I'd focus on building a big fanbase before focusing on If you get a Partnership, Youtube ads pay much better anyway and all monetized videos automatically become promoted videos

You can also do things like plug your video as a Video Response to a more popular video. Just shop around different videos with similar subject matter, until you find someone who doesn't require approval for a video response to go public. Or you can ask the creator if they will approve your Video Response by sending them  a PM through Youtube. Video Responses helps getting your content seen.

How to compress your video for Youtube

Your video editing suite should allow you to export your finished video in H.264 with the dimensions set to 1280 x 720 (this size is often referred to as '720P' ). There is no reason to upload at any other settings, as these are the settings Youtube will convert the video file to if it isn't uploaded that way already. So unless you want Youtube to compress your video and reduce it's quality, always upload at H.264 with the dimensions at 720P.

How to determine keyword tags

For determining the keywords used in your video title, description and tag fields, use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool 

This form will determine how often keywords related to your video subject are being searched, which will make your video appear in more results.

I should point out that new users have some advantage now because Youtube changed their algorithms to heavily favor new videos.

Setting up annotations

For how to setup your annotations (very important for Youtube), check out this video tutorial I've made. This video is a combination of advice I've received from other Partners and from Youtube Partner staff in private webinars.


I hope this information answers your questions about how to record video game footage for Youtube and make product reviews of the games you play.

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