Among the random advice I give developers is to attend as many conventions as you possibly can because you never know who you're going to meet, and here is a phenomenal example of that: At events in San Francisco we typically hold a party at Bin 55, the bar in the lobby of the Marriott. We've always had it as a totally open party that anyone who has even a vaguely industry-relevant business card can come. I was handing out the bracelets for the free booze, shaking hands, and collecting cards when the guys from Elgato introduced themselves.
I've know about Elgato for quite a while, as they make a few video capture and TV tuner products that have been on my purchasing radar in the past. But, backing things up further, dealing with iOS gameplay video has been a massive hassle for us since, well, forever. I'd consider the Grand Theft Auto III gameplay video my current iOS cinematic magnum opus:
Setting up to shoot this video took nearly an hour of tweaking lighting to fight glare, camera settings to get the white balance and color reproduction as accurate as possible, and a ridiculous gameplay posture that had me basically hyperextending my arms to get the full iPad in frame. After that, I've got to import the footage into iMovie, which takes about 2 minutes for every 1 minute of video, then there's the whole process of encoding, exporting, and all that jazz. This video still isn't that great, despite the elaborate setup and years of experience in shooting the screens of iOS devices.
When the Elgato guys who stumbled across our party started telling me about the Game Capture HD, I admit, it sounded too good to be true. The original pitch involved something like "You just plug your iPad or iPhone into it, plug the USB cable into your computer, and hit record." Naturally, I was skeptical, as shooting iOS gameplay video is practically a ritual of ridiculousness, surely it can't be distilled to this level of simplicity.
The next day we met up and got our hands on a demo unit, and I'm not sure whether or not it's hyperbole to say that my life was forever changed. Currently, I'm leaning towards not.
The Game Capture HD is a slick looking glossy black box that's slightly larger than a deck of cards. On the front, there's a port for HDMI in, as well as an A/V in which works with a dongle of sorts for component video input. On the back, there's a USB port and an additional HDMI port to pass the video through to a display device like your TV, a projector, or whatever else.
Recording video off the iPad and iPhone is as simple as plugging in the Apple Digital AV adapter, plugging in the one included HDMI cable to the Game Capture HD unit, then finally connecting the Game Capture HD to your computer via the included USB cable. From there, you download the Game Capture HD software (which is available for the Mac and PC), hit record, and I'm not at all joking when I say that is it.
Here's the first video I captured, using the above setup and an iPhone 4S:
…And a second video using my 3rd generation iPad, trying a few different games in different screen orientations:
Where things go from incredibly cool to off-the-charts-amazing is when you look at the actual video output. The Game Capture HD encodes to 720p (or 1080p) h.264 .m4v videos on the fly, and there's an options screen where you can tweak quality and resolution. These videos are immediately ready to roll to upload to YouTube, dump into iMovie, or really, whatever else you want to do.
Better yet, this setup is so portable that in the future we'll be able to just capture direct gameplay footage without needing to use camcorders and dealing with screen glare at conventions. The sole down-side of the whole setup is some unsightly black bars, but I think this might be more of an issue with the actual video output format of the iPhone and/or iPad, as it looks similar when I plug it into my TV.
Sure, video capture is nothing new, especially if you've got a full-blown desktop PC that you can just toss an actual capture card into… But, all of us here have Mac laptops, and prior to the Game Capture HD, a good solution for snagging iPad and iPhone video was basically non-existent. If you're in a similar situation, and are either an iOS developer looking to produce your own gameplay videos or just an iOS gamer that wants to post brag clips-
You need a Game Capture HD, yesterday. What used to take me hours now takes me minutes. I could just cry tears of sheer joy. Thank you, Elgato.