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How To: Record Your Gameplay, Take Screenshots


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keptin #1 Posted Mar 30 2011 - 10:08

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How To: Record Your Gameplay, Take Screenshots


Other useful threads:
Tips, Tactics and Strategy -- Visualized
What NOT to do: A Tale of Bad Players
Kep's HD Map Pack for GTactix




Uploaded directly from recorded footage; unedited using settings below; no audio.
76MB on disk, compared to 3GB using a lossless codec (Fraps, PlayClaw, etc.)




This guide focuses on free, clean (ad-free), open-source software.  For this reason, it won't cover popular over-simplified, proprietary, and costly alternatives, such as Fraps (yuck!).



To take screenshots:  

While in-game, hit the "Print Screen" key.  Screenshots will be dumped into the game folder (C:\Games\World_of_Tanks_closed_Beta) as jpegs.  Simple as that.  For whatever reason, many players don't know this.


To record video:

Now onto the tedious fun part!

I'm using Taksi, http://sourceforge.net/projects/taksi/, a directshow video capture tool that [thankfully] can use any video codec on your system.  This means you'll have to option to compress as you record, but Taksi will beat your CPU to a pulp if you crank the settings.  

This guide covers two different methods of screen capture using Taksi:
Part 1- Compress while recording
Part 2- Record to lossless, compress afterward


Once you install Taksi, be sure to run it in Administrator Mode, for those on Vista and 7.  (right click on the shortcut, go to properties, compatibility tab, check "run this program as an administrator" at the bottom.  Hit OK.)  The first time you run Taksi with WoT you'll probably get a warning message saying that there are multiple functions bound to the same key.  This is because both Taksi and WoT use the Print Screen key to take screenshots.  We'll fix this later by unbinding the Print Screen key for Taksi.


__________________________________________________________________________________________________

PART 1: Taksi setup and configuration for video recording with compression
Part 1 is suitable for most people.
Pros: Fast, smaller file sizes, ready to upload
Cons: Lower quality, encoding can be problematic, not as compatible with editing software



Now that you've got Taksi running, close it; we have to grab some video codecs first.  
For this tutorial, we'll be using the MPEG-4 codec in the ffdshow Tryouts pack, but you may also want to grab the 32bit K-Lite Codec Pack and/or Komisar's x264 vfw build for a wider range of encoding options.  Be sure to get the 32bit version/s (even if you have a 64bit OS).

After you have that installed, restart if prompted (winXP), and run Taksi as administrator.

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Its simple GUI only has two things to really worry about:  Config and App Hook.  Config is where you configure the capture settings and App Hook controls how Taksi "attaches" itself to a window or running application (e.g., WoT) to record.



Let's dig into Config and adjust our settings.
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Go to the Directory tab and change your capture directory, where Taksi will save your videos, to your desired location.  I'm saving it to my main disk SSD because it has a higher write speed than my large storage disks, although, with the compression we'll apply, the 70 MB/s write speed of my large drive would be more than sufficient.  This is really only a problem with high frame rate lossless footage that can be bottlenecked by low write speeds.  Be sure to click "save" to save your changes.



Setting the video codec.
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1. Set your target framerate as 20 or 30 FPS.  30 will better capture faster motion, but it's more resource intensive and larger on disk.  

2. Click "Video Codecs" and set your compressor to "ffdshow Video Codec".  This codec was included in the K-Lite Codec Pack that you installed (above).

3. Click "Configure...", set your Encoder as MPEG-4. FOURCC and Mode should be default XVID and one pass - avg bitrate, respectively. (see pic).  Next comes the Bitrate.  I suppose you can think of this as your quality slider (it pains me to simplify it like that).  I used a bitrate of 4000kbps @ 960x540.  The bitrate you set is very dependent on the resolution of your footage.  Unfortunately, the resources required for active encoding are too steep for recording in MPEG-4 in resolutions much higher than 1280x720p (continued at the bottom of the post).  Be aware that too low a bitrate will make your footage look like crap and too high will make it huge and potentially unplayable.  For most people, finding a balance between quality and size will make the footage most usable.  In fact, with the right settings, you'll be able to upload your clips directly to Youtube and such without editing it.

4. Check "Half Size Video Frame" to record in half the resolution (constrained aspect ratio), e.g., footage recorded at a game-resolution of 1920x1080 will be 960x540.  This will allow you to play at a higher resolution, but record in a lower resolution to give your computer hardware a break.  If you have a beefy rig, by all means, leave it unchecked, but I'd advise doing that after you get it working and looking good (bitrate) with lower res footage.

Note: If you're having problems with lag during recording then your framerate/bitrate is likely too high or your computer hardware just isn't up to the task.



Setting audio format/codec.
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1. Select your audio input device if you want audio.
Note: if you select "Default" input device, it won't allow you to record.  Don't know why, it's just how it is; select a listed input or "None" for no audio.

To enable mix stereo recording from your speakers (if supported by your audio drivers), do the following:

  • 1. Right-click on the speaker icon in the tray.
  • 2. Select "Recording Devices" from the menu.
  • 3. The Sound window opens. Switch to the "Recording" tab. Right-click in an empty area and select "Show disabled devices".
  • 4. Enable your audio card as a stereo recording device; often listed as "stereo mix" or "auxiliary".

If you aren't able to enable stereo recording, at the worst, you can pick up a 3.5mm female to double-male audio cable to record from your Line-In or Microphone jacks, which are supported.  Male to line out (front speakers, green), male to line in, speakers to female.


2. Select your codec.  AC-3 ACM 128kB/s, 44kHz, stereo, is a solid option.



Adjust your hotkeys.
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I set the record and stop hotkeys to unassigned keys and killed the rest (with backspace) so I don't inadvertently trigger something in-game.  Unassign the Print Screen key to avoid hotkey conflicts with WoT.



Take a look under the Display tab.  "Compensate for record overhead in frame rate"  I'm still trying to figure out exactly what that does, but I think it acts as an FPS lock to set your game framerate to what you've got set in Taksi so frames aren't skipped.  I'll leave this unlocked and come back to it when I or someone else can figure out what it does.  Just note that it might be important.



Stats tab is last. Keep an eye on this to tell what Taksi is "App hooking" to.
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App Hook feature.

Unhooked/Searching (blue)
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Hooked (green)
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My understanding is that once Taksi is in its blue "searching for app to hook onto" state, it will hook the next active window you click on.  Which should be WoT, if that's what you intend to record.  After it's hooked, it will continue to record that window regardless of the current active window until it's manually unhooked by clicking the App Hook button or corresponding hotkey (default Alt+F2).



Adjust your game resolution.
You have to consider your resolution and aspect ratio before recording.  If you want to post your footage on Youtube, you'll want to set your resolution to a 16:9 aspect ratio.  That means 1280x720, 1920x1080, etc.  If you have "Half Size Video Frame" checked, footage recorded at a game-resolution of 1920x1080 will be 960x540.



Check out SiberianExpress' CameramanMod.
The CameraMan Mod removes your in-game HUD, including all chat text and icons to shoot in "cinematic mode".  Remember to copy your game folder so you don't alter your main game!



Start recording!
Once you have a window hooked, a small square will appear in the upper left corner that indicates the recording status of Taksi.  Green is ready, red is recording.  After it's hooked, you can simply start to record.  Once you stop, it will dump the file in the folder you set earlier.  Remember to have your audio input set properly or Taksi won't let you record.





(continuation)...Unfortunately, the resources required for active encoding are too steep for recording in MPEG-4 in resolutions much higher than 1280x720p.  You may be better off trying a two-step lossless-record-->encode-to-lossy process using a lossless codec, like Lagarith or simply uncompressed .avi, and encoding software, such as VirtualDub, as mentioned below in Part 2.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________


PART 2: Taksi configuation and workflow for recording in uncompressed .avi and encoding to x264 using VirtualDub
Part 2 is a more involved process for higher quality results.
Pros:  Higher quality, fewer encoding issues, more compatible
Cons: More time intensive workflow, very large files

Part 2 covers a different process of recording in an uncompressed (no loss in quality) and very large video format, which you will later encode using VirtualDub to shrink its size on disk for uploading to YouTube, etc.  For this, you'll need Komisar's x264 build (1947kMod.x86), direct link to version 1947 x86.  You may still have to read Part 1, as it covers Taksi setup.

Setup your video codec:

Change your compressor to "Full Frames (Uncompressed)" and you may want to lower your target frame rate to 20fps.  Be warned, uncompressed .avi is huge at around 2GB/minute at 960x540.

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This is footage that will be editable in many of the software suits

To encode the uncompressed .avi:

Download 32-bit VirtualDub, I'm using the latest version of 1.10 (currently 1.10.0), found here.  Remember, you'll need 64-bit codecs if you use 64-bit VirtualDub.  I recommend going 32-bit for both, though, with uncompressed avi, either will work fine.

Run VirtualDub.exe as administrator.  Go to Video-->Compression.  Select x264vfw and click Configure.  

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Under the Main tab, click the large pull down and select "Single pass - bitrate-based (ABR)" to set an average bitrate encoding.  Again, it's dependent on your resolution, but you can afford to raise the bit-rate higher.  I'm using 6000-7000 kbit/s for 1280x720 (720p) recording and around 4000 kbps for 960x540.  

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Under the VFW box in the lower right, check the box for VirtualDub Hack.  Next go to the Rate control & Other tab and on the box on the upper right under Multithreading, enter the number of threads you wish to use.  Generally, anywhere from 1x to 1.5x the number of threads your CPU utilizes.  The most recent CPUs have two threads per core, so a quad-core would have 8 threads.  If in doubt, set it lower rather than higher.

After the codec is set, you're ready to encode.  File-->Open your uncompressed .avi file and then File-->Save as .AVI.  The encoding process will begin and output the encoded file to where you saved it.  If you'd like to shrink or enlarge the video's resolution, you can add a resize filter by going to Video-->Filters.  Add..resize, OK.  You can adjust size relatively (in percent) or absolutely by resolution.  You probably want to keep your Aspect Ratio checked as "same as source".  If you enlarge the video, I'd also add a sharpen filter as well.


Troubleshooting Video:

1) Try running WoT in windowed mode
2) Try recording at a lower resolution and lowering bitrate significantly (1000-2000) to see if you can record.
3) Try a different codec, such as Komisar's x264 vfw build.
4) Make sure DirectX and video card drivers are up to date.

azza10 #2 Posted Mar 30 2011 - 10:23

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thanks, nice guide

jdtherocker #3 Posted Mar 30 2011 - 14:17

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Thankxs keptin very useful I wa slooking for a free recorder and you helped me find one cheers! JD

When_Kittens_Attack #4 Posted Mar 30 2011 - 18:06

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Interesting alternative to Fraps and etc. I'll have to try it out next time.

Mrtheox #5 Posted Mar 30 2011 - 23:57

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Very cool, do you have any suggestions for open source editing programs?

Marseille #6 Posted Mar 31 2011 - 00:42

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Oh yes, I'll take this over FRAPS anyday!

Does this work for Mac users, by any chance? My sister's interested in using this as well.

keptin #7 Posted Mar 31 2011 - 01:27

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View PostMrtheox, on Mar 30 2011 - 23:57, said:

Very cool, do you have any suggestions for open source editing programs?

I don't know of any fully featured open source editing programs; I mainly use After Effects for that.  It's worth taking a look at Virtualdub for splitting and encoding--it's a great tool to complement Taksi as well for a two-step lossless-record-->encode-to-lossy workflow for results superior to on the fly encoding with x264/MPEG-4.


View PostMarseille, on Mar 31 2011 - 00:42, said:

Does this work for Mac users, by any chance? My sister's interested in using this as well.

To my knowledge, it doesn't support Mac.

Marseille #8 Posted Mar 31 2011 - 02:47

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Alright, so I have it set up to the configurations you listed, at a 5000 kbps bit rate, 1200 x 800 resolution. No problem getting Taksi to start the recording process. But when I finish recording WoT and check out the video, all I'm left with is a content-less black window. No video and no audio in the file.

Do you know what I'm doing wrong? :lol:

EDIT: I get video while recording Google Chrome, but it's in black and white, and slanted to boot! Something's really off here!

When_Kittens_Attack #9 Posted Mar 31 2011 - 03:01

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I checked their main site and they said the program doesn't record audio. :(

keptin #10 Posted Mar 31 2011 - 03:24

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View Postkrazyxazn, on Mar 31 2011 - 03:01, said:

I checked their main site and they said the program doesn't record audio. :(

Taksi records audio from any windows recording device.  To enable mix stereo recording (if supported by your audio drivers), do the following:

1. Right-click on the speaker icon in the tray.
2. Select "Recording Devices" from the menu.
3. The Sound window opens. Switch to the "Recording" tab. Right-click in an empty area and select "Show disabled devices".
4. Enable your audio card as a stereo recording device; often listed as "stereo mix" or "auxiliary".

At the worst, you can pick up a $2 audio splitter and record from Line-In, as nearly all audio drivers support line-in recording.

View PostMarseille, on Mar 31 2011 - 02:47, said:

Alright, so I have it set up to the configurations you listed, at a 5000 kbps bit rate, 1200 x 800 resolution. No problem getting Taksi to start the recording process. But when I finish recording WoT and check out the video, all I'm left with is a content-less black window. No video and no audio in the file.

Do you know what I'm doing wrong? :lol:

EDIT: I get video while recording Google Chrome, but it's in black and white, and slanted to boot! Something's really off here!


Here's what I would do to troubleshoot:
1) Try running WoT in windowed mode
2) Try recording at a lower resolution and lowering bitrate significantly (1000-2000) to see if you can record.
3) Try a different codec, maybe H264.
4) Make sure DirectX and video card drivers are up to date.

If you're using it with on-board graphics, you might be SOL.

jcqc96 #11 Posted Apr 12 2011 - 10:12

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Hey Keptin, I installed the ffdshow codec and started configuring Taksi. I noticed the Encoder tab lacked the MPEG-4 format. The other options would surely ruin the recording (one of them is MJPEG) I don't know how to configure these type of programs yet but I'm trying to understand the basics.

Could you help me find the missing MPEG-4 option? Thanks in advance!

keptin #12 Posted Apr 12 2011 - 19:17

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View Postjcqc96, on Apr 12 2011 - 10:12, said:

Could you help me find the missing MPEG-4 option? Thanks in advance!

Hey jcqc96, I'd love to help you! I have so many codecs on my system I might have mixed up where I got the MPEG-4 codec.  There are a number of encoder options that will work well.  While having "ffdshow Video Codec" selected as your compressor, click on "configure".  Under your list of encoders, some other good options that you'll (hopefully) see are H.264, XviD and DivX3.  You can use any of these at the same bitrate and get similar results.  The advantages with MPEG-4 and H.264 is that everything is compatible with them.  XviD and DivX3 are also very common, although, not quite as compatible with some software as the first two.

*edit* I just doubled checked and MPEG-4 should be in there since ffdshow tryouts has full encode/decode support for that codec according to the FFMPEG documentation.  Are you sure you installed the codec pack with administrator permissions (Run as Administrator), restarted after installing ffdshow tryouts and are running Taski as administrator?

If all else fails, you can grab the 32-bit (x86) Komisar x264 build here.  After it's installed, select it as your "compressor", labeled "x264vfw - H>264/MPEG-4...yada yada".  Click "configure" and select the Main tab.  On the large pull-down select "Single pass - bitrate-based (ABR)", then enter your desired bitrate below.  For 720p recording, I set it around 4000-5000 kbit/s.  You can also go to the Rate control & Other tab and enter your number of threads under the Multithreading box.  If you're not sure what this is, you can skip this step.

Those are two solid work-arounds that should work.  If you have anymore questions, don't hesitate to ask.

Panzerleiter #13 Posted Apr 13 2011 - 20:14

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Nice job.  Thanks for the post.

Wossername #14 Posted Apr 15 2011 - 12:55

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Thanks, wondered where all those screen shots had gone :)

sampak #15 Posted May 05 2011 - 03:33

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I'm trying to use Taksi, but it's not hooking to WOT that I have running in window'd mode right there behind it, when I click the game screen. It will keep hooking to MSN messenger or Firefox, when I click them, but not WOT. Hmm...

Ok so I got it to record the entire desktop so I can see the game there once I record and all that. Unfortunately the "hook" issue is still there and it doesn't like my sound stereo mix - so no sound so far.

keptin #16 Posted May 05 2011 - 09:05

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Having no stereo mix to record from is an issue for some.  The option at that point is to grab an audio splitter and double-male adapter to record from line-in.  As for the app hooking, be sure you're running Taksi as administrator.  I've also found that starting taksi first, followed by WoT, seems to make the app hooking work.

There are alternates to Taksi, such as Fraps, Play Claw, etc, but they aren't as full featured and don't allow you to use codecs to compress on the fly.  I personally think they're costly and oversimplified, despite their better support.

pekiti #17 Posted May 05 2011 - 09:35

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+1 for a great guide and very helpful post, thanks!

sampak #18 Posted May 05 2011 - 16:23

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Yeah I tried FRAPS a few years back, wasn't impressed with the demo version anyway.
I'll try your suggestion tonight again about the sound issue.

I tried to run WOT after taksi, but I sure didnt run it as administrator, so that's next to try.

BlindShot #19 Posted May 06 2011 - 04:30

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It works well man, I love it now I can uninstall FRAPS

ArmoredCorps #20 Posted May 09 2011 - 11:11

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This... sounds brilliant. I've had a 6-core processor just dying to come into it's own now for almost a year, it needs something to cut it's teeth on!  :Smile-izmena: