Let’s Get Streaming!

Have you ever tried to describe to friends an experience that you have had in a game, something that even though you are doing your best to get across the intricacies of what happened in enough detail for them to understand, you know they aren’t going to get it and someone will inevitably mutter the line “I guess you had to be there”?

I hate that line, when people utter it I want them to experience a punch in the grill. However, that’s a completely unacceptable way to act and after being told that couple of times, I decided that there must be another way, so I looked towards technology for an answer.

Falcoooooon PUNCH

Unsurprisingly, it answered with plenty of options for me to capture those moments and put them into any device or format that I wanted so that I could show the world how awesome I was and why everyone else sucked big.

First off, capturing game data is easiest while playing on a PC, while it’s not any harder to capture from a console, it is more expensive because of the additional items you have to buy, so lets run through what you will need for each device.

PC: All you really need to capture game play on the PC is some software, there are plenty of options which I’ll run through later.

Xbox 360/PS3: You will require a PC or MAC with either a PCI/PCI-E or USB HD capture device, depending on your capture device, you may also require a distribution amp for the output of your choice, be it component or HDMI, I’ll explain more about the distribution amp later.

PS2/Gamecube/Wii: Essentially the same as listed above, but as these devices don’t support HD resolution a SD resolution capture device and distribution amp will be fine (and much cheaper).

As mentioned above, a distribution amp is a device which will capture your original source and will boost and split that signal over multiple output options, typically, this is used so that you can play games and record the game play without having to experience any delay on the controller input which occurs when viewing the feed from the capture device.

You can also output to multiple TV's, which is nice ๐Ÿ˜€

Capture devices come in many options, for people wanting to capture the Xbox 360 and PS3, you will be looking for an HD capture device, these can either be a card you place inside you PC or MAC or they will be external devices which you connect to through either USB or a Firewire connection, both are standard connections on PC’s and MAC’s.

An example of an external device would be the Hauppauge HD PVR USB Hi-def H.264 Video Capture Device, this device is essentially an external capture card with an HD component and HDMI interface, capable of capturing an HD input of up to 1080i,ย  you would use the software with the device to save your captured game play direct to your PC or MAC for you to edit later.

A good example of external capture devices

A good HD capture card example would be the Black Magic: Intensity, this is a PCI-E card which will be placed inside a PC or MAC, this takes a wide range of inputs like; composite, component, S-Video, and HDMI, the benefit of this card over the external device is that this card has its own small HDMI distribution amp built into it,ย  reducing the cost of getting set up.

One of the best capture cards available

Both of these items come with their own software which will allow you to capture in your preferred format, resolution and quality, making editing and uploading to Youtube, Vimeo, etc, much easier.

Once you have all of your devices, you will only need a few cables to complete the setup, if you are capturing HDMI you’ll need a couple of spare HDMI cables, the same if you are capturing with component. The setup itself is relatively straight forward;

3 HDMI/Component Cables and some hardware is all you need

It really is that simple, HD Source being your console of choice, a HDMI/Component cable into the distribution AMP, then a couple of separate cables out into the PC/MAC/Capture Device and the display you are using, be it a TV or a Monitor. The Black Magic card would act as the distribution amp if thats the device you have, so it would be even simpler to setup, HD device, into your capture card and then from the card into the TV or monitor.

After this you can start to save your content, make hundreds of sick tomahawk kills from Blops or show off your sickest Street Fighter combos, the only thing you have to contend with is file size. HD capture can take up a lot of space on a hard drive quickly and can be machine resource intensive so if you have an older machine, it will be advisable to see what the recommended spec is for your card of choice, external devices like the Hauppauge won’t require this so that’s one benefit of an external device over an internal one.

If you are a PC user, this part is really easy, for many years, I’ve been using FRAPS, an application which allows you to capture video and screenshots of any games you are playing, in Vista and Windows 7, it even allows you to record your desktop, so if you are having an amazing game of minesweeper, you can capture it and show it off to your friends, when you lose them, you could also stick them up to Youtube to thrill the internet minesweeper community. There are plenty of alternatives available, but I have found that over the years, FRAPS is an excellent application that has constantly been kept up to date and has excellent support from the developers, you can download it as shareware or pay for it to unlock its full potential.

So, you now have all of these excellent videos of you running about smashing people up or dropping 40 hit combos on people’s faces, previously you would have just uploaded these videos to Youtube or Vimeo and let people find them and comment on them but the internet has another option, you can stream live what you are capturing so that people without a console can check out what you’re playing and see you living the dream while they are stuck at work or are sitting in the house bored and in need of inspiration.

In days gone by, you would need to setup a streaming media server and sort out your broadcast bit-rate and all sorts of nonsense, these days there are plenty of sites available that allow you to sign up and within a few minutes have your stream up and running for everyone to see.

There are three main sites that I see most people using, Justin.tv, Ustream.tv and Livesteam.com. All of these sites have quick and easy ways to get up and streaming, all three offer applications to make life easier for people who want to just get straight to it with the least amount of hassle.

3 simple steps to get up and running

Justin.tv โ€” these folks use an application called Dyyno, this is exceptionally easy to use, you essentially just drag the ‘D’ into the window you want to stream, for your games, it would be the software window for your capture device, this will instantly begin to show your console gameplay and capture the audio for everyone watching.

Ustream.tv – the Ustream producer application allows you to show multiple streams at once, for example, you could have your capture card showing and a smaller screen hooked up to a webcam, showing off your gamer face while laying down the action online, the application also allows you to overlay music onto your stream, unfortunately, sound has to come into the application through the sound card, which may require you to have a look at your capture device to examine what your sound out options are. The web interface for Ustream is also worth a mention, this allows you to download an Adobe Flash Media Encoder file, which lets you use Adobe’s own product to let you stream exceptionally crisp and clear high quality video, this will require that you have a higher bandwidth to achieve this, but I’ll run you through the options for that later.

Livestream.com – There are a comprehensive list of applications to help you get up and running quickly, you have: webcaster, procaster and studio. Webcaster is a quick and easy way to get your webcam or capture device up and running and showing content to people, almost everything is managed with automatic configuration, so for people who want to just get going quick, this is your option. Studio is a flash based application that’s built into the site, it gives you multiple options available to you, much more control over quality and inputs and allows you, like Ustream to have multiple outputs, like your capture device and a webcam, it also has on screen overlays like text and you can fade in and out of various sources with transitional effects. Procaster is an application which gives you the highest quality broadcast, it also has a chat box built in to let you chat to your viewers while playing and you can capture your stream locally or automatically upload to a youtube, Facebook or vimeo account.

All of these sites are free to setup, my advice is to get an account on all of them, have a play with each one, see which one suits your needs and your level of understanding, you won’t lose out on anything by giving them all a try.

My personal preference is livestream, the ease of use for the applications and the easy sound, input and recording management make this much easier to use than the others, if you’re looking for a good place to start and don’t want to be overwhelmed with options this is an excellent place to start.

The only thing you now have to take into consideration is the old quality over bandwidth issue, everyone wants their stream to look excellent, who wouldn’t, the problem with that is, the greater the picture and sound quality, the more upload bandwidth you will need on your connection to carry that off, most connections in the UK give you approximately 1Mb upload speed, this equates to roughly 75-125Kbs, which given that you want to broadcast audio as well as video, isn’t a great amount of bandwidth available, the best thing you can do is to have a play with the quality settings on the site you are using, take a note of your settings, crank them up and see how they perform.

A word of warning on that note, if you use up all of your upload bandwidth, if you are playing a game which is online, you will experience a dramatic slowdown in your connection speed as you have essentially maxed out your outgoing traffic, slowing data being sent to and from game servers or to other peer to peer players, this will be noticeable so again, it will take a few tweaks to get everything working just right.

So, there we have it, covered off some of the items you could use as capture devices, how to set them up and saving content locally and then streaming them to adoring fans waiting for your stream online, all you have to do now is actually get out there and get it done.







3 responses to “Let’s Get Streaming!”

  1. Da Citizen avatar
    Da Citizen

    The Hauppauge doesn’t have an HDMI in ๐Ÿ™
    Analogue only
    And the Black Magic Intensity Shuttle doesnt work with Laptops ๐Ÿ™

  2. Branstar avatar

    Great article – any recommendations for places to find/post links to streams?

  3. Aubrey Patry avatar

    Pleeease, do not delete the message. Money earned from spam will be used for booze

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