Saturday, February 11, 2017

Video Capture Your Desktop

There are so many situations where you could find yourself needing to record your desktop and there are a lot of options out there, or so I thought. If video capturing isn’t your daily activity or even frequent, then you’ll find yourself stuck, researching and trying to find the best desktop video capture tool or software.

In my case, I rarely need it, I find myself needing to video capture once a year, if that, but it’s always a struggle when I need it so I decided to finally do my research and have my options ready for that moment.

When I started researching my options, so many results were, well, shady at best. It kind of felt that I’m walking into a bloatware and poorly coded bundles that will eventually turn my computer into a living nightmare.

I’ll list all the options I’ve found to be adequate, in my opinion, and the one I decided to use. Some are for multi-purpose, others are specifically made for games, some free and others are not.

VideoLAN – VLC: (Free) [ Desktop Capturing ]

VLC is a well known and respected media player, it’s been the popular choice for so many years now and as it evolved, so did its features. I’m not debating that it’s the best choice as a media player, I’m merely saying it gives you the option to video capture your desktop,  for free.

Since VLC is a multi-platform software, I’m not sure if this specific feature is available on all supported operating systems. If you’re a Linux or a Mac user and have tried it, please let us know, but for now, my confirmation is for Windows.

The way to video capture with VLC is straight forward, but at the same time it’s not so obvious and I think that’s why not many people are aware of that feature.

How to Video Capture with VLC:
  • Open VLC Media Player.
  • Click on the Media menu then choose from the drop-down “Stream”.
  • Click on the “Capture Device” tab.
  • In “Capture Mode”, change the selected option to “Desktop”.
  • Adjust the frame rate value if needed.
  • Click on the down arrow next to “Stream” button at the bottom, and choose “Convert”.
  • In the destination field, click “Browse” and choose where the file should be saved.
  • Click the “Start” button at the bottom to start video capturing, when you’re done, you can simply stop the video capture or just close VLC.
Known Issues with VLC Video Capture:
In my testing, VLC has crashed a few times as soon as I started capturing, after doing a bit of research I found two possible causes for that crash.
  • With high screen resolutions (Width / Height) VLC crashes, adjusting that through the configuration might help.
  • The codec H.264 causes VLC to crash, though it’s not because the codec is faulty, if I had to guess I would say it’s how VLC handles the encoding process, don’t quote me on that though. Changing the codec might help.
Bandicam: (Free & Paid) [ Desktop & Gaming Capture ]

This one has been available for a long time, it offers both a free and a paid version, the user interface and “friendly features” gets a plus on this one. You will most likely not need any guides on how to use it, all the options are clear and obvious, with a big red circle button to start recording.

It supports hardware acceleration, so your CPU and GPU power will take affect in offering a smooth video capturing experience.

Bandicam Limitation for The Free Version:
The free version has two main issues, it will only allow you to record 10 minutes and it will add a “Bandicam” watermark to your video. In my opinion this is more than enough for personal use, however if you are video capturing for a project or a business venture, then I’d suggest either getting the paid version or look for an alternative.

Fraps: (Paid) [ Gaming Capture ]

Probably the most popular choice for gamers to capture their quick scopes for years now. The user interface, while not pretty, it gives you all the options you need to have an awesome gaming video capture results, and even regular screenshots. It even has benchmarking options to test out your set up, and find out what it can handle.

Marston, a friend of mine, has pointed out that Fraps renders the video after you’ve done capturing. Basically what that means when you finish recording, Fraps could take time to finalize the file.
The reason for that is Fraps doesn’t use or support hardware acceleration, like mentioned in Bandicam for example, though Fraps is still considered to be one of the leading game capturing software out there, it just lacks that one feature for speed recording.

Camtasia Studio: (Paid) [ Desktop Capture and Video Editing ]

This one is a feature rich software that will handle basically everything you throw at it, providing professional results and a great desktop capturing video experience.

I wouldn’t recommend this for the average user, in fact, I would only recommend this for professional use. If your business relies on videos a lot, this product is worth checking out, it supports both Windows and Mac OS. For more details, visit their website, I won’t mention them in detail here, because they are many.

My Choice:
This will be kind of weird, since my choice after all my research was something so obvious, and it’s none of the products I mentioned already, not because they’re not good, but because I already had that installed and only thought it had one purpose.

Nvidia ShadowPlay: (Bundled) [ Desktop & Gaming Capture ]

If you own a modern Nvidia GPU, then most likely you’ll have ShadowPlay feature available to you. When you install the “Nvidia GeForce Experience” driver, it will bundle it with the installation, but like I said, this basically depends on your graphics card, because some older or “weak” Nvidia cards will not have support for it.

I knew the feature and I knew that it existed, but I never considered it because I thought it was only capable of capturing full screen gaming, like Fraps. After a random glance at the ShadowPlay options page, I noticed there is a tiny checkbox “Allow desktop capture”.

That kind of blew my mind, after researching I found out that Nvidia has enabled that feature in an update release and I never knew about it, I decided to test it and the results were magnificent.

It offers all the features an average user would need, as you can see from the screenshot you can include your camera stream into the video capture and specify its position and size.

The video quality is supported as high as your PC can make it, with a push to talk option to include voice overs and it was free because I had an Nvidia GPU, so free, kind of, I guess.

I was satisfied with the results, in fact, I would recommend this for any gamer that has something like a YouTube channel or Twitch, especially if they use features like including their camera feed into the video, the results were impressive. Good job, Nvidia.

Honorable Mentions:
  • MSI Afterburner – I’ve heard about it so many times, but because its core function, or intended function is to monitor, I never suspected it would have a video capture feature, though it makes sense, because it’s targeting the gaming audience with overclocking and monitoring, why not offer a gaming capture option? Good job, MSI.
  • Open Broadcaster Software – I’m keeping a close eye on that one, it seems to be one of those projects with high hopes. I really enjoy their methodology in developing this open source, multi-platform software (Windows, Mac and Linux). While it’s still in development, kind of, in the time of making this article, it offers an awesome list of features for gaming video capture and streaming. Check their website for more details.
Before you research “Best free video capture”, look at the resources you already have, in my case, because I’m using an Nvidia product I was able to have a great video capture experience for both desktop and gaming.

My list isn’t the best one in the world, it is just my opinion, there could be other products that I have neglected to mention or didn’t find, if the list doesn’t satisfy you, do your research, and hey, let us know if you find anything, we would be more than happy to include your findings if applicable, or even have you include your full article on your research.

Whatever you do, before you install anything always know exactly what you’re after and what features you need. If you just want to quickly make a short video in that rare occasion, then consider something like Bandicam.


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