I mentioned recently that I’ve began to chronicle some of my backlog-clearing exploits over at Twitch.tv, but I left a couple of questions unanswered that nobody was really asking, such as, “I want to make videos of myself playing video games, too. How do I do that?” There are lots of ways to do this, ranging from pretty cheap to bowel-emptying expensive, but I’ve got nailed down what I think is a pretty good starting point.
First, the capture computer itself. It was tempting (and way cheaper) to just toss a video capture device (more on that below) into whatever existing computer that I used for gaming. But that would cause it’s own problems. First: if I wanted to capture video from my computer while I’m playing a game, performance would be dragged way down the toilet while I was trying to play and the capture card was doing its thing, and second: I would have to move my gaming PC into the room where my video game consoles are, and hook them up to the television (which has a lower resolution than my monitor, so it’s not ideal). So my happy medium was to build a low(ish) cost PC that would act as a dedicated capture station.
After checking around a bit, I settled on the AverMedia MTVHDDVRR. It had pretty much all I needed: HD capture, HDMI, S-Video, Composite, and Component inputs, and modest system requirements. As a bonus, it was (relatively) cheap at about $100.
Running total: $94.99
The requirements for running such a card weren’t too outrageous, and it’s no secret that I’m a fan of AMD and NVIDIA, but I wanted to also take a look at the other side of the fence, so to speak, and checked out the Sandy Bridge stuff from Intel. Staying relatively low-end, I settled on the Gigabyte GA-H61M-DS2 with an Intel G850 stuck in there. And since RAM is cheap, I went with 8GB, and put it in the cheapest case I could find. This probably means that I’ll have to replace the power supply with something better at some point down the line, but that’s probably not going to happen for weeks.
As an aside, it turns out that this combination can be used as a Hackintosh if I ever decide to go down that road, so, you know, bonus for me.
PC Components: $211.12
Running total: $306.11
Well, this is turning out to be not quite as cheap as I thought. No time to think about that, though! Let’s press on!
Now it’s time to think about connectivity. To tackle problems such as, how to send the output of my consoles to my television and to my computer at the same time? (Otherwise I would be playing in a tiny, slightly laggy, window). The solution? Use an HDMI Splitter, of course. There are powered and non-powered kinds. I chose a powered one, and it seems to get the job done.
Splitter and HDMI cables: $36.95
Running Total: $343.06
At this point, my build was missing a couple of key components: optical drive, hard drive, operating system, and cable to hook my computer to the television. My television has a VGA input, so getting a cable was a piece of cake, however, if yours doesn’t, you might need to use one of the other connectors on your television, or just haul a monitor in the room with your capture stuff.
VGA Cable: $11.25
Running Total: $354.31
What about the rest of that stuff? Well, it turns out that I, for some reason, accumulate lots of parts and components from past upgrades (including mine and that of friends and family), so I was able to scrounge up a copy of Windows Vista (effectively $0), a 500GB hard drive (effectively $0), and I used this guide to turn one of the several freebie USB drives I have laying around from various IT conferences into a bootable Vista install drive. It didn’t seem worth it to install an optical media drive just to install the operating system, and then never use it again.
Drive and Operating System: $0
Running Total: $354.31
After all of that, assembly took place, and in one day of installing updates and drivers, it was time to move on to broadcasting software. The bundled AverMedia software works well enough for capturing, but if you want to broadcast out to the greater Internet there are several options. However, most people that I can find seem to be using either the Flash Media Encoder (free), or XSplit (free and paid versions exist). So far, I’ve just been using FME since it’s free and relatively straightforward to get configured with the Twitch.tv service.
And how well does it work?
You can check out the results here.