The Hauppauge HD PVR2 is a gadget for capturing video from an HDMI or component video source, such as an XBox 360 or PlayStation 3 games console, and has replaced the popular HD PVR, which was component video only.
The concept is simple: instead of connecting you console directly to your TV or A/V amplifier, connect it to the HD PVR2. Then connect the unit to a PC or Mac via USB, and to the original TV or amplifier via HDMI. Your PC can then capture the video (and audio) while you are playing the game using the big screen. Hauppauge says the delay between input and output is only 60 microseconds, which you will not notice.
The use of HDMI makes connecting the PVR2 simpler than with its predecessor. Instaead of a bunch of component audio connections, there is just power, USB, HDMI in and out, and an A/V input that connects to component video sources where needed. The A/V input has a special cable that gives floating sockets for component video and analogue audio. The unit is also supplied with a cable suitable for connecting to a PS3.
You might need component input in two cases:
1. Your games console lacks HDMI – for example, Nintendo Wii.
2. The HDMI output is encrypted for copyright protection. This is the case with the PS3, but not the XBox. Since component video and analogue audio cannot be encrypted, you can capture anything this way.
Hooking up the HD PVR2 was easy, but getting started was troublesome. We tried a succession of Windows 7 laptops, including a Pentium Dual Core 2.3Ghz, a Core 2 Duo at 2.6 Ghz Pentium, and a Core i5 at 1.6 Ghz. The pattern with all these was similar: the drivers and software installed OK, HDMI pass-through worked, the capture might work once, but then there were frustrating errors. The problems:
- Difficult or impossible to select the HD PVR2 as the input device in the capture software
- Capture software hanging
- USB device error reported
This was tedious, partly because nothing could be captured, and partly because the only way to retry was to reboot both the laptop and the HD PVR2.
Swapping to a high-spec USB cable seemed to help a little, but soon the old problems were back, even after applying the latest driver updates from Hauppauge support.
Just before giving up, we connected to another Windows 7 Core i5 laptop, speed this time 2.5Ghz. Everything worked perfectly.
It is not clear what to conclude here. Hauppauge specifies:
Laptop or desktop PC with 3.0 GHz single core or 2.0 GHz multi-core processor
and adds in the FAQ:
You can record HD PVR 2 video on pretty much any PC. Older, slow, laptop or desktop PCs can be used to record HD PVR 2 video.
But when you playback an HD PVR 2 recording on your PC screen, you need a fast CPU and at least 256MB of graphics memory.
All our machines meet the spec. Either our sample box is particularly fussy, or Hauppauge is optimistic about the minimum requirements, or there are other factors at play.
Bundled software and Mac support
Hauppauge supplies Windows drivers for the HD PVR2 along with a version of Arcsoft ShowBiz for capturing and editing video.
If you want to use a Mac, Hauppauge recommends third-party software called HDPVRCapture which costs an additional $29.95.
ShowBiz is easy to use and provides simple editing features and output to AVCHD, AVI, MPEG1, QTMOV or WMV. You can also upload direct to YouTube with a wizard.
You don’t have to use ShowBiz if you have other capture software you prefer.
Another feature is called Personal Logo. This is a separate application which lets you specify a bitmap as a logo to appear on your captured videos, along with its position and transparency. Handy for reminding everyone who you are on YouTube, or for publications posting review footage.
Once your system is up and working, you can start capturing video with one of two methods. The first is to hit a large corner button on top of the HD PVR2, which automatically starts up ShowBiz in capture mode. Alternatively, you can start ShowBiz, select Capture, and click Start.
While capturing, you can see the video running on the PC. There is several seconds delay between your live gameplay and the capture stream, which is confusing to watch, so ignore it and focus on your gameplay. When you are done hit stop. Videos are saved automatically, by default to the Videos folder on your PC, named according to the date and time.
Next, you can edit the video in ShowBiz. I created the following video and uploaded it to YouTube as a demo. However, I could not get the YouTube unload in ShowBiz to work. I saved the file as an AVI and uploaded it manually.
Settings in depth
When you run the Capture module in ArcSoft ShowBiz it exposes a number of settings, which you get to by clicking Device and Format Settings.
Device Settings lets you set brightness, contrast, Hue, Saturation and Sharpness.
Format settings gets you a bunch of settings which gives extensive control subject to the limitations of the hardware. Here are the settings for the H264 encoder:
Here are the video settings:
and the audio properties:
All this looks impressive though many users will just want to click and go. Mostly this works OK, though check that you have 16:9 specified if you use widescreen.
Note that 1080p at 60 fps (frames per second) is captured at a maximum of 30 fps, and 1080p at 50 fps is captured at a maximum of 25 fps.
Hauppauge says that your PC does not need to be on for HDMI pass-through to work. Despite this, we found that if you turn the system on from cold, pass-through does not work until the USB connection to a PC is made. Once up and running, you can disconnect and turn the PC off and pass-through still works.
ArcSoft ShowBiz is very basic. Fortunately you can import the captured videos into other editors.
Having to use component video for the PS3 is annoying but not the fault of Hauppauge. It is surprising in some ways that the XBox generally outputs an unencrypted HDMI stream.
When this device was not working I wanted to throw it out of the window; but once I got it running it was great. The bundled software is poor, documentation is thin, and it is just a little quirky, but the ability to capture your gaming output is worth a bit of hassle.