Earlier this week I published my first LittleBigPlanet PS Vita gameplay video and many more will follow soon, but getting to this point was no small feat. It took a lot of trial and error, some new equipment and a lot of patience.
The PSP was easy! It had a TV-out cable that you could just hook-up to a HD PVR or Intensity Shuttle and capture away. The Vita is a completely different beast. Without a (very expensive) developer unit it’s impossible to get a video feed directly out of the thing, which means your only option is to point a video camera at your Vita and grab the best footage you can that way.
It shouldn’t be this hard! Considering they tout the Vita as the handheld console for ‘hardcore gamers’ – ie. the same type of people who might like to record and share gameplay videos online – Sony’s decision to make it so complicated is a mystery… Well, it’s not really a mystery; I’m sure cost was a major factor in conjuction with the fact that the gamers who make and share YouTube videos are in the vast minority. But still, considering every gameplay video posted is effectively free marketing, you’d think they could have found a way to squeeze it in. Instead, we have to go through all this:
Anyway, I could just ramble on but instead I thought I’d share my Vita video capture experiences in the hope that they might be useful to others who are hitting the same stumbling blocks that I did. At the bottom of this post I’ve included a list of all the equipment and software I use.
First up: Audio. No matter how good the microphone in your camera is, you’re going to get a lot better quality audio if you capture it directly. The 3.5mm audio cable you’ll need is dirt cheap and easy to find. Just plug one end into your Vita’s headphone port, the other end into the ‘Line-in’ port on your PC and you’re golden. Syncing the audio to your video later is easy.
The best video camera I own is actually just my smartphone. I thought this would let me down but I was pretty impressed with the results. In fact, the biggest problem I had with it was the iPhone 5’s default camera app which doen’t let you lock focus or exposure in video mode. FiLMIC Pro came to my rescue here. It’s a £3 app which offers far more control than the standard iOS camera and I was able to lock the focus and exposure to a point in the frame which gave the most accurate and consistent colour levels.
By far the hardest part of the whole process was finding a way to position myself and the Vita to give the camera the best view of the screen possible, while still being able to see the Vita myself and use it comfortably. With numerous set-ups I found that I would unconciously move the console out of shot while playing or that I was contorting myself to such an uncomfortable position that I couldn’t stay still for the whole video, making it unwatchable. In the end I found the best method was to sit at a table and set-up a tripod at shoulder height angled slightly down. I positioned my head next to the camera and put one arm around the tripod. Sitting like this, I could brace by elbows on the table and hold the Vita reasonably steady, a good distance from the camera.
That said, no matter what you do you’re never going to be able to hold the Vita completely still. This was a particular problem with motion-based gameplay. I had to get a glamorous camera assistant (or, as she would probably prefer, “fiancé”) to watch the viewfinder as I played and let me know if I started to stray out of frame. Fortunately, because my camera records video at 1080p and I only upload videos at 720p, I was able to use the extra resolution to crop and re-frame parts of the video if I needed to.
Lastly, something that’s easy to overlook: Lighting. You may not think this is very import given that the screen itself is backlit but this actually causes more problems than you might think. If you shoot a bright screen surrounded by darkness you’ll find that your camera tries to equalise the scene and apply digital colour adjustments to make it look ‘natural’. This will give you really crummy-looking, grainy video but you don’t need anything fancy to avoid this. I just used two desk lamps positioned to the side and just above the Vita. This gave me pretty even lighting and avoided casting hard shadows onto the large pad of paper I used to give a clean backdrop.
Equipment and Software
- Video camera/smartphone
I use an iPhone 5 but any reasonably good, HD video camera will do. The more you’re willing to spend here the better the end result will be… but there’s no need to go overboard!
- 3.5mm audio cable
I got this one from my local electronics shop but they’re cheap and easy to find at places like Newegg, Amazon or Maplin
- Audio capture software
I use Adobe Soundbooth but Audacity is free and works just as well
I use a Hama Star 63
- Smartphone tripod mount (if necessary)
I use the XSories Pholder
- A good video app for your smartphone (if necessary)
I use FiLMIC Pro but there are alternatives for Android
- Large pad of paper (for a backdrop)
- Adobe Premiere Pro
Check out the video to see how it all turned out. If you’re looking to capture video footage from any PlayStation Vita game I hope this article has helped, or has at least given a interesting insight into what goes into making videos like this. If you’ve captured PS Vita footage yourself, please feel free to share your experiences, tips or questions in the comments below.