Recording Console Games

Bombing Run

Yesterday was an interesting day, partially because I dinged another level and am now officially in my “late thirties”.  Most of the morning was spent in preparation for my wife to fly in, and doing a last minute run through the house to “pick up” a bit.  Honestly this year I somehow managed to pick up successfully as I went and didn’t really hit the point where I simply stopped caring that there was a pizza box on the kitchen counter.  So it really only took a few minutes, and I streamed some Warlords of Draenor while waiting.  For a reason that I did not know at the time… none of my voice over was coming through in the stream, but I will get to that later.

I picked up my wife around noon and we ran across town to my favorite Indian restaurant… where I proceeded to order something completely new in honor of the occasion.  My standby has always been Chicken Tika Masala medium hot, and no matter how many times I consider ordering something else… I always end up back on that.  The new dish was a sort of super spicy egg fried rice with chicken in it that they call Desi Rice.  In any fashion it was pretty freaking good.  Overall the day was pretty relaxing, and it served as the perfect break in the working week.  It was awesome to have my wife back, even if it is only for a few days as she flies out to the second conference of the year Sunday.

What completely overwhelmed me yesterday was all the well wishes from my internet family.  Both my twitter and g+ feeds were blowing up with well wishes all day yesterday, and upon logging into teamspeak that night I got another round.  I feel completely bombarded, and I thank all of you for that feeling.  It kinda feels like the whole Sally Fields “You like me, You really like me” moment.  But amazing friends aside… I find it always interesting to see which bot wishes me a happy birthday first.  This year and I believe many of the other years recently… the reward goes for the WoW Ace Forums…  who wished me a happy birthday at 7 pm on the 17th, which I can only assume is on Australian time?  In all seriousness… I am humbled by the amount of support I get from you all.

Recording Console Games

One of the coolest things about the PS4 is that it can stream live to twitch.  It also happens to be one of the most disappointing, since the twitch streaming rate is locked to 480p which shocked me.  I pretty much religiously stream in 1080p so it was frustrating the first time I cracked open one of my Destiny Alpha videos and saw how blurry the footage was.  The other nuisance is that it seems to only record MY voice chat as part of the stream, and not that of the other people I happen to be partied with.  The end result is this disjointed experience of listening to an often times hilarious one sided conversation.  I figured there had to be a better way.

For some time I had looked at a capture card, but honestly that whole concept was foreign to me.  After doing a ton of research I realized there was a huge problem there, with the way the streaming worked.  The two consoles that I most wanted to stream from were the Sony Playstation 3 and Sony Playstation 4… both of which I absolutely love.  The problem is that in both cases they use HDCP or High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection aka a screwball system that tries to encrypt the video data from the source to the television.  Apparently the Xbox One also struggles with this, and for some reason in all of these systems it is either on all of the time… or turned on the first time you play a movie and then stays on.  Normally this would prevent you from recording gameplay footage, because the recording device is not “HDCP Compliant”.

The widely accepted workaround is to plug these consoles into the capture card using component cables.  This however causes its own stream of problems as you take a digital signal… convert it to analog and then convert it back to digital.  The end result is often blurry and color shifted and just not something I wanted to mess with.  So after a lot of research I stumbled on the above video.  Basically the idea is to use an HDMI splitter to get around the HDCP lockout without actually stripping the HDCP protection and making the device illegal for sale.  All of this is voodoo to me to be honest, but I wanted to give it a shot.  I managed to find an Elgato HD Capture device on Craigslist and got a ridiculously good deal on it, therefore enabling this entire thing to work.  As of last night I had the set up going and it worked successfully, after a few attempts to work out the kinks.  Sorry for the twitch advertisement spam on twitter.

Rube Goldberg of Streaming

ConsoleStreamingSetup This ladies and gentleman is my streaming setup.  I decided to diagram it out in part because it made it actually make sense rather than the jumble of cables that I have running around my desktop.  Right now I have both the PS3 and PS4 hooked up in this fashion and will ultimately move the Xbox 360 in here as well.  For the setup I am proposing you need the following materials.

The Elgato comes with one HDMI cable and the necessary Micro to Full USB Cable.  Like I said I got mine through a craigslist deal for $75 enabling this whole setup to work.  So the only thing I was actually missing was the splitter.  After doing a lot of research on the subject it seems like only a few splitters do what is needed.  Thankfully the one I ordered and linked above is both tiny and works great.  Ultimately I want to get some much shorter usb cables because right now… having all these 6 foot cables is a mess.  Essentially you hook all of your game systems to the HDMI switch, and then hook the switch to an HDMI splitter, and then hook one of the two outbound ports to the Elgato.  That then passes the signal to the television and your computer.  You can download software from the Elgato website that does a decent job at capture, but I simply integrated all of this into my existing OBS setup.

Trial and Error

After a lot of trial and error I was able to produce a video of me playing Castle of Illusion on the PS3.  I do a rather horrible job at playing the game, but that is entirely beside the point.  Basically I could have died over and over and still would have been amused because the setup was working.  The only problem is… I seemed to be unable to record any dialog from my microphone.  I spent the better part of this video fiddling with my settings in OBS trying to make it function again.  The video however looked great, and was streaming to twitch and exporting to youtube in glorious 1080p.  The trouble with my headset started over the weekend when I decided to disconnect it from my machine and hook it to my ps4 for the purpose of grouping up in Destiny.

Being a USB headset, everything seemed to go wonky when I did this and everything from mumble, to teamspeak to obs treated the headset as though it had never been connected to the system, forcing me to remap everything.  Then I remembered… I had hooked the headset previously directly into my machine, and was now trying to go through my powered hub.  So I pulled the headset out, hooked it directly into the machine and bam… all of the sudden OBS started working again.  This second video has dialog coming across and with the help of my good friend Ashgar, I managed to sort out the volume levels so that I could actually be heard over the game audio.  So I feel like right now I have a repeatable solution for streaming HDMI connected consoles over twitch.

Now my specific setup is not a requirement… there are lots of different ways to do this.  Some folks have had good luck installing a cheap capture card in their PC and streaming through that.  The Elgato seemed like a more hands free solution to working out the finer points of video conversion.  There however are a bunch of different devices on the market that do essentially the same thing.  I wanted the Elgato simply because it did not require an additional power source and could draw power entirely from my PC over USB.  Since the HDMI switch and splitter each have their own power supplies, this just cut down on the total number of cords needed.  Right now the hole thing is a colossal mess, and at some point I want to hook it up with significantly shorter cables.  For now however it works great and I am super happy to be able to do this.

9 thoughts on “Recording Console Games

    • Yeah honestly not sure… the video link was cool because at least now I know where to flip it off at. As far as twitch this is the best I could get out of it which is 480p. I checked various settings thinking that maybe they just defaulted it to low but you could increase it later, but was unable to find anything. If you watch even a few minutes of the video, there is also a major problem of having a one-sided conversation. I had 3 other people in the PSN party chat with me, but none of their voices came across in the video. My solution is far from pristine but it works well enough. Going to do some testing tonight I think and stream some AC4, to see how nice the PS4 streaming looks.

    • @Pete – ah I thought that functionality wasn’t officially going in until the Playstation Now patch. In any case I also wanted to stream PS3 games, and there is no such thing for that. Additionally if I pick up a Xbox One at some point… it turns on HDCP anytime you watch any sort of a video feed or movie and it stays turned on until you power off and back on the console. While my setup was a pain in the butt, it should be ideal for all of those scenarios as well as streaming older consoles if I can get something to convert them up to HDMI.

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