I used to write for newspapers. That’s how I started in this business. I am not a cutting edge kind of guy. So when video capture and live streaming became a huge part of videogame journalism, I was caught a little flat-footed. Inevitably I ordered an Elgato Game Capture HD in order to help out with these new responsibilities, but I quickly learned that my computer wasn’t powerful enough to capture sufficient in-game footage, at least from the Playstation 4 and Xbox One. No matter what kind of makeshift fix I’d try, the video would always be choppy and blurry. The only thing that worked was recording without sound, which doesn’t always make for the most interesting videos. There were workarounds, but they ate up a lot of time. I could always buy a new computer, but that’s expensive and this one serves me just fine for literally every other purpose I need. (I don’t usually play games on a computer, and I purposefully try not to as much as possible.) This is all to say that the Elgato Game Capture HD might be a fine piece of technology, but it didn’t fit my needs.
Eventually I quit using that Elgato, and relied on the video capture options provided directly by the consoles. That’s not perfect either, though—transferring the data to a memory stick and then to my computer made the whole thing take longer than it needed to, and on the Playstation 4, at least, you can’t really capture more than 15 minutes in a row without it becoming unusable. I needed to find something that was simpler and that worked for me and my set-up. I wouldn’t call it perfect, but so far the Game Caster HD has fit my needs.
There’s one major reason the Game Caster works for me: I can save footage directly to an SD card. That eliminates the problems I had with footage looking choppy, and also makes it easier to transfer data to my computer for editing. It’s a simple but crucial difference that removes almost every hassle I found with other devices.
Here’s a video I’ve made using the Game Caster HD, from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD:
This was ripped straight to the SD card, plopped onto a computer and edited in Windows Movie Maker. (Again: I used to write for newspapers.) It’s a completely acceptable video, and it was easier to make with the Game Caster HD than it would have been with any of my other options.
The SD card isn’t the only thing that makes the Game Caster HD easier to use. With the Elgato Game Capture HD I had to hit record on a program running in a nearby computer to make sure my footage was captured. With the consoles’ built-in options I’d have to periodically pause my game to make sure I saved whatever just happened. The Game Caster HD has a big button on top. Just push the thing and it’ll start to record. It’s a pretty obvious design decision—everybody knows how to push a button—and in this situation it’s a welcome one.
The Game Caster HD has the options you’d expect from a device like this. It has HDMI inputs and outputs, and can record in 1080p. It can stream straight to Twitch or Ustream if you’re on a computer. It has old-school component inputs so you can rip straight from classic consoles. (Sadly no coaxial, so once again I will have to plug my TurboGrafx-16 into a VCR into a game capture device in order to continue my 80-part series on Veigues Tactical Gladiator.)
Like that SD card slot, though, it also has features that were missing from the other game capture box I’ve used. It has an ethernet jack, so you can plug it directly into your home network, if you’d like. It has an onboard switch that lets you easily jump between its three primary capture modes. It has that big old button.
Still, again, for me, it comes down to that SD card slot. The Game Caster HD strips away the technical and practical limitations I’ve noticed with other game capture devices. It’s removed a lot of the hassle I came to associate with this process, and that’s really important when you barely have any time to capture video as it is.
This is based on a review unit supplied by the manufacturer Diamond Multimedia.