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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Thanks, Apollo. I've already built the rig with an X58 chipset, and I've added a USB 3.0 card, but I'm not interested in the Shuttle, I want an internal board so I can take advantage of the PCI-E architecture. I'll need to test and see if rendering back into the same box is better than rendering back into a second computer, but I'd like to continue what I've been doing, which is to render the capture directly into Premiere.

Apollo Manga said:
If you're building a new computer, consider getting an Intel-based P55 or X38 motherboard. These are capable of USB 3.0. Blackmagic now has a USB version of the Intensity Pro, called the Intensity Shuttle, but it requires USB 3.0. I've seen people in forums recommending getting a PCI-E USB 3.0 card for other motherboards, but this won't work with the Intensity Shuttle if it's not on a P55 or X38 motherboard.
Asil, I'll be using Premiere also. I hope you'll keep us posted on what you find. I'm very tempted to order a Blackmagic Intensity Pro to use in a two computer setup; both PCs are machines that I built, with dual core 3.0ghz CPUs.
I am looking forward to figuring out my new setup and then shooting a promo for NeoVictoria.I'll post my findings here. I'm usually diligent about bookmarking stuff, its making me nuts I can't find my notes on the other card I was looking at!
Apollo Manga said:
Asil, I'll be using Premiere also. I hope you'll keep us posted on what you find. I'm very tempted to order a Blackmagic Intensity Pro to use in a two computer setup; both PCs are machines that I built, with dual core 3.0ghz CPUs.
I've been devoting a lot of thought in the last day or two to what types of shooting I'm most likely to do if I start producing machinima (so far I've just been testing to see what can be done). It keeps going back to the type of shows I've been directing in community television, which have been mostly live or live-to-tape. I love the challenge of directing in a dynamic situation where the unexpected (good or bad) can occur at any moment completely out of my control

The shows I enjoy directing the most are performance shows, especially music and dancing. So far all my video footage in SL (I don't call it machinima because it's just experimental, unedited footage) has been music and dance. Fraps and PlayClaw would be sufficient for shooting in a confined, controllable space, but if I'm shooting in a sim that's crowded with avatars and lots of dynamic visual effects with particles, then I think a hardware solution may work better, so I'm giving a lot of thought to trying the Blackmagic Intensity Pro. I still have a lot of questions and doubts about it, but trying it may be the only way to answer them.

BTW, I tested Fraps again this morning, this time setting the affinity to run on only one core and setting the Fraps process priority to High. It seemed to improve my fps when recording, though it's still not acceptable for what I want to do. I'm mentioning it now in case it helps someone else. In a marginal situation, it might make the difference. I only ran a few tests, so I can't promise that performance gain for others, but it's worth trying.
@ Dacob, I took the plunge and bought PlayClaw today ($29.95). Shooting at the University of Western Australia in SL creative competition (where I'm a judge), I immediately found a problem with PlayClaw: it generates HUGE files.

My 60gb SSD completely filled up after just a little shooting, so I ran a test, making two 15 second test captures, one with Fraps and one with PlayClaw. The Fraps file was 385,000kb but the PlayClaw file was nearly five times larger: 1,909,000kb!

In addition, both Fraps and PlayClaw were too jerky to do the pans and zooms I wanted (not surprising!). They'll probably work for me indoors, but not outdoors for the kind of shooting I want to do.

I've ordered a Blackmagic Intensity Pro. Hopefully it will give me the performance I need. I'll probably initially set it up in my SL computer, running the second monitor output to the Blackmagic capture card and if that isn't satisfactory, I'll install the card in my other computer and use separate computers for running SL and for capture.
@Dacob, I was recording with PlayClaw in uncompressed state, so I was expecting large files, but not five times as large as Fraps!

I don't know why it takes up so much space. PlayClaw generated about 45gb of .avi files in roughly five minutes of shooting. I was shooting at max SL graphics settings, 1920x1080, and without audio, which should generate large files, but not this large. It makes no sense to me. I bought PlayClaw this morning believing I'd be using it regularly, but my results with it leave me questioning that. I don't have time to do any more testing today. I'm getting ready to leave for my multimedia video production class this evening.

I agree with you about the dual computer solution probably being better with the capture card. I'd prefer to use a single computer, but I expect that I'll end up using two computers. I just want to try it with a single computer first.

I have several concerns about the Blackmagic. One is that Blackmagic recommends using a RAID for output. I'm hoping that my SSD will work as well.

Dacob Paine said:
...
As I'm sure you know, Fraps records as uncompressed AVI files, which are huge enough already. But when I read about PlayClaw and tried the demo, it states that it has multiple levels of on-the-fly compression, so if anything the files should be smaller. Filling up a whole 60gig drive does not sound right -- I use a 32 gig drive for capture, an it takes me about an hour or so before I fill it up. I'd say 30-50 gigs equals about 5-8 minutes or so of final video, depending on how much I use and how I edit it.


Oh, and as for using the same computer for capture -- that might work, but don't forget about the bottleneck of running SL and trying to stream gigs of data from the capture card over to the hard drive or wherever you are going to store the final files -- I would think that using a separate rig to do just the capture of the feed from your primary rig that is logged into SL would help.
I've just tested Fraps and PlayClaw again to compare the size files they generated. This time I ran the tests inside one of my skyboxes to ensure a constant environment for all tests. The test conditions were:

Windows 7 64-bit
Snowglobe viewer 1.3.2
exactly 30 second duration for each test
Full screen
Full frame
SL UI off
30 fps
1920x1080
Max SL graphics settings & hardware options
No sound
Inside a skybox 1140 meters above the mainland Funadama sim
Fraps version 3.2.3
PlayClaw version 1.9 build 1000

I ran six tests. The bottom line results were:

1) PlayClaw in low compression mode generated files about the same size as Fraps files
2) PlayClaw in no compression mode generated files nearly five times the size of normal Fraps files and twice the size of Fraps files in force lossless RGB capture mode.
3) PlayClaw in high compression mode generated files that were only 11% the size of Fraps files

Here are the results in order of file size (kb):

4,386,177: PlayClaw - no compression
2,111,403: Fraps - Force lossless RGB capture & monitor aero not checked
1,232,523: Fraps - Monitor aero checked
   965,803: Fraps - Monitor aero not checked
   948,844: PlayClaw - low compression
   104,433: PlayClaw - high compression
In my last post, the second test was labeled ambiguously. It should have been "Force lossless RGB capture checked, monitor aero not checked"
I've been wondering the same thing, but testing differences in appearance is harder than simply comparing file sizes. I did try one test. Using Premiere Pro CS5, I exported a 1920x1080 PNG image from three of the clips, then opened the images in Photoshop and compared them at magnifications ranging from 66.7% to 1200%. I didn't see any differences, but this was a simple scene with no movement, inside a skybox, so it's not necessarily meaningful, and I have so little video experience (other than directing live studio shows) that I don't yet understand it well enough to even know what a valid test is.

The three that I tested were Fraps standard, PlayClaw high compression, and PlayClaw no compression.

Dacob Paine said:
I almost wonder if footage from playclaw might look better, considering the file size difference?? I wonder what it is that they are capturing that fraps is not...
!!Found the link!! to the Pegasus HD/SD Board. Its a sweet sweet piece of tech that costs about US$800; I'm sitting here, reading the spec sheet and wanting it sooo bad. And then, I remind myself I have not figured out how to make actual money doing this (I don't count Lindens ...no offense), so I'll be going with BlackMagic.
Asil said:
I just built a new box, so I'm looking to buy a video capture card that will perform a similar function but with HDMI out and in. I've been considering the Blackmagic Intensity or AverMedia AVerTV CaptureHD or Hauppauge HD PVR or ...there was a fourth one I liked a lot and I've lost the link ...so, that is why I'm not committed yet!
That does look sweet. Hopelessly out of my budget, however. Actually, even the Blackmagic was out of my budget, but it's easier to make an exception for sub $200 than for four times that much!
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