A few weeks ago I bought AverMedia’s Game Capture HD box (about £120 delivered from Amazon). You plug your system into the box using the supplied Universal Component cable, plus the box into your TV via component cable, and then attach either a USB Flash Drive, a USB HardDrive, or install a mini HardDrive. Then you can either grab images or videos of your games, using the supplied remote control. It supports the PS3, PS2, Xbox 360, and Wii, and it’s actually rather brilliant!
For a long time I’ve wanted a capture device for modern systems - for one it would help with writing reviews, rather than relying on GamesPress for their PR shots. Plus it would allow me to write HG101 articles on obscure stuff, not to mention capture unusual sights, glitches, and particularly high scores. HG101’s overlord DiscoAlucard a while back picked up an HD capture card for his PC (see the Nier feature for the results), but this requires connecting your system to a computer, and the software isn’t great (I’m told it grabs images on some kind of timer, resulting in a massive quantity of useless pics).
AverMedia’s box offered the option to gab without even needing a computer, and at the touch of a button on a remote control. Fantastic.
I read several reviews, and the one on EuroGamer was especially good, showing comparison shots with other capture devices and really going into detail.
The complaints were that colours weren’t captured properly, and anything involving movement lost detail. The JPG compression wasn’t great they said.
I bought it anyway. I intended to use a USB Flash drive. FAT32 was recognised, but the box said that capturing would be slower, and recommended I switch to NTFS. I re-formatted a 64mb flash drive I was given free, but this didn’t work properly, so switched to a more expensive 2gb drive, re-formatted it, and it worked fine.
First I tried out the PS3 demo of GalGun, since that has a lot of bright colours. They seemed fine to me.
Next I tested out PS1 games on the PS3, which as expected looked awful compared to emulated shots. I also tried out an actual PS2, with mixed results. Some games like Skygunner we had a lot of trouble of taking emulated screens, since there were issue with interlacing, which produced horizontal lines. Using the capture box seems to automatically de-interlace them when creating the JPG, which removed the horizontal gaps, but definitely affected the quality of the image. Stuff like Silpheed on PS2 lost a lot of detail too, whereas something like Odin Sphere seemed reasonable.
I tested a few other PS3 games and demos out - right click the images into a new tab to (hopefully) see them at their full resolution. There is a loss of detail in some shots, but if you shrink them down for use on a website or in a magazine, and don’t anti-alias when doing so, this problem is actually negated, since the smaller shots will lose detail anyway.
I don’t think it’s quite as good as the device used to take the Nier shots, but for the ease of using a remote control and USB flashdrive, it works for me. After playing I switch the box off, remove the drive, pop it on my PC, and there are my images. It’s incredibly convenient.
I’ve also been taking some 360 captures, and they turned out pretty good. Which means I will finally be able to correct the atrocious and heinous error of my peers, by writing about Operation Darkness. I’ve put 30 hours into it, and I haven’t had this much fun with a strategy game since the first Valkyria Chronicles. It’s bloody excellent, very inventive, and shame on every reviewer who scored it low because of the camera - it’s glorified chess, not Call of Duty, the camera is perfectly functional.
I’ve no interest in taking videos, so never tested this option.
Complaints: the box can be slow to switch on and boot up, taking a few seconds, which is a pain when you’ve forgotten to switch it on and only realise when you need to grab something that’s about to disappear. Also, in Menu Mode there’s major input lag from pushing a controller button and seeing the results on-screen. The solution is to switch Menu Mode off, which removes the lag 100%, but you don’t have access to capture box’s menu for browsing screens. Which isn’t really a problem at all, since you just pause your game, click the remote, and temporarily revert back to Menu Mode.
At £120 it’s quite expensive - but if you run a website, or freelance for magazines, then it should pay for itself after a couple of reviews. Even if you don’t use it for commercial gain, it’s the easiest option you’re going to find for taking screens. I fully approve of it, with its ease and convenience balancing out the fact it won't produce top-tier crystal clear HD grabs (if you want that, be prepared for the hassle of getting it).
The only major problem? Trying to hold the remote control along with my game controller. Still, I came up with my own makeshift solution to this. I took a shoelace and tied the remote to my leg, which pointed at the box, and now while holding the pad I can just nudge my knuckle on the capture button without ever leaving the action.