I get asked what tools I while recording use a lot, so I thought I’d toss it all into a nice detailed blog post to point to. Here you’ll find all the software, hardware and what not I record or livestream with, all of which I personally recommend.
I don’t have any special training, so why some of these tools may not be the absolute best in the biz, they work, they’re easy enough for an untrained spikeball to use and they’re either reasonably priced or free.
I’ll update this whenever new software enters my permanent rotation. Yes Amazon links in this post may be affiliate links. No you do not pay more by visiting an affiliate link.
Last updated 2015-11-24.
Table of Contents
This is the first entry because it’s important. I have a lot of early videos out there with awful audio and there’s nothing I can do because I used a bad mic. Get a good mic immediately, the best you can reasonably afford if you’re at all serious about making any sort of narrated content.
I proudly use the gigantic Blue Yeti Microphone, which you should be able to find for around $100. It’s USB, no fancy drivers, no mixer required, it’s a condenser mic, it’s got multiple pickup patterns that make it very versatile (for voice narration you want Cardioid), and it’s got a mute button that comes in handy for live streams/paranoia. It’s a fantastic all-arounder that is super low-fuss.
The one bad thing about this mic is it’s very sensitive, and you’ll want to lower Windows’ recording volume pretty low and you’ll want the gain on the device itself to basically be 0 if you’re using it on your desk around 1-2 feet away. I use a gain of 0 (all the way left) and Windows recording volume of 50, and I double check Windows’ volume before I record because sometimes it’s raised or lowered itself for no apparent reason.
Setting the gain too high on accident can easily result in clipping, so be careful. On the plus side, it’s so sensitive if you needed to record a room full of people with one mic you probably could, but that’s not what mine’s for.
I can’t speak for it myself, but I know a lot of people don’t like the price/size of the Yeti but find the Blue Snowball to be quite satisfactory. Stay away from headset, laptop, tablet or phone mics. They’re good enough for a quick Skype call but they’re not acceptable for content you’re putting out there for the ages.
Depending on your microphone and situation, you might find you need an isolation shield (too unwieldy for Let’s Plays/streams, I can’t really recommend them) or a pop filter (the Yeti doesn’t require one). I would get as good a mic as you’re willing to buy and then see if you need any accessories. My yeti does it’s job well enough “naked” for my situation.
Depreciated: due to new features added to OBS Studio I find almost no need for Bandicam anymore (though it’s free-floating screen area recording is occasionally more useful than OBS’s method of screen selection). It’s not a bad product, but I strongly recommend seeing if OBS suits your needs instead.
Bandicam does most of my recording on PC, it’s basically FRAPS if FRAPS weren’t awful. There’s multiple major features Bandicam has over FRAPS First, you can choose your encoding method–FRAPS is lossless only resulting in huge files–I use Motion JPEG in Bandicam, smaller file but plenty high enough quality to survive an extra editing step and re-encoding without noticeable quality loss. Bandicam also offers screen area recording in addition to DirectX/OpenGL hooks, meaning basically any game can be recorded, even browser games. Bandicam will also let you record mic and game audio to different audio files, which is basically essential for editing. It’s also got the standard FPS counter/screenshot features.
Seriously, use headphones when recording. The echo of the game’s music will be really bad otherwise. I use a pair of Sennheiser 598s which are very comfortable and sound great, but just get whatever’s in your price range really. What your audience hears is more important than what you hear.
Elgato Game Capture HD60 Pro
Console games of course require a capture card, I use the Elgato HD60 Pro internal capture card, which has very nice easy to use capture software, some basic editing features (though I just export to MP4 and edit elsewhere), and since it’s an internal card it has extremely low latency.
The latency is actually so low you can play games perfectly fine from the video feed either in the Elgato software or OBS (fullscreened, ideally). There is a minor bit of lag–I’ve heard 4 frames, it only looks like a couple frames to me but I lack proper measuring tools/knowhow. It’s just enough that if you put a direct feed and the capture card feed side to side you’ll see one go a tiny bit before the other, but it’s lower latency that pretty much any form of remoteplay if you just want to casually play something not super difficult/timing sensitive.
If you need to record retro games too, or record PS3 without an HDMI splitter/stripper, you can grab the old Elgato Game Capture model, which has significantly more delay, no 1080p/60FPS support, but is just fine for most “last gen” consoles and anything with S video/composite/component input. It’s HDMI passthrough can also be used to output Composite/etc signals through HDMI, I use that for my old Wii.
The delay on the old model is pretty annoying, but doesn’t matter much for static recordings. It matters a lot for livestreaming (as you have to manually delay your voice if you use OBS) and means you can’t play games via the capture card on your desktop, which is neat but not necessary.
Due to HDCP you might have heard of solutions like using composite cables for PS3 or turning off HDCP (and thus, blu ray playback) on PS4. Using most HDMI splitters, like the one I use will solve your problem and also allow you to kick your signal to multiple sources. I output to a monitor, two TVs and a capture card, so I actually use this 4 way splitter now, though it has some minor issues, especially with my PS TV. About once a month I have to manually reset it or plug and unplug some stuff. If you only need it to deal with HDCP or only have two monitors, stick with the smaller ones, I’ve had no reliability issues with them.
While your wrapping your house in HDMI cords you might want an HDMI switch like this 5×1 super cheap one with a remote. This enables you to use a single input on your TV (or, via a splitter, multiple devices!) instead of changing inputs via the TV’s software. It’s not necessary, but Iv’e found it to greatly simplify my excessive quantity of HDMI inputs. There are also HDMI Matrixes that let you switch and split in one device, but I haven’t gotten one yet, they’re a bit pricy compared to buying separate.
If you’re going to be streaming you’ll really want at least two monitors. I have three. I don’t have particularly exciting monitor recommendations, but definitely consider getting two or more.
Livestreaming is a pretty different skill from recording. Certainly related, but I’d figure one out before trying to go whole hog on both.
I use OBS Studio (basically OBS2) which is free, Open Source and highly effective for Streaming, and a lot more powerful (though more complicated) than the Game Capture HD60’s built in software. Usually gets higher quality at the same bitrate compared to directly streaming from my PS4 or the Elgato.
OBS has pretty much every streaming feature you could want, which makes it a bit intimidating, but it’s defaults work well enough and you can often get it working acceptable with almost no tweaking.
OBS can also be used for local recording, and has slowly become my primary recording tool even over Bandicam and others. Using OBS as your recorder has a lot of benefits like keeping your tools consistent between stream/local recording, mixing (or keeping separate!) multiple audio tracks and again, it’s totally free.
Restream.io is a free service for streaming to multiple livestreaming sites like Twitch, Youtube etc. You just input your stream keys to Restream.io, stream directly to Restream.io’s servers, and you can stream to multiple sites for no extra bandwidth cost. If you’re worried about security remember that any streaming service worth it’s salt lets you regenerate your stream key at will, so Restream.io has nothing of permanent importance. And I haven’t had any problems with them.
There’s some minor downsides to this: It seems resolution is limited to 720p (but 60 FPS streams work), and it adds a second or two of chat delay on top. It’s basically two hops instead of one, so that’s to be expected. If you have the spare bandwidth, processing power and a method to stream to multiple services, that might be more ideal, but many of us don’t so Restream.io is a big help.
Restream also offers a page to update all of your Beam/Twitch/Youtube/Hitbox titles/current game settings at once which is great, and a chat client that crams all your chats into one and outputs a source you can feed right into OBS!
Of note, Youtube livestreams are entirely blocked in Germany, regardless of content, so it’s nice to have a Twitch stream up for German viewers (My channel is english only, based in the US but Germany is about 5% of my views). Hey hey, looks like Youtube fixed their livestream problem in Germany!
Sony Movie Studio Platinum 13
It’s not Premier, but it’s ~$50 one time instead of >$100 a year. Don’t buy it direct from their site, either get it from Amazon or on Steam, whichever is cheaper. Only restriction on the Steam version is it has to launch from steam, so you can’t have a nice quick access toolbar shortcut for it, and launching multiple windows is harder but still possible.
Movie Studio Platinum 13 has pretty much all of what you should need for game video related editing, supports 60 FPS (with a little fussing, the presets are awful), multiple tracks. My biggest complaint is it doesn’t have an easy volume leveling feature like Camtasia, but Camtasia is $300. This should be more than enough to get you going.
I’m admittedly still new with Movie Studio and haven’t shopped around super hard, but I know it’s a better buy than Camtasia and I really really don’t feel the urge to pony up for Sony Vegas or Premier after using it. At least not until I’m real famous instead of just internet famous.
Handbrake is a free, Open Source video encoder that is a good way to slim down files if your chosen video editor makes a video too large. Unless a video is very small (under 300 MB) I’ll pretty much always run it through Handbreak at quality “20” just to see how it turns out, very often the out is visually near-identical but half the file size or less.
You can also apply some very basic stuff like cropping, trimming ect when re-encoding, but Handbrake is not an editor.
Handbreak seems to accept just about any input too, so if your editing software is fussy (like Camtasia) then you can process it in HB first then edit a more standard MP4.
For quick audio-only recordings or simple editing I use Audacity which is free and Open Source. It’s nothing too fancy and I can’t do very much in it yet, but it suffices when I need to quickly record a voice clip or trim/etc. There’s no reason not to keep Audacity around since it’s free.
Youtube’s Video Editor
For minor trims, Youtube’s Video Editor can actually work just fine, though it will require re-processing your video. Quality appears unaffected. Note that it’ll only work on videos under 3 hours, annoying for editing Livestreams. It’s an extremely blunt tool, but for Let’s Plays a lot of times you just need to trim the very start or very end a few seconds anyway.
Free Recording Stuff
I uh, don’t really have a good recommendation for 100% free end to end recording and editing, but I know it gets asked a lot. To start with I think OBS for recording, Audacity for audio recording and editing and the plain ol’ Youtube Editor for minor video trimming can get you pretty far. But Movie Studio Platinum and Bandicam should cost around/under $100 combined which isn’t too high an investment IMO. If you really need free stuff I’m sure there’s articles about that specifically.
Even if you’re averse to paying, I’ll reiterate that you really, reaaaally should get a proper mic. Make it your first paid purchase if you want to go slow.