My 8yr old son currently idolizes somebody named Stampy Longnose, who is a character that makes YouTube videos of himself and his friends wandering around Minecraft. For months my son asked for "recording material" so that he, too, could develop a following like Stampy. We kept saying "Maybe for Christmas, maybe for Christmas." Well Christmas came, and he did not forget, it was at the top of the list. So his grandparents got this magical recording material for him. Since they had no idea what it is, of course, now it's up to dear old Dad to make it work. It took me a lot longer than I thought it would, so I'm documenting the process for those other dads that find themselves in a similar situation.
My son has an XBox 360 E. I can only speak for these instructions relative to that particular console. I discovered that this is a big deal, because it appears that our old pal Microsoft has been changing the video output port pretty much every time.
There are many results on Amazon for xbox recording device (I don't know why my son insists on calling it "recording material"), ranging significantly in price. Although we've got our device connected via HDMI I was not prepared to get what seems like the most popular device, the Elgato HD Capture. After all I have no idea if he's going to get bored with this in a week once it actually works. Instead we went with the Elgato Video Capture, which is almost half the price. I say we, because although this is the gift my in-laws wanted to give him, they had no idea what it is so I was tasked with doing the research and picking the item :)
Christmas came and went, my boy was excited to finally have the device and we went about setting it up ... and I discovered my first problem. Our device has an HDMI port. This recording device has composite cables, otherwise known as the classic Red/Yellow/White combination. Do not confuse this with "component cables", which have 5 separate heads including a green one.
This is not a problem. I get back on Amazon and search for "XBox composite cable", getting plenty of results for around $10 or less. I bought one. DO NOT DO THIS. I'm deliberately not linking it.
We wait a few Amazon Prime days, cable arrives and ... it doesn't fit. The particular cable I got has this big fat port on one end, bigger than an HDMI port, and my device simply does not have that. "Aha," I think, "I must have mistakenly gotten the cable for an older XBox model, not for the 360. My bad." I return to Amazon, search for "XBox 360 hdmi composite cable," and thinking I see one that has an HDMI port on the end, get that one instead.
Nope. Same stupid cable with the big fat end. Now I'm upset. My device simply does not have that port. All I have is an HDMI port, and a little 3.5mm jack next to it that I have assumed is a standard audio-out jack.
It's not. I finally found this document from Turtle Beach that set me straight:
As you can see above, the trapezoidal A/V (Audio/Visual) port from older Xbox 360 models has been removed and replaced with a single 3.5 mm output jack. The Xbox 360 E includes a 3.5mm Composite A/V Cable (yellow, white, and red), used for connecting to standard-definition TVs.Oh! That explains both my problems. First, it is the "E" model that got rid of the older A/V port, which explains why I keep getting the wrong cable. Second, that 3.5mm jack is actually going to spit out both audio and video. Nice.
What I needed was this cable . Your XBox came with this cable, but if you're like me and immediately plugged into the HDMI port of your television you may no longer know where you put this original cable. I actually lucked out, I found it gathering dust in a drawer under our television.
Now we're cooking. Plug the 3.5mm jack into the Xbox, plug the Red/Yellow/White into the recorder, and...now what. There's a USB port on the other end of the recorder, so we plug that into my Mac, download the software, and it goes into setup mode asking me to plug in the yellow cable and proceed when I see video. I don't see video. What's weird is that I'm getting audio. I wonder what the odds might be that this brand new cable is somehow broken, and decide that can't be the case.
I'll fast forward here. Two things. First, you can't have your HDMI and your A/V both plugged in at the same time. If you do, the video will only go through HDMI, and go to your television rather than your recorder. So unplug your HDMI. Yes, this means that when you want to record your Xbox you're going to have to get behind your console, unplug it from the tv, and only watch it on the computer. I did not realize this would be the case and I don't think my son did either, but it's not the end of the world.
Second, you can only do this when the power is off. If you are looking at the "No Video" screen in the Elgato software and unplug the HDMI cable, nothing will happen. Power cycle your XBox and you should now get your video signal!
Once connected, everything else works identically. My son watched me fire up Minecraft and almost get killed in about 3 seconds before he just grabbed the controller and rescued me. But the important part was that it still works identically to the XBox. Nothing about keyboard controls or anything weird. You're just playing on the smaller screen.
Almost done. Do you want to play XBox Live? More specifically, do you have one of those headset microphones that allows you to chat with your friends and basically narrate your game playing experience? My son's got the Turtle Beach XL1 which like much of this other stuff was a good entry level item to see whether he's going to stick with it. Something that might be common in the videogame world, that was completely bizarre to me, is that to get the chat working there's actually a special cable that comes off the headphones - and plugs into the XBox controller. Why? I have no idea. But if you want the other people playing the game to hear you, this is a necessary step.
Did I mention that my son's best friend has a similar setup, along with the recording material? When they learned that we'd gotten one for Christmas, the father told me, "You'll have to let me know if you get the chat working, we can't figure it out."
And there's the problem. How do you get that audio to go through the recorder? Turns out, you don't. Here's the word, straight from Elgato:
All gaming headsets we've encountered so far do not down-mix the live chat from the microphone to the audio output of the PS3 or Xbox 360.
This means that Game Chat audio from the local gamer will not be recorded by Elgato Game Capture HD.
You will still hear audio from other players during gameplay, and in your recording.
You will still hear your voice during gameplay, but not in your recording.That stinks. That might even be a deal breaker, depending on what you were hoping to accomplish. But! I wasn't done yet. We've come this far and a father hates to disappoint his son.
Elgato points out that their Elgato - Game Capture HD version (you know, the more expensive one I chose not to get?) comes with a software option to do Live Commentary. I can't really say more about that because I don't have it, but perhaps that alone is enough to make you get the more expensive device, if you haven't already made your purchase. I'm not quite ready to go there.
I had one last option. It's not that hard to add voiceover / narration to videos, especially on a Mac. I tried it briefly with iMovie but didn't like the experience, so I ended up with Wondershare Video Editor. This software seems like the last piece of the puzzle. My son will make his videos, then when he plays them back he can narrate what he did and why he did it. Might take him a little while to get used to that. And I'm not yet sure how that's going to work when he has other friends playing, because remember - the recorder will pick up *them*, but it won't pick up him.
Anyway, that's what we did to make it work. Hope it helps all you dads out there get the next generation of Stampy Longnoses producing their videos!