Got an old computer, want to record some hd game footage but don’t wanna buy the large hard drives needed to sustain fraps? Got a fast hard drive but a slow CPU? Or a slow hard disk with a fast cpu? Or cheapest everything slow hdd slow cpu but still wanna record some angry birds goddamit! Then this is the perfect guide for you.
Ignore the other guides, this is the ultimate all-in-one guide suitable for everyone looking to record their games.
Dxtory is widely used game capturing application used by many gaming Youtubers such as jackfrags, seananners, frankieonpcin1080p etcetera. Dxtory’s option to encode in the user’s preferred codec means that, unlike Fraps, it is possible to choose a codec that does not fill up a hard drive like porn fills chicks with dick and cum that is storage efficient.
But there are so many codecs available, which one is the most suitable for you?
We’ll find out later. But first, let’s talk about some basics.
1. Dxtory itself does not require a lot of processing power
One of the most asked questions about Dxtory is “can my computer run Dxtory?”
Well, yes and no. Since Dxtory uses codecs based on the VFW (video for windows) framework, essentially a system where a codec compliant with the framework is accessible to any program, therefore Dxtory has access to most of the codecs you have installed on your computer. Now Dxtory itself requires minimal processing power because all it does is get the frame your computer is currently displaying, and throws it into the encoder for encoding, so since that is literally all that Dxtory does, the main concern isn’t if your computer can run Dxtory itself, but is if your computer can support running both the game and the real time encoding of the game footage via your choice of codec at the same time.
With this in mind, Dxtory is also neither faster nor slower than Fraps, because while Dxtory is better than Fraps due to the numerous customizations available to the user, the core function of both applications is nearly the same. Think of Fraps as Dxtory fixed to a lossless codec and PCM audio recording.
2. Dxtory is neither necessarily faster nor slower than Fraps
Again, because the speed at which Dxtory operates is based on the codec. Generally speaking, the format which Fraps encodes in requires a fast hard drive with a lot of free memory, and almost nothing more. The compression applied via fraps is almost lossless and definitely minimal, therefore if you have a speedy hard drive or a separate hard disk, you’ll find that fraps is quite a fast tool, despite taking up large amounts of hard disk space. Dxtory on its default codec performs similar to Fraps, the only difference is aside from the option to choose codecs, and Dxtory provides a lot more options that cater to people who prefer customizability over simplicity.
Also on the topic of quality comparison between Dxtory and Fraps, since Fraps has a fixed codec it therefore has that fixed mostly lossless quality, but the quality you obtain via Dxtory can range anything from lossless to total shit. Keep in mind that most encoders offer the option to adjust the quality settings, so don’t be too afraid to open the configuration dialogs to set the quality you want.
3. Neither Dxtory nor Fraps require you have a good GPU
But mom, I wanna be able to record Rogue in 1080p! (Source)
The simple reason being most codecs encode using your CPU, and therefore the speed at which it operates is always more dependent on your CPU and hard drive than your GPU. There are exceptions, for example if your choice of codec encodes via CUDA, then having a fast GPU could just be an important factor. However as I discussed in my previous article on encoding high quality videos with low file size, the quality of H.264 CUDA encodings at conventional bitrates are absolute crap (despite being incredibly fast), and should be avoided in most situations.
4. A FPS of 30 is acceptable
I’ve seen comments on YouTube and several forums where people have complained about their FPS dropping to 30 when recording, and they find that to be unacceptable and, quote, “unplayable”.
Well, why are you recording your gameplay then? When you’re recording for a piece of machinima or Let’s Play, you have to keep in mind that you’re not recording for your enjoyment, but rather you are recording for your viewer’s enjoyment. And while from your perspective 30FPS is unplayable, the average YouTube video will almost certainly have a FPS of less than 30 while the average blue-ray rip has only a FPS of 24, so if turning up the quality settings means your FPS dropping to 30, so be it. It’s not gonna kill you nor is it gonna kill the video, but having a high level of detail in your videos certainly helps with the viewer’s enjoyment.
Note: FPS does matter in some instances when the game is tied to the frame-rate though so like you probably need the extra fps for competitive gaming.
5. Useful Settings you should always use to help you achieve appropriate results
Here are several options provided by Dxtory that you should take advantage of to help you in making your videos look as good as possible.
The movie capture key: make sure it does not conflict with any of the keys you might wanna press when you’re playing the game. It is possible to set combinations such as Ctrl-R
The frame rate settings: Good values are 30, 24
Synchronize Video FPS option: Basically acts as V-sync for your video capturing, helps avoid tearing or frame stuttering
Setting your encoding resolution: Lower resolutions mean lower bitrates, lower file sizes and faster encodes. Good Youtube values are 1920×1080, 1280×720, 854×480, and 640×360.
As the dude in this video puts it nicely, if you don’t have a high end processor then use more threads, if you have a high end processor then use less threads, however I wanna add that if you’re using a particularly demanding codec then even if you’ve got a 3770k you should probably still use all available threads.
6. You might wanna consider recording in compressed audio
Let’s face it- your Let’s Play monologue isn’t exactly Chris Rock or Eminem standard, and there’s nothing really musical to most of the stuff you say. Your microphone is far from studio quality, and every now and then your neighbor’s shouting and wife-beating is recorded in, along with your own voice. The game soundtrack is nice but not exactly a masterpiece, plus your friends on TeamSpeak are constantly breathing onto their mics, so why waste hard disk space on recording it in high quality? Besides, most websites don’t support lossless audio. So why not save a bit of disk space and record in MP3 or AAC or Vorbis? If your processor isn’t even fast enough to real time encode MP3, Vorbis or AAC, then you really should get rid of that Pentium-1 and get something just a little more decent, a little more relevant, a little more modern.
Now that we’ve gotten some of the basics out of the way, here are some more basics of game capturing:
There are three main factors that decide whether or not a codec is suitable for use:
Your CPU, Your Hard Drive, and your Game.
For the CPU, if you have a fast CPU but slow hard drive and a game with high system requirements, then you may want a newer codec with higher rate of compression.
If you’ve got a fast hard drive with lots of available space but slow CPU and a game with high system requirements, then you may want a fast codec with little compression.
If you’ve got a game with low system requirements, but limited HDD space and limited processing power, then you want a fast codec that doesn’t plug up your hard disk.
But if you’ve got an Intel atom on a 16GB hard disk and you’re trying to run and record anything, then this article may only be able to help you so much.
Now we’ve been talking about codecs being the main factors and about the different types of codecs… but what codecs actually are there?
We have the Dxtory Video Codec which I’m pretty sure is based on the likes of Lagarith lossless, then we have the Motion JPEG 2000 which can still be found in low end cameras, then we have the MPEG-2 codec still used today in DVDs, then we have the Xvid codec which had been the primary movie-pirate’s codec for the past few years, then we have the h.264/AVC codec which the currently the most widely used codec, and the basis of Google’s VP8, and also the basis of Real’s RV40. In the future we have h.265/HEVC, which wouldn’t be relevant for quite a while in the real-time encoding business considering the speed it would take to encode in order to achieve such new levels of compression, so that’s out of the question.
Bear in mind that while I say codec x is based off codec y, I’m not implying theft or plagiarism, but I am saying that everything is based on everything and these particular developers from Google and Real didn’t exactly create their own codec out of thin air and pure creativity.
So anyway, Dxtory, MJPEG, MPEG2, Xvid and AVC. I’ve done some test recordings to give you an idea of the speed and compression levels of each codec. All test recordings done in 1366×768 @ 30 fps within the 2003 game Freelancer.
Let’s start with Dxtory: its fast, has minimal impact on frame rates if you have a fast hard drive, results in files that are fairly lossless and comes with the purchase of Dxtory. My test recording resulted in an average bitrate of 370Mbps @ YUV24 quality, 160Mbps with the “compress” option checked.
Then we have motion jpeg: it’s a bit slower but still a lot faster than any other codec on the list, results in files that are fairly lossless, and while the ffdshow mjpeg encoder has graphical issues and glitches, this version of MJPEG works flawlessly with Dxtory, and is especially suitable for older computers or recording particularly demanding games on medium end modern PCs. Also, since MJPEG is just a bunch of jpg images in sequence, editing and playback is much quicker compared to other codecs. My test recording resulted in an average bitrate of 70Mbps @ maximum quality
Then we have mpeg2: It’s also fast, and presumably fairly lossless, however finding a free VFW encoder of mpeg2 is a pain in the ass, so I haven’t been able to get my hands on one… yet. Therefore as of now I cannot comment on the compression levels, CPU usage and playback, but I imagine it to be better than MJPEG, naturally. Anyone know of a free VFW mpeg2 encoder please hit everyone up with a link in the comments section below, that would be much appreciated.
Then we have Xvid. At its lowest compression level and with 99% quality, I get a smashing average bit rate of around 30Mbps. However, my i5-3317u processor just couldn’t take it anymore and began to stutter with the frame rates, the resulting video was practically unwatchable. However I’m sure anyone with a current generation i5 desktop processor would have no problem with Xvid at all in most games.
Last we have x264: Granted it does produce comparatively tiny files at a constant quality of RF12 (which is almost completely lossless), I get around 10Mbps with the files even with the ultrafast baseline preset (wow!), but it takes too much CPU for my liking.
To Summarize, Dxtory if you have an old desktop with high speed storage and lots of empty disk space, MJPEG if you have a relatively unpowerful desktop with a slow hard disk or if you wanna record a high end game on your medium end rig, Xvid if you’ve got a medium-high end computer and you’re tight on hard disk space, then finally x264, which you only wanna use if you’ve got a really fast processor. While it is recommended to keep thread usage at your processor’s max level for most codecs, you could try reducing threads used and see how much impact (if any) it has on the frame rate of the resulting video.
Now, which settings you should use for each particular codec. These settings are all optimized for low CPU consumption, as there’s a huge difference between a codec in its fastest settings and a codec in its slowest settings. The download links for Xvid and x264 are both provided as they are both open source and free (at least for non-commercial use).
Dxtory: YUV24 – High Quality, no compress, quality 100
Note: generally don’t recommend quality of 20 as it takes up much more disk space than a quality factor of 19.
Xvid: profile=unrestricted, target quantizer=1.25, quantization type=mpeg, adaptive quantization = off, pixel aspect ratio=square, motion search precision = 0, trellis quantization = unchecked, automatically detect optimizations
X264: preset=ultrafast, tuning=none (or animation if it is a 2D game), profile=baseline, rate control= single pass ratefactor based, ratefactor=12
Before I forget, there is an open source alternative to Dxtory called CamStudio which also allows live streaming and recording of on screen activity using the user’s preferred codec via the vfw framework, however my personal experiences with it have not been pleasant, I don’t recommend it, but it could be a relevant alternative to paying for Dxtory, and deserves to be mentioned. However I believe you can also stream your on screen activity via VLC, but that’s off topic.
ALSO: Note that if you have a nvidia card, there’s literally no better option than nvidia’s own shadowplay recorder, it’s free, produces great results at barely any performance hit, it’s awesome. Also, if you want to use shadowplay on your gaming laptop but it doesn’t display the option, you have to add the extension -shadowplay to the GeForce Experience shortcut
Adddenedendumm (or however its spelled): The New Atom Processors (Bay Trail and onwards) come with intel HD Graphics and an intel Quicksync chip, which theoretically means you can record 720p in real time without using too much extra CPU. To record on a Bay trail computer, get a software that supports quicksync screen capturing.
Well, that’s the end of this article. If you found this useful please subscribe and hook me up with a like, got any questions or thoughts please comment, and thank you for reading.
Please check out my other guide on encoding here, where I outline the basics of encoding and how to encode high quality low file size videos like YIFY.
All software names and trademarks belong to their respective owners; this article is © Eric Yan 2013 All Rights Reserved, No part of this article may be reproduced without the owner’s explicit written permission.