It wasn’t long ago that capturing your own game footage most likely meant standing in front of your TV and trying to hold a camcorder as steady as you possibly could. Now, thanks to companies like Hauppauge Computer Works, affordable, easy-to-use capture devices are readily available. But which one is the best? We asked David Zebuth, systems specialist at Hauppauge that very question.

GamesBeat: I’ve totally been saying it wrong, I’ve been saying it “hoppage.” Do you get that a lot?

David Zebuth: We do, it’s a difficult name to [pronounce]. We tell people to think of a hopping hog, if you can picture that in your head you’ll remember “hopp-ogg.” So this is the Gaming Edition, we include the gaming cable, which allows them to connect their Xbox, PS3, or Wii. We include Showbiz software, which allows them to do one-button capturing. There’s also editing software in there, which will allow them to add voice-overlay or text to their video, and then a one-button upload to YouTube. The kids are using it to mark how they’re getting through certain levels, or how they’re completing certain locations — how do I get past this? — and they’re sharing this information with each other through the web and YouTube.

There is a version of this that’s also used as a regular PVR, a personal video recorder, that you can hook up to your media center and make TV recordings. The guts of the two are exactly the same, so if you wanted to, if you buy the Gaming Edition, you can pay 25 dollars and get the additional cables that you would need to use it as a PVR and make TV recordings. The one thing that you need is what’s called an IR Blaster, which then connects to the front of the cable box, so you can send a signal to the cable box and change the channels when it’s time to make the recordings.

GamesBeat: The very first thing that I noticed was the lack of HDMI. Is there a Hauppauge unit with HDMI?

Zebuth: We do a PCI card that has HDMI in. The problem with HDMI is that it’s copy-protected. Many of the units still encode it, even when they’re doing gameplay. The Xbox 360 will allow you to do… When they do gameplay, it is not encoded. You can use this to record gameplay that way. But the PS3, for some reason, they encode their HDMI when you’re doing gameplay, so you can’t use it to record that. It’s probably part of the whole Blu-ray protection scheme that they have going on. So this is an option for somebody that has a video camera with HDMI out, something like that, if that’s what they want to record. But the quality of capture is still outstanding, it’s still 1080i, H.264 file.

GamesBeat: Do you recommend recording in 1080i over 720p?

Zebuth: It’s really up to you, it depends on what you’re going to play it on, how you want to see it. If you’re just going to put it up on YouTube, then 720’s more than enough. But if you’re taking home movies or something where you really want the best quality, because you’re going to show it on your big-screen TV, then you go to the 1080i.

GamesBeat: Are you familiar with the Blackmagic Intensity Pro?

Zebuth: Some of the other ones actually do software capture instead of hardware capture, they’re just using their box to get the video in and then your machine has to do the capturing. If you don’t have a really fast CPU, you’re going to have issues doing those recordings. This is hardware encoded, so your PC doesn’t have to work nearly as hard to make it happen.

GamesBeat: Right. Not too long ago, only major gaming outlets, and even those were few and far between, had very expensive capture rigs. Now that devices like this are only $200, that’s not a bad deal at all. What was the advance–the leap in technology–that finally made that possible?

Zebuth: It was the Vixen chip, I guess is what it was, that gave us the ability to build a unit that would do hardware capture. That was the big step we were waiting for, to be able to do this.

GamesBeat: Can you elaborate on what the Vixen chip is?

Zebuth: I’m not an engineer, I don’t know the whole thing, but basically what they’ve done is they’ve built a chip that enables them to do hardware capture at H.264 and turn it into a USB signal that we can send to a PC and make the recordings.

GamesBeat: Are there any tips and tricks that you have for people looking to optimize their Hauppauge device, get the most out of it?

Zebuth: Well, like I said, each device could be used either way. If you buy the standard HD PVR or the Gaming Edition, if you wanted to use it for the other purpose, you can still buy the additional software and cabling, so then you can use it for both things. The unit comes outstanding, it’s just a matter of how you learn to use the software. There’s third-party software if you wanted to use something different, maybe if you’re more comfortable using a different software package.

GamesBeat: What advantage would those have?

Zebuth: Some of them have better editing capabilities. We’re giving Showbiz software with this, there’s a higher version of it that you can pay ArcSoft for so that you can have more capabilities within it, you can add other lines of audio. You can use NextPVR, SageTV, there’s an HD PVR for Mac software. You can use Media Center, MythTV if you like Linux. It really depends on who you are and what software you like to use.

GamesBeat: How does your device stack up against the competition?

Zebuth: It’s outstanding, especially at the price, and the fact that it’s doing the hardware encoding, not software encoding. The picture quality is fantastic, if you look anywhere on the web about the kids who are using it, we’ve got 10, 11-year-olds, nine-year-olds who do not have a difficult time setting this up, finding the ability to make recordings. The ease of use… Simple to set up, especially for the gaming center part of it. If you want to record television shows it’s just a little bit harder, you have to run a cable to the front of your cable box, but it’s just a simple, stick on the front of it, it’s not a difficult thing to do. And then you can use Media Center or whatever to get your channel guide, schedule your recordings.

GamesBeat: What’s next? Are you doing software updates, or do you have a next model planned?

Zebuth: There are other models of this in the works. That’s down the road a ways. They’ll be making a smaller one, ones that also do have HDMI inputs on them. But again, you’re going to be limited in what you can connect to that HDMI connection. But yes, there are things in the works to try and continue to improve it, make it easier for people to use.

GamesBeat: Is there anything else you’d want to add for people trying to decide if this is the right device?

Zebuth: Well, what we can tell them is that we’re here to support them. Hauppauge’s been in the business for 25 years, we were the first with the TV tuners, we were the first hardware-encoded capture devices, we know what we’re doing in this. I don’t have a lot of experience with the units, I don’t have a great trick for you to tell your kids, a way to improve it and make it better than it already is, but it’s simple to use, easy to set up.

If you’re interested in finding out more, the Amazon user reviews for the Hauppauge HD-PVR Gaming Edition are extremely informative.