Friday, May 25, 2012

Tips For Game Recording, Quick Edition (Text-Only Version)

Recording your gameplay, whether it is for sharing with family and friends, uploading tutorials, contest/challenge entries, or just your own archive to watch when you are relaxing, is a great way to share and preserve gaming experiences. There are a handful of game recording applications out there today and while each one has it's ups-and-downs, I want to make a post however, focusing more on the problems people run into when trying to record their games. I wanted to quickly share some Tips that will help no matter which game recording software you have chosen as your own to use, whether your problem is 'it causes lag', 'framerate drops', 'video is choppy' or any other symptom. Here are some ideas to help you out, presented in order of the effect it should have on your game recording, from the most effect to the least:

  • Reduce the resolution of the game. That means instead of playing at 1920x1080, set the in-game resolution (usually in "Options") to something smaller like 1280x720 (720p HD) for example.

  • Reduce the resolution of the game recording. Not all game software will give you the same amount of choices for this, but reducing the resolution that the game is being recorded at (not the size you are playing at, set in the game, but the size of the frames being recorded, set in the game recording software such as "Half Size" or "75%" or a resolution like "1280x720"/"720p") will help reduce the amount of data your system is dealing with, and will help reduce things like framerate drop and recording lag.

  • Reduce or turn off Anti-Aliasing. This is one that can greatly affect recording smoothly but not many people think of it. When AA is on, video data is being 'processed twice' as stair-stepping is being detected on the frame, and then the video frame is being compressed for the recording itself. Do some tests on your system to see how lowering or turning off AA (even FXAA or Morphological/SMAA or 'Fast AA' albeit for reduced gain) has an effect on your game recording. You may need to set it in the video card's Control Panel and/or in the game itself.

  • Use the fastest drive on your system. If you have more than one drive in your rig, using something like CrystalDiskMark or Dxtory's built-in disk benchmark/testing tool (usable even in the Trial Version) or Nero's Burning ROM ('copy' using an image file, there is a drive speed tester in there), can help you find which drive recording to will be the smoothest/fastest. Always try to record to your fastest drive and the earliest (firstmost) partition on that drive that you can use for it.

  • Change the format you are recording into. By this I mean the recording codec you are using. Some codecs [COmpressor/DECompressors] that are used to handle the video data keep a lot of the detail but take up more space (like FRAPS' codec). Some codecs are 'lossy' and give up some quality in order to take up less space and keep the output file smaller (like Bandicam's MPEG-1 VBR codec). Some are just less taxing on the system or take better advantage of it (like the UT Video Codec's ability to use multiple cores of your CPU). If you have tried other things, try changing the codec and level of quality you are using. Record at 60% quality instead of 90% [Playclaw uses MJPEG set at 90% by Default and Bandicam uses MJPEG set at 80% for it's 'For Editing' Preset] and see if it looks ok to you (especially if you are recording at say, 1920x1080 and going to resize it down to 1280x720 for uploading).

  • Reduce the settings in-game. What I mean here is the Special Effects like lighting/shadow detail, graphic detail (complexity of the shapes/models/meshes and sharpness of the textures on them), effect detail (splatters and smoke) and even sound detail. All of these things make the system work harder (especially the CPU) to process them [very simplified; it must take data from the game files, process it, size and shape it and then finally show it on the screen and then buffer it and process it and write it to the recording file]. This will increase your frames per second in the game as well, and more of your system's resources can be put toward recording smoothly.

  • Reduce the frame rate of recording. This means, recording at 24 frames-per-second as opposed to say 60fps. There will be literally less frames for the program to deal with, and your system will not have to process so many and push them around, finally writing them to the recorded file. Dealing with less video data means that your system can handle it more smoothly, processing and writing slower to the drive being recorded to.

  • Defragment the drive being recorded to. These days, with how Windows7/NTFS and Linux's Journaling System handles files and with Solid State Drives, it is not as needed as in the days of yesteryear; but making as much space as you can and ordering the files as much as you can does still help with game recording overall. 

  • Upgrade your system's hardware. I hate seeing and giving this advice, but it really does help with just about anything that you are trying to do with your computer, so I am including it, last (even though the effect a computer upgrade can have can be greater than any of the steps above). Game recording uses not just your video card, but also your motherboard (everything 'talks to each other' through it), your CPU (the traffic cop, dictating how fast everything should go and when), RAM (the holding and transport areas for most things), and finally the hard drive (which receives all of this data and computes writing it to the file). Purchasing anything as an upgrade, whether it is a newer/faster drive, processor or video card, will all help in game recording.
    Lastly, a dedicated Sound Card is always [always] more efficient for a system than using the Built-In/Onboard Audio. Even a good USB soundcard can help alleviate problems like sound stuttering, clicking and popping, static, input lag and other problems, as processing is done without bothering the CPU and using main system resources for audio.

Hopefully, these Tips will help you record your games, no matter what software you've decided to use/try to record with. As always, when having problem with programs, going to the Support portion of the developer's website, even if it is just a Forum there, is a good idea to look for help with a specific program and the problems you are encountering. These general Tips are more concerned with your computer and how it interacts with programs/games in general and should help 'No Matter What'.
Good luck with it and have fun!

See you in the games!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Achievement - Diablo III - 'No Time To Rest' Challenge with Level 25 Demon Hunter (Video)

Recorded with Bandicam ('For Edit' Preset)
Resized to 720p, 4000kbps h.264/AVC (for smaller upload size)
Resampled to x1.5 speed (to assist in reducing watching boredom)

Playtime: 47:47 (forty-seven minutes, forty-seven seconds)
Character: Level 25 Demon Hunter (Female)
Skills most used: Vault (Rattling), Elemental Arrow (Ball Lightning)
DPS: 154.96
Dexterity: 207
Follower: Templar (Intervene, Loyalty, Charge, Gaurdian)

Usually playing games through slowly and savouring every graphic effect, listening to every environmental sound, I don't ever do "Speedruns"; but feeling that my Level 25 Female Demon Hunter [yes I know lolxDeathDeeler1337x] kicked a bit of butt, I decided to try running Act I Normal for the No Time To Rest Achievement.

The first time I tried it didn't register for some reason, so I had to try again. Then the second time I got disconnected halfway through! That saying The Third Time's The Charm came true once again and this is the result:

The slow moving big blue orb, similar to D2's Frozen Orb, is Elemental Arrow with the Ball Lightning Rune/buff. It acts very similar to the old Sorceress FO as it sails over the enemies, hitting most of them as it passes. Running through Act I I found I could just Fire-And-Forget, launching one and then continue running past.
The Demon Hunter Elemental Arrow, with Ball Lightning Rune 

The acrobatic cartwheel she does (a lot) is Vault, an evasion move that lets you get away, even moving through enemies, I believe. I have the Rattling Rune/buff on it, that lets you shoot a couple arrows off as you cartwheel by, which has showed me some barrels/jars at times that I have missed. It uses the slower-regenerating Discipline as it's 'mana', so you can't just cast it constantly (which I would have liked, heh).
The Demon Hunter's Vault skill/ability

For the most part, to get this Achievement you just have to be willing to run past a lot of things. I gave up Uniques and what they might drop, Treasure Chests and Treasure Goblins. I suggest having all of the Act completed ahead of time, so you don't have to miss all the story and plot, of course. Also, I had created and done the Act with a few characters already, so I was familiar which what should (relatively) come next and had a feel for the dungeons, which helps a lot. There were a couple small things that I couldn't figure out, like why I didn't get the achievement at The Butcher for not getting burned by the floor fire. I thought I got away clean from it - I realize now that it says "on Hell difficulty or higher". Regardless, these types of Achievements are ones you can go for at the same time, while getting the Challenges like the one above.

The video is unedited and you can see all the mis-clicks I do, like going into the wrong doorway and the dialogue with the caravaneer at the end, heh. I am also not the greatest at picking Pathing routes to take, as I haven't done Act 1 more than a few times; but all in all this was enjoyable to run, with it's own sense of Tension added to the gameplay session. Nice Challenge Blizz, it was fun.

See you in there!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Quality Test - Diablo III and Bandicam's "For Edit" Preset / YouTube Upload Test

With the Bandicam "For Edit" Preset, every frame is an independent Keyframe or I-Frame (Information Frame), which is a type of frame that can be 'cut' or started from in video editing programs (technically, every frame is a JPG picture). Also, the audio is Uncompressed, which means that any video editor should be able to recognize the sound data. Errors in programs like Virtualdub saying "Error initializing audio stream decompression" or Sony's Vegas showing "Stream attributes could not be determined" will not occur and these will open the audio just fine with this setting.

Testing out Bandicam as a game recorder and playing during the launch of Diablo 3 (woot!), I've put together some settings/specifications, uploaded it to YouTube, and collected some results for you all:

The video is short, but I was mainly testing a few things:
1) D3's performance, with all options maxed out
2) Capture quality of Bandicam's 'For Edit Premiere/Sony Vegas' Preset and performance/lag of using it
3) The Logo/Watermark capability of Bandicam
4) YouTube's quality maintainability

Recorded with: Bandicam
- v.179204 (Latest at time of this post)
- 'For Edit (Premiere, Sony Vegas)' Preset
- MJPEG, "Full Size", 80%quality (Preset), 30fps, Uncompressed PCM Audio at 48kHz
- Logo option (our GTAM watermark), lower right, 10% opacity

Game: Diablo III (Retail Release) Launch Day
- Witch Doctor, Cathedral Level 3
- Texture Quality: High
- Shadow Quality: High
- Physics: High
- Clutter Density: High
- "Anti-Aliasing" checkbox ticked ON

Resolution: 1680x1050 (1.6AR) recorded at 1680x1050 ("Full Size")**
Filtering: 4xMSAA, 4xAF, set in Control Panel of Videocard
Framerate while not recording: 80-100fps
Framerate while recording: 80-100fps

For people trying out Bandicam and finding your recordings are choppy/laggy on playback (when looking at the original generated/recorded file), you should find that compressing it to a file with a smaller bitrate/size in a format you will keep it permanently in, it will play back that file just fine.

I chose this D3 clip for a Quality Test because it was a good example of both fast movements/action on the screen, as well as slow/non-moving parts, including text. It has dark and light areas, high contrast edges, and tests wide area panning as well.

Bandicam's "For Edit" Preset worked great, with clear text and action in the original recording, while flatter, darker parts were not overly compressed which would create excessive macroblocks or be too smoothed out. There were some Gibbs Effects/Mosquito Noise around text and on some of the button logos in the original recording, but you had to look closely to see it, which is pretty good for not being a 100% Quality setting.

The very small amount of color banding present in the original recording was somewhat generated by the Game Engine (seen in the lower-right quadrant of this video, and in the Diablo3 login screen around the moon, etc.), and there shouldn't be much, due to using MJPEG as a recording codec.

If you are having problems with Color Banding that is not in the game itself, try MJPEG as your recording codec

Average bitrate of the original was about 40Mbps, which meant a writing stream to the disk of about 5MB/s, which any hard drive can handle (recorded onto a drive capable of 150MB/s).
Framerate during recording was maintained at 80-100fps (same framerate as not recording).
The original 1 minute generated file is about 300MB in size with these settings. The recompressed MPEG-4, resized to 1080p file, has an average bitrate of 20Mbps and is about 140MB in size.

While this Preset in Bandicam is designed for compatibility with editing programs, the original recording was uploaded directly from the Bandicam-generated file anyway, to test the effects of uploading to YouTube from an original recording.

** The video at the top was Lanzcos3 resized from the original 1680x1050 capture to a 1728x1080 (1.6 AR) [MPEG-4 H.264 AVC/AAC file with a bitrate of 20000kbps (audio at 384kbps) using a Deblocking Filter setting of +0+0] because the original upload was down-sized to 1280x720 by YouTube and looked much worse, see here below:

The Result:
Recorded at 1680x1050, YouTube had downsized that one to 720 vertical lines. The Gibbs Effects were no longer present because of this, but excessive smoothing and other compression artifacts were introduced. Text was far less readable and nothing on the screen was as crisp as the original 1050p recording. Aliasing was also introduced. This was unfortunate but understandable however, as YouTube can no doubt not keep 'everything' at 'very high bitrates' on their servers, and since it was not 1080p, it simply scaled it down.

A single frame taken from each video for comparison (Frame 813, zoomed section) from the original Bandicam recording, YouTube's version of the 1080p upload and YouTube's 720p version of the 1680x1050 upload. Click to see Full Size.

The resized-from-1050p-to-1080p version maintained much of its detail after uploading to YouTube. The text is closer to the crispness of the original recording, and there is only some smoothing and deblocking being done. There are some macroblock artifacts and color banding accentuation in the darker areas however (for instance, the lower-right quadrant much of the time) but other than that, it is a decent quality version of the 1080p upload.

For those recording at 1680x1050, I recommend upsizing it to 1728x1080 so that YouTube keeps most of the detail of your recordings

  Well done, Bandicam (and YouTube).

Hopefully this information will help out any gamers that are looking to start recording their experiences, or even the already numerous people who are recording and sharing their great videos. Thank you all for sharing and your efforts.

Please note dear reader, that I am not saying "This codec is the best one to record with" or "use this one only". I am merely showing that it is possible or how to tweak it for quality or file size, as to your own personal tastes. There are many codecs out there to choose from when game recording and although some are more apt for certain types of games than others, overall it is your own choice to do with as you will.

See you in the games!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Diablo 3: Out To Launch

[Currently on Launch Day, this is a Text-Only Version]

To quote another author: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...". That's the D3 Launch Day in a nutshell.

Don't get me wrong, I was actually able to play for a couple of hours, which according to the forums, is more than many many people got to experience.

After having a blast with my crazy Shaman, throwing jars of spiders around and barfing up burning firebats, I was perusing the Auction House when I tried to go back into the game for a moment. Alas, I was unable to, as my luck caught up with me, and now I cannot get in at all, and I am receiving various error messages, from "Servers Are Busy, Please Try Your Call Again" to a "Temporary Outage Of Battle.Net" to the now famous "Connection Was Interrupted" that has been around since the 90's. To be fair, this is their Worst Day Ever. I don't mean that in terms of their worst performance, I mean that in terms of their worst incoming experience. The traffic, the logons, the installations, the downloads, the people. This is like feeding time at the trough and it will undoubtedly get rough.

As a former System Administrator, they have my sympathy. Whether they are working hard, putting in overtime for the next week or so, diligently hacking away at the weeds and problems that are coming up - or whether they are laughing and popping champagne, smoking Cuban cigars while they scan their bums and only try to reboot the login server once in a while at the party - in either case today will be the 'worst day' for Diablo 3. Hey, look on the Bright Side, it can only get better from here, right?. Heck, there are people that paid a hundred bucks for the Collector's Edition that have been trying for over 12 hours to get things working and have not played a single minute of gameplay. It can only possibly start looking up for them.

For those who have found this blog while waiting between refreshing the Battle.Net forums and retries of logging in, let me say to you as well, you have my sympathy. You have paid your hard-earned money and purchased a product as a customer and I know you expect to have results and pronto. Perhaps this is another nail in the coffin of Online-Only gaming. Or possibly, it is just another Waste Canister that will be buried in the foundation cement of Online-Only entertainment. Only time will tell, but personally, not just from the viewpoint of a consumer, but also from the viewpoint of a producer, I think that a product that requires a connection that may not always be there is a bad move. There is a reason not every company jumped on the "The Cloud" concept. There is a reason why you don't put all your Stormtroopers in one huge moon-size base. If there was Offline Play, Single-Player only even, this huge amount of people foaming at the fingertips, would only be a trickle, as most would just switch to that, while waiting for things to get going again.

Now I understand the reasons it was made Online-Only. The ability to sell in-game items and currency is one. Copy Protection is another. The thing I don't understand is, why didn't they make an Offline Version that was simply 'disconnected' from the in-game currency capability? Let the people who want to play their heroes and beef them up with "D3heroEditor"'s buff up all they want - so long as absolutely none of their items, gold, or anything else, is connected to their Auction-House capable characters. Why didn't they allow this? This would even solve the traffic/load/whining problem that is currently going on in the forums, because they would be in there playing Offline instead. Now even the forums are Unavailable.

For now, I must sleep. It was fun for some, a nightmare for others. Perhaps that is fitting, for a game such as Diablo 3.

See you in there.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

TestRun, Quick Edition: FRAPS vs DXTORY vs BANDICAM (Text-Only Version)

I'd like to start a series of posts called TestRun, where I test out either hardware or software applications, benchmarking where I can with utilities (such as FurMark, CrystalMark, 3dMark) and just playing and testing when there are none (such as with Battlefield3, where at this time there is no repeatable, actual Benchmarking tool, as opposed to say, other stand-alone benchmarking game utilities such as Alien Vs Predator, Crysis, or even games with demo recording playback for repeatability, at this time BF3 does not have).

This is also a 'Quick' Edition, a version of the testing and results that are text-only for now, where I may do a full version as time permits in the future, with screen recordings, graphs and other materials that I would like to share; but for now, hopefully the testing and results alone will help people out.

[Links to updates and Video Editions of these tests can be found at the bottom of this article]

The Experiment

For this TestRun then, I am pitting FRAPS against other screen recording tools, Dxtory and Bandicam.
I wanted to include MSI's Afterburner with its capture utility, but at this time I could not get it working with my Gigabyte Mainboard and ASUS videocard. Other utilites such as ZDsoft's Game Recorder only allows 60-second recordings in it's trial version and I wanted to test longer recordings, since one of the problems many people are having (including myself) is with the audio and video going out of synchronization over longer game captures *coughfrapscough*. Dxtory and Bandicam allowed unlimited trial version recording (with large watermarks embedded) so they were perfect adversaries for my purchased version of FRAPS.

Dxtory and Bandicam are both newer competitors in the game recording market, showing up in 2009 and 2010 and as such, seemed to take more advantage of modern hardware processing capabilities. For instance, both Dxtory and Bandicam offer recording compression on-the-fly. You can even choose various compression CODECs (compressor/decompressors) such as MPEG, XviD, and more. What the compression allows, is much smaller file sizes for your captures.

Fraps does a very light compression through their codec, and results in large file sizes.
Dxtory and Bandicam have configurable settings for the codec and the compression amount (how much to process the recording as you go, how small to make the files that you create) - but remember that the more compression you attempt on the data, the more you are straining your hardware to process it as you go - meaning that the smaller the output of the files you are recording will be, but the slower your system will respond while you are playing the game and recording.
Bandicam allows you to record the operating system screen itself, not just within an accelerated game, but the Windows GUI for instance, so you can create Screencasts or tutorials, recording what you are doing on the screen.
Dxtory does not do this, it will only capture the DirectX/OpenGL acceleration within a game.
FRAPS will record the gpu-accelerated interface (such as AERO in Windows), so you can record the screen like Bandicam, if you wish.

The Test

For this TestRun, I used the Crysis Stand-Alone Benchmarking Utility, the Unigine Tropics Demo/Benchmark, played Diablo2 [warming up for D3!] and some multiplayer Battlefield 3 (returning to the same server in a short period of time), since that is a nice modern game that exercises your hardware well. I also tried recording the standard Windows GUI, reading some articles and watching some YouTube videos and recording what I was doing. I am currently running an AMD 6-Core CPU and an AMD/ATi Radeon HD 6870 on a GIGABYTE 990FXA chipset mainboard. I assume this is an average-to-above-average system at the time of this writing and it could help out anyone with a similar rig in the future as well, looking for ideas on what may work for better for them.

Keep in mind, that when considering the apparent effect of lag on the system, it can vary, not only between systems but also between games. 
For systems, one person may get only a loss of a few frames, while another person can experience a much larger framerate loss, the difference usually more dependent on the system hardware. 
For games, sometimes a company programs/codes the actual game on one type of hardware or the other, then 'ports' it over/translates it [the portions of it that were not compatible] for the other family of systems (such as Intel-->AMD or AMD/ATi-->NVIDIA), the result being games then 'prefer' one or the other and will natively perform more efficiently on the former (this explains why some games will perform better in Benchmarks and Testing on one brand of architecture than the other).

[I chose these three game recording applications for now, as opposed to including PlayClaw, Xfire and others, as perusing game forii, these three seemed to be "The Big 3" programs that people were always talking about, suggesting, and using in their game recordings. They also all allowed Unlimited Recording Times, since I already owned Fraps. In the future, I hope to do a larger TestRun of all of the currently available screen recorders I can find and create a nice Review of them all!]

The Data


Game recordings from this Australian Heavyweight Champion, as everyone already knows, are huge. One minute of in-game recording at 1680x1050 [the current limit of my monitor at the time of this writing] was over 4.5 GB. That's a total filesize which will take up more than a DVD. For 1 minute. The data stream average for the video overall was about 550Mbps, meaning that it was writing data at about 70MB/s to the harddrive [on a drive that can handle up to 150MB/s]. That means, that recording an hour of gameplay (beginning a long session, or an average Conquest match in BF3) would be well over 250GB of data.

The thing with Fraps recordings however, is that the Quality is superb. It almost is WYSIWYG (What You See If What You Get), but the file sizes show that as well. You could not record days and days of game time and edit it all up at the end; at least not at Full Resolution, playing at 1080p or higher, unless you had the hard drive space to deal with it all.

Another issue with Fraps is that is very demanding on the system*. Because it is powerdumping huge amounts of data onto the drive, it strains the colon of the system bus with its girth, filling all bandwidth with video and audio data, taxing the CPU and RAM as it traffics it all, even though it is only very lightly processed.
End Result: your entire rig (especially if older) is slower in response to pushing this huge amount of data around and hence the many complaints about 'Fraps lags the game' on forums everywhere*.

*[Note however that this does not happen to everyone and not on all games]

I found that playing Battlefield 3, on a 64-player map, while recording with Fraps, my framerate drops from 70fps down to 30fps, even with "Lock Framerate While Recording" not toggled on. The same thing happens with Skyrim. The resulting videos are smooth and look great though, they are just...big.

There is not much that you can configure with Fraps. You can change the framerate (to whatever your system can handle) and record in Full or Half resolution (for instance, if you are playing at 1680x1050, your recordings would be at 840x524), if your system cannot record at your full game size. You can also simply lower the in-game display to something smaller, like 1280x720 for easy editing and upload without having to resize if you are sharing your videos at that resolution anyway. this also helps if the strain is too much for higher resolutions.
[These two 'tips' above will also help anyone experiencing lag or slowdown or choppiness while recording during gameplay]

You can record multiple sound inputs, if you are doing a game commentary for example, and there is a built-in "benchmarking" utility, where it will keep track of the in/out/average frames per second and output that to a file, if you want to do some testing.

I purchased Fraps long ago, when it was the Go-To app for game recording and benchmarking and in many ways it still is; however through recent system upgrades (from a single core to a dual core and now up to a six-core processor) Fraps seems to have another problem - audio and video desynchronization: the sound doesn't match what you see on the screen, getting worse and worse out of time with the video the longer the recording is. As my older system (for instance, the dual-core) does not experience this, I assume it has something to do with the hardware and calls that the application is/is not making. Not being a developer for Fraps, I do not know exactly; but without fixes in future versions, many people (not all, only the ones experiencing this problem) are going to be looking for alternatives to this classic and wonderful veteran program, origin of the phrase "FRAPS, Or It Didn't Happen!"™.


Dxtory is a challenger from Japan, touting faster movie capture and distributed hard drive writing (taking turns over different drives, so that it lightens the strain on all of them by sharing it, if needed) as it's battle weapons. Highly configurable, you can actually use most Codecs that you have installed on your system, finding the best one that may work for your setup. It comes with its own Dxtory Codec as well, a high quality adversary for the Fraps codec.

One minute of recording at 1680x1050, with the High Quality setting of the Dxtory Codec, came out to just over 5GB, averaging about 600Mbps. With the 'Compress' checkbox ticked, I assume this is the Fraps equivalent, because it looked just as good with the slight compression; but the file size was just as large as Fraps as well.

Dxtory has a couple of tricks up its sleeve however. For one thing, recording at that high a bitrate in game in Fraps, my framerate took a big hit. With Dxtory, it was a lot smaller: from about 50fps in a busy 64-player BF3 multiplayer area, down to about 40fps. And then to see the quality of the video file is almost the same as Fraps? Fantastic. The other thing is, you can specify different levels of quality when using the Dxtory Video Codec to save disk space and lower the strain on your system. For instance, trying the Dxtory Low Quality setting, the file created from a minute of gameplay was about 2.5GB, with an average bitrate of 330Mbps - about half that of the High Quality recording. Although it wasn't bad, you could tell that it was lower quality however, with some Chromatic Aberrations around text at lower resolutions [I may provide screenshots from the video in a future post]. It was good enough for recordings at 1050p or higher though, especially if you are resizing down to 720p for upload to a video sharing site somewhere.

You can also use other Codecs that you have installed on your system. I tried XviD, x264 and some others, but putting too much compression/small size restrictions on the recordings created more lag in the game and resulted in 'choppier' video output/playback.

[Although the built-in codec is great, I settled on installing the UT Video Codec (YUV-4-2-2) for it's balance of speed and size versus its great quality - and that's the one I would use if I were to purchase Dxtory.]

For more details/information on various codec settings (using as an example, H.264/AVC), I have written a more in-depth article, talking about the different settings (for MPEG-4 Part-10) and why you may or may not want to enable them, here (text only, "Long Version"):

Another weapon in the arsenal of Dxtory is its configurability. You are not restricted to just Full Resolution or Half, you can record in 75%, 50%, 25% and even other increments [I found 80% to be a good trade off between quality and file size for the default codec] or set your own resolution to record at - even while you play in another totally different rez, to help with reducing recording 'lag'. Nice. It also has multiple audio inputs (compressing the audio as well, if you wish) and timed screenshot-taking in multiple formats, if that's something you need. It also has it's own little 'Disk Benchmarking' tool, so you can test each drive and find out which one is the fastest to record with.


Bandicam is a contender from Korea that can record not only DirectX/OpenGL acceleration in games, but also the GUI itself or portion of it (such as recording what you are doing in Windows for tutorials). Another highly configurable program, you can change the resolution and quality level you are recording at (playing at one resolution while recording in another, as with Dxtory). You can choose a compressible the sound format and even embed your own logo as a watermark, with various sizes and transparency settings on it.

One minute of recording at 1680x1050 with its default setting came out to 0.1GB - you read that right, 100MB - with an average of about 15Mbps of data. Ten straight minutes of recording BF3 multiplayer came out to about 1GB. That means to record an hour of gameplay (an average Conquest match in Battlefield 3 or a Full Run of an Episode in Left4Dead) would take up only about 6GB!
[That also means, for the amount of space 1 hour takes up of a full-size Fraps recording, I could record over 40 hours of gameplay!]
I still can't believe it.

I immediately thought that the resulting file must look like crap on a cracker, but the video is actually comparable to both Fraps and Dxtory. It's not 100% quality, but then, the Default setting in Bandicam [at the time of this writing] was set at 80% Quality of MPEG-1, Variable Bit Rate ( which uses more bitrate when needed, using less when less is going on and not needed) encoding. The resulting video file did indeed look about 80-85% quality of a Fraps/Dxtory(HighQuality) recording, but that means it looked just fine, with clear text and textures, and it could further be turned up to 100% if you so desired.

['Videophiles' will notice some typical mpeg artifacts such as Gibbs Effects at lower resolutions/quality settings and some Temporal Recursive Noise and other compression artifacts when using MPEG-1 at low quality settings, but these can be alleviated by increasing the VBR percentage (to 90% or higher) or switching to recording in MJPEG [which is PlayClaw's recording codec of choice, for example, at the time of this writing] using a high quality setting (again 90% or higher) or once could even use the built-in YV12 codec if space is not an issue]

You can also record in YV12 or RGB, which give "FrapsQuality" recordings, but are also huge in file size to match (for instance, recording in YV12 colorspace, 1 minute of recording was about 5GB and 1 minute of RGB was almost twice that size).

[For filesize savings at a decent quality price, I think most people will be happy using [what originally was the program default of] the built-in Bandicam-optimized MPEG-1 codec at a high variable bit rate (80-100%) setting - and that's what I would use if I were to purchase Bandicam.]

The effect of apparent lag on the system was somewhere between Dxtory's 'Barely There' and Fraps's 'Omg I'm Gunna Lag', taking a 60fps Battlefield3 match down to about 40fps while recording. It was surprising to not have it affect the framerate more actually, considering the quality of the resulting video file, its small footprint the output file was going to have, and the processing that must be going on, behind the scenes to have that all happen. I also found that when recording the Windows interface, the resultant video was less choppy than a Fraps recording of the same thing (and with Bandicam you can choose to record only a portion of the screen, if you wanted to, for creating tutorials and such).

Bandicam is also configurable like Dxtory, so if recording at 1080p resolution, of 100% quality, at 60fps is a bit much for your system, you can turn down the quality (80% is the default and looks ok), or record at a smaller resolution while playing the game at a larger one, or record 'full-size' and just go and reduce the in-game resolution to something smaller, or you could turn off sound compression and many other things... but for the most part it works great as is, especially with a more modern desktop system.

With no audio/video sync problems during long recordings (tested up to 48 minutes) and with the additional option to record general Windows screen output when needed, this is a serious contender, especially for those who must have 'disk space usage during recording' as a consideration, as I do.

The Conclusion

Fraps vs Dxtory vs Bandicam?

I always like to say to everyone: try things out on your own, on your own system, and see which one is the best for you (they all have Demo versions available).
Perhaps you are more concerned with 'the best quality' and not concerned with 'hard drive space', then Fraps may be more for you - if your system can handle it. If you have an older system and are experiencing too much lag during recording, the configurability of Fraps to help, with options to turn down, are simply not there, so perhaps one of the other two, offering more configuration and recording options, is more your speed. Every system performs different and everyone has differing opinions on 'what looks good enough' for what they are doing; but, after testing all three choices of game capturing software personally, here are some overall considerations I can give with confidence:

++ Excellent Quality (No other program records in as good quality by default)
-- Quality is not very configurable (aside from half-resolution recording)
-- Huge File Sizes
-- Large Performance Hit ([*not everyone] when recording, can lower to half-size to help perf.hit)

++ Great Quality (or Excellent or Low, depending on your settings and restrictions)
++ Quality is Configurable (compress with various codecs, compress audio, any resolution/size)
-+ Variable File Sizes (depending on settings, YV/RGB is possible which is similar to FrapsQuality/Size)
-- Small Performance Hit (when recording using UT Video YUV-4-2-2, otherwise Medium perf.hit)

++ Great Quality (or Excellent or Low, depending on your settings and restrictions)
++ Quality is Configurable (compress with multiple codecs, compress audio, any resolution/size)
-+ Small/Variable File Sizes (Smaller even at 100% Quality, YV/RGB is possible which is similar to FrapsQuality/Size)
-- Medium Performance Hit (when recording, can lower quality or size to help perf.hit)

Have fun testing and making your own choice!

Personal Short Version/Opinion:
  • Fraps has great quality and always has, but the file sizes are just too big for me right now. I could record at half-resolution, but then the overall quality is too low in most games. And recently, there is a problem with the audio being out of sync with the video in the recorded files for me. Sorry Fraps, I have to look for something else until you get that fixed (or I do on my end).
  • Dxtory has great configurability, I can have the quality of Fraps with the right settings, and without the lag that Fraps creates in some games! But then, recording with those settings, the file sizes would be just as big anyway. Since a concern of mine right now is disk space; sorry Dxtory, you're not my pick today.
  • Bandicam, in it's default setting at the time of this post, does not have the exact quality of Fraps, but it can be made to have closer to the quality of Fraps by increasing the Variable Bitrate higher, or changing the compressor to MJPEG with a high (90-100%) quality setting. I could utilize the even better looking YV12, but then the file sizes would be just as big as Fraps... The MPEG-1 codec, as it's being used/optimized in Bandicam, especially with the VBR setting, only uses up disk space as it needs - and it compresses well even what it does use. The result is that it seems I can record everything, for hours and hours, and then I can pick and choose the parts later that I want to edit/keep. The quality of the Bandicam-optimized MPEG-1 (or Bandicam-optimized Xvid if you prefer to use that) at a high setting (80-100% VBR) looks fine for action games to me, with a few small nit-picky parts in areas where there is not much going on (flat color areas or slower games/movement), as is the nature of Variable Bit Rate recording. This can be fixed however, by filtering or resizing during editing - or it can not even be a problem at all by simply increasing the bitrate/VBR setting, or changing the codec to a high bitrate MJPEG setting [90-100% quality], which would improve things for even slow, non-action-oriented areas and games (like web browser games). Changing the codec to MJPEG also uses less overhead [performance demand/'lag'] and your recording will also be more compatible with editing programs and allow you to cut/start anywhere in the video and have it respond/seek much faster [I personally like the film-like look of MPEG-1 and how it compresses so well (small file size recordings); but the crispness, low overhead and compatibility with editing apps MJPEG offers is very useful, I am finding as I was doing this testing]. Being able to also record the desktop for tutorials, on top of all of that disk space I'll be saving, simply won me over. I am now a proud supporter (Registered User) of Bandicam.

See you in the games!

Update 1 : If you are looking for a TestRun with Video Examples of these programs and the quality that they produce when recording, the first Video TestRun comparison of them can be found at the blog here:

» Look for upcoming TestRuns, which will include PlayClaw's Newer Demo Version (that allows higher quality) and more Game Recording Apps - like Mirillis' Action, OBS, SmartPixel and more!
Update on this - a QualityTest/'Shootout'/Versus between ACTION, Playclaw 5 and Plays.TV Coming Soon™ in 2016!

[N.B.: I am not a developer for, nor affiliated in any way with any of these programs or companies]