How To Record PC Gameplay

Maybe you’re a budding Machinima filmmaker looking for the right tools, or maybe you want know how to record PC gameplay of your guild raid or semi-final clan match for YouTube posterity. Either way, you need some tools to record PC gameplay so you can edit it into a perfect masterpiece and share it with the world. Luckily for you, recording PC gameplay requires only a few pieces of software, a fast system and a little patience.

Difficulty: Basic
Tools:

  • Screen capture software
  • Lots of hard drive space
  • Video editing software

Time to Install: 15-30 minutes

Table of Contents

Step 1: Preparations
Before you jump right into recording PC gameplay there are a few thing you need to consider:

  • Do you have a powerful enough PC?: While your system might scream with the video maxed while playing Crysis normally, everything changes once you add recording to the mix. Your CPU will be busy making snapshots at the same time it’s attempting to render. You will probably need to crank down some settings to get smooth recordings on even a powerhouse system.
  • Do you have enough storage space?: Depending on the resolution you’re recording, video files can become very large very fast. Consider your available hard drive space before committing to a long recording. Editing also takes space for swap and scratch files.
  • Do you plan to do lots of editing?: Windows Movie Maker is a nice entry-level free editing solution, but if you plan to do subtitles or transitions between segments you might need more robust software.

With those questions answered it’s time to talk options. There are a number of programs to record live video. Many of these options were designed to record PC gameplay video. Here are the most common/popular options for video capture:

  • FRAPS – a commercial game recording product with a free demo recording period.
  • WeGame – a video sharing site that also offers free PC gameplay recording software and requires a subscription for HD support.
  • Taksi – an Open Source, free alternative to FRAPS
  • Gamecam – offers both a full-feature and light version as well as video sharing portal. Free.

Once you have a recorder you should consider how you intend to edit out the parts of your PC gameplay that you don’t want. Luckily Microsoft gives you Windows Movie Maker with every version of the operating system. It’s not the best editor and is not really built to handle the complex edits that you might want to make, but it’s a good start. If the free tool is not enough you might consider some of the choices from Pinnacle or Adobe.

Step 2: Recording Video
Recording P gameplay video is the next and most important step. Before you dive right into recording, you need to test your system and the recording tool for performance.
Here is a list of things to do before recording your masterpiece:

  • Turn off or “kill” background applications like anti-virus and IM: Resident programs use resources. Less resources means worse recording.
  • Pre-configure your game to match the settings you really need: If you’re not recording 1280×1024 video for the web, consider turning down the resolution of the recording to save on storage space and required processor power. Remember that in many games text is very small at higher resolution so if you want it to be readable on YouTube’s 320p setting you will need to adjust.
  • Test recordings when it doesn’t count: “Practice, Practice, Practice!” Make sure you are comfortable and your system runs well while playing the game and recording Pc gameplay before you really care about what you’re recording.

While the recording program is running, triggering the record function on most recording software can be done using a key combo. Often these keys can be changed in case they conflict with a game’s settings or your own personal macros.

Step 3: Editing your Video

You’ve captured the event or a series of scenes and now the time has come to put it together, trim it down and produce your polished final product. Importing your PC gameplay video into the editing client will depend on your solution, but what you need to consider is how you plan to export the edited film. Exporting often depends on the CODECs available. Personally I recommend using a highly compressed format like Xvid, H.264 or MPEG4 to make the file size small while maintaining video quality.

Step 4: Sharing the Results
Recording and editing are in many ways the easy part of getting your gameplay video to the web. Next you need to figure out where you’re going to upload it for all to see. The viral nature of video on the web usually demands instant gratification, so using websites like ours here at Filefront.com will allow you to store your videos and get instant streaming access. You can find our file upload page here. Please note that if you want to retain the ability to remove your video, you must have an account registered and be logged into FileFront when you upload.

You can also use sites like YouTube or Xfire to share your videos. Xfire, Gamecam, and YouTube all support user uploads and do some conversion on the fly if you choose the wrong codec. If you are planning to start a Machinima series you should really check out Machinima.com. Along with the ability to upload and host videos, there is a great community to support filmmakers.

Closing
Video editing and storytelling using video games is a lot of fun. It’s rewarding to record that amazing Boss fight in the hardest dungeon or the perfect headshot during the final match of the regular Clan season. Hopefully, you now have a start on finding the tools to create and share those PC gameplay videos with the world.

Join the Conversation   

* required field

By submitting a comment here you grant GameFront a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate or irrelevant comments will be removed at an admin's discretion.

4 Comments on How To Record PC Gameplay

kyle

On December 11, 2010 at 11:24 pm

it is cool

Catherine McClarey

On February 19, 2012 at 3:14 pm

I use CamStudio 2.0 to record my retrogaming (mostly DOSBox) Let’s Play videos for YouTube, with the CamStudio Lossless Codec 1.4; I edit with either Serif MovieP lus X3 or YouTube’s online editor, and convert from AVI to FLV with Any Video Converter. I’m looking for PC game capture software that can handle full-screen games, though. Some game capture software titles I’ve seen used on YouTube beyond those you mentioned are Bandicam and Hypercam. I’d love to see comparative reviews & feature charts so one could compare various PC game capture software titles side-by-side.

Alex Shawn

On June 30, 2013 at 11:23 pm

Useful article, I only used fraps and smartpixel for game video recording, and sure I need more places to share my videos, I will check out the rest websites.

anselm fernandes

On May 3, 2014 at 8:44 am

is bandicam a video capture software