Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas from The Game Tips And More Blog! [Xmas Wishes 2016]

Just a quick post, out of the few that I seem to make a year, to say that I would like to personally wish you, my dear reader, the very best of this time of year, whether it be family time or gaming time - no matter what holiday you may be celebrating (or not), no matter how many games you may be playing (or wishing for)... Merry Christmas to you.

Sincerely,
Troy from The Game Tips And More Blog

For information/details/commentary on the above image, visit The Blog's Flickr version of it here:

Monday, December 12, 2016

TestRun: Game Recording with Radeon ReLive, AMD’s Crimson Drivers Desktop and Game Recorder [Review with 12 Benchmarks/Tests and User Interface Overview]

Update 1: Added that it is possible to disable the Indicator and how to do it (the "***"  herein)
Update 2: Added that the Notification Pop-Up cannot be disabled and example of it
Update 3: Added "Tip" of information on the 'minimum requirements' to run ReLive
Update 4 (2016-12-22): I am currently testing Game Recording with ReLive on an AMD FX-6100 with 8GB RAM, to see the effects of Recording ('vs Not') on a slightly lower spec system. I will include those Results when completed
Update 5 (2017-02-01): Half of the Benchmarking Tests have been repeated on a system with an AMD FX-6100 and 8GB of RAM, as stated above, to see the difference when recording with ReLive. Those Results are now included


Over the last couple of days (since it was released publicly), I have been testing out AMD's new, free Game Recorder, "ReLive". ReLive [pronounced 'ree-LIV' as in 'lived through an event', not 'ree-LYE-v' as in 'a live event that is live again', which I thought at first, for some reason] is a free game recording 'add-in', that is included for free with the latest version of Crimson Radeon Drivers from AMD, for free (did I mention that it is free?).



Now, NVIDIA videocard owners have been enjoying Shadowplay (NVIDIA's 'free-with-the-drivers' game recording 'add-in') for a couple of years now; but currently owning an AMD GPU myself, since just before Shadowplay was released, it was nice to see AMD finally release their own 'free-with-the-drivers' game recorder and I was excited to see the Notification appear in the Radeon control panel. [At the time of this writing I currently own an AMD GPU, but I have no preference towards either manufacturer - I like them both! I have purchased from either 'team' in the past and will do so in the future as well..]

The Notification for Upgrading the Radeon Crimson Drivers, seen in the Radeon Settings Control Panel.
Don't ignore this one! Go get it and try out the new Game Recorder that comes with it! Go now, gogogo!
(Click to see Full Size)


For a quick overview of ReLive - before we get into the Overview, Tests and Results - here is AMD's own blurb about it and its' release:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRSm12lwRe4


For this TestRun, I will be putting ReLive through some general paces, testing it out as a Game Recorder in various games, from slightly-older or less-demanding ones like World Of Warcraft to somewhat-newer games with higher resource demand, like Grand Theft Auto V. I am going to focus more on the relative Performance of ReLive in this post (comparing how games run with and without recording with it), where I will be talking more about the Quality of the output (with Screenshot and Video Still-Frame comparisons, etc) in a future QualityTest article.



Getting It Going (A Problem Encountered)



To begin, I have to say that at first, the Game Recording portion didn't work at all. As in, at all (no error messages, no notifications why, nothing). I upgraded my Drivers to the 16.12 Crimson Edition, which looked like it Updated ok and installed ReLive; but I couldn't get it to start recording, no matter what settings I configured. I tried older games, games with different versions of DirectX (running GTAV in DX10 and DX11, etc); but nothing worked. I talked about this very briefly in a quick posting I made here at The Blog the day the Update came out. I also shared what finally got it working for me. Although it is in that previous post, I will mention it quickly here...

If the ReLive recorder, part of AMD's 16.12 Crimson Radeon Drivers, is not working for you; try what eventually got it working for me:
  • Download your Latest AMD Drivers via their main Website (http://support.amd.com/)
  • Uninstall the main AMD Drivers via the Control Panel > Programs > Uninstall/Change Program
  • Reboot
  • Install AMD Drivers via the Download from their Website (the first step)
  • Reboot
That's it! 

After those steps, even though I have a 200 Series AMD GPU at the time of this writing, I was able to get ReLive up and running.. [The AMD page on ReLive at their main website (http://www.amd.com/en-us/innovations/software-technologies/radeon-software/gaming/radeon-relive) shows only 400 Series GPUs as 'Officially Compatible', at the bottom in a chart, which is why I mention my card series here]. Here is what the ReLive section of the Radeon Control Panel in the Crimson ReLive Edition looks like (before and after Enabling it):

The ReLive portion of the Radeon Settings Control Panel, I
Although not an upsetting issue for me personally, I am sure there are some who are delighted that you have to Enable it to use it [that it does not come pre-enabled by Default, without User knowledge, affecting game performance, etc]
(Click to see Full Size)

The ReLive portion of the Radeon Settings Control Panel, II
Screenshot showing the Default Settings that came up, after Enabling the ReLive recorder
(Click to see Full Size)

Each 'button' on the interface can be clicked on, to change that setting. [For example, one of the first things I changed, was the location of where ReLive was going to save Recordings and Screenshots ("Save Folder")]. Simply click on the "Save Folder" 'button' and a browser window will open up, where you can choose the new location to save the output from ReLive.



Keeping Control (ReLive Controls and Shortcut Keys)



Hotkey Combinations can also be configured in this first panel (shown above, the "Global" panel). While the Default Hotkey combos were actually pretty intuitive (CTRL+SHIFT+R for togging Recording, for example), they require the use of one (or a combination of) CTRL, SHIFT and ALT. This means you can have a Screenshot combo be CTRL+S or CTRL+SHIFT+S or ALT+S - the problem is, many games use these supplementary keys for various actions, such as:

CTRL is Sneak toggling (Skyrim, The Elder Scrolls Online, etc)
SHIFT is Run toggling (various games)
ALT is Secondary Attack (Fallout 4 and other various games)
CTRL+S is Audio toggling (turning on and off sound in some games)
... and so on.

The required use of one of these keys means that somewhere along the line, hotkey combinations are going to have to be changed, most likely in the game itself, and then set again on any configurable mouse/keypad accessories one might be using (eg. a mouse with a small number pad on the side, or a gaming control pad that can have shortcuts assigned to various buttons on it). It would have been nice to have it not require one of SHIFT, CTRL and ALT keys, as then a User could assign a key that is not being used in their game(s), such as "P" or ";" (semi-colon) - configuring  keys that might not be used in any games that User plays - where they would then not have to worry about any configuration overlap.

Also, while most of the key combinations do make sense and are easy to get used to as they are, some would not work [for me] at all. For example, SHIFT+Z did not seem to 'take' when trying to assign it to toggling the main Toolbar of ReLive, but CTRL+Z did. There was no explanation why (no error message, etc). Also, some combinations do not seem to work properly in some games. For example [in my case], CTRL+SHIFT combinations were not being recognized while GTAV was running - but it seemed to work fine in other games.

Since I am talking about niggles with ReLive for a moment, I should mention the only other thing that, while not a huge deal, slightly bugged me [and may bug others]: the indicator for Recording (a small red circle with a Recording Timer on it, in the upper-left corner by Default) is always present throughout any recordings made*** - even when the "Show System Info" option in the Overlay section is left "OFF". That option seems to only toggle a larger information box that gives a short summary of the CPU and GPU in the system that recorded the video. This information box does go away after a few seconds of the recording. Below is what both of these indicators look like as they appear at the beginning of a recorded video [containing System Information for my computer at this time]:

Example of the indicators shown in the upper-left of recordings (by Default) when recording with ReLive. The smaller indicator is always present in recordings [no matter what, it seems***] while the larger box is the "System Info" that can be toggled on and off in the Overlay section of the ReLive options. If left on, it will be shown in the Recording, disappearing after a few seconds. It is shown here in 'actual size' [how big it will be] in a cropped frame extracted from a 1080p recording.

The main control interface for ReLive, which can be called up in-game at anytime, is the "Toolbar". The Toolbar shows you what utilities are turned on or off, shows you what Shortcut Key Combinations are set, and allows you to make some changes, like what corner the Indicator/Information is shown, etc - but does not allow you to re-configure the Hotkey Combinations themselves, the Save folder or other large changes (those must be made in the main Radeon Settings interface). Below is an example of what the ReLive Toolbar looks like in-game:

Example showing the ReLive Toolbar, as it normally looks when brought up in-game (shown in The Elder Scrolls Online).
[The Toolbar normally is not recorded  into the video, when brought up during a recording session. At the time of this writing, I am not 100% sure what caused it to be captured the couple of times I was able to during my testing. When I find out what causes the Toolbar to be captured/notcaptured with reliability and repeatability, I will share it in the future.]
(Click to see Full Size)

The ReLive Toolbar allows most functions of ReLive to be instigated in-game, allowing the User to Start/Stop Recording, Start/Stop Streaming, Change the Overlay location, Start/Stop "Instant Replay" (the buffered/loop recording capability, similar to that found in Shadowplay, MSIafterburner, FRAPS, etc) and more. It does not allow the changing/setting of Hotkey combinations; but it does show them in the Toolbar itself, which can also merely be clicked on, to start or stop one of the above functions.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that many of ReLive's functions are not only intuitive to use, but also intuitively labelled. For example, during Recording, when bringing up the Toolbar to cease Recording, the icon for it is labelled "DONE" - as opposed to the label remaining "RECORD", as bringing up a button labelled such, might cause the User to sometimes question whether or not they have been recording up to that point (seeing RECORD pop up onscreen)... This is an aspect of the User Experience that may be better experienced, than explained, but suffice it to say that utilizing the Toolbar becomes comfortable to use quickly. Here is what The ReLive Toolbar looks like, showing a quick overview of all of the functions available on it:

An animated overview of the functions available in the main Toolbar interface.
(Click to see Full Size)

While there are a number of functions available in ReLive, including Streaming and Wattman (Crimson's Power Management utility, similar to that found in EVGA Precision and MSI Afterburner and other utilities that control Power, Fan Speeds, etc), for this post, I will be mainly talking about the Game Recorder portion, from the approach of the Performance drain seen with it (the 'performance hit').

Since the NDA has been lifted, here is an Official release slide from the AMD presentation showing the ReLive Toolbar
(Click to see Full Size)

Screenshots taken with ReLive are output in PNG (Portable Network Graphic) format. This is a lossy format, but the PNG Quality is kept high in ReLive. In fact, PNG output files from ReLive are consistently larger in file size than PNG Screenshots from Bandicam and FRAPS, as seen from a few quick tests. While in a quick glance, the screenshots from each appear to be practically the same, I will explore their output quality in more detail in a future post.


[In a future QualityTest article, I will go over comparisons of Screenshots and
the Quality of recordings from the various Profiles found in ReLive, in more detail]



Performance and Benchmarking Radeon ReLive (Vs ...Not)



For this TestRun, I kept things simple, doing some short recordings in various games and benchmarks, taking note of the Framerate Change (fps difference) for each, both while recording and while not recording. The Average Frames-Per-Second was measured by FRAPS [a great capture program in its' own right, one which I purchased a License for long ago]. For games that did not have built-in benchmark utilities, I ran through the same area a number of times, using the 'benchmarking' portion of FRAPS to output a min-max-average of frames-per-second, then comparing the averages of 'recording with ReLive' against 'not recording at all'.

Since the NDA has been lifted, here is an Official release slide from the AMD presentation, regarding recording performance deltas
(Click to see Full Size)

It should be noted that when beginning recording, there was [for me] a distinct drop in frames-per-second for a number of seconds as it started up [I saw anywhere from a 4fps dip to a 20fps drop each time]; but the performance quickly returns and the recording then seems to affect gameplay very little – which was great to see! Here then, are some Benchmarks and Tests that I ran, running them with and without ReLive recording the entire time, to see the potential difference in afps (average-frames-per-second) ReLive makes when recording [the performance ‘hit’]:


Primary Testing System Main Specifications

CPU: AMD FX-8350 @ 4200 MHz
GPU: AMD R9 280 @ 1000MHz
RAM : 16GB Patriot "Gamer" RAM

Secondary Testing System Main Specifications

CPU: AMD FX-6100 @ 3300 MHz
GPU: AMD R9 280 @ 1000MHz
RAM : 8GB Patriot "Gamer" RAM


  • All tests below were performed utilizing the HIGH Recording Profile in the ReLive presets (which configures ReLive recording as 60fps at a 30Mbps video bitrate).
  • All tests were performed at 1080p with the highest configurable settings, with '4x4x'
    (4x Anisotropic Filtering and 4x Multisampled Anti-Aliasing), unless otherwise stated.
  • Secondary System tests are presented second, for those that were done, in italics (FX-6100, 8GB RAM system)



Unigine Valley Benchmark (EXTREME HD setting with 8xMSAA)





ReLive REC = 38.4 afps
No REC = 39.3 afps
Difference ~ 1 afps

ReLive REC = 29 afps
No REC = 30 afps
Difference ~ 1 afps


Hitman: Absolution Benchmark (ULTRA settings with 4xMSAA)


ReLive REC = 47 afps
No REC = 50 afps
Difference ~3 afps

ReLive REC = 34 afps
No REC = 35 afps
Difference ~ 1 afps

TombRaider (2013) Benchmark (ULTIMATE settings, 4xSSAA including TressFX)


ReLive REC = 39.9 afps
No REC = 39.9 afps
Difference ~ 0 afps

ReLive REC = 36 afps
No REC = 38 afps
Difference ~ 2 afps

Metro: Last Light Redux Benchmark (Highest Settings minus PhysX)


ReLive REC = 31 afps
No REC = 32 afps
Difference ~ 1 afps

Batman: Arkham City Benchmark (EXTREME detail setting, 4xMSAA, No PhysX)
ReLive REC = 83 afps
No REC = 88 afps
Difference ~5 afps

ReLive REC = 66afps
No REC = 69 afps
Difference ~ 3 afps

Grand Theft Auto V (DX11, Custom Settings Very High when possible, FXAA)*


ReLive REC = (Rounded)
Pass 0, 35 afps
Pass 1, 35 afps
Pass 2, 40 afps
Pass 3, 47 afps
Pass 4, 38 afps

No REC = (Rounded)
Pass 0, 39 afps
Pass 1, 38 afps
Pass 2, 44 afps
Pass 3, 55 afps
Pass 4, 41 afps

Difference ~ (Rounded)
Pass 0, ~4 afps
Pass 1, ~3 afps
Pass 2, ~4 afps
Pass 3, ~8 afps
Pass 4, ~4 afps

Aliens Vs Predator Standalone Benchmark (DX11,Highest Settings, 4x4x)


ReLive REC = 92.6 afps
No REC = 99.3 afps
Difference ~ 7 afps

Just Cause 2 Benchmark, Dark Tower (Highest Settings, 4x4x)


ReLive REC = 102 afps
No REC = 106 afps
Difference ~4 afps

Left 4 Dead 2 TimeDemo 'Benchmark' (“GTAMblog4h.dem”**, Highest Settings, 4x4x)


ReLive REC = 139 afps
No REC = 147 afps
Difference ~ 8 afps

ReLive REC = 89 afps
No REC = 99 afps
Difference ~ 10 afps

World of Warcraft 'Benchmark', ‘Short Run In The Ruins Of Silvermoon’ (Graphics Quality 10 with CMAA)


ReLive REC = 55 afps
No REC = 56 afps
Difference ~ 1 afps

ReLive REC = 48 afps
No REC = 52 afps
Difference ~ 4 afps

The Elder Scrolls Online 'Benchmark', ‘Short Run Through Glenumbra Market’ (Ultra-High with AA)



ReLive REC = 30 afps
No REC = 31 afps
Difference ~ 1 afps

Diablo III 'Benchmark', ‘Do Not Let Him Re-arm’ Section (High Settings with AA)
ReLive REC = 117 afps
No REC = 118 afps
Difference ~ 1 afps


*ReLive seemed to have a bit of trouble with GTAV (I had to run it in Windowed Mode, not even Windowed Borderless would work at the time of these tests [on my system])
**If you would like a copy of "GTAMblog4h.dem", the TimeDemo I created and utilized in these tests (it includes a Tank battle, on the level Hard Rain, for extra video effects testing), just send me an email and I will Reply with it as an Attachment. If many people begin to ask for it, for their own testing, I will make it publicly available for Download via Dropbox or other similar services (no ads)


As can be seen by the tests above, there is very little drain on performance when recording with ReLive - an overall average difference of only ~3 fps, for both systems tested! Since all of the tests were done with the HIGH Profile configured, there should be even less of a performance hit with lower profile settings [lower profiles were not tested at this time, for this post - I may compare the differences between all of the Profiles in a future QualityTest article]. Here are the differences of configuration within the Profiles that were found built-into ReLive at the time of release:


  • HIGH Recording Profile in ReLive = 60fps, 30Mbps at "In-Game Resolution"
  • MEDIUM Recording Profile in ReLive = 60fps, 10Mbps at "In-Game Resolution"
  • LOW Recording Profile in ReLive = 60fps, 5Mbps, restricted to 720p


A CUSTOM Recording Profile can be configured as well, with any combination of setting that ReLive allows, including anywhere from 360p to 2160p Resolutions [2160p is limited to 30fps according to AMD's ReLive page; but I did not specifically test it at the time of this writing]. Up to 60fps can be set (the only other setting being 30fps) - it would have been nice to see up to 120fps or 144fps recording framerate - but perhaps it is just not offering it as a result of it detecting my limited hardware at this time - a 200 Series GPU [this is an assumption on my part]. BitRate can be configured up to 50Mbps and set down to as low as 1Mbps.

Testing out the HIGH Recording Profile, I was satisfied at the results, most likely due to their being a good balance in the configuration of some of the extra features found in H.264/AVC(MPEG-4 Part 10), the codec utilized by ReLive. For example, ReLive appears to be configured to utilize Deblocking, a function in h.264/AVC encoding, that allows a 'softening' of the edges of potential Macroblocks (areas of compression where the higher compression artifacting would be more visible, seen a 'blocks'). An example below, created for an earlier posting here at The Blog on h.264/AVC compression, shows the usefulness and result of using the Deblocking feature:

An example of the internal filtering, a form of compression compensation, found within the h.264/AVC codec, two frames extracted from two AVC recordings, done one after another in quick succesion in the same area in the same online game.
(Rift, recorded @ 1080p with H.264/AVC having Deblocking disabled (left) and enabled (right), cropped and zoomed)
Click to see Full Size


[Although a lengthier discussion of BitRate and the apparent Quality of output in detail will be discussed in a future QualityTest article on ReLive (along with Testing of ReLive's Desktop Recording capability and Comparison of output of all the Recording Profiles available in ReLive); as a general Suggestion, if I may give one now is, I personally do not recommend capturing at a BitRate below 15Mbps, even at 720p or lower resolutions [for a Recording Source, as opposed to a Final Output Render for Sharing] as the Quality may suffer too greatly, especially when there may be high motion on the screen (many areas of the screen changing at one time) - it is difficult for the codec to decide what to compress (where is usually compresses flatter/darker areas more than ones with high motion or detail, 'smoothing them out' more) - the codec will either 'over-compress' flatter/darker areas (such as areas with sky) or may end up compressing 'everything' and the result will be 'blotchy' or 'blurry' in  many places onscreen]. Continuing to speak more technically for a moment longer, let's take a look at the recording format utilized by ReLive.




Technical / Format Information (ReLive Output Analysis)




Taking a superficial look at the recorded output files from ReLive, it appears to record using H.264/AVC, in the Main Profile, at Level 4.2, using Variable Frame Rate and Variable BitRate, both in the Video and Audio streams (the audio being in AAC format). Analyzing it a bit more in-depth, here is an example of the full details from a MediaInfo scan of a recorded output file from ReLive (recorded using the HIGH Recording Profile):


General

Complete name : D:\REC\ReLive\2016.12.09-00.26.mp4
Format : MPEG-4
Format profile : Base Media
Codec ID : isom
File size : 22.1 MiB
Duration : 7s 422ms
Overall bit rate mode : Variable
Overall bit rate : 25.0 Mbps
Writing application : Lavf57.25.100


Video

ID : 1
Format : AVC
Format/Info : Advanced Video Codec
Format profile : Main@L4.2
Format settings, CABAC : Yes
Format settings, ReFrames : 4 frames
Format settings, GOP : M=1, N=30
Codec ID : avc1
Codec ID/Info : Advanced Video Coding
Duration : 7s 422ms
Bit rate : 25.0 Mbps
Width : 1 920 pixels
Height : 1 080 pixels
Display aspect ratio : 16:9
Frame rate mode : Variable
Frame rate : 59.823 fps
Original frame rate : 60.000 fps
Minimum frame rate : 57.894 fps
Maximum frame rate : 60.015 fps
Standard : Component
Color space : YUV
Chroma subsampling : 4:2:0
Bit depth : 8 bits
Scan type : Progressive
Bits/(Pixel*Frame) : 0.201
Stream size : 22.1 MiB (100%)
Color range : Limited


Audio

ID : 2
Format : AAC
Format/Info : Advanced Audio Codec
Format profile : LC
Codec ID : 40
Duration : 7s 275ms
Bit rate mode : Variable
Bit rate : 4 893 bps
Maximum bit rate : 192 Kbps
Channel(s) : 2 channels
Channel positions : Front: L R
Sampling rate : 48.0 KHz
Compression mode : Lossy
Stream size : 4.35 KiB (0%)



As can be seen by MediaInfo's output, AVC and AAC (for Video and Audio) are utilized in the recording, with Variable BitRates for both. Variable Bitrate means that while 50Mbps may be configured [for example], ReLive will only use as much Bitrate as is required to display/compress the incoming video data (less complex motion/detail scenes will use less Bitrate than more complex/detailed scenes).

In testing 720p recording, for instance, the Bitrate seemed to reach a maximum of about 25Mbps (when tested with the Unigine Valley Benchmark). Even with a much faster-motion source, The Street Fighter IV Benchmark - with Unlocked Vertical Synchronization, reaching over 400fps (when Anti-Aliasing is turned off as well) - with all of the colour flashes and insanely fast movement going on; the Bitrate still only reached a maximum of ~27Mbps, about half of the configured 50Mbps. Below is a still-frame extracted from that ReLive game recording test:
Still-frame extracted from a ReLive Game Recorder test
(The Street Fighter IV Standalone Benchmark - 720p, Highest Settings, NoAA)
Click to see Full Size


While ReLive also uses Variable Frame Rates in its' recordings, I did not experience a problem Importing the recordings into Sony Vegas Movie Studio and did not experience any issues with 'trails' or other corruption on playback/shuttling [that can potentially occur with Variable Frame Rate sources in Non-Linear Editors like Adobe Premiere, Sony Vegas, et al] - I have written a few posts about these compression artifacts here at The Blog, here is one of them. For now, know that this issue did not occur (at least in my testing) with ReLive and Vegas - which was great to see. Below, is an example of importing a ReLive recording directly into Sony Vegas Movie Studio 13 - and although this example is a scaled-down GIF of a screen capture of the test I performed, the absence of any of these 'trails' or other forms of corruption (due to VFR input) occurring can still be seen in the Preview area:

A ReLive recording of the Hitman: Absolution Benchmark, imported into Vegas Movie Studio 13.
[Note that there are no 'trails' or other compression artifacting occurring, things that could potentially happen with h.264/AVC, depending on how it is configured and contained - it was refreshing not to have to worry about it!]
(GIF resized down to lower size and transfer time, displayed at Scaled Down Full Size)

[One reason, possibly contributing to why VFR usage in ReLive is not a problem for importing recordings into Vegas, is that the GOP (Group Of Pictures) is somewhat small, at 30 frames (seen in the MediaInfo output). This, combined with the 4 Reference Frames (up to four Keyframes or I-Frames within those 30 frames) allows the video editor to not have to calculate very far, to obtain all of the frame information between the next keyframe(s). Although even a GOP of 10 could potentially cause issues (anything other than one (1) can have 'trails' or other 'corruption' problems in NLEs (Non-Linear Editors), it is nice to see that ReLive's recording output does not... I hope it works this way for you Premiere/Lightworks/Edius/Avid/otherprogram users, as well..]


The range of Bitrates and other options that appeared to be configurable for recording [again, possibly limited by my hardware, this is unknown 100% at the time of this writing, if other options open up with more capable hardware] are:

Audio (AAC): 32kbps up to 320kbps
Video (AVC): 1Mbps up to 50Mbps
Resolution: 360p up to 2160p
Frame Rate: 30fps and 60fps
Instant Replay (Buffered Recording): 15 seconds up to 20 minutes

One of the features I was most happy to see, was the Buffered Recording capability (called "Instant Replay" in the ReLive interface and "Radeon RePlay" in the information popup in recorded videos that have System Info enabled). Briefly reiterated for those unfamiliar with 'loop recording': RePlay allows a constant 'treadmill' of recording to occur, using the amount of time configured as its' length, re-creating that same file containing the same amount of time as a game is played (eg. 30 seconds). If during this recording, the 'buffer' is not Saved, it will erase and over-write the same file on the drive, doing this process over and over again. At any point in the gaming session, if the user hits the key combination to Save the 'buffer', the last 30 seconds of recording (to use that example of timeframe) will be saved into a file by the program. It will then create a new '30 second buffer file' (to continue with that example) and re-create and over-write that file, over and over, until the user 'Saves the buffer' again. This type of recording allows users to be able to always 'save that last moment of action' that occurred in their gameplay session. 

ReLive appears to create files [by Default] with the name convention of 'REPLAY (if the file was created using buffered recording), Underscore, Year, Month, Day, Hyphen, Time in Minutes and Seconds'. For example, Video Recording output (a "RePlay") is seen as:

Replay_2016.12.09-22.53

Screenshots created by ReLive appear as:

2016.12.10-16.47

If a user takes Screenshots in rapid succession (within one minute of each other), the filename is appended slightly, seen as:

2016.12.10-16.47_01
2016.12.10-16.47_02

And so on...

There does not seem to be a way to configure the naming convention, only the location of where the recorded output is saved. It would have been nice [in my opinion] to be able to create Prefixes or Suffixes for the files, or even if the Process Name [the program running while it was recorded] was added automatically (eg. Fallout4_Replay_2016.12.09-22.53). For organizational purposes, the ability to choose separate folders for the output of Images and Videos (each going to a different location) would have also been a nice option [in my opinion]; however these are superficial issues, perhaps.

The last small thing about Screenshots [that slightly bothered me personally] is the Pop-Up Notification that accompanies taking Screenshots (which also comes up for Video Recording). Each time a Screenshot is taken with ReLive, a short summary of the action shows up in the Upper-Right corner, by Default. There does not seem to be a way to Disable this notification - and if the user takes Screenshots in rapid succession (more than one within one minute, to use the example just above) - this notification is captured in the successive screenshots. While still 'a superficial issue' [cosmetic], it would have been nice to see a way to either configure or disable this Pop-Up Notification. Just below, is an example of the notifier, seen while taking two quick screenshots, close together in time, while working on graphics for this very post:

Example of Screenshot Pop-Up Notification in Radeon ReLive, which is captured when the user takes multiple screenshots in quick succession. There does not seem to be a way to disable this notifier, at the time of this posting.
(Click to see Full Size)



Wondering if your videocard can run ReLive? The only requirement ReLive seems to have, is GCN (Graphics Core Next) Architecture. I was able to run ReLive on my Rx 280 GPU, but was not able to use it on an HD 6870 GPU I configured for someone else. Reports of 7950's are coming in, being able to record with ReLive, but there are conflicting reports of 7700's being able to use it [from what I am reading/finding]. If your videocard is even close to these numbers, try it out! There may be future Support for Mobile GPUs as well, down the line. I hope it works for you!



Conclusion


Overall, I was very satisfied with AMD's Radeon ReLive as a game recorder. It does everything the average gamer would need (video and audio recording, buffered (loop) recording, screenshots, etc) and many extra things others would enjoy (Desktop Recording, Streaming with Camera Overlay, etc) - unfortunately, I was not able to cover these extra options at this point in time. For now, dear reader, know that if you are an owner of a modern AMD GPU, you now have the option to do game recording, take screenshots, stream your gameplay and much more, with ReLive - all for 'free' [you must have purchased an AMD GPU]. I personally will continue to test out ReLive and experiment with it, using it as my 'main game recording app' for the next while - and I look forward to sharing my future findings with you all. Take care.


~Troy from The Game Tips And More Blog




Personal Version/Opinion

After purchasing an AMD GPU in my last videocard Upgrade and then seeing Shadowplay come out for NVIDIA GPU owners immediately afterward, it was fantastic to finally stop crying over it as I fall asleep at night and see a game recording add-on in the latest Crimson Drivers for AMD GPU owners - way to go, AMD! I plan on using it a lot, since it seems to work so well and will continue to fill my hard drive with material from it... 

I was pleasantly surprised to see that it makes very little difference in gaming performance while recording, other than the little 'stuttering' when it starts buffering. After that ends, it is almost invisibly running - except for that darn indicator... While small and out-of-the-way (as opposed to it being larger and somewhere in the middle of the screen) it is still a minor annoyance that it cannot be turned off - at all***. I do like the System Info pop-up of information on recording (when Show System Info is enabled), which gives a small summary of the system that recorded the video. The custom overlay function is nice, too [for those that would utilize it]. It would have been nice to see some options to show GPU Temp, GPU Clock, VRAM usage, etc as part of the HUD (it appears in the main Radeon Settings UI, which is a nice addition) - perhaps an in-game HUD of these might come in a later version..?

Edit:
I figured out how to Disable the little Indicator that appears (a small circle of different colours depending on what function it is performing)! Here is the instructions on how to 'disable' it:




*** To hide/disable the Indicator (which shows Yellow when buffered recording and Red when recording fully), bring up the ReLive Toolbar and click on the "Indicator" button four times - this cycles through all positions of the Indicator and then 'hides' it from view (buffered recording and normal recording are still functional in the background)




[With the release of this utility, I am almost scared for all of these smaller game recording application makers that have started to make a life for themselves these past years (from FRAPS and DXTORY, to Bandicam, Mirillis' ACTION and lesser known ones like D3DGear, and more) - what's going to happen to them, now that there is an included-with-your-drivers game recording app for both 'teams' of GPU manufacturers? As an example, I already feel bad for the slowly-blossoming Plays.TV game recorder, only recently revealing its' own site, that seemed to try so hard to get their game recorder included with Gaming Evolved (which was Raptr before that) and became 'supported' by AMD...[dangit, I never did finish a Review/TestRun I was working on, about their game recorder..]. What's going to happen to them and others like them..?]


To mention one other negative, I did notice that the already-sometimes-sluggish Radeon Settings interface itself (the Control Panel for AMD GPUs) became almost unbearably slow to respond many times (going into Not Responding Mode, etc - which a user can wait through), even more often now [Note: This was in Windows 8.1, I did not experience this issue nearly as much in Windows 10]. I am not a programmer, so I do not know if it is related directly to ReLive's new functions in the Radeon Settings or not; but even with the RePlay buffered recording disabled, navigating through the Radeon Settings interface seems to have become even more of a 'waiting game' - not all the time, but sometimes it is almost unbearably so...[I wish I knew how to help fix this, for myself and others].

Overall, while not a 'dome-shattering', 'game-changing', 'ground-breaker' in terms of functions (FRAPS brought out Looped Recording in early 2011 and other free programs like MSI Afterburner can record the Desktop since Windows 7), it does everything well and looks good and is easy to use, too. What else could you want in a utility? If I had to 'sum up' AMD's Crimson ReLive Edition, In One Sentence™, it would be something like:

"Feature-packed, Fast - and overall, Fantastic!" ~ The Game Tips And More Blog

Wow, that sounds cheezy... But now that I have started testing out AMD's ReLive - I will almost be disappointed if Santa sees fit to answer my Letter to him (asking for a new videocard) with a shiny new NVIDIA GPU under the tree this year - as I am just now getting into AMD's driver-based recording add-in... Still, if it should happen that I get one: come back in the future for a somewhat-dated-but-recent "Shadowplay TestRun" and some Benchmarks from it! haha ...I hope that the information herein has helped you in some way, dear reader - if you are able to use ReLive, have fun with it - and See You In The Games!

By the way, Merry Christmas and Best Wishes For The New Year! ~Troy from The Game Tips And More Blog









Copyright Notice: The above content, including text, tests done, results of the tests done, image compositions are all Copyright The Game Tips And More Blog, being created by myself, Troy (the administrator and sole representative of The Game Tips And More Blog and no other persons whatsoever) (that statement not including some original source materials that are not my original creations and are utilized under Fair Use for Review and Commentary and for Educational and Entertainment purposes). I have seen copies of this specific posting appear on a couple of websites now. I have submitted them for Legal Takedown and one of them has already been taken down for violating copyright, by copying my text/images/etc above. Note that I will continue to pursue any infringers of copyright and intellectual work here, of the above data/tests/imagecompositions/etc, including automated copy/paste "bots" and will not hesitate to take legal action where warranted, prosecuting any infringers on my intellectual property and efforts to the fullest extent of the law. It is unfortunate that I must take these actions, but I will and continue to do so, including my successive representatives, as the need arises. At the time of this posting, this material appeared on December 12th, 2016 at the ONLY "Game Tips And More Blog" website, located at gametipsandmore.blogspot.com (no personal domain). I am sorry dear readers, to have to speak this way, but recently, copying of my more popular posts has begun. I hope that these lawful responses will not take away from my ability to continue to create helpful material/reviews/opinions/images/etc for you all. 

Thursday, December 08, 2016

It's Not Just You™: AMD's Crimson Drivers, Radeon ReLive Not Working At First [Possible Fix]


Just a quick post before I go to bed here, that I wanted to share about the AMD Crimson Drivers that I got notified about just a bit ago, which included AMD's "ReLive", their new Game [and Desktop] Recording utility - 'built-in' to their 16.12 Drivers... For those who couldn't get it working right away (I see posts about it already in the Official AMD Forums), I couldn't either... And although I eventually did, I wanted to let others know, if you are having issues with it: It's Not Just You™

I was already starting to get tired when I saw a notification of the Driver Update - and I had no idea there was a nifty Game Recording 'app' incoming with it [I haven't been reading much lately, I have another Cold for pete's sake!]. For AMD GPU owners, waiting patiently to see if AMD was going to come out with their own Game Recording utility - it's here! The future is now!


Check out AMD's Video on their ReLive edition of Radeon here: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRSm12lwRe4


[I really wanted to start Testing it all out tonight, running Benchmarks and collecting Data for a TestRun or a Quality Test with it; but my sleepyness is actually building and getting the better of me, so I better go soon - I wanted to share what I did this evening though, to get it working (for me), before I go...]


Without going over the few things I tried first that didn't work (setting configuration, testing with different games, etc), here's the steps to take that finally got it running, for me:

  • Download the Latest AMD Drivers via their main Website (http://support.amd.com/)
  • Uninstall the main AMD Drivers via the Control Panel > Programs > Uninstall/Change Program
  • Reboot
  • Install AMD Drivers via the Download from their Website
  • Reboot

That's it!

After that, even though I have a 200 Series* AMD GPU at the time of this writing**, I was able to get ReLive up and running, even playing a little bit with the configuration and making a couple of short test recordings, before I came here to write this quick 'tip' of what might help get it going for others... It's a larger 'step' (messing with Drivers, as opposed to just messing with Configuration/Settings); but I always like to Troubleshoot from the smallest steps first (eg. changing some settings) to larger steps (eg. re-installing software) to huge steps (eg. OS reinstallation, hardware changes). Thankfully, it started working just fine after only a bit of a 'larger step' taken.


Although with the most recent versions of Windows you don't always have to Reboot it when making changes, it helps to get everything 'in order' in the background, re-initializing all hardware and Drivers fully - which is why many installers/software still get you to do it through their installation programs.

I plan on putting the Game Recorder through it's paces, working on a TestRun and a QualityTest, to come in the future here at The Blog - for now though, hopefully ReLive can get up and working for you, too - good luck, and if you are having troubles with it, remember - It's Not Just You™!






* The AMD page on ReLive at their main website (http://www.amd.com/en-us/innovations/software-technologies/radeon-software/gaming/radeon-relive) shows only 400 Series GPUs as 'Officially Compatible'. Although it does not state 'it will not work with earlier Series', it is unknown 100% at this time if it is possible, hence my mentioning it above


** Disclaimer and Personal Veracity Statement: Although I currently own an AMD GPU, I have owned NVIDIA GPUs in the past and will do so in the future. I have no personal preference between the two, purchasing one or the other as Upgrades depending on my needs at the time and my financial limitations at the time I choose to Upgrade. I have not and will not receive any compensation for mentioning or talking about either companies' products. I am merely an enthusiastic user (of both).

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Fallout 4 - Screenshots and "Portraits", Part I (SweetFX in ReShade) [With Added Example of Before and After]

[Update 2016-12-05: I think it would be 'more exciting' to see the Before, since these are all the After (the effects were turned on) - I shall come back to this and post/add the Before pics (the in-game unmodified versions), Soon™]
[Update 2017-02-17: I have added an animated GIF showing the Before and After applying my SweetFX profile, configured in ReShade, for one of the screenshots ("Mrs.Nordhagen, Settler II")]


Slowly doing more and more after a harder time with Colds/Flu/etc, I have been having a ton of fun with Fallout 4, ever since I received it as a gift from My Better Half recently when it was on sale - so much so, I can't tear myself away to do a First Impressions on it, I am playing with every bit of energy I get... Although I find myself mainly enjoying just building up my Settlements [as opposed to getting Quests done out in the ruined world, I have managed to take a multitude of Screenshots - and while Fallout 4 does not seem to be a miracle-laden, leaps-and-bounds, rocketship-flight, leap-ahead in graphics advancement from Fallout 3 [it seems to be a heavily modified/improved FO3 Engine], it is still quite beautiful, with the potential to be immensely so. Not a clean-and-crisp representation of a post-apocalyptic future [to my own delight] debris is strewn everywhere in both outdoor and indoor scenes/areas, accented by Shader and Post-Processing Effects galore...all while trying to maintain a lower polygon count ['complexity of the shapes'] for Console (and Desktop) performance. If you are able to turn things up (and don't mind the relatively sluggish performance drops) this game can truly become a Screenshot-Taker's Paradise...


I have so many Screenshots already from it that I want to start sharing them all - but first, here are just a few, of what-I-am-calling "Portrait" ['photo-style'] captures that I was able to take, captured in-game with the ULTRA graphic Video Setting (tweaked slightly), with filtering done by SweetFX in ReShade, utilizing my own configuration/presets/profiles (these Presets are configured with high amounts of Sharpening, Grain and Colour Grading (shading/colour-correction) to produce a darker, grittier look overlaying the game textures). Other than the Picture Frames for the 'portraits' below (those with text) and The Blog logos/watermarkings on all of them, no heavy editing in these (colour changes, etc.) were done outside of the game ("this is how it looks in the game, once you take the Picture Frames or Logos away") - the faces especially, are completely untouched and are how they looked in the game itself... For those interested in reproducing these looks, all SweetFX/ReShade profiles I create/configure will be made available here for all to use, once they are finalized...Soon™


[I am also going to share these Screenshots and 'Portraits' (images with border and text added) at Flickr and through Steam, eventually. I hope everyone enjoys them all!]


And now... a few 'Portraits' and some Screenshots, all taken using SweetFX at the time:


Although I am mostly just building up my Settlements [as opposed to getting Quests done out in the ruined world heh], it is exposing me to the Settlers and their personalities... These "Portraits" [bordered, with green 'Pip-Boy-style' Text] are an expression of those interactions, what I think their personal qualities/goals are (from what I have been exposed to thus far) and my enjoyment of it all... I hope you enjoy these little ‘representational snippets’ of their lives....

Fallout 4 "Portraits" - Preston Garvey
Captured in-game running ULTRA Settings, no Mods, filtering done with SweetFX in ReShade, text andborder added
Click to see Full Size


Fallout 4 "Portraits" - Marcy Long
(Captured in-game running ULTRA Settings, no Mods, filtering done with SweetFX in ReShade, text and border added)
Click to see Full Size


Fallout 4 "Portraits" - Sturges
Captured in-game running ULTRA Settings, no Mods, filtering done with SweetFX in ReShade, text and border added
Click to see Full Size



"Mama Murphy, can I take a picture of you?"
"Oooh I dunno kiddo, noone's gonna be interested in lookin' at ol' Mama Murphy, years from now... Besides, I haven't been to a salon in, oooh, I dunno how long..."
"Nonsense, Mama. You look fine. You have a special type of beauty I'd like to capture... Please?"
"Oooh alright... Just be sure to get Mama Murphy's 'good side', heheh...."


Fallout 4 - Mama Murphy "From Photo Shoot I"
Captured in-game running ULTRA settings, no Mods, filtering done with SweetFX
Click to see Full Size

Fallout 4 - Mama Murphy "From Photo Shoot II"
Captured in-game running ULTRA Settings, no Mods, filtering done with SweetFX
Click to see Full Size


Although it was hard to get a 'photo-style' angle, interacting with Mrs.Nordhagen (of Nordhagen Beach, Mass.) over and over eventually yielded this somewhat 'candid' shot of her and her husband, after 'talking' to her a number of times to get her to turn around - it was worth it to me, as these next two shots were the result... Lots of filtering was configured in SweetFX, having heavy sharpening and adding lots of colour grading, with a slight vignette [TV style] and Filmic passes, all done with SweetFX via ReShade.

Fallout 4 - "Mrs. Nordhagen, Settler I"
Captured in-game running ULTRA Settings, no Mods, filtering done with SweetFX
Click to see Full Size

Fallout 4 - "Mrs. Nordhagen, Settler II"
Captured in-game running ULTRA Settings, no Mods, filtering done with SweetFX
Click to see Full Size

Fallout 4 - "Mrs. Nordhagen, Settler II" (with and without SweetFX applied), Half-Size GIF
Captured in-game running ULTRA settings, no Mods, filtering profile configured with SweetFX in ReShade
Click to see Full Size



[I have so many screens already... but I have to get them 'prepped' for Upload and between still being 'slow' - but still trying to enjoy the game as much as I can (taking Notes for a First Impressions post, with Tips, And More!) - the rest will have to come in increments ("Parts"). For now, I hope you all enjoy these though. Take care.]



ReShade by Crosire (reshade.me)
SweetFX by CeeJay.dk (ceejay.dk)
Game Material by Bethesda Game Studios (bgs.bethsoft.com)
Captured/Edited by Troy from The Game Tips And More Blog


Thursday, September 01, 2016

Personal Log: Might not be able to post for a bit longer still... [Editorial/Personal]


Personal Log, Stardate 20160901 [I have no idea how that works heh]

Just a quick Personal Note to say that I apologize to my dear readers for not posting anything for a while, and that I may not be able to post for a while longer yet... I have been experiencing a worsening of my ongoing symptoms... I may be okay in about week or so and finish up some Project irons I have in the fire; but I don't know, it may take longer than that to get back up to the point where I can play and finish testing some recording programs I was working on, and post about it all...

< Potentially Sad Talking About Sicknesses Follows, In Case Of Feels, Stop Reading, Play Game >

I've never really mentioned what I have or what I go through before, since starting this Blog five years ago.. I didn't really want to trouble people or put those thoughts/feelings on them, but I have had a few people ask me personally what it was - and I was looking something up recently about my condition (it's a condition I (and Doctors as well) are constantly having to learn about) and I read quite a bit about other similar stories, where other suffers were in much worse condition than me... They were literally bed-ridden... And while I was also like that for the first couple of years, I have improved slowly over time to the point where I can sit up, and sometimes even play games, and on good days work on an article and do things around the house... 

My condition is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, which is an infection of the brain and spinal column, which gives components of Chronic Fatigue (getting tired easily with a slow recovery rate (as in days) if I go to the store, etc) and Fibromyalgia (inflammation and pain in all areas of the body, like when you get a 'flu' and are sore all over? it's that, all the time...heck, many of your Aunts or Mothers may have Fibromyalgia, so you may have heard about it..). It is not a well-known disorder, despite millions of Americans having it.

Every year I learn something new about it or studies that found out something new about it; but nothing is ever concrete on 'how to get rid of it', unfortunately. The only good part about that is, is that all Doctors have concluded that it is "something that goes away on it's own, but noone knows when"... Some people have it for a year or so and some have it the remainder of their lives. I am in my 10th year now, but as I have said in the past, I try to always see the positive in things and I have been slowly improving overall, slowly over the years...

I don't want to make anyone feel sad, I am sorry if this information does... I merely wanted to inform my readers that I may not be able to post things I have been working on for a while longer... Some of the things I was working on are: GPU-Accelerated Game Recorder Comparisons (Playclaw, Bandicam, Mirillis Action, D3Dgear, and more), First Impressions of some games that I started work on already (The Elder Scrolls Legends Closed Beta, Dropzone Closed Beta, A Return To The Elder Scrolls Online (I was in the Beta for it) and others), bringing back the "Can You Guess Where The Screenshot Below Is From" (there have been no winners so far and I have some Giftable Games a-waiting on Steam and GamersGate) and even more projects that I don't want to mention yet - to keep them a 'surprise', heh).

I enjoy writing my articles and posts here, helping others with the information I have figured out, found or collected, doing testing, giving tips of games and even Video Editing and showing effects of settings in both, including also creating the Headers and graphics utilized here (they are all done by me)...
I plan to continue doing this for a long time to come... I just realized there has not been much the past little while and wanted to let you all know there may not be some yet for just a little bit longer ('recovering' from a Cold or "doing too much" takes about a week or more each time I do something or get a cold, to get back to where I was, with this illness, everything takes far longer..).
Thank you for your patience, my wonderful readers, and I hope that I can contribute helpful information again for you, in the near future.

Sincerely,

~Troy from The Game Tips And More Blog