Machinima Artists Guild

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Has anyone here tried a Hauppauge HD-PVR?  I bought one last week because I was unhappy with the frame rate loss I was getting with Fraps, but the color quality I'm getting with the HD-PVR is very poor and I'm wondering whether it's something I can rectify or if I should just return it and go back to using Fraps.

I'm running SL on one computer and sending the second monitor output to a second computer via the HD-PVR, using the component dongle that came with its NVIDIA GT260  for its 9 pin s-video port; I'm wondering whether this could be the problem. 

I've also tried a DVI-component adapter cable, but I get no signal at all from it.

I'm also concerned about the numerous accounts I hear of HD-PVRs overheating and having other problems.

My computer configuration: both computers have NVIDIA video cards; the SL computer has a GT 260 and the capture computer has a 9800 GT.  Both computers are running Win 7 64-bit, have a 3.0ghz Intel Core 2 Duo dual core CPU, and 8gb of RAM.

Should I just go back to using Fraps?

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hmm - no clue about the PVRs - s- video sounds bad .-)
but ur rig should handle fraps fine. what resolution r u capturing? and what connection speed is in ur home ?
My basic problem is jerkiness or stuttering when I pan and zoom using SpaceNavigator while recording with Fraps. There's no problem when I'm not recording.

I've been capturing at 1920x1080 and 1280x720. I have the fastest dsl that sonic.net offers (3.0mbps-6.0mbps download & 512kbps-768kbps upload) with a wired connection. I've tried reducing my SL graphics settings and recording to a different hard drive, but neither helps. Both computers are in good shape, with defragmented drives, little clutter, and no other running programs except my Eset firewall.

Unless I find a good reason to keep the HD-PVR, I'll probably return it. The question then becomes whether to buy Camtasia Studio, which runs fine but which I don't care for and has features I don't need, or look for a different solution.

Two solutions I'm considering are either getting an SSD (probably a Crucial M225 128gb) or replacing my dual core CPU with a quad core. I build my own computers, so replacing the CPU isn't a major hassle, but I'm not convinced that a quad core would get me much over a dual core because the processor speed would be the same as what I have now (3.0ghz).

I prefer the SSD for a variety of reasons, but still am leery about them.

I appreciate any advice or experience anyone here can offer.
i use frap and i was told the other day to get better performance out of it, to direct the output file to save on an alternative hard disk other than the c drive this elveates some processing lag in addition once you start frap up go to start task manager in the processing tab right clk fraps and set affinty then set to core 0 only, this may help untill we all get intel 28 processors in 20 years
jjccc, those are both excellent suggestions, but I've tried both with mixed results.

One of my computers does have two internal hard drives, but to my surprise writing to a separate hard drive hasn't helped. Setting affinity does help to an extent - if I leave Snowglobe running in both cores but set Fraps to run only in one, I get a marginal improvement, but not as much as I want.

The reason I'm so obsessed with quality is that I direct community television in a very wealthy SF Bay Area county. If I get serious about making machinimas, I'll want to use them in my TV shows in a county where many residents will be watching on high end TVs. I need to be certain that my computer can generate the quality I want. Although I live in a wealthy county, I'm not wealthy myself and can't afford right now to build the computer that I'd ideally want for making machinimas. My only options I see for my current computer are an SSD for Windows 7 and SL viewers (with other applications on a HD and video on a second HD) and maybe a quad core CPU.

jjccc said:
i use frap and i was told the other day to get better performance out of it, to direct the output file to save on an alternative hard disk other than the c drive this elveates some processing lag in addition once you start frap up go to start task manager in the processing tab right clk fraps and set affinty then set to core 0 only, this may help untill we all get intel 28 processors in 20 years
have you tried using an xbox 360 controller it make it very smooth for filming
I ordered the Hauppauge unit in a moment of frustration when I hoped that capturing on a different computer than the one running SL might be an ideal solution. It's not. All the research I've been doing in the last few days agrees with what you're saying and in fact I'm already doing a lot of it. It's good advice. Thanks.

Yani said:
Agree with Cisko on the S-video, don't use it! Also, not sure why you need the Haupage Unit. JJCCC is correct in using multiply hard drives for paging and captures but, I think you should be able to get enough out of your machine to give you the FR you need. I have Camtasia but rarely use it except for rough renders.

There is a myriad of settings you could adjust to give you the FR you need. Fraps is the tool you want for Windows captures. Try getting a base setting from your nvidia card first. From the DEFAULT settings, tweek the settings toward performance. (if you are using the auto mode, fine, but make sure to restore ALL defaults) It is sometimes better to use your monitor at it's native resolution setting. Frame rate can be impaired by too much background rendering textures so set yourself up a little matte background (blue green or black) put your avie in front of it and animate. lower your draw distance to only what you need and lower your graphics settings till you see the FR you want. Do some sample frames with Fraps and see how it goes. Remember that small changes can make big differences and starting from default settings will get rid of any changes you may have forgotten about. Space navi jerkiness can be caused by conflicting compression. Make sure you have no HD compression on your drive. Set your fraps to capture at 30FPS or the standard 29.97fps. If you disable sound both SL and fraps capture, you can improve your FR. Also be sure that your single drive C: has at least 30-40% contiguous free disk space. I hope this will help you to find the settings and FR you need.

Apollo Manga said:
My basic problem is jerkiness or stuttering when I pan and zoom using SpaceNavigator while recording with Fraps. There's no problem when I'm not recording.

I've been capturing at 1920x1080 and 1280x720. I have the fastest dsl that sonic.net offers (3.0mbps-6.0mbps download & 512kbps-768kbps upload) with a wired connection. I've tried reducing my SL graphics settings and recording to a different hard drive, but neither helps. Both computers are in good shape, with defragmented drives, little clutter, and no other running programs except my Eset firewall.

Unless I find a good reason to keep the HD-PVR, I'll probably return it. The question then becomes whether to buy Camtasia Studio, which runs fine but which I don't care for and has features I don't need, or look for a different solution.

Two solutions I'm considering are either getting an SSD (probably a Crucial M225 128gb) or replacing my dual core CPU with a quad core. I build my own computers, so replacing the CPU isn't a major hassle, but I'm not convinced that a quad core would get me much over a dual core because the processor speed would be the same as what I have now (3.0ghz).

I prefer the SSD for a variety of reasons, but still am leery about them.

I appreciate any advice or experience anyone here can offer.
That's really interesting. I was initially thinking about the SSD as strictly a capture drive, but SSD's apparently perform best on random rather than sequential writes, so I changed to thinking it might be better as the boot drive. In any case, I was going to test it first as a capture drive before installing Windows on it. Your experience gives me hope that it may be the way to go (and saving the hassle of reinstalling Windows).

The SSD drives I'm currently considering are the Intel X25-V G2, OCZ Agility, and OCZ Vertex. All are 40-60gb. If I get a larger SSD, I'd probably get the Crucial M225 128gb, but that's getting pricey for my budget.

Dacob Paine said:
"My only options I see for my current computer are an SSD for Windows 7 and SL viewers (with other applications on a HD and video on a second HD) and maybe a quad core CPU."
This I would have to agree with 100% - I use a dual core rig running at 3.0 gigahertz, not overclocked, with Windows 7, and I use a 32gig SSD to store all raw footage from SL, rather than writing to my C drive. Making that change (adding a high performance SSD as a secondary drive) significantly increased the average FPS that I can get when filming at 1980x1080 at ultra graphics settings. Disabling sounds in SL does help too, as well as not using Fraps to record sounds. Adding a secondary SSD is very helpful as the SSDs can write at 150 megabytes a second or more, which is at least twice what most optical hard drives can do. This really helps to open up the bottleneck that happens when your C drive is trying to run SL for you and then record it, all at the same time.

I would use any SSD first as a secondary drive, rather than as a primary, because having the SSD totally open and free to only cache data from Fraps is the best way that I've found to make Fraps really really happy. Using an SSD as a primary, and writing to an optical, does not do much to help (I tried)...

One word of caution -- not all SSDs are the same! SSDs are very new still, and still very expensive some times. I've seen drives that cost the same but vary by 2-3 times in capacity. I would look for a drive with a very high MTBF (mean time between failure) rating, at least 1 million hours but 1.5 million hours is better if you can find it. Also look at the cache size and the max write speed (critical for fraps, if the max write speed is, say 50 megs per second, that is an SSD that is not any faster than most hard drives -- hardly a performance advantage at all) and also the max read speed, which will almost always be a bit higher than the write.

High performance SSDs are made to do what we want -- store many gigs of data quickly and reliably. Optical drives are just not up to it anymore, IMO... my last one, a good 320gig model from Hitachi, died after less than one year in service as my C drive. Ya. It's hard to be a hard drive these days! :)

I understand what you are saying about the high-end customers in RL that are used to and, in fact, will likely demand full HD machinima... after all, who wants to watch 640x480 video on a 50 inch big screen that costs more than a car?? :)


Apollo Manga said:
jjccc, those are both excellent suggestions, but I've tried both with mixed results.
One of my computers does have two internal hard drives, but to my surprise writing to a separate hard drive hasn't helped. Setting affinity does help to an extent - if I leave Snowglobe running in both cores but set Fraps to run only in one, I get a marginal improvement, but not as much as I want. The reason I'm so obsessed with quality is that I direct community television in a very wealthy SF Bay Area county. If I get serious about making machinimas, I'll want to use them in my TV shows in a county where many residents will be watching on high end TVs. I need to be certain that my computer can generate the quality I want. Although I live in a wealthy county, I'm not wealthy myself and can't afford right now to build the computer that I'd ideally want for making machinimas. My only options I see for my current computer are an SSD for Windows 7 and SL viewers (with other applications on a HD and video on a second HD) and maybe a quad core CPU. jjccc said:
i use frap and i was told the other day to get better performance out of it, to direct the output file to save on an alternative hard disk other than the c drive this elveates some processing lag in addition once you start frap up go to start task manager in the processing tab right clk fraps and set affinty then set to core 0 only, this may help untill we all get intel 28 processors in 20 years
i understand ur needs for the TV part - capturing 1080p is a lot of data.
as long u have consumer grafikcards, its hard to reach. i think u have to deal @ 1st with a pro grafikcard.
to have 31G harddrive space is pretty small when u wanna record in full HD. 500 G is minimum - one T even better.
i also recommend to decode the org. footage to a usable size. happy editing.- )
I've made an interesting discovery. When I run Snowglobe and record with Fraps, my CPU usage jumps to 100% while recording (it's 60-70% when not recording). However recording with PlayClaw has very little impact on my CPU usage, but I still have the same jerkiness in my recording.

This suggests to me that Dacob is right that the first step I should take is to get a faster drive for capture. I'm considering an OCZ Vertex 2 60gb SSD. It has a high sequential write speed (OCZ claims up to 275MB/sec) and 2,000,000 hours MTBF. The SSD would be for capture only. I'd obviously have to copy files to a traditional HD for storage, but it may be worth it for the speed increase in video capture that I'd get with an SSD.

However the 100% CPU utilization with Fraps suggests that even with an SSD, I may still need to either switch to a quad core CPU or switch from Fraps to PlayClaw for high quality video capture. I only have a 15 day trial version trial version of PlayClaw and haven't played with it enough to have an opinion about how good it might be.
I'm not sure what you mean by a pro graphic card. I'm using an NVIDIA GT 260 in one computer and an NVIDIA 9800 GT in the other. Those aren't pro enough? I considered an NVIDIA Quadro because it's recommended for Premiere Pro, which I've just begun using (my academic discount made it affordable), but the SL requirements page lists the Quadro as having unknown compatibility with SL.

cisko vandeverre said:
i understand ur needs for the TV part - capturing 1080p is a lot of data.
as long u have consumer grafikcards, its hard to reach. i think u have to deal @ 1st with a pro grafikcard.
to have 31G harddrive space is pretty small when u wanna record in full HD. 500 G is minimum - one T even better.
i also recommend to decode the org. footage to a usable size. happy editing.- )
I agree with you about the quoting. However I'm new here, so for now I'm sticking with the default.

Using an SSD for a boot drive is still a little outside my comfort zone. I may do it, but I'd use a more "established" SSD than the one I'm buying for capture. It uses the new and relatively untested Sandforce controller; for a boot drive, I'd want to stick with something relatively more proven, like the Indilinx controller.

As far as video cards go, so far I haven't seen any difference in performance between my 9800 GT and my GT 260.

I do have a 64-bit OS (Win 7) and 8gb of Crucial RAM. The main reason I was considering a Quadro is that it's recommended for use with Premiere Pro CS5, but as long as Premiere Pro runs on my current cards or I need the Quadro for some reason, I'll stick with my current cards.

I was struck by how much less PlayClaw impacted my CPU than Fraps, which causes my CPU utilization to redline at 100% while recording. Two other advantages that PlayClaw has are being able to specify which CPU cores it's using and being able to set compression levels. I haven't played with it enough yet to have an opinion about whether it's a serious alternative to Fraps.

I expect that the SSD should arrive on Friday; I'm busy on Saturday so it may be next week before I have results to report. It could take a few days because when I install the SSD I will also be swapping some components between my two computers to make one of them a rig that's specifically for Second Life and video capture/editing.

Dacob Paine said:
"This suggests to me that Dacob is right that the first step I should take is to get a faster drive for capture. I'm considering an OCZ Vertex 2 60gb SSD. It has a high sequential write speed (OCZ claims up to 275MB/sec) and 2,000,000 hours MTBF. The SSD would be for capture only. I'd obviously have to copy files to a traditional HD for storage, but it may be worth it for the speed increase in video capture that I'd get with an SSD.
However the 100% CPU utilization with Fraps suggests that even with an SSD, I may still need to either switch to a quad core CPU or switch from Fraps to PlayClaw for high quality video capture. I only have a 15 day trial version trial version of PlayClaw and haven't played with it enough to have an opinion about how good it might be."
*** Just a note, I don't really like the quoting system on this forum, so I'm being annoying and quoting by hand, so ;-P if ya don't like it hehehehe

That drive is a good choice. I settled on the Patriot PS-100, which writes at up to 150 megs per second.

And yes, it can be used as a boot drive, I'm doing it now and it's great. That is the new direction for laptops as well, since SSD's are crazy rugged and have long lifetimes with less power consumption - perfect for portable devices. My rig boots up now in about 1 minute or less, before it was 3-5 minutes before everything was loaded and I could work without delays, etc... you know what I mean when a computer is first "waking up"... ;)

I have no idea if higher write speeds would help, but please do let us know if they do, eh? I'm curious...

As for the video card, I was using a 9800 GTX and switched to the slightly faster GTS-250 (they are both based on the same chipset from nVidia) but did not see a major increase in FPS, suggesting that a Quadro would not help -- those cards are absolutely huge and are intended for 3D work, they are NOT designed specifically for film production and rendering. You will also need a laaaaaarge case for the Quadro cards, some will not fit in a standard mid or full tower case, I swear, those cards are mini computers in themselves, they are really amazing.

As for the processor, bigger is better but it is important to note that multi-core processors are not useful with software that does not specifically use more than one core at a time, and doing that usually requires reworking the software from the ground up, a very large amount of work that many companies are not wanting to do, just yet.

64-bit OS might help, since you can run more than 3.3 gigs of RAM...

In my experiments, it's not all about power when it comes to machinima in SL, it's more about a balanced rig in which there are little or no bottlenecks -- the motherboard must be well matched to the processor, you must have a large, very high quality power supply (but then that is really true for all computers) and you must have a video card that is properly matched to the rig, so that it is not waiting for the processor nor being a bottleneck. SLI does not help much -- that is designed more for video games, and many of the advantages of splitting the work load between two cards are lost in SL.

One machinimatographer I've seen uses lots of hard cuts and short scenes to avoid jerkiness -- I don't think there is anyone, yet, who is recording absolutely totally 100%-greased-up-like-a-harbor-seal-dipped-in-butter smooth video from SL, at least, I've not seen it yet.

This is due I think to the very emergent nature of machinima, we are really pushing the limits of technology here, especially filming at higher resolutions like 720p and 1080p -- these things were just unheard of even a few years ago!
I'm pretty conservative about core essentials, and a boot drive fits in that category. Until very recently SSD's were too questionable to even consider one for a boot drive. However I probably would spring for one now, though for a boot drive I'd want a more conservative one than I ordered for my capture drive, more like the one you bought, but I really need a large hard drive for storage, so I ordered a 1.5TB Western Digital Caviar Black HD in addition to the OCZ SSD. The WD was only $99 at Newegg, so I opted for that rather than an SSD boot drive. I'll wait to buy an SSD boot drive until I'm feeling more flush financially.

Besides, I don't know yet whether I'm out of the woods yet in regards to keeping my current CPU, though I'm optimistic that even if Fraps continues to overload it, PlayClaw might be a good substitute. I'm impressed with what I've seen of PlayClaw in admittedly very limited testing in the last few days. I may also try overclocking as an alternative to upgrading my CPU.

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