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The best recording software for gaming 2019

Once upon a time, recording video from the games you were playing required a hideously complex spaghetti of wires connecting multiple devices. The computational power just wasn’t there to render and record everything inside the same box.

This, happily, is no longer the case – and sharing videos of your gaming exploits has become a mainstream feature even on console platforms. If you’re a PC gamer, you’ll have several options at your disposal when it comes to game recording. Let’s assess a few of them.

Open Broadcaster Software

+ Open-source

+ Extensive support for third-party plug-ins

– Difficult to get to grips with

Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) is the tool of choice for a significant proportion of streamers. It’s free and open-source, and enjoys widespread support from a large and enthusiastic community who’ve added a whole slew of options, including customisable watermarks and support for multiple simultaneous video sources. The program is built with streaming in mind, but it’ll also serve well if you’d like to record video locally. The only downside comes in the form of its accessibility (or lack of). Like a lot of open-source software, improvements have been bolted on to meet the needs of a community of advanced users, rather than out of a desire to draw in new ones. As such, you might find yourself bamboozled by the learning curve.

While it lacks the slick interface of many of its commercial rivals, OBS is feature-packed and worth sticking with. The software records everything at the same resolution as your panel, so if you’re packing a 4K display, make sure you’ve got plenty of spare storage space. If the complexity of OBS is a bit of a deal-breaker for you, then you should certainly consider Streamlabs OBS as a low-frills alternative. It’ll get you up and running quickly, and, while it lacks many of the encoding options found in its fleshed-out bigger brother, it still packs all of the essential features that make OBS so popular.

Bandicam

+ Offers plenty of features than other options lack

+ Separate audio export

– Lacks an overlay

Bandicam is a paid-for software solution that’s often eschewed in favour of the free options. But, if you’re serious about making videos (or you’re doing it professionally), you’re sure to appreciate a few of the extra features under the hood here. These include support for custom codecs and the ability to export the audio you’ve recorded separately for manipulation and editing on dedicated audio software. Files can be stored at lower rates for convenient storage, which is great if you’re going to dump the footage on to YouTube soon after it’s been recorded. The major downside here is that there’s no overlay on your games, so you’ll need to alt-tab every time you want to tweak settings. As such, streamers might prefer to look at the alternatives.

Nvidia Shadowplay & AMD ReLive

+ Restricted to Nvidia and AMD cards respectively

+ GPU-bound encoding

– Lacks Features

Shadowplay comes bundled with Nvidia’s GeForce Experience software suite and allows you to record video easily during gameplay. The same applies to AMD’s ReLive feature. Both of these solutions use the cards themselves to do most of the encoding which lessens the strain on your CPU. You can expect a slight drop in frames depending on the game you’re playing in both cases. If you’ve yet to check out the recording software offered by your video card’s manufacturer, this is an obvious place to start your journey into the world of game recording. They might lack the features found in dedicated recording software, but they’re powerful and easy to get to grips with – and if you’ve gone through the trouble of investing in a modern video card, you’ve already paid for one. You might as well see what it can do before checking out the other commercial options.

Dxtory

+ Efficient

+ Flexible

– Very storage-greedy

Dxtory acquires its data straight from the frame buffer, and thus places little strain on overall performance. This also means that capture is entirely lossless – the codec takes the image pixel-for-pixel, and records it to the designated space on your storage drive. You can set different bitrates for different folders, making this a little bit flexible. There’s no question that Dxtory will eat up an enormous amount of room. You can expect just a few minutes of footage to consume upwards of 50GB – and even more if you’re running at higher resolutions. This compares unfavourably to the solutions offered by AMD and Nvidia, where videos are compressed as they’re stored. If you’re capturing game footage professionally, you might want to deal directly in uncompressed footage. As a consequence, you’ll need several terabytes of storage capacity to make life comfortable. You can check out the free version of the program, which comes with a few limitations on the premium version, including a watermark on the program’s output.

Fraps

+ Does the job for certain applications

– The paid-for features aren’t worth paying for

– Positively ancient

Fraps has been with us for what seems like forever and we include it here for largely sentimental reasons. The program is, in truth, looking a bit creaky these days. It hasn’t received an update since 2013 and the front page of the website is still dominated by yesteryear’s games – including a movie of the original Far Cry being played at 512×384 at 25FPS. You’ll get a warning if you try to use Fraps in certain DX11 games, as it just hasn’t been optimised to support them. As such, it’s difficult to recommend the program for anything other than taking the occasional screen cap and monitoring frame rates.

If you’ve yet to record even a little bit of gameplay footage, then it’s difficult to look beyond the proprietary capture software provided by the two big graphics-card manufacturers. While the more specialised programs can do things that Shadowplay and ReLive cannot, given that you’ve already paid for one of the latter, it makes sense to give it a try. Once you start bumping against their limitations, you can make the switch to something more fully-featured like OBS, or a premium solution like Bandicam or Dxtory.

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