Making Game Play Videos

There is a billion and one stupid gameplay videos on Youtube made by kids wanting to show off their 1337 pwning skills. Some of them are made by pointing camcorder at the monitor, but the majority are actual screen captures. I figured that if a 12 year old can make this sort of videos, then it can’t be difficult. So I decided to teach myself the art of making gameplay videos and will share that knowledge with you here.

First let’s talk about platform choice. If you want to make videos of game play, then you are a gamer. If you are a gamer, then probably own a PC with some version of Windows installed somewhere in your house, and that is your main gaming machine. That is the box you will be using for making the videos. I mean yeah, some people do play on Macs but they have a very limited library of games to pick from. Last time I checked, they can choose between World of Warcraft and… World of Warcraft.

If you are playing on Linux under Wine/Cedega then more power to you but that’s way to much hassle than it’s worth. I use my Linux box for serious stuff and my Windows box for gaming. So we will be using windows based tools here.

First thing you need is a screen capture software. I did a little bit of research on this, and the interwebs seem to think that FRAPS is the best tool for the job. Unfortunately it is a proprietary, and costs money. Now it is uncharacteristic for me to recommend non-free software but I downloaded a demo and it worked perfectly for me. It is small, unobtrusive, has almost no noticeable impact on your FPS or performance and worked perfectly for recording clips of Morrowind game play. The demo will only let you record 30 seconds of footage, but the full version has no restrictions.

It’s only $37, you get a lifetime license, free updates and there is no DRM involved. In my book, this is a sound investment. Of course if you are a gamer who scoffs at paying for software, then you probably won’t have to pay for the full version of this tool either. FRAPS is very popular, and thus you will very likely find illicit copies of it through the same channels as you find cracked copies of your games.

The interface is very intuitive and easy to use:


Note that if you are planning to capture Morrowind you will need to rebind the video capture key. By default it is set to F9, which by coincidence is “Load Quicksave” in Morrowind. I bound it to F10 and all was well.

You’ll probably want to capture video at half-size because this will reduce the size of the files FRAPS will generate. I recorded 3 minutes of Morrowind footage at full size and ended up with a 1GB avi file. If you are making vids that will end up being posted on Youtube you will have to re-encode these things into something more sensible anyway so capturing at half size shouldn’t really make a difference.

How do you use it? Launch FRAPS, minimize it, start your game and then hit the video capture hot-key (by default F9) when you are ready to start. Hit it again to stop capture. That’s it!

Now as I mentioned, FRAPS output files are HUGE with capital H and capital UGE. What you want to do next, is to load that shit into Windows Movie Maker which should be installed on your machine. If it’s not, you can download it. There are better tools for video editing out there, but you just spent $37 for you capture software so let’s cut our losses. Windows Movie Maker will probably be enough for now.

Open Movie Maker and drag the file generated by FRAPS onto it. On the bottom you should see a timeline where you can select frames and do stuff to them. On the sidebar, you will have options to add titles, captions and credits to your video. It’s all very straightforward and you should be able to figure it out in minutes. If not, there are millions of tutorials on the web that will teach you to use this thing.


So add a title, credits and whatnot and then hit “Save to My Computer” on the sidebar. It will then ask you what format do you want to save it in:


If you are planning to upload this video to Youtube or similar service then probably the best choice here is the “Video for Broadband (512 Kbps)”. Anything lower will yield crappy video quality. Anything higher will produce bigger file size which will then be converted to FLV and made look no better than the 512Kbps copy.

This took my 1GB video, and re-encoded it with much lower resolution into a 10MB avi file which was perfect for Youtube.

The end result can be seen here:

I’m pretty happy the way it turned out. I did get a weird stuttering glitch in Suran (you will know what I mean if you watch the video) but for the life of me I could not avoid it. You see that I hesitate for a second before I walk below the two banners just before that glitch hits. I did this run several times and it always glitched at that exact spot or somewhere near it. I could have edited it out, but that made for an ugly cut in the middle of the scene, so I just left it in.

Here is another one:

This time around I took advantage from Movie Makers’ ability to overlay titles and captions over the image frames. It probably took me 3 minutes to do this whole thing – its’ that easy.

Also, if you think I’m moving way to fast, you are right. But I’m not cheating or artificially speeding up the video. I’m wearing Boots of Blinding Speed (fortify speed 200, blind 100%) and Cuirass of the Savior’s Hide (resist magika 60%) and another enchanted trinket that increases my magika resistance so I can use the boots virtually without penalty.

Anyway, that’s how you get it done. Now that I have FRAPS you may expect to see me make more videos to either supplement my game reviews or just for fun.

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11 Responses to Making Game Play Videos

  1. Rob UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Another good screen capture tool is CamStudio. It’s open source and free. I’ve never used it for games, but I hear it does work decently well with them. I’ve only used it to demonstrate some stuff with different software for a class. It’s pretty small and lightweight though. Check it out:

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  2. Steve CANADA Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Love the movies. Am getting tired of WoW…will take Morrowind back up. You posted a list of mods recently…do you use the same ones, or are there new ones? Can you email me the list again? (if they’ve changed), otherwise will look up you post.

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  3. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Rob: Nice. Thanks! I Never used it, and since I got FRAPS I probably wont’ need it, but it is good to know!

    @Steve: Yeah, I’m using the same list of mods I posted in here. I don’t really change them as disabling mods tends to make your saves no longer work. That’s the little ugly thing about using mods. If you don’t realize a mod sucks quickly, you are stuck with it as removing it will b0rk your saves.

    Adding new mods is ok though – though I haven’t really found anything new since I posted that list.

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  4. freelancer SWEDEN Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Maybe you haven’t noticed, but YouTube actually supports high res (well, higher than before, anyway) video now. Some people may want to keep that in mind when exporting the video ;)

    Btw, I started playing Morrowind for the first time recently. Took me three reinstalls because of mod problems (now I’m just using a few of the ones I originally planned), but I’m loving it so far :)

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  5. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @freelancer: I usually just back up my Data folder right after a clean install and before I start installing any mods. This way I know that I can always roll back to a clean slate without reinstalling.

    I also make a backup copy of the Data folder when I know I have a good set of mods, and are trying a new funky one that may or may not screw the game up. This way if it does mess things up, all I have to delete the current Data folder and rename my most recent backup.

    And yeah, I forgot about the higher resolution. There is probably a better setting that yields relatively small files with decent resolution in movie maker. Any recommendations?

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  6. freelancer SWEDEN Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @Luke Maciak: No recommendations about Movie Maker, no. I’ve never used it. When I put videos on YouTube I usually edit them with Magix Movie Edit Pro, export the raw video, then compress it separately using VirtualDubMod. But that’s a whole other story ;)

    Good advice about the Data folder, thanks :)

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  7. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @freelancer: Yeah, I learned the Data folder thing the hard way. :P

    Some mods are nice and they ship as self contained ESM or whatever files you just enable via the Data File feature. Some ship with an installer/uninstaller feature (I believe that Better Bodies does this). These are rare though. Majority of mods will simply overwrite the files in your Data folder making it impossible to restore the game back to normal without re-installing.

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  8. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Bit of a sidenote, but Windows Movie Maker is a source of frustration for me… I like the software, for once it actually seems to beat out the opensource competition, at least in terms of sheer ease of “take this file, and this other file, mush them together and put some words on top, now save it” but then when you get to the point of saving it it’ll only do it in WMA format.

    I have other tools to convert WMA to whatever, but I’d rather not have the additional transcode step to avoid the video quality hit… I usually end up taking the lone non-WMA option (insanely high bit-rate AVI) and re-encoding that, so at least the starting point is a high quality file.

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  9. Alphast NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Hi Luke,

    There is a company (a subsidiary of my previous employer) which does this for its business, no need to tweak anything: ;

    I tested their tool with Far Cry and it works really well.

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  10. Alphast NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ Luke
    The guys at Wipido (subsidiary of my previous employer) are doing precisely this kind of technology. They have created a nice video recorder and player for their Wipido TV dedicated to in game videos. No need to tweak anything, it just works out of the box (or in this case of the download). I tested it myself with Far Cry and it works very nicely.

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  11. @ Alphast:
    there is also another one I found…it is called HyperCam 2

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