Friday, September 25, 2015

And More: Share And Tell - The Open Broadcaster Software Logo, A Cinematic Adaptation (Production Logo, 'Ident') [4K-XAVC-S]

I just wanted to share a little 'intro' I made for the OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) project:


Feel free to Download and use this logo for anything you desire (following any rules set by The Open Broadcaster Software Project). Once I figure out how to offer a high-quality download link more directly, I will put it right here!

[The above video clip contains only Royalty-Free and First-Hand-created content and is Distributed here via the Creative Commons Attribution License (any use, even commercial, with attribution listed); the Logo/Intro itself is 12s00f long, so trim off my identifier after that point, to use it for anything you wish]



I recently Downloaded OBS to try recording with it again - I tried OBS only for a very short time a few years ago, barely touching it; but recently thought about it again and gave it a go and see how it works for recording gameplay (what I mean herein, is Offline ("Non-Streaming") Locally-Recorded gameplay clips)... And I love it! Although it has to be 'set up' somewhat before easy operation, after that, it seems to be able to produce great quality with little impact on performance. I was just using the 'default' x264 (H.264/AVC MPEG-4 Part 10) codec that seems built-in to the program, utilizing my own x264 settings that I found worked well for local recording with x264 over the past few years (found in previous articles here at the blog - just Search for "x264" on the right side there). I look forward to trying a GPU-Accelerated codec in the future, in OBS (I am not a Programmer, otherwise I would like to contribute towards this, as well).


[I plan on doing a 'TestRun™' article on OBS here in the future; but fitting with this blog, it would be more concerned with showing others how to use OBS to record gameplay locally on their system (just like using Bandicam or MSI Afterburner) and what kind of results to expect from it - for now,
enjoy this little logo...]




Behind The Scenes - The Creation Of The Above Thingamajig



Creating this Logo/Ident for OBS was an idea I had, because although I had seen a couple of past Submissions of Logos for OBS on their Official Forum, there was no "cinematic-style" logos done that I could see, so far - ones that could be presented in a Professional Setting, perhaps at the beginning of a Streaming Event that was utilizing OBS. This is more what I was 'going for' here - something that looked "professional" and then on top of that, I personally wanted it to be "Cinematic"...

I used programs I had purchased in the past few years, for the logo (mainly Corel's VideoStudio Pro x8 and CyberLink's PowerDirector 12 Ultra Edition), along with some Open Source Software for tweaking the various elements, such as The GIMP (Graphical Image Manipulation Program [although I think they just call it "GIMP" now]) and Inkscape, Audacity (an Audio Editor) and FontForge.

It was a lot harder than I thought it would be, to create an 'only twelve second long' production... I knew what I wanted in my head [the way it looks in the end, thankfully]; but what I wanted specifically couldn't be done, with any of the Software that I had available. So, when a situation like that arrives, I like to "forge my own trail" and figure out how to make it happen, despite not being able to do so easily, with the Tools at hand.

What I mean for instance, is the black OBS 'disc' that comes in from the lower-left. It seems like that would be easy to do perhaps, and at first I avoided Blender because I thought I could just use PowerDirector to have a "circle" of some Font (Wingdings or Webdings, etc) and apply the Logo to the Font face and manipulate it there – which seemed really easy in my head, five minutes work maybe.... The problem was, PowerDirector wouldn't apply the image properly onto the front face of a Font 'circle' character - it was always offset oddly. I even tried applying the Logo to a circle character in VideoStudio's NewBlueTitler, but it did the same thing - the logo got applied all 'wonky'. I surmised it was the Font itself that was offset oddly for what I wanted to do (it's dimensions/metrics) and so, after searching through a ton of Fonts to find a 'simple circle', it turned out I couldn't find one and had to create a font from scratch and create a circle character inside that font, to do what I wanted...

[I realized I could have just created a circle and manipulated it in Blender, but I liked the Automation of Font manipulation that was offered in the NewBlue Titler add-ins that came with a couple of the video editing applications I purchased (VideoStudio Pro and PowerDirector) - I thought it would be easier...at first]

So, I created a Font and drew out a circle. I saved the one-character Font and installed the Font into Windows and then tried applying the OBS logo 'disc' once again to the front facing of the circle – it worked! The thing is, the font came out looking 'blocky', the circle didn't have a nice roundness to it - it was more like an octagon. I figured it was the resolution of the Font being displayed, but that was something couldn't really be adjusted, so I went back into the Font itself and added nodes for the circle character I created… painstakingly making it more complex and 'round', by altering each node one-by-one, lining them up into a circle shape, until eventually, I had a better 'circle' to use. Then, going back into NewBlue Titler, I set up the Font, applied the facing of the logo and it matched up enough - and looked like a 'circle' enough - to start manipulating it how I wanted…

A 'flipping coin until it sits flat' type of movement, although more 'monolithic' in style, is what I wanted for the OBS 'disc' - and that animation was actually built into the NewBlue Titler Add-on in VideoStudio Pro, it was really close to what I was thinking. Great. I then wanted the Text that you see on the right side, desiring to emulate logos I had seen at the OBS Project website (the “Powered By...” ones). I settled on a Franklin-Gothic-styled font that was Royalty-Free [I do not know the Font that was actually used in the “Powered By...” logos at the Forum I saw in the past – in fact, I can't find them there anymore either].

The “space-y” background I wanted was a free one included in PowerDirector, but I tweaked the particle generators (more particles and added custom types) and changed all of the colours and levels to how I wanted [“space travel but classy” if that makes any sense lol] - I thought it would give a sense of 'going out there to everyone' that was befitting OBS. I brought down the Saturation a lot, to make it match the feel of the two-tone OBS logo and also not take away too much from the logo/text reveal... [I might share an early “daily” I had, where there was waaay too much Glare and Flares going on haha].

The right-side text was finished in VideoStudio, where the NewBlue Titler there allowed me to give it a nice Chrome finish (there is even a Chrome style Preset in there). The animation was also from the same NewBlueTitler there, tweaked slightly. [I had tried to get the Chrome style I wanted in GIMP and Inkscape, but couldn't get what I was looking for in those, for the moment, despite having used them in the past for similar 'chrome'-desired projects]. After all that, only a bit of lining things up, a bit of tweaking here and there, and it was almost done! All it needed now was an inspiring Backing Track

Both video editing suites (VideoStudio Pro and PowerDirector) included an 'automated music generator' type of module within them [what a great thing, coming from always having to create my own Backing Tracks in the Old Days] and I found what I wanted in PowerDirector's version (even though Corel's offers more Tracks to choose from). Royalty-Free for Any Use, I tailored it down to a crisp, "majestic-yet-hopefully-still-'classy'-and-also-cinematic" 12 seconds, which was what my animation seemed to be settling on. A few more tweaks and timing line-ups later and what you see above is the final result... Slash-Whew!


I have my little Identifier/Disclaimer at the end, but just cut if off by Trimming the clip to 12seconds00Frames and use it however you desire. Enjoy it! And please feel free to let me know what you all think of it and if there are any Suggestions to further tailor it for The OBS Project (and public) usage.


Thanks to all the contributors of The OBS Project for your hard work and inspiration for this logo, my own Personal Project. I hope everyone can eventually enjoy and use this logo as they desire.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Quick Tip: Corel's ScreenCap Recording Utility - Problem Recording Audio, "Prepare Record Failed" Error [A FIX]





[Update/Addendum 2016-12: I recently received PaintShop Pro X9 as a 'Christmas Eve Gift From Santa' and did a quick test of this again, to find that this 'FIX' also works for the Screen Capture "Stand-Alone" version that was recently released with PaintShop Pro X9!]




I just wanted to share a Quick Tip for those having problems recording audio with the Corel ScreepCap utility, especially if you are seeing a "Prepare Record Failed!" Error/Popup, upon trying to begin recording. I experienced this myself at first, when trying ScreenCap, so began Troubleshooting to see what could be the cause. While I did not find out the exact reason for the error I did find a fix that worked and is repeatable, allowing me to record audio with Corel's Screencap utility from then on. Hopefully, this will work for you, too...



I purchased VideoStudio x8 about a week ago [as of the time of this post; but this 'Fix' also works for VSX9] - and I have been having a blast learning it and exploring all of the great content that came with it. While I might do a "First Impressions/Review" article on the program, and maybe even some Tutorials eventually, for now I want to focus on this error/problem with the ScreenCap module, especially since experiencing it myself and then seeing it in the Corel User Forums, finding out that it is in fact an 'older' problem for many. To begin, I will present the steps I found to enable working audio recording with ScreenCap.

The "Prepare Record Failed" error from Corel's ScreenCap module that pops-up when this problem is encountered,,
captured within Windows 8.1, at the time (the solution below was done in Windows 10)


Here are the steps I took, that solved the problem with 'no audio' when recording with the ScreenCap utility, causing it to crash (and display the error message shown above):

[Note: These steps assume that the user is attempting to utilize the onboard (built-in) audio adapter of the mainboard - if you are using a differing device (eg. a sound card), then merely follow the steps replacing that device with the ones mentioned below. As well, I took screenshots of these steps in Windows 10, which is why my Desktop may appear slightly different than if you are running Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 - the steps should work in the same manner, however]


  • There are a few ways to open the Sound Devices list in Windows, but one of them is to right-click the little speaker icon in the System Tray (the area in the lower-right corner with the date and time).
    In the sub-menu that pops up, click "Recording Devices".
  • In the Recording Tab of the Sound panel/window that comes up, let's make sure you can see Disabled and Hidden devices in the list. To do this, right-click somewhere in the white inner area (but not on a device in the list) and a pop-up menu should appear, saying "Show Disabled Devices" and "Show Disconnected Devices".
    If these do not have a checkmark beside them, click on each of them one at a time, to enable these options. Now, you should see all the recording devices currently attached to your system. Some will be 'greyed out' if they are not plugged in or nothing is plugged into them.
  • In the list of devices, right-click the "Stereo Mix" device and choose "Enable", to 'turn on' the recording capability of your onboard audio adapter (the built-in audio capability in many modern mainboards).
    If a green checkmark is on the icon representing the device, it is also the Default Device  for Recording (that is, the one that a program will try to use first, for recording).
    If there is no green circle with a checkmark, right-click once again on the same device and choose "Set As Default Device", and now one should appear next to the "Stereo Mix" device.
    [if your system is already configured with the motherboard audio enabled and recording, this step may not be required]
  • Click OK to close the Sound panel/window and close the list of audio devices.
  • Start up Corel's ScreenCap utility by double-clicking the icon on the Desktop for it, or navigating to the Tile or Shortcut in the Start Menu, to launch it.
    [In my case, I had an icon on my desktop that said "Corel ScreenCap x8" and I used that]
    Once it opens, click on the word "Settings" near the bottom of the panel, to open up the options/settings for Screen Capture.
  • In the Audio Settings category/area, click on the Circle next to "System Audio" to Disable Screen Capture from attempting to record from there
    [this seems counter-intuitive, but this is what I tested in Troubleshooting and doing this 'workaround' allowed me to 'fix' the problem and get it working - it seems more of a 'workaround' with getting the program to work, than a true 'fix' however, but this is what can be done, for now]. 
  • Just above the "System Audio", click on the "I" next to "Voice" to Enable recording from that input
    [this seems counter-intuitive again, as we are not going to use a microphone in this example, but this is the second part of the 'workaround' to get Screen Capture to record audio, for now].

  • Now, we will tell Screen Capture to use a different device for recording sound (as input).
    Click on the "Sound Check" button, next to the "Voice" setting.
    This will open up the Sound Check window/panel.
  • Next to the "Input Device" setting, click on the pull-down menu and your device that we enabled earlier should show up in the list, as "Stereo Mix".

    Choose that device from the pull-down list and if you want to check to make sure it is receiving sound, you can click on the "Record" button.
    Once you click on this button, it will automatically record for ten seconds. If you quickly start a sound file, song or game, it should record exactly what you hear. Then, it will play the short test recording back for you, automatically.
    [this should verify that ScreenCap can now record audio through that device]
  • Click the "X" in the upper-right corner, to close the Sound Check panel/window. 

That's it!


Now you should be able to hit the big red circle button at the top of the Screen Capture panel to begin recording - and it should now capture everything that you can hear through your speakers/headphones...


The ScreenCap utility does not seem to like 7.1 (8-channel) or 5.1 (6-channel) or even Quadrophonic (4-channel) audio as of the time of this post - you may still get the "Prepare Record Failed" Error if you do not change your system's audio adapter to Stereo (2-channel) Mode.


The above steps are the ones I took to enable these devices - and although it is mainly for users who have a similar type of audio device that I have at the time of this posting (a "Realtek High Definition" audio adapter/chip in their system (on their motherboard)), other devices may be slightly different in the naming if you are using a different audio device (the hardware and name listed for it, eg. "VIA HD Audio") - but the steps should still be quite similar (the windows to open up, what to click on, etc). These are the exact steps I took, and they enabled me to record audio through the Screen Capture utility; and so I wanted to share them in the hope that they will work for you, too.

 [I may return to this post and add a tutorial video showing visually how to do the steps in Windows in the near future - if I do, it will be located here]


Enjoy -  and See You In The Games!




[Editor's Log: For fun, I have created a background (desktop wallpaper) and a logo (shown in the above material) about the Blog , done in the style of the AMD Badge Logo and AMD Background Pattern, as I am currently enjoying an AMD GPU - but I do not have a preference between AMD GPUs and NVIDIA GPUs, I have owned both in the past and will use both in the future. I am not endorsed or affiliated with either AMD or NVIDIA in any commercial manner.]

Thursday, September 03, 2015

TestRun: Game DVR, The Windows 10 Built-In Game Recording Utility [with a short Game Compatibility List and Quality Setting Comparison Screenshots/Videos]


[Update: Since the time of this posting, GameDVR has been Updated by Micrsoft and now offers 60fps Variable Framerate and other new options, such as recording resolutions higher than 720p. I will try to do another TestRun of GameDVR and these new-and-improved settings, Soon™]



Just after the Windows 10 Release, I upgraded the main OS [Operating System] on my PC to Win10 (from 8.1). Yes, I took the plunge... I was actually in the Beta for Windows 10 and have been double-booting with it, testing it off and on for months now, testing out mainly game compatibility for a future article here [Coming Soon™], and for the last few days, I have been trying out Windows' built-in game recording program to see if it could possibly replace third-party game recording applications such as MSI Afterburner, Bandicam, Dxtory and more. Today, presented with a more loosely-formatted 'TestRun', here is what I found...


Game DVR in The Xbox App



In Windows 10, many programs and applications have been created with a Tablet 'feel' to them, with a simplified interface and large 'buttons' to click on, commonly referred to as "Apps" [this concept was introduced and is carried over from Windows 8, but all of the 'regular' Windows programs, such as the Windows-Vista-era Control Panel are still there for Veteran Users]. The built-in "Game DVR" in Windows 10, that lets you record gameplay, is within the Xbox App. The Xbox App is very easy to find and open, as it is in the Default/First panel, when clicking on the Start button/area', shown below:

Game DVR is found in The Xbox App, shown here in the Start Menu of Windows 10.
Click to see Full Size.


The Xbox App can connect to your Xbox Live Account, keep tracks of Achievements, launch installed Games, Connect directly to your Xbox and more... but as this is a blog that talks [mainly] about games and gameplay recording, I'll focus on the Game DVR portion of the app [from the point of view of a PC user], for this article.



Game DVR Settings



Taking a look at the settings, you can enable and disable Game DVR entirely if needed (or for compatibility with other programs running or performance reasons) and within it you can set your own Keyboard Shortcuts - which may be needed for some games that won't recognize the Windows Key (with the Windows Logo on it, on Windows Keyboards, usually next to the ALT keys). The original Default Windows Shortcut Keys for the Game DVR cannot be changed or modified, but the ability to let you assign your own set of Shortcut Keys makes up for this. Here is what my assigned keybindings look like, below:

An example of the Keybindings found in Game DVR in Windows 10.
The "Your Shortcut" section allows for personalization of keybindings to your own preference.
Click to see Full Size.



Buffered Recording is a great inclusion in the Windows 10 Game DVR, where it is called "Record That" [recently changed to "Background Recording"††].

For those who aren't familiar with it, Buffered Recording is where the game recording application constantly records in the background ["working similar to a treadmill" as I like to tell others] where the same space (on the hard drive) is recorded over and over, over-writing itself (losing the previous data) constantly - until the user (you) stop the program, essentially telling the program "keep that last bit you just recorded on the treadmill" - where it will then save that last portion 'permanently' to a video file, keeping the last thing you saw on your screen (the last 30 Seconds, for instance, if it is configured to buffer record that amount of time). Then, Buffered Recording begins the process again, recording another 30 seconds and re-recording over that new portion, again and again, until it is 'saved' by the user. Seen in the past in the game recording program FRAPS (and today in many programs, such as Shadowplay, MSI's Afterburner, Open Broadcaster Software and more), it is a very useful feature to capture that 'bit of action that just happened' in your gaming adventures.

In the Screenshot of a section of the Game DVR app below, I have configured a setting of 30 Seconds of buffered recording. Since this buffered recording is running constantly once the app detects a 3D/accelerated program running, it can be configured to not run if you are using it on a Laptop and running on the Battery, by simply removing the Checkmarks in the Checkboxes present below.
[It can also detect and record any 3D-accelerated interfaces, such as a web browser window or player within a webpage, but it does not seem to record the Windows Desktop in general, at the time of testing]
In this Updated Screenshot, it can be seen that the Buffered Recording capability of Game DVR is now called "Background Recording", changed from "Record That", found in previous builds of Windows 10. Background Recording can be Disabled or Restricted if needed. A buffering time of 30 Seconds is shown. Click to see Full Size.


Game DVR Quality Settings



As for the recording Quality settings, there are simply two options: Standard and High.

Game DVR recording quality settings have two options, Standard and High.
Both settings are configured as High in the above screenshot of the quality settings.


In my testing, it appears to have an effect mainly on the Bitrate used to record with, where the settings create an output, on average, with these recording bitrates:

Standard: ~10Mbps max. (VBR) [Variable Bit Rate, changes as needed]
High: ~20Mbps max. (VBR) [Variable Bit Rate, changes as needed]

Indeed, according to the Microsoft site page for the Game DVR app, looking it up after some testing, these are the exact limitations of the two quality settings.

However, the Xbox site page also lists Resolutions to be limited by the setting - which it doesn't appear to be limited to [at least on the PC, in my testing] - for instance, I was able to record in 1080p even though I had selected the "Standard" recording Quality Setting (although the Bitrate was still limited within the file to about 10Mbps), whereas the Xbox website page for Game DVR lists "Standard" as recording in 720p.
[It is possible, that the recording engine is 'upscaling' the footage for the recorded file, that is, recording at 720p 'internally', then resizing it to 1080p before it saves it into the recorded file output... but after looking at the recordings themselves, it does not appear to be the case (the level of detail maintained by the codec is the same in both Settings). Perhaps Microsoft may change these settings in the future.]




Game DVR Format and Frame Rate



The files created, upon superficial examination, appear to be MPEG-4 Part 10 (H.264/AVC) codec files, using VFR (Variable Frame Rate).

Note: this usage of VFR can potentially cause issues with importing these files into NLE video editing programs (Non-Linear Editing applications) as I wrote about in an earlier article, stating it is a reason that many are having problems editing and importing Shadowplay recordings, here at the blog. 
Bandicam, another popular gameplay recording program, addressed this issue in a recent update to their application, by including an option to record in CFR (Constant Frame Rate), to alleviate this issue - I wrote a short post about that, here at the blog, as well. 
[Note that not all video editing applications will have this issue - some programs, such as Cyberlink's PowerDirector and Corel's VideoStudio for example, do not seem to care what frame format type is imported into it as they both accept and edit VFR-created recordings without problem, in my testing. As well, I have tested importing Game DVR recordings with Sony's Vegas Movie Studio 13 and Editshare's Lightworks 12 (without Transcoding) and had no problems importing and editing the Game DVR clips, despite the clips having the VFR frame type format]

Using VFR, the recording output process changes the Framerate for the output file as needed, reducing the frames written into the file when less is changing on the screen/between frames, and increasing the amount of frames inserted into the output file when more is happening onscreen.

Looking at the recorded files that Game DVR produces, they seems to have an average output of 30fps [something many online are already speaking negatively about] - but that number increases up to 60fps at times, as needed/decided by the codec. For instance, the media information in one output file, a short Game DVR test recording of Battlefield: Hardline, shows the framerate data following:

Frame rate mode: Variable
Original frame rate: 29.970 fps
Minimum frame rate: 14.978 fps
Maximum frame rate: 60.241 fps

So, the VFR settings for Game DVR appear to be a Target Framerate of 29.97 frames per second (the NTSC standard, as I am currently in North America); but it increases it at times, up to about 60fps. 60 frames-per-second seems to be the upper limit, as the game itself was able to run at over 90fps when playing it (when it was recording this very file) - this can be seen in the screenshot below, in which I left the FPS (Frames Per Second) Overlay/indicator for Bandicam running in the game [Bandicam was not recording, it was merely running for the Overlay]:
An example of Game DVR Recording Quality and Performance, this frame was extracted from a recording that was utilizing the High settings of Game DVR. A lightly compressed JPEG image, it also shows the Quality maintained by Game DVR at this setting. While the recording was saved with a Variable Framerate within, it also shows the high Performance maintained by Game DVR, as the game itself is still running at over 90fps while recording, with Game DVR. Click to see Full Size.



To mention the Audio formatting used for a moment, the Audio within the Game DVR recorded file output appears to be a typical MPEG-4 Part 10 AAC format, at a 48kHz sampling rate and a 192kbps bitrate [which is in my opinion, a "good enough" BitRate for general audio recording use, especially when utilized as part of the Advanced Audio Coding format of MPEG-4 Part 10, which is capable of higher apparent quality than matching MPEG-1 Layer 3 ("MP3") BitRates]. The BitRate can be adjusted though, down to 96kbps, to reduce recording file sizes, if needed.

Game DVR Audio Recording Settings, showing the choices available at this time,
from 192kbps down to 96kbps to reduce recording file size, if needed.


Unfortunately, the Audio track appears to be limited to Stereo as of the time of this posting - in fact, if you are having problems with 'No Audio' in your Game DVR recordings, changing your Audio Device output to Stereo may alleviate the issue for you.
Steps to open your Audio Devices in Windows (and also change the Drivers installed for them, if needed as well) can be found in my previous post about Game DVR, here:
http://gametipsandmore.blogspot.com/2015/08/quick-tip-part-2-of-2-no-audio-recorded.html





Game DVR and Game Compatibility



When testing Game DVR, it was not always possible to record every game, especially when the game was not running in 'Windowed Mode' - this recording app seems to more easily detect a game in Windowed Mode, at this time.
In Fullscreen Modes, many games were not detected at all. Even if a game was detected and it was possible to record with Game DVR, there were not always indicators or panels of information that showed up, to assist in the recording process or to notify that it was occurring.

This appears to be by design, after looking at the Xbox website for Game DVR - it states a warning, that:
"...If a PC game is in full-screen mode, the Game bar will be blocked from opening. To use the Game bar or the shortcut keys, you’ll first need to adjust the game settings to open in Windowed mode. Once in this mode, press the Windows key + G to open the Game bar, and then select the checkbox 'Yes, this is a game'. You can now either play in Windowed mode or switch the settings back to full-screen mode, but once in full-screen mode you’ll have to rely on the Windows shortcut keys, as the Game bar will be blocked. In this mode, use the Windows key + Alt + G and Windows key + Alt + R sequences to create your recordings. The other keyboard shortcut combinations will not work in full-screen mode..."
(quoted from the Microsoft Game DVR website).

So, if you want to use Game DVR to record most games [not all, as it does not work with all games], you may have to run the game(s) in Windowed Mode, to increase compatibility. You can try running the game(s) in Fullscreen Mode, but I found during testing there may be no indication that the recording process is occurring or not. For some games (eg.Tomb Raider 2013), a red panel/indicator would be shown in the upper-right corner, for other games (eg. Battlefield 4), the game screen will slightly 'dim' in brightness, indicating that Game DVR has 'saved the last recording'.

I want to note here, that most games do not seem to even be detected by Game DVR if they are run in Fullscreen Mode.
[In my opinion, this is a large negative against Game DVR, as most gamers are probably running their games in Fullscreen Mode, if the game is capable of it. Hopefully, this limitation of Game DVR will change in the future, via a patch or Hotfix from Microsoft - after all, other game recording programs can handle Fullscreen Modes (for example, Bandicam, Dxtory, MSI Afterburner (which is also completely free, like Game DVR) and many more)]

Since we are talking about 'negatives against Game DVR', I should continue by saying that there are a few options that are not configurable by the end User at all, leaving a 'restricted' feeling to the app [these options may change in their configurability in the future]. I will list two of them here:

  • The folder to save the Captures to cannot be changed.

    If you don't like where the game is saving the recordings, too bad, it can't be changed. In a way, I see the point of this [from working in IT in the past], as the folder it is utilizing should experience no troubles, for the User of Game DVR, to create files in. It is in a location that should not conflict with other Security or Permission settings on a system. However, as an end User and Gamer, the inability to choose to save the recordings to another location (perhaps a larger drive, or a faster one) is frustrating, and I have no doubt this limitation may turn many away from Game DVR, for the time being.
  • The alerts (pop-ups) for the app cannot be changed.

    When completing a recording with Game DVR, a pop-up may slide in from the bottom-right corner, telling you that it has saved the file. It may also do this for Screenshots taken by the app [I say "may" here, because in Fullscreen Modes, these indicators may not show up at all]. The problem is, this alert/popup cannot be disabled, or the location of where it shows up, changed. Perhaps I am 'spoiled' by other game recording programs; but almost all other utilities of this nature allow configuration of the Overlays or Notifications, even if it is just the colour of them, or what corner of the screen they are shown in. Again, I feel that this inability to change the location of the alert/popup [changing the opacity or colour of the popups would be nice, devs] will turn many away from Game DVR, at this time.

One last possible point against Game DVR I have found during testing is: at times it will give an error (when trying to capture some buffered recording, with the Record That feature) that states "Record That will not work" and to "Start it and try again" - even though the Record That function is Enabled (already started) and was just working previously. There is no other error or information, merely that it 'will not work'. There seems to be a lot of compatibility and detection issues with Game DVR, at this point in time... [Rushed to be released with the Windows 10 Release, perhaps?]




Game DVR Compatibility List



Below then, is a list of a handful of games that I have personally tested Game DVR with, up to as of the time of this posting. It should be noted that for this list, I tested mainly Fullscreen Modes of games that allowed it (as I thought most gamers would also run games that way). This was also done to highlight the low Fullscreen Detection occurrence with Game DVR.
[Once again, Game DVR functionality may change in the future, with Updates and Patches from Microsoft, and these future changes may help alleviate many of the problems and incompatibilities it currently has - in fact, hopefully they will]



List of Some Games Tested with Game DVR (in Alphabetical Order)

Note that when running games in Fullscreen Mode, most will not show any indicator at all, when recording with Game DVR, even though it is functioning and recording the gameplay. Many games will still perform an audio indicator (Xbox alert type sound), even if there is no visual indicator shown. As well, some games will 'dim' the screen momentarily, to let you know the recording has been saved.


OK = Works in Fullscreen Mode (records gameplay, may have only audio indicator)
DNW = Does Not Work (fully or at all)

APB Reloaded = DNW†*
Batman: Arkham City = DNW
Battlefield 4 = OK
Battlefield: Hardline = OK
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive = OK
Diablo II = DNW
Diablo III = OK (Default Shortcuts did not work, Custom ones did)
Grand Theft Auto IV (GTAIV) = OK
Guild Wars 2 = OK
**Hearthstone = OK
Hitman: Absolution (Steam) = OK
Hitman: Contracts (GOG) = DNW (the GameBar opens but cannot be interacted with)
Just Cause 2 = DNW
Left 4 Dead 2 = OK 
Media Portal (Live TV Viewing Application) = OK
Minecraft = OK
Planestside 2 = OK
Plants vs. Zombies (Steam) = OK
Rollercoaster Tycoon 3: Platinum (Steam) = DNW
Street Fighter IV (SFIV), Tested with Benchmark = OK
The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (TESV) = DNW
The Secret World = OK (possible problems, clips were cut short)
Tomb Raider (2013) = OK (possible problems, it would stop intermittently)
Torchlight (GOG) = DNW†*
Trove = DNW†*
WinTV (Live TV Viewing Application) = OK 
World of Warcraft (WoW) = OK

**(Hearthstone) - I experienced an odd 'flickering' when using Game DVR - but this only occurred in Hearthstone and in Standard Quality recording mode with Hearthstone. The symptom itself seems similar to what would be experienced in GOP-related artifacting (the size of the Group Of Pictures) as, the entire video would 'flicker' or 'flash', about every 3 seconds, when played back. As the codec used by Game DVR is MPEG-4/h.264/AVC, I state that it could be related to the GOP, as the Default GOP setting for h.264/AVC is 250 or 300 frames (depending on the interface used) - which, recording at about 30fps, is about 3 seconds. I may mention this occurrence to Blizzard, as it did not appear in other games or utilities (for example, the Unigine Valley Benchmark produces no such artifact/effect). [I suggest only using High Quality recording mode to record Hearthstone with Game DVR for now, as a Workaround]
†* (Various games, not all were tested for this) - I noticed during testing, that most games that will not normally record in Fullscreen Mode with Game DVR will record and buffer record (which Game DVR calls "Record That"†† [which in my opinion should perhaps be called 'Catch That' or 'Keep That' or similar]), if the game is changed to 'Fullscreen Windowed Mode' [which also assists in ease of Multitasking (ALT+TABbing, etc)]. In this mode, it is not an 'exclusive' Fullscreen mode, but it will take up the entire area of the screen/desktop/etc, so that nothing else is seen but the game. In this mode, Game DVR works far more compatibly with many more games than with Exclusive Fullscreen Mode.


If your game that you want to record, isn't buffering or recording with Game DVR, try changing the in-game options to a 'Windowed Mode' type, such as "Fullscreen Windowed Mode" - it should then work with most games!



As can be seen above, the functionality for Fullscreen Mode did not work in many games. Some games showed a red timer in the upper-right corner (eg. Tomb Raider 2013), but most did not. I am 'guessing' here, but perhaps the current functioning of the indicator(s) in Game DVR is a result of two factors:

1) An attempt to not interfere with the 3D displaying of the game material, whether for distraction (Streaming, Recording, etc) or for Performance purposes, it is simply not allowed, for most games
- Indeed, it is stated at the Game DVR information page, that in Fullscreen Mode, the visual cues will not be shown. The function of the restriction however, is not disclosed fully.

2) Incompatibility with most games
- As most games did not show any visual indicator (but the majority did give an audio indication of a recording being saved, for those that Game DVR worked with), perhaps there was a lack of compatibility at this time, for those games. I do not doubt that perhaps there was not enough cooperation from some game companies and publishers, with Microsoft, to provide sufficient Code to include the interface into their games (especially in the light that, to some companies/publishers, Microsoft is a direct competitor, with some game licenses/franchises).

Whatever the reasons, my testing found that in Fullscreen Mode, the functioning of Game DVR is either 'invisible' (no indicators, or just audio indicators) or non-compatible (not working at all) in many games.




Game DVR Output Quality, Comparison of Settings


The concept of apparent quality is mainly subjective; that is, what one person perceives as "good quality", another may perceive as "bad quality" [there is the property of mathematical identicalness of quality, but that is not what I am referring to here, I am referring to the human perception of apparent quality in the visual realm]. In short, the recordings that Game DVR produces as output are subjectively of "Good" quality. Now, this is out of a ranking that I would have between relativistic phrases, decreasing in apparent Quality, as:

Great
Good
Okay
Bad

If someone were to ask me if Game DVR gave 'low quality output' I would say, "No". However, if someone else were to ask me if Game DVR gave 'really nice high quality output', I would have to say "Not exactly, but it is Good". As I will show, the utilization of the MPEG-4/AVC codec is done quite well overall in the Game DVR utility, with h.264/AVC extended options apparently enabled, such as Deblocking (to reduce compression artifacts and the 'corruption' look of them), Variable Frame Rate (to assist in apparent smoothness of motion) and a Long GOP (large Group Of Pictures, a large amount of frames in between, to compress with) utilized, all higher functions of the MPEG-4 Part 10 H.264/AVC codec.


In this article, I am going to be looking at the overall visual quality of the recordings produced by Game DVR. In a future post, a Quality Test article, I am going to be pitting Game DVR output more directly against output produced by other game recording programs, such as Bandicam, Dxtory, Gaming Evolved (Raptr) and more - look for that article here at the blog, Soon™


As mentioned higher up in this article, Game DVR has two main Quality Settings: Standard and High, with each setting apparently limiting the overall BitRate of the produced file. For instance, analysis of recordings done with the "Standard" setting, finds that the BitRate 'tops out' at ~10Mbps, whereas recordings done with the "High" setting finds that the BitRate maximum ends at ~20Mbps. To compare the apparent visual quality of the two, we'll be looking at a few games, using side-by-side gameplay of each setting.

To begin though, I want to first show the effect of Deblocking, which Game DVR seems to utilize. Deblocking is a function within the MPEG-4 Part 10 (H.264/AVC) codec that Game DVR uses and it contributes to apparent quality of video material by 'softening' or 'blurring' edges of blocks that the screen is divided into, when the codec analyzes it, working towards 'hiding' artifacts of compression. Simply put, it will attempt make video "look better to human eyes" by 'softening' negatively-affected portions of the video (portions that are negatively-affected by lossy compression). As an example of this effect, take a look at the Screenshot below:

In the above Screenshot, the left side is an extracted frame from a GameDVR-produced recording, which appears to use Deblocking. The right side is an extracted still frame from a recording where Deblocking has been Disabled (from an application that does not have it Enabled, to be exact). Overall, the effect of the Deblocking filter in the H.264/AVC codec is quite apparent, where almost all of the edges of the "blocks" that the screen is divided into by the codec when compressing it (the "Macroblocking" artifacts of compression) are 'softened' by the filter, attempting to hide the negative effects of compression from human perception.


This reminds me of an example I compiled for an earlier article, where I talk more in-depth about H.264/AVC and the various settings of it. That example is just above this paragraph, but the links to those posts here at the blog are just below - seek them out for more information regarding x264, the Windows Interface for the H.264/AVC codec, along with Suggestions for the various settings of it, when it comes to recording gameplay:

Getting back to the Game DVR Settings offered of 'High' and 'Standard', let's take a look at Street Fighter IV again, to begin with. I use the Street Fighter IV Benchmark for a few reasons: one is, there is a good combination of fast-moving areas of the screen, in contrast to lower-motion areas, like the backgrounds. This creates a nice mix of material for the codec to analyze and attempt to compress, letting us see what the output will be. Below, is a still-frame comparison of the two settings, each with a frame that was extracted from their respective Game DVR recordings:
Game DVR High Settings and Standard Settings, compared using the Street Fighter IV Benchmark.
Click to see Full Size
In the frame I have chosen for each, there was a large amount of motion happening on the screen (a high amount of changes occurring in the video material). This frame is immediately after a large blue explosion in the center area ('magic' from each opponent clashing in the middle).

Overall, the Quality maintained by Game DVR is quite acceptable for both. In fact, the differences between the two settings may not be obvious at first glance, until one begins to scrutinize, then seeing some compression artifacts, especially in the area around Sakura's leg (the opponent on the right), and the area just above Ryu's head (the opponent on the left). In those spots, the Macroblocking (compression artifacts that look like 'little squares' or 'corruption') is more visible. The codec seems to handle the onscreen occurrence well though, as the background is not overly compressed ('smoothed out') and elements such as the ideograms on the statue can still be clearly seen.

 Below, is a clip from the same game, using the same scene/area/fight shown above, where it can be seen that the negative effects of compression are even less visible when watching the video/recording itself:


Let's take a look at more complex game material [in contrast to the stylized/cartoon approach of SFIV], by taking a glance at the Unigine Heaven Benchmark.

Game DVR High Settings and Standard Settings, compared using the Unigine Heaven Benchmark.
Click to see Full Size
In the frames above, there is not a lot 'going on' as far as we, as humans, may think about it; but there is a lot changing on the screen at one time, at least as far as the codec is concerned. As the camera flies down the preset path in the benchmark, everything around it and in view is slowly changing, from sky to stone to wood, and so on. The codec analyzes this and decides what it thinks is more important to human perception, and either tries to maintain clarity (Quality) or compresses it further, allowing the area to lose detail (mathematically lossy compression).

Overall again, the Quality maintained by Game DVR is acceptable for both, but in contrast to the above example, there are slightly more differences and these are slightly more obvious (for example, the foreground center area, where the pathway stones are, and to a lesser extent, the areas around the windows in the house farther back). In these spots, the Macroblocking (compression artifacts that look like 'little squares' or 'corruption') is more visible. The 'High' side (left side) is quite capable of handling the level of detail, losing very little; while the 'Standard' setting (right side) is simply limited by a slightly-too-low of a Bitrate, where the codec must make 'the hard decisions' and allow a loss of detail in areas it thinks will not be missed (such as the tuft of grass to the left of the pathway in the shadows).

Below, is a clip from the same benchmark, where it can be seen that, again, the negative effects of compression are less visible when watching the full-motion video/recording itself:


Lastly, let's look at another modern source, the game Hitman: Absolution and how Game DVR handles the high amount of small details and contrasting light and dark areas, by running the Hitman: Absolution Benchmark.

Game DVR High Settings and Standard Settings, compared using the Hitman: Absolution Benchmark.
Click to see Full Size

In the above screenshot comparison, I have again taken two still-frames from each recording produced by Game DVR for each setting. With the more complex material used in this game, a larger difference in Quality can be seen between the two recording settings, as the 'Standard' (right) side has far more Macroblocking occurring, despite the Deblocking capability of Game DVR's usage of the MPEG-4/AVC codec. In its analysis, the codec has decided that the brighter, complex pillar designs are 'more important to the human eye' than the darker details of the stones that line the bottom of the gazebo in the plaza. This is common for video compression codecs and how they handle video material, it is just that it has resulted in a high amount of loss in the details of the stones and surrounding darker/flatter areas. The fog and shadowed area between the piles of boxes (bottom center-left area) has also suffered from the decisions.

These trade-offs are to be expected however, and it should be remembered that the codec was in this case also purposely limited to only about 10Mbps (which is less than half the Bitrate of a BluRay movie) and forced to record in 1080p (Full HD). At the same time then, it should also be noted at how well Game DVR did handle this complex scene with its 'High' setting (left half). It seems that for gaming at around 1080p, the High setting is quite capable of holding it's own, while for lower resolutions (1366x768, 720p HD, etc) the 'Standard' setting should be acceptable and produce even more acceptable/smaller filesizes [filesizes are examined more in an upcoming post, a Quality Test of Game DVR, including direct comparisons to output quality from other game recording programs such as Bandicam, Dxtory, AMD Gaming Evolved (Raptr) and more - Coming Soon™].

Below, is the full-motion comparison of the two settings, both recordings of the Hitman: Absolution Benchmark done by Game DVR, showing how, while the 'Standard settings' side suffered at this Resolution by it's limited Bitrate, the 'High settings' side shows that Game DVR is quite a capable game capturing utility:


One last caveat, with regards to Quality and recording with Game DVR [as of the time of this post] - I was running into an intermittent occurrence where the produced recording was 'corrupted' in some manner, even though there was no problem with the game that was running, or any other indication that something was amiss while recording the gameplay - the end result/recording merely came out with this corruption going on, a couple examples of it, I will show below:
Example of the 'corruption' that seems to occur at random, when recording with Game DVR at this time. I have highlighted some of the contrasting areas in green rectangles to make them more obvious. Click to see Full Size.
Above, is a full-motion example of the intermittent video corruption that occurs with Game DVR at this time, shown in a short excerpt from the Battlefield: Hardline Single Player Campaign.





Game DVR Final Result


As a 'Final Result' then [in this more-loosely formatted TestRun], the "free" (included in Windows 10) game recording app Game DVR would be a very viable alternative to other game recording programs (such as Bandicam, Dxtory, Raptr, OBS, MSI Afterburner and more) - but as it stands at the time of this writing, while it does work with most games, it will not work in 'Fullscreen' Mode in lots of cases (although this issue can be alleviated in some cases by going into a 'Windowed Fullscreen' Mode). As well, there is currently a seemingly-random problem with video corruption, as seen in the examples just above - and this may scare away many, many people from Game DVR, for now.

There is little configurability with the Settings (for Quality, there is only 'Standard' and 'High'), but the Default formats/settings seem acceptable for most gaming purposes, seeming quite capable to handle most game material, especially with the 'High' Quality Setting. As I always state, do a few short tests of your favourite games, to see if the Windows 10 Game DVR is right for you, providing a level of Quality for game recording that you find acceptable for the light performance 'Hit/Lag' Game DVR produces (it reduces performance very little, as it utilizes GPU-acceleration and modern codecs for high performance).

[I did not test negative game performance/effect of Game DVR at this time, but may return to this post and add that information in the near future... Overall for now, know that the performance hit for Game DVR is very little, as it uses the GPU more than the main CPU of the system. As with other programs such as Shadowplay, AMD's Gaming Evolved (Raptr), Mirillis's ACTION, Playclaw 5 and other utilities that can utilize GPU-accelerated recording, doing so in this way produces only a few frames of 'lag' in performance.]

So, whether you try it today or wait for a few Updates to see if there are improvements to compatibility (and possibly configurability and fixing the corruption issue), whichever you choose, I hope that you have found the information herein possibly contributing to your decision. For the most part, Game DVR worked pretty well. Have fun trying it out and recording with it - and look for an upcoming Quality Test article, where I compare Game DVR output quality directly against other game recording programs, such as Bandicam, Dxtory, ACTION!, Playclaw 5, Gaming Evolved (Raptr) and more... Coming Soon™!

See You In The Games!




Personal Version/Opinion Add-On/DLC:

Myself, although I like the Buffered Recording functionality [something that Shadowplay, MSI Afterburner, Mirillis' ACTION!, Playclaw 5, AMD Gaming Evolved (Raptr), OBS and others offer, but something that Dxtory, Bandicam and others do not provide at this time], there are many games that simply do not work with Game DVR (many do not work at all, even in Windowed Mode) and this will no doubt keep many away from it. If they can get to patching Game DVR and increase the compatibility and number of games that it will work with, I see it as a viable competitor then, to most game recording applications, especially since it "is free" (it comes with Windows), has "good enough" Quality, and offers Buffered Recording [and in my testing for this article, I found it is importable and editable with video editing applications such as Sony's Vegas Movie Studio and Editshare's Lightworks (even without Transcoding)]. 

For the Audio, 192kbps AAC is a 'decent' starting point for Quality and most programs that handle AAC audio these days Default to 160kbps or 192kbps. Back when MPEG-2 was the most popular codec being used over the Intertubes (and DVDs), I always preferred 256kbps bitrate or higher for the Audio (I have somewhat sensitive hearing - but do not consider myself an Extremely-Sensitive-Hearing-Audiophile) and AAC 'sounds like' it carries more fidelity than MP2/MP3 audio at the same bitrate [part of its mathematical functioning], so I concur with - and was pleased to find - the 192kbps AAC setting used as the Default within Game DVR.

It is unfortunate that a Target Framerate of ~30fps (with an apparent maximum of ~60fps) is a limitation within Game DVR, as when watching recorded clips, it is somewhat obvious that the framerate was not the same as the game [when the game itself can be run at 60fps or higher, there is an odd 'choppy-ness' to the playback of the video that was not present in the game itself - the video comes out not as 'smooth' feeling, to watch (especially when slowed down or played at half-speed for a "slow motion" effect)]. Perhaps this limitation was done in the name of performance, as it would take less system resources to save/buffer video during gameplay, using this lower framerate (there are literally less frames per second to process/save/etc). Perhaps this limitation was done in the name of compatibility (for conversion to hardware/mobile players and Consoles). Perhaps this limitation may change in the future, as well.

Overall though, I was pleasantly surprised with the Performance and Quality of the Game DVR recording utility in Windows 10. Being "free", if it can gain more compatibility with a larger number of games (and get that 'random corruption problem' fixed), I see it catching on with many gamers that make the eventual switch/upgrade to Windows 10. Have fun with it - and See You In The Games!





  Note/Update 1: "Record That", the buffered recording capability of Game DVR has, since this writing began, changed its' name to "Background Recording" and may change back again in the future

Update 2: As of 2015-11, Game DVR seems to not be working [for me]... at all. There has been much negative Feedback (the App) about it and many threads already started in the Official Microsoft Forums for this, and although many are, not everyone is experiencing this trouble. I just wanted to make a quick note here that I am, so you may know, dear reader, if you are experiencing this: "It's Not Just You™"...

Update 3: As of 2016-05, I have only played with GameDVR for a very short time, but in the few short tests I did (booting into Windows 10 on a dual boot system), it seems to be working again, if still having some minor problems with Game Detection, etc.