Nvidia rolled out the Shadowplay technology in beta for GTX 600 & 700 series cards yesterday, and I was excited to jump in and try it out.
The two main draws of Shadowplay are that it uses an H.264 encoder already built into your video card, so you see much less of a hit to performance than with software like FRAPS, and it also dumps footage to a compact mp4 file. It’s set up to capture at 1920 x 1080 and at 60fps, and you can use either manual mode, where you can toggle recording on and off, or use the shadow option, recording up to the last 10 minutes of gameplay at all times with the option to save it. It’s still in beta so there aren’t a wealth of options, but the skeleton is there and it’s sturdy.
For a test, I used Shadowplay to capture The Cat God NM fight you can find at the top of this post. I activated it in manual mode, because I like having control over where the raw footage starts and stops so I don’t have a bunch of extra at the end. So you can tell when it’s running, Shadowplay drops a small, unobtrusive icon in the corner of your screen (you choose which).
I was expecting to notice at least a little drop in performance, but there was nothing! Just a slight hitch when I started recording. I’ve only tested it with The Secret World and the new Batman game, Arkham Origins, but so far it definitely seems to affect performance less than FRAPS. It’s nice to be able to capture without dropping my settings first!
After the fight, it was time to check the results. The file size was pretty small, coming in at just over 1gb for about 5 minutes of gameplay. Hard drive space isn’t much of an issue for me, but with smaller file sizes I’ll be able to save more raw footage. As for quality, it looks pretty good to me. There was a little weird stuttering, and I think that might be a side effect of recording at 60fps, but it went away after I ran it through Vegas and rendered at 30fps. I think FRAPS probably records higher quality, but it’s not enough of a difference for me. Audio was fine, I didn’t really notice a difference. The final render looks a little washed out to me at times, but I think that’s due to Youtube’s upload process and maybe also some color correction I used in Vegas.
My initial impressions of Shadowplay are very favorable overall, and the thing to remember is that it’s still in beta. Hopefully they’ll be working out the kinks and adding more options in the future, and Nvidia’s already said their intention is to add Twitch integration. I’m looking forward to playing around it more, and messing with the settings to figure out the best quality for Youtube. I tried a little something different with publishing this video, too. I got rid of the intro screen, so the video gets right into it, and I placed a small watermark over the whole thing instead. I might add the final screen back in just to have my blog address on there somewhere. What do you guys think?