The "Let’s Play" section-Videos, the annotated recording of game scenes, is very popular on the video platform YouTube. This requires some hardware and software to realize a minimum of video and sound quality. I have been moving in this scene for about a year and my equipment now satisfies me so much that it is worth to make a list of it.
Important for audio recording: The right microphone
The right equipment for Let’s Play videos
If you want to record a Let’s Play video or something similar, you need to know one thing above all: The most important thing is a good, powerful computer. Because this must not only be sufficient for the games, but it must also be able to handle the simultaneous recording and, in the best case, also the rendering (= calculation) of the recordings later on.
The most important components here are: A strong CPU, enough RAM (at least 8 GB), a powerful graphics card and at least two large hard drives. SSD would be an advantage here, but since they cost quite a lot in an appropriate size, a regular hard drive is also sufficient for the recordings.
Which manufacturer you go for is not decisive. I have an AMD CPU and find it sufficient for my needs, but with Intel you can get just as good results. The same applies to the graphics card. There are games that have been optimized for the Nvidia GeForce (for example Borderlands 2) but there are also games where the graphics look better on AMD cards (for example Bioshock Infinite).
Graphics card: Nvidia Geforce – popular among gamers
I myself own a Nvidia GeForce GTX660 and would always prefer this over an AMD graphics card for one reason: Shadowplay. This is a free recording and streaming software from Nvidia. Apart from that, my graphics card does a good job and most modern games run smoothly on my PC and also the rendering of my videos is done by the graphics card, because it has more processing power than my CPU.
For recording, you should have at least a large enough hard drive. It is not recommended to record to the same disk where the operating system or game is installed, otherwise you may experience performance degradation. In principle, three different hard drives are recommended: one for the operating system, one for the game collection, and one for recording and editing files.
Let’s Play videos require a lot of hard disk space
When recording, keep in mind that you don’t stop when your hard drive is full because you still need enough space for the finished videos. Here it is a good idea to divide the recording hard disk into two partitions. The size of gameplay recordings differ extremely – depending on which game you want to record. Up to 90 GB can have an hour of gameplay material in a lossless quality. Therefore the recording harddisk has to be big enough.
The size of the video depends on many factors. 90 GB is normal for a fast game in HD resolution. A rather dark or slow game with few frame changes may require only 30 GB per hour. Since one can estimate this badly before exactly, it is better to calculate more generously.
Other hardware: audio and video recording
About my audio recording I have already written a short report. I use here the t.bone SC440 . This is an inexpensive large-diaphragm microphone from the entry-level segment. For game commentaries, however, this is perfectly sufficient, since the game sound is usually added and you only need a studio-quality commentary in rare cases.
For possible video recordings I have a HD webcam from Logitech, more precisely the Logitech C920 . With it you can take good pictures, but for audio you should still use the external microphone and not the integrated microphone of the camera. As good as the picture quality is, as tinny the sound sounds.
Software for video recording
The right recording software can do a lot of the work for you. However, good programs are not available for free in this area either. I mentioned Shadowplay above for example. This is free, but also quite new on the market and offers some disadvantages.
The biggest disadvantage of Shadowplay is (as of February 2014) that it cannot record different audio tracks. This is important if you record with several people and want to level their voice with the volume of your own voice. Shadowplay as well as the recording software Fraps and Bandicam do not separate the audio tracks. You can, however, exclude your own microphone from the recording and record in parallel with an audio program.
I use after long experimenting Dxtory . This is a more complex recording software from Japan. You can buy it for about 20 to 30 Euro on the website and get a license key. Here you can make a lot of settings, record audio tracks separately or even limit the number of frames without having to limit them in the game as well.
In my opinion, there is no way around Dxtory if you want to get serious about this topic. Bandicam I use it as well. it is suitable for games that are not recognized by Dxtory. Bandicam then makes a screencast of the game. At first glance this is indistinguishable from a Dxtory recording, however with Bandicam you are not allowed to switch from the game to the desktop or overlay other windows on top of the game window as this would also appear that way in the recording.
Special programs for audio recordings
Sometimes it may be necessary to record and edit audio separately. Many video programs offer these features, but I prefer to use Audacity back. Audio recording and editing are much easier here once you learn how to use the program. The results are also very good.
When recording podcasts or generally posts where several people are talking to each other, I recommend very unconventionally to do this directly via Teamspeak. Teamspeak has an integrated audio recording function and also manages to optimize the audio quality of the participants in such a way that background noise and continuous hiss are virtually non-existent. If you want to achieve high quality with low effort, this is the best solution.
The ideal editing tool for Let’s Plays
Contrary to many opinions, I am of the opinion that for now it does not have to be an expensive editing program. I cut my first recordings with the free Movie Maker from Microsoft. If you don’t use the standard effects that make the video a "movie maker" product If you don’t expose it, no one will notice it.
But at some point you get to the point where you want to work more professionally and maybe need more audio and video tracks (Movie Maker can only handle one video track and two audio tracks).
I’ve been messing around with freeware software as well as eyeing paid software. I am finally at Sony Movie Studio Platinum stuck. Sony offers a two-week trial period for this editing software, during which you can use the program without restrictions. In the two weeks I was able to familiarize myself so well that I bought the full version for just under 35 Euros.
There will certainly always be more professional and extensive software, but the effects and required functions are rather small for commentary and Let’s Play videos. With Sony Movie Studio you get in any case a suitable software for this purpose.
That was the setup, but how does a normal recording go down?
Depending on the game, there are different procedures in recording and processing the video material, but there is a basic scheme in all of them. The hard drive is empty enough, the game is running and Dxtory has been started before. You set the volume so that it is comfortable in the game.
You sit in front of the microphone – a tip: With a large diaphragm it is advantageous to have the smallest possible distance, because only here the sound quality is fully utilized. You then start the recording by pressing the predefined hotkey (and be careful here not to use a key that is used in the game).
What else is important to know about Let’s Play recordings
In the gameplay itself, you not only comment on the gameplay itself, but also entertain your viewers additionally. So you don’t just have to talk about the game exclusively. Many Let’s Players use their videos almost as a podcast with video game images. But the important thing is to find your own style and develop it.
After the recording follows the first viewing of the material. Matching sound and vision? Is the picture quality ok? This is followed directly by importing into the editing program – adjusting the volume and cutting the footage. Some games remain completely uncropped, others are cropped together.
Then the material is divided into the individual sequences and rendered. Depending on the computer this can take a long time. So video editing is a job you can do well on the side. After that follows a final viewing of the finished video. If everything is ok, it will be uploaded.
No gameplay-specific setup
The above setup is not only suitable for Let’s Plays or Commentarys, but also for Podcasts, Screencasts or Vlogs. For all of them a good audio and video quality is important – accordingly the setup fits for these purposes as well. For screencasts, however, I would only use Bandicam, as the software is designed exactly for this purpose. Dxtory can’t make recordings of the desktop, but only of games.
This setup is my personal setup and there are other videomakers who use a completely different one and are still very happy with it. For me it was important not to have to invest too much money, but still to achieve a good quality. My steps have been optimized as much as possible in the last month so that I can put less work and time into better videos.
Maybe my setup serves as inspiration if you want to start your own little "Let’s Play Studio" wants to compile or needs ideas on how to make your recordings.