Tag Archives: xbox 360

Review: Hauppauge HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition. Capture Xbox and PS3 gaming action for YouTube.

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.

Getting started

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.

Capturing video

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. 


Farewell to Bizarre Creations, makers of Project Gotham Racing and Geometry Wars

It is hard to understand why some of the best game studios go out of business, while lesser ones (I am not going to mention names) continue. The last time I felt like this was when Ensemble Studios, makers of Age of Empires, was closed by Microsoft. Today it is the turn of Activision’s Bizarre Creations, based in Liverpool.

There are countless racing games, but when I encountered Project Gotham Racing on the original Xbox I knew it was special. It is a hard game which rewards skill; you will not get far if you simply try to charge round the track. It is also street racing, with superb graphics capturing well-known locations like London and San Francisco. The graphics got better in the later versions of the game, but for gameplay I still have an affection for the first one.


The other I will mention is Geometry Wars, which started as a mini-game in Project Gotham Racing 2, but came into its own as an arcade game for the Xbox 360. This one cannot be captured in a screenshot: it is where gaming meets art, creating fantastic visions of light and colour as you charge round the screen trying desperately to stay alive.


Apparently the relative lack of success of the critically acclaimed but poor-selling game Blur, released in 2010, was the beginning of the end for Bizarre Creations.

Laments and memories can be found in the official forum here and also on neoGAF. Farewell video here.

Thank you to Bizarre Creations for some of the best gaming moments of my life.

Could Kinect trigger the Xbox 360 RROD (Red Ring of Death)?

On November 10th, launch day in the UK, I received and installed Microsoft’s Kinect motion controller. I wrote up my first impressions here. My Xbox was an Elite, bought to replace a launch 360 that had succumbed to the red ring of death – the means by which the console communicates hardware failure – been repaired, and failed again.

I left Kinect attached though I admit it has not been much used. Two and half weeks later, it was the turn of the Elite to display three red lights – at just over three years old, so beyond Microsoft’s extended RROD warranty.

It is probably coincidence, though some are theorising that the Kinect, or a system update associated with it, has tipped a proportion of Xboxes into failure:

I have a theory that MS was (and still is) having latency/response issues with the Kinect hardware and used one of these updates to speed something up, possibly XB360 memory speeds or access times, and some of the older 90nm hardware just can’t take it. There are LOTS of people who owned older systems that melted down immediately after the update/Kinect hookup – far to many to be a coincidence and even MS support admitted to me that repair call volumes were extremely high.

It still seems a stretch to me. There are a lot of Xboxes out there, and in the normal course of events a some of them will happen to fail at the same moment or soon after installing Kinect. The Kinect has its own power supply when connected to consoles older than the 360 Slim which appeared this summer.

Nevertheless, I was stuck with a broken Xbox. Fix or replace? The problem is, the 360 is not a reliable design – maybe the new slim model, but while the Elite is an improvement on the original, it is still, I believe, less reliable than most modern electronics. Although I could get the Elite fixed, I doubt I would get another three years of service from it. In any case, the eject button has also become unreliable, and sometimes the DVD tray has to be pushed up with some force in order to persuade it to work.

Instead, I went out and got 360 Slim, which has a bigger hard drive, integrated wi-fi, quieter running, and no need for the supplementary power supply for Kinect.

I whiled away Sunday afternoon transferring games and data from the old hard drive. I still had the hard drive transfer kit which I had used for the Elite, and it worked fine for the Slim although it tool several hours.

There is another complication when you replace your Xbox. The transfer kit moves any games you have purchased from the Live Marketplace, but not the DRM (Digital Rights Management) which protects them. In consequence, they revert to trial versions unless you are signed in with the account under which they were purchased.

The fix is to transfer the content licenses, a process which involves signing into Xbox Live on the web as well as on the new console. It is a two-stage process. First, the new console is authorized as valid for those content licenses. Second, the actual licenses have to be transferred. You are meant to able to do this second stage from the web, but this did not work for me. I found I had to repeat the download from the Live Marketplace on the 360 itself. When I chose Download Again, the download completed nearly instantly, implying that it merely verified what was already downloaded, but in addition it did some DRM magic which enabled the full games for all users of the console.

So … I got less than two years out of the original Xbox 360 (December 2005), and a little over three years from the Elite. Here’s hoping that the third attempt lasts longer.