Now that your capture card is installed, it’s time to look at the options for capture software. There are three free options that you can use with the card, namely VideoKeeper, AmaRec and StreamCatcher. StreamCatcher is the software that StarTech provide with their drivers. It’s flexible and has some advanced features such as scheduled recording, but it’s not really designed for capturing videogames, so we’ll discount that one for now and just focus on VideoKeeper and AmaRec. Since VideoKeeper is the most straightforward to use, let’s look at that first.
VideoKeeper comes as part of the Micomsoft driver package, it’s a simple and easy to use program that is designed specifically for capturing videogame footage. The picture below shows the program running, and the right click menu that provides access to all the programs functionality.
There are only a few options to set in the program. Choosing “Video Source” lets you select which of the capture cards inputs are monitored. The program will detect the incoming signal and change preview mode automatically. The “Aspect” menu lets you change the aspect ratio and the Snapshot options allow you to save a screenshot, either in BMP or JPG format. Selecting “Topmost” simply keeps the window on top of all the others. Under Setup there’s just one option, to set the recording path. Point this to a directory with plenty of free space, as video captures can be rather large.
Video Keeper makes all recordings in AVI format with x264 compression. x264 is a lossy format, that means that there’s some quality loss when recording. In practise this might not matter, the quality loss is minimal and file sizes are kept down to more manageable levels by enabling this compression. The drawback comes when you want to edit or further process your captures. Ideally, footage should be captured without loss of quality so that compression can be added later, after editing. Note that in VideoKeeper, any recordings you make of 720×240 sources (i.e retro consoles) will be automatically line-doubled to 720×480 format.
Finally, other gamers have reported one other important advantage of VideoKeeper, compared to AmaRec the input lag times are significantly lower. Tests show VideoKeeper as having around 17ms of input lag, compared to around 30ms with AmaRec.
If you want more control over your captures, AmaRecTV, which you can download here, is the solution you need. Configuring AmaRec isn’t quite as straightforward as VideoKeeper. The program doesn’t automatically detect what format you are using so you will need to set that manually. To access the configuration options, right click on the AmaRec window and choose “Config”. This will open the configuration window shown below:-
You can click on the picture to get a bigger view. As you can see already, there’s plenty more options to configure this time around. The configuration window normally opens on the “Graph 1” tab, so we’ll start there. Over on the left, we can choose the capture device. If you only have one capture card installed, then there should only be one device to select. If you have a webcam too, that may also appear in the list. The StarTech/Micomsoft card will appear as “SA7160 PCI, Analog 01 Capture”. If you click on “Device Setting”, you can change the input mode (i.e choose HDMI, Component or Analogue capture). Note that you will also see an option for Composite and S-Video capture, but this will not work. Brightness and contrast are under “Video Proc Amp”.
If you want to capture sound too, make sure that “SA7160 PCI, Analog 01 WaveIn” is selected. You can choose between the cards analogue audio inputs and embedded HDMI audio on the Device Settings window. Finally, over on the format section, you need to set the format for the incoming video. You do this by entering values manually or selecting some from the list, for instance, for a 240p source you would enter:-
*w=720, h= 240, fps=59.94, fcc=YUY2, bit=16
where w is the width of the screen, h is the height, fps is the frame rate (59.94 is standard for NTSC). fcc relates to colour space, the card only captures in YUY2, so you can leave that as YUY2 permanently, and leave bit as 16.
Here are some other examples of configuration values:-
*w=720 h= 240 fps=59.94 fcc=YUY2, bit=16 – 240p games (NTSC, low res consoles, e.g SNES, Megadrive/Genesis, Sega Saturn)
*w=720 h= 288 fps=50.00 fcc=YUY2, bit=16 – 288p games (PAL low res consoles or computers, e.g Amiga, Atari ST)
*w=720 h= 480 fps=29.97 fcc=YUY2, bit=16 – 480i games (NTSC e.g Virtua Fighter 2 on the Sega Saturn)
*w=720 h= 576 fps=25.00 fcc=YUY2, bit=16 – 576i games (PAL e.g for Amiga Workbench)
*w=720 h= 480 fps=59.94 fcc=YUY2, bit=16 – 480p component video, VGA from Dreamcast or XRGB3.
*w=1280 h= 720 fps=59.94 fcc=YUY2, bit=16 – 720p from Xbox 360 or PS3
Before we move on to the Graph 2 tab, you might want to go onto the General tab and change the path. This is where your recordings are saved, so point it to somewhere with plenty of space. The picture below shows the “Graph 2” tab.
Again, click the picture so you can see it more clearly. Most of the options in this window are self-explanatory. Set the aspect ratio controls according to the material you are watching and the deinterlacing controls to taste. You can crop the image by playing with the cropping controls, but I’m not going to cover them here. One option you do need to be aware of is the Scan Line Doubler. If you enable this, low resolution captures will be line-doubled. So for instance 720×240 captures will become 720×480 automatically. If you capture at 720×240 natively, you’ll find that many players will play the video at the wrong aspect ratio. This can be corrected later in packages like VirtualDub however and capturing without line doubling will result in slightly smaller file sizes. If you want to use the Scan Line Doubler option, you will need to set “Filter On” on the recording tab too for this to take effect.
On the “Graph 3” tab, it’s possible to configure sound mixing, with these options you can, for instance, record a commentary over the game you are capturing. I’m not going to cover that here, so let’s move on to the next tab we need to configure and that’s the Recording tab.
There are several important options to configure here. Firstly, at the top left you can set the capture frame rate. If you are capturing just for Youtube, you can reduce this to 30fps, otherwise set it to 60fps or the same as the fps you set over on the Graph 1 tab. Below that, there are the filter processing options. If you want your 240p captures automatically line-doubled, you will need to make sure this is set to “Filter On”.
Over on the middle of the window is the compressor options. AmaRec supports the AMV2MT and AMV3 codecs natively, but you can use any suitable codec that you have on your system. I’ll be covering codecs in more detail later. For your first test captures, choose AMV2MT (Quality). Finally, over on the Audio Compressor side, leave the setting as “Uncompress”. You can try MPEG Layer-3 Codec, but I’ve not been able to get this to work.
Finally there’s one more important option to set before you capture, click on the “Advanced” Tab.
Once again, click on the picture if you want to see a bigger version. The PEXHDCAP suffers from a slight horizontal colour shift when recording 240/288p sources. To correct this, make sure to select “Color horizontal Adjust” and set it to “Type-C”. You’re now ready to try your first captures with AmaRec, so click on “OK”
To start recording, just click on the red triangle icon on the button panel at the top of the AmaRec screen, to stop recording, click on it again.
If your recording completed successfully, then congratulations, you’ve correctly configured AmaRec. If you were not able to record, go back and check the settings again, making sure that your settings match the screenshots. Once you’ve corrected the problem, you can move on and configure alternative codecs, which we will discuss in the next tutorial.