Video capture devices confuse the hell out of me. For years I've wanted a hardware solution for PC video capture, perhaps something I could also hook a game console up to, but after a string of ill-informed purchases and a box full of cards that didn't do what I wanted them to do, I settled on a resource-hogging software solution instead.
What I needed was a piece of hardware I could plug in and a button I could press. That's exactly what AverMedia's Live Gamer HD offers—recording or streaming 1080p HD game video at the press of a button.
Inside the $199.99 Live Gamer HD box is a small PCI Express card, a DVI to HDMI adapter, HDMI and HDMI to DVI cables, an audio cable and the wholly optional but immensely helpful Hot Button.
The Hot Button is particularly useful because it flashes red when recording or streaming is underway. A long-time user of FRAPS capture software, I can't tell you how many times I got my hotkey presses mixed up and wound up recording the exact opposite of what I wanted to, filling up my hard drive with raw footage. Having a flashing red light on your desk would likely also be helpful in more intimate situations.
Installing the Live Gamer HD is relatively simple, as long as one understands the ins-and-outs of ins-and-outs. To capture from a PC, one must run a cable from the video card into the Live Gamer. The card acts as a pass-through to the monitor—it just hijacks the video data along the way. Audio is passed through in a similar manner. Connecting a game console works much the same—HDMI in, HDMI out.
Once the hardware is installed it's time to fire up RECentral, an immensely user-friendly piece of software easy enough for a boneheaded newbie like myself to use. In fact there's a Newbie setting that's pre-configured to record 1080p video at 30 frames-per-second. Amateur and Pro settings offer advanced control of recording options, with the ability to save profiles and load them when needed. You can even hook up your mic and talk over the video, as I did with World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria.
After everything's set up, it's just a quick smack of the button and you're capturing.
Here's one of the first videos I captured, wandering through Guild Wars 2. I wish I could show you the raw footage, but you wouldn't all fit in my living room.
The Live Gamer HD features a built-in H.264 video encoder, creating high-quality video on-the-fly while keeping the sucking of system resources to a bare minimum, two things the software solutions I've used in the past do not do. Hitting the record hotkey for FRAPS is an instant resource hit and frame rate drop, and the video is huge—we're talking in the gigabytes for a couple of minutes. The Live Gamer HD on default settings outputs video that's not much more that 100MB a minute, if that.
The end product is gorgeous, even more so if you don't mind dropping down to 720p, where the Live Gamer HD starts recording at 60 frames-per-second. Even though YouTube won't do 60 FPS the difference is noticeable.
Nestled inside the RECentral software is the ability to stream footage directly from the Live Gamer HD as well. All it took was an account at Twitch.TV. The software logged me in and started the show with a single button press. I'd always imagined it was more complicated than that. Now I feel silly.
All-in-all my time with the Live Gamer HD was largely enjoyable and mildly eye-opening. I did have to juggle video cards about—my current system only has two PCI-E slots and I was dual-wielding NVIDIA GTX 660 TIs—and since this is a pass-through solution there's no option to hide the mouse cursor, which seems to tick off some people. Otherwise an overall positive experience.
I was looking for a simple solution to HD video capture, and I found it in the AverMedia Live Gamer HD. Long may its glowing red button save me from accidentally broadcasting marital relations to the gaming public.