The Big, Bad, Basic Guide to LP Hardware/Software

Are you thinking of starting your very own Let’s Play just like the internet’s own PewDiePie/Markiplier/Two Best Friends/Game Grumps/Run Button/ChippityCheezits? Sick, dude! You’ll have plenty of company. And plenty of questions!

You might only be asking one question right now: how do I do a Let’s Play??

And that’s a pretty broad topic. Let’s start with what you need to actually physically do a Let’s Play. You’ll need some key pieces of hardware and software, and you may want some other stuff on top of that.

This piece aims to serve as the starter’s guide to the things you need to record your game and get it out there for everyone to see. I’ll be adding to this guide a little over the next few days; if there are any important pieces of hardware or software I’ve forgotten, or any corrections to make, please let me know and I’ll get right on it.

##Part 1 - The Simple Bear Necessities
Alright, forget threads and scarecams and streams and guests and let’s start from scratch: a Let’s Play, generally, is a recorded and commentated playthrough of a videogame. So we need to be able to record the gameplay in some fashion and add our commentary.

###[Hardware] The Thing What Plays The Game
We also need to be able to actually play the game itself. Fortunately, a decent PC will cover most of the games you’ll likely want to LP. For probably only $1000, including a copy of Windows and the monitor, you can get the parts to a PC that will run basically any game in 720p at 60fps.

Most modern games have PC releases, so apart from console exclusives on recent consoles, a PC will do the trick. If you do want to LP a game only available on consoles, the next piece of hardware will be relevant for you. Keep in mind, this PC we’re playing on also needs to be powerful enough to record the game and play it at a decent frame rate, and you’ll need storage space for all that footage! If a PC building thread is created at some point, I’ll link it here for those who want to dig deeper.

###[Hardware] Capture Card
If you’re LPing on a console, there’s no getting around dropping a couple hundred dollars on one of these. And by “no getting around” I mean “you could point a video camera at the screen if you really can’t afford it and can’t wait to start making all that fresh content”. The capture card is the tiny box that you plug your HDMI cable into and spits it out at both your computer and the TV.

The de-facto standard in this realm is Elgato. They’ve made quite a few capture devices over the years, and they’ve gotten pretty good at it. The big selling point of Elgato — at least at the time, I’m not sure if other devices offer this functionality now — is the ability to “fire and forget”: while the Elgato capture software is open, it will build a replay buffer of recent footage, so if you’re only concerned about saving a single replay from your favourite multiplayer shooter, you can play until you get that moment, then rewind the tape and record it posthumously. Elgato game capture comes in a few flavours these days:

  • Elgato Game Capture HD - With HDMI, component, composite, and S-Video inputs available, this fella can record just about every conventional console you can get your hands on. Literally the only downside for recording gameplay is that at the time this was manufactured, nobody had managed to crack recording 1080p footage at 60fps. You can record up to 720p60 or 1080p30, but if you’ve just gotta have those vertical lines, you’ll want to set your sights on…

  • Elgato Game Capture HD60 - As the name implies, they were very proud that they had hit that milestone. The HD60 does capture 1080p60; the tradeoff is that it only accepts HDMI input, so no classic consoles allowed! Unless you had a Retron or something, I guess.

  • Elgato Game Capture HD60 S - God bless Apple and Nintendo’s naming conventions. Those other two Elgato products have a 2-3 second delay between what you see on the screen and what comes through on the screen, which means you can’t get away with using just one monitor, playing and recording off the single screen, unless your reaction times are several seconds faster than you think they are. The HD60 S cuts that delay down to approximately one (1) frame, which means if you don’t have the space or a need for a big TV, you don’t need to have one! It’s also a good tool for streaming game footage to friends over the Internet for instant commentary. There’s also the HD60 Pro, an internal capture card that performs the same function as the HD60 S.

On the other side of the coin, the AMD to Elgato’s Nvidia, we have Avermedia. Avermedia’s angle on game capture is putting as much as they possibly can into the box itself to let you record and/or stream immediately. I personally don’t have any experience with their capture devices, however these appear to be the current popular picks:

  • Avermedia ExtremeCap U3 - The U3 appears to be the closest thing to a no-frills capture card from Avermedia. It’s analogous to the Elgato HD60 S, and is big on low-latency, uncompressed 1080p60 footage. The box itself doesn’t have any extra stuff to enable streaming, and is intended to be placed next to your PC so you can handle all the streaming amenities from there. If you’re tossing up between this and the equivalent Elgato, it’ll probably come down to which capture software you prefer.

  • Live Gamer Extreme - You’ll notice a trend among the Avermedia names; like I said, big on streaming. Apparently this device is also analogous to the HD60 S, with low-latency 1080p60 capture capabilities. Based on specific words used on their site, I don’t think this one can record uncompressed like the U3 can. What this one can do, though, is plug your microphone directly into it!

When it comes to just recording, there appears to be quite a bit of overlap with Avermedia’s lineup, actually. The Live Gamer Portable and Live Gamer Portable 2 are like the HD and HD60 from Elgato, but then they also have the Live Gamer Portable Lite, which looks to be the only device marketed as something you don’t take with you everywhere, and can also fill the role of the HD. Basically, if you don’t need 1080p60 and want to capture retro consoles, LGP and LGP Lite are your choices. If you only want to capture the new stuff and it has to be 1080p60 all the time, it’s LGP2, LGX, and U3. “But wait, there’s more!” you hear Avermedia cry.

  • Avermedia Game Capture HD II - Just so you know Avermedia is definitely one step ahead of those pesky Elgato fiends. HDII is the only Avermedia gaming capture device that doesn’t do streaming; instead it does everything else. Microphone input, video editor, and YouTube uploader, if you absolutely have to start LPing right now, don’t have any PC available to you, and are almost completely strapped for cash, this may be the product for you.

There are a couple of other names that have either dropped off in popularity or never quite picked up the way the first two did. Hauppauge have the HDPVR line, Blackmagic have the Intensity, there’s always the infamous EasyCap (you don’t want a link to it, I promise), and likely others I’m not aware of. In terms of HD capture devices, I don’t think I’ve ever heard any truly damning criticism of any of the available products, so it ultimately comes down to personal preference. If you haven’t used any and don’t have a personal preference, I’m biased to saying the classic Elgato Game Capture HD as a cheap starting device.

###[Software] PC Screen Capture, brought to you by Unregistered Hypercam 2
Back over with the cool PC kids that smoke behind the bleachers and already have all the hardware they need, you need a way to record that hype gameplay. With the wealth of screen recording software available, it can be easy to accidentally download a free program that tries to install malware on your computer, records at a low frame rate, or has a constant watermark in the upper corner of the screen and still manages to have an absurdly large install base.

  • Dxtory - For the longest time, the main name in high-quality PC video capture was Fraps. But development on that program slowed, then stopped, and it now is exceedingly average and out-of-date. This is the rookie sensation that came along to quickly upstage Fraps in the past five years or so, doing pretty much everything it does, and more, better, with a smaller CPU footprint than Fraps. Dxtory can record in any codec you choose, lossless or otherwise, records multiple independent audio tracks if you want to record everything from the one program, and can record at a different frame rate than you’re playing at. Which means if you want to record a game at 30fps while playing at 60fps you can totally do that. If you’re going to spend money on screen capture software, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option.

  • Open Broadcaster Software - Even if you don’t end up using this as your primary method of recording footage, it will probably behoove you to download this anyway. OBS is primarily a streaming tool, but also has the capacity to record locally without streaming at all. A big difference between it and most other options is that the files it spits out are not uncompressed; since they’re meant to be stream archives, footage isn’t being recorded with the purpose of editing in mind. Nothing stopping you from doing that, of course; and if nothing else, you’ll be dealing with much smaller file sizes. It’s also free.

  • Hypercam - I’m willing to bet money that you have absolutely seen at least one video in your life that was recorded using an unregistered copy of Hypercam 2, probably involving some too-loud EDM and a copy of Windows Notepad that was slowly typing instructions. Fraps was the ubiquitous solution for professional, high-quality screen capture videos, and Hypercam was the ubiquitous solution for everybody else who really wasn’t that bothered. Hypercam 2 is so pervasive that the website for the current version of Hypercam is still trying to convince people to stop using Hypercam 2. Despite all appearances, Hypercam 2 is not as bad as those YouTube videos would have you believe, especially since it’s available for free now, meaning no watermark. It’s still the absolute last choice I would pick of these for an actual LP video, though. NOTE: If you do use Hypercam, you’ll want to download and install the Lagarith video codec. This is a fantastic little lossless codec that takes up far less space than if you record wholly uncompressed video.

  • QuickTime Player - There is a version of OBS available on macOS, but it is, to be charitable, poor. Fortunately, the included copy of QuickTime for the past eight years or so has had an easy-to-use screen recorder built in, so if you’re unable to install Windows on your Mac, either as a dual-boot setup or with Boot Camp, you’re not left totally high and dry. Bear in mind, this thing is not designed to record videogames and is not going to be especially efficient. But at least you don’t have to spend $100 on it. QuickTime can also capture full-sized iOS footage, if you’ve got something exclusive to mobile in mind.

###[Software] Video Editor
Alright, we’ve gotten our game recorded from its source, now we need to work some movie sufficiently-advanced-science.

  • iMovie and Lightworks - Both of these products are perfect if you’re just starting out: you can trim clips, put subtitles, add commentary and export for uploading, and they’re both totally free! Everything else costs money or has a considerable learning curve, so absolutely start with these and see if you even like the entire LP process before writing checks. There’s also Windows Movie Maker, which is actually good in its latest version as a free editor for LPs, but has apparently been discontinued by Microsoft, so unless you already have it installed, you’ll need to grab Lightworks. Do note that the free version of Lightworks, like all paid programs with free versions, has a few limitations. It should still be enough for your early days in LP, if nothing else.

  • Sony Vegas/Adobe Premiere/Lightworks Pro/Other Paid Software? - If you want more power and flexibility in your edits, there’s no getting around it: you’ll need to spend money. You’re (hopefully) getting what you pay for, though, and sometimes just having the technology to do silly things can inspire you to make really cool videos! Plenty of people here will have used some form of paid software, so don’t be shy about asking for specific recommendations, the advantages/disadvantages of certain programs, and what’s good for your price point.

###[Hardware] Microphone
Before we get going here, I want to be as clear as possible that these are some suggestions, but by no means do you have to choose something from this section only. If you find something or have something that works for you, don’t feel pressured to purchase something else.

Now, since subtitles are doable in basically any editor, a microphone, by an extreme technicality, is not strictly necessary for making a Let’s Play video, but we’re here to learn, so let’s cover one of the pillars of your to-be creation! Your microphone is your primary conduit to the audience, the way the game becomes more than just a pile of gameplay footage.

I’m sure there are other people who can talk in greater detail than I about audio, and it will probably become its own thread at some point, but I want to stress one thing about microphones and recording commentary: The microphone you have is not as important as the environment you record in!

For real, your first Let’s Play will get as much mileage out of a $20 Logitech desk mic as it can the US$150+ Yeti Pro. Your voice will sound great with even a cheap microphone as long as you set up your space correctly; don’t choose a big, echo-y room, reduce or eliminate background noise if you can, sit close to the corner, buy or make a pop filter, and set up some sort of audio baffling. This can be as advanced as actual noise-cancellation foam panels on the walls, or just grabbing a blanket and creating a mini-vocal booth around you, your microphone, and the screen (what I did when I was still on my first mic!).

The better/more expensive mics typically have greater sensitivity and can capture more than just the mid-range of your voice – if your voice has a lot of bass you’ll especially notice the difference. They can reduce the amount of setup you need to do to get as good a sound — my current mic records well without any noise foam, even though my apartment is a big, open room — but you can absolutely get as good of a sound from a cheaper microphone with the right recording space. At least for the purposes of a Let’s Play.

With that all in mind, let’s look at some mics.

If you’re shopping around for mics for YouTube videos, you’ve probably been directed to the Blue line. Without a doubt, Blue’s microphones are exceptionally well-built, and contain very good sound quality for the price. They also have a little bit of Apple DNA in them, as they cost a good bit more than other options for similar appreciable sound. Blue microphones sound crystal clear and sexy on their website, and generally pretty average everywhere else (because people don’t set up the space properly).

Audio companies tend to make lots of products to cover every possible base, like Avermedia’s capture devices, so there are naturally a lot of seemingly very similar Blue microphones. When you want to sit down and record your voice at your computer, though, there are basically two that anyone who recommended you get a Blue mic was talking about:

  • Blue Snowball - The cheaper little brother, Snowball is the one billed as great for podcasting. It’s got both cardioid and omnidirectional pickup options so you can get multiple people sitting around the mic at a table in one room, and that’s actually the only selling point of the mic on the website, aside from “it records audio really well”. The Snowball iCE is cheaper (I think? Blue doesn’t have RRP and online listings are really varied) at the cost of only having the one pickup pattern, cardioid. So iCE is “it really, really records good audio from one direction at a time”.

  • Blue Yeti - The expensive older brother, Yeti is marketed at anyone who wants to record audio and hates having money. It offers four different recording patterns that are mainly relevant to multiple people in one room or musicians, has a physical mute button (:thumbsup:!!), a dial to adjust mic gain, and a built-in headphone monitor output. There’s also the Yeti Pro, which can record 24bit/192kHz audio, has XLR output, and is only of use to musicians or people with lots of money who insist this is the year they’ll get the guitar out of the garage and practice it every day.

Two things about Blue mics that I think are important. First of all, you don’t need the Yeti. You do not now, nor will you ever need the Yeti for LP. It’s cheaper than it used to be and still it is absolutely a waste of money, in my opinion. You can get a microphone for less than half the price that I guarantee neither you or anyone watching will ever find lacking in sound quality, even in comparison to the Yeti itself.

Second, something that doesn’t immediately translate in Blue’s pictures and videos is that these things are enormous. Snowball and Yeti are probably about twice as big as you thought looking at the pictures, and Snowball takes up even more space if you buy their recommended shock mount. Look around for non-marketing pictures; if desk space is at a premium for you, this might be a deal-breaker.

I’m not saying there’s nothing about the Blue mics that makes them worth buying more than others; what I’m saying is that for our needs here, a lot of other microphones will do the job for less money. Let me know if you have good experiences with them yourself!

I honestly don’t know what the most popular choices are in non-Blue microphones — let me know if you do — because there are so many models available. Everyone has their personal faves, and ultimately, if you see a mic for a good price, it has good reviews, and you like the sound of it in a YouTube audio test, go for it! Here are the two microphones I’ve used, both of which I think are incredibly good value.

  • Logitech USB Desktop Microphone - It’s got a fairly flat sound, the stick design will break near the base after about three or four years of regular use, and I once had this weird issue where all audio was coming through amidst weird, garbled, static-y interference (stopped when I switched to a newer version of Audition, so probably software?), but I’ll dig my heels in that there is no better place to start recording your voice for online video and audio than with this fella. No fuss, no driver setup, a physical mute button (:thumbsup:!!) and some minor built-in noise cancellation. For some reason the model I got in like 2010 for $40AUD is now $100US, but you’ll likely get similar results with the $30 model. If you don’t want to spend ages saving and just want to start LPing as soon as possible with decent audio quality on your voice, this is it, and you’ll be able to use it until it’s literally falling apart.

  • Samson C01U USB Studio Condenser - The microphone I currently use (January 2017) and love to bits. The current model of the C01U is $90, and as far as I can see, the big difference is the headphone monitor output that you would never use as an LPer. The “OLD MODEL” listed is fantastic; for only $56 it stands shoulder to shoulder with the Yeti, at least as far as YouTube-grade voicework is concerned. The C01U keeps things simple; it’s nice and small, cardioid pattern, and doesn’t have any extra features (not even a physical mute button :broken_heart:). It just records rich, clear sound, which is exactly what you should want for your Let’s Play.

Those three, the Snowball, Logitech, and C01U, are good starting points for most people. Beyond that, there are dynamic microphones, headset mics, and other USB condenser mics. I know various LPers that do good work with mics across the board, so like I said: if you find something cheap, that sounds good, with good reviews, I see no reason not to take the plunge.

###[Software] Audio Recording
Did the microphone you bought come with some cool and shiny audio software? That’s great! Throw it out, because these options will be better and everyone else here will know their way around them enough to help you if you need it.

  • Audacity - The undisputed king, if you need to save money anywhere in the process, here is where you should do it. Audacity is completely free and can do more or less anything you’ll want to in your average Let’s Play. Just keep in mind that the interface is a horror story, and you’ll need to put in some work if you want to do more than just record your voice. Like, you should almost certainly download this regardless of what you do settle on, it’s the easiest and simplest way to record audio in a hurry.

  • REAPER - If you want a program with some more features and a reasonably-designed interface and you still have money burning a hole in your jorts, this is probably the paid software for you. I haven’t ever known other paid software to be touted by others (aside from our next entry), but last I heard, this is the program Chip switched to, and if it’s good enough for him it’s probably good enough for the rest of us.

  • Adobe Audition - Unless it isn’t good enough for you, in which case Audition had better well be. The current Adobe suite, Creative Cloud, is a monthly subscription, so if you’re tight on cash, this isn’t for you. If you can afford it, though, you’ll be paying for the Adobe polish. If there’s something to do with audio that this software doesn’t have a way to make happen and something else does, I have yet to see it.

##Part 2 - Bells And Whistles
So you’ve got the basics down, you’ve made a Let’s Play or two, and you’re having fun. Hopefully all that is true; maybe you’re waiting to read all of this before you get started. Maybe you just like reading. In any case, let’s look at the ways you can spice up your Let’s Play, from the videos to the thread, and how they can be applied to streams as well!

###[Software] Voice Chatting and Screen Sharing
Sometimes you just want to talk about videogames with another person or two. Unfortunately, nobody willing lives near you. Fortunately, it’s 2017 and we have the World Wide Webbing to bind us all together in the end.

  • Discord - The new hotness that just won’t stopness, Discord was made with Twitch streamers in mind. It’s like an IRC client for the modern era; Slack, but powered by memes and not under any pretense of being a professional businesslike program. Each Discord server can have multiple text and voice channels for groups to talk, and somewhat recently added voice chat to the private messaging system. Sadly the Discord team isn’t as quick about implementing new features as they are writing hilarious update logs, so video chat and screen sharing are still on the wayward horizon. For those, you’ll need to look elsewhere, such as…

  • Skype - The program almost everybody who still has it installed is chomping at the bit to wipe from their hard drive in favour of Discord. You probably already have this installed, even. It’s kind of a ghost town, the group chats were never that stellar, and it always seems to have a new niggling little issue every time I go back to it to voice chat with someone these days, but until another program has low-latency video and screen sharing in the same package as the voice chat service, Skype will be clinging on for dear life.

  • TeamViewer - I don’t have much need for screen sharing currently, so I’m not too familiar with TeamViewer, but I’m guessing it’s used in tandem with Discord for those who really want to talk on Discord. Is that right? Do people just use TeamViewer for that? Do they chat on it as well? Do they do business people meetings on it? Do business people do Let’s Plays? Yes.

###[Software] Advanced Audio Control
Yeah, let’s get nitty and gritty. If you’re sending your gameplay feed to a guest commentator, either for a live commentary LP or a stream, you want them to be able to act as if they were right there in the room with you, right? And they need to be able to hear the game to do that. What you may or may not have done back in the day to accomplish this isn’t really important now. Now it’s a lot easier, and there are options for both Windows and macOS!

  • Voicemeeter - If you’re on Windows, this is power. Voicemeeter lets you accept multiple audio sources, manage them as separate inputs, then mix them into multiple outputs. It’s hard to give a good example of how versatile and useful this is unless you’ve wanted and tried to do something complex with audio in the past and failed. Try and do anything with live audio and an online guest without it and you’ll see. The advanced version of the software, Voicemeeter Banana, allows for three physical inputs and two virtual inputs, and can output to two separate feeds, which is immensely powerful. Be sure to download the Virtual Audio Cable from the same website, VM is pretty heavily handicapped without it.
    GUIDE: Voicemeeter & You: Partners in Audio, by Bearpigman

  • Audio Hijack - This might be the only time the macOS version of a program out-performs the Windows version, and by leaps and bounds. VM and AH look to accomplish the same goal of giving the user more control over their computer’s audio. Voicemeeter is good, and Banana is really good, but Audio Hijack makes both of them look like Fisher Price toys. It can capture audio from any input device, any application, or the entire system, each as its own separate audio feed, apply any number of effects to it, then output it to any number of outputs or record it to file. Combined with another piece of Rogue Amoeba software, the Soundflower plugin, it gives you total control over all system audio at all times. Are you familiar with Bob’s Rock Band karaoke streams? The most recent one was made possible/easier thanks to Audio Hijack. It’s really good and worth every cent — of which you’ll need quite a few — you’ll pay.

###[Hardware] Facecam. Scarecam? Webcam.
Maybe it’s for a stream, maybe you have a unique hook for your LP, or maybe you just want to put your face over or next to your gameplay; that’s totally cool, even if it might raise a few eyebrows. If you’re gonna go down this route, let’s at least find something better than the built-in camera on your laptop, eh?

As well as Amazon links, I’ll drop links to the video reviews I looked at that I think give good samples of the feature quality of the various cameras. I think it should be obvious that the microphone quality (always poor) isn’t that relevant for a Let’s Play, since we’ll be using a dedicated mic anyway. Also keep in mind that you’ll likely be shrinking a webcam feed down to the corner of a video, so the best resolution and image quality may not necessarily be that important.

  • Logitech c920 (Video review) - By all accounts the c920 is the best webcam for money you could get today. It came out a few years ago and stood strong as Logitech’s flagship webcam with nothing else really knocking it down, even when the c930 came out for a significant price jump. Nowadays it’s decently affordable as a premium webcam that doesn’t really have any downsides aside from a maximum frame rate of 30fps. Last year Logitech put out an actual successor in the c922 (review), which does offer some good new features like 720p60 recording, but at the cost of about $30-40 more.

  • Logitech c525 (Video review) - What used to be at the $60 price point has now come down to about $30 and is a good place to start if you just want a webcam and aren’t too interested in the specifics. Of course it looks worse when stacked up against its bigger sibling c920 series cameras, but that doesn’t matter to you; they all look the same when they’re in the corner of the video anyway, right?

  • Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000 (Video review) - Also around $20-25, this is the cheapest webcam I could find that still had enough good things to say about it to warrant purchase, and one of the only ones that wasn’t a Logitech product. If you’re comparing this with the c525, the quality of the video in the reviews is all that I can really point to; and really, I don’t think you can complain much for that kind of price.

###[Software] Image Editing
Whether it’s to supplement a killer joke in a video or to create slick banners and video thumbnails in your thread, having the ability to create and edit images can be pretty handy and really enhance the production value of your Let’s Play.

  • Adobe Photoshop - You know, the program you had a pirated copy of back in high school/university. Photoshop is overall the best and the most popular, and Adobe knows it; amazingly this means that it’s the cheapest of their programs instead of the most expensive.

  • GIMP - If you wanted the power and feature set of Photoshop without spending money — and you wanted to not break the law — then it’s GIMP, no contest. It doesn’t have the exact same features as Photoshop, because Photoshop has more, but it’s very powerful and useful, especially for a free program. It’s like getting Blender instead of Maya, only GIMP has, like, a good interface, not a terrible one.

  • Paint.NET - Hey be careful that you don’t click on one of the big, green download links on that site! The actual download of the program is in the top-right, right underneath “get it now (free download)”. This is the version of MS Paint that got tired of waiting for Paint to get any extra features and just did it itself. Paint.NET doesn’t have the power or features of GIMP and Photoshop, but it also has a much simpler and, for some, more recognisable interface. For what I expect you would use an image editor for in Let’s Play, The capabilities of both free programs are about even, so it’s more about the user interface and user experience you’re after.

###[Hardware] Audio Equipment
"Didn’t we already cover audio equipment in Part One?" I hear you ask. We sure did; and you’ll recall that I said I wanted to stress the importance of setting up your space correctly for audio. So let’s make sure we’re all clear on the different things you can do to clean up the sound of your commentary.

  • Acoustic Foam - This is the stuff that genuinely seems to work like magic when used right. Walk into a room with panels of this stuff scattered around the walls and you’ll be met with the eeriest sensation as you hear what your voice and all other noises sound like with zero reverberation. If you’re doing commentary in a small room, you can put panels of it on the walls. If you’re in a larger room or can’t stick things to the walls for whatever reason, just glue some foam to some cardboard to create your own mini vocal booth that will sit around your microphone. It doesn’t need to be incredibly expensive foam, though try not to get something too dirt-cheap off eBay. If you can’t afford a couple of panels of foam to put something together with, the blanket method will absolutely work as well; you’ll just be uncomfortably hot fairly quickly.

  • Mic Stand - If you get a USB condenser mic, chances are it’s going to come with a dinky little stand for the desk that can barely support the weight of the mic at all. Even a cheaper mic stand or desk-mounted boom arm will be better than that, so don’t worry yourself about needing to spend more for quality. If you were going to worry about that. A stand or boom will help free up desk space and stop the mic from picking up every accidental bump of the desk. If you want to go further you can get a shock mount for the mic, but I personally don’t think you’d get as much of a benefit from that as you would just a stand.

NOTE: Not all mics will fit to all shock mounts (and also stands, I’m pretty sure). If the stand and mount aren’t included in a group of items on Amazon, do a bit of research before dropping the money to make sure your mic will fit. Often times they are designed for the size of stick mics, rather than bulkier USB ones. If you’re not sure and can’t find the info yourself, feel free to ask and someone should be able to help out.

  • Pop Filter - This one is nice and basic, and you’ve probably seen countless videos of podcasters or recording artists with one of these clamped to the mic stand and sitting in front of the mic itself. A pop filter blocks the wind from your plosives — the “P”, “T”, and “Q” sounds, as well as others — that really screw up audio waveforms otherwise, while not obstructing the sound itself in a meaningful way. If you’re going to buy one, prices can vary wildly. You can get a pop filter that will do the job for not that much money at all, and even then if you’re not sold on paying for one, you can go to your local department store, get some wire coat hangers and pantyhose and create one yourself in like 20 minutes. Pop filters are extremely useful and (should) only serve to make your sound better, so do yourself a favour.

Thanks for reading down to this part; hopefully at least some of this was helpful to some of you looking to get started. Questions of style and content are more subjective, but over the years, a lot of the technical aspects of LPing have been pretty well solved, so guides like this one should get you past these early hurdles and to a point where you can post your OPs in the Fortress of Feedback for, well, feedback.

Until next time, everybody!



I’d just like to take the effort to tell everyone to not use AviSynth to edit.

Don’t use AviSynth to edit.

The only reason to use AviSynth is if you’re using something else to export losslessly to Lagarith and you want to then export that intermediate file in a lossy way using MeGUI.

Don’t use AviSynth to edit.


I would add Nvidia Share (formerly known as Shadowplay) to that list. It comes with most recent Nvidia cards (600 GTX and higher I believe) and also encodes your videos. It does come with some drawbacks though

I actually might have to write a tutorial for it.

I don’t think WMM comes default with windows anymore. Or at least it doesn’t with Windows 7, 8, and 8.1. Instead you get an editor from a third party. For example, my laptop has ASUS Movie Director and my PC has Cyberlink movie maker or something.

You can get a copy of WMM through Windows Essentials, but according to Microsoft’s website they’ve stopped supporting it and the link’s gone. So your only option at this point is weird hosting sites. So, downloader beware.

Seconding the NVidia Share rec. It defers all the encoding processing to a separate chip - none of the resources that go into playing the game are used to record.

I would like to add that Dxtory let’s you use any codec you want, record multiple audio sources with volume controls, and can record video to two or more HDDs by spliting the file into seperate files on each HDD that can be joined together afterwards. (I’m pretty sure that’s meant to have less impact on your CPU)

Also I’m sure this will be added to the OP at some point, but if you do use something like Dxtory or Hypercam where you can change the codec, I would recommend you don’t use ‘Full Frames (uncompressed)’, because you’re gonna end up with a 125gig file for only 5 minutes of footage. I encourage you to use something more manageable like Lagarith for lossless recordings.

And while it’s a pain in the ass to master, I would recommend at least getting the basics of avisynth down so that way you can use MeGui.

For video editing, Premiere Elements does everything that most people need for a fraction of the price. If you need Pro, you probably a) are an advanced enough user that you already know you need Pro, and b) have a tech budget that can accommodate it.

I might actually give dxtory a go, if I can run a PS2 emulator on the side. Haven’t done PC capture in ages, but last time it was with FRAPS (huge footprint/performance hit). Any good guides/videos for a dxtory newbie?

On microphones, I’ve got a few quick items. Not sure if these fit nicely anywhere, buuuut…:

  • Good microphones are not a must-have, but they definitely have a lot of pluses. Even a bad microphone with lots of white noise can be cleaned up with a simple denoise in Audacity. I made do with a cheapo $10 LG set for ages.

  • The Blue microphones are good starting points if you’re looking for a nice USB microphone. Personally, I’m a fan of the Blue Snowball. The Blue Yeti works great for some people, but it is HUGE and super-senitive. Rather, it is very tricky to get it to not pick up tons of white noise.

  • If you’re in a huge room (massive echo) or a case where other noise is an issue, try encasing your microphone somehow. There are approaches on Google and the like, but the simplest solution is basically making a pillow fort in front of and above your microphone. I’ve seen other cases where someone has hollowed out nerf-ball and used that as a shield for the mic itself.

I’ll definitely be having some Things to say about microphones and the Yeti in particular, especially after seeing countless people immediately buy it as their first mic.

Also, can anyone experienced with screenshot LPs let me know the essential tools for creating one of those?

Speaking of microphones, I’ve been watching this youtube channel, Podcastage, where he’s does microphone reviews. I’m was mostly watching him because I was curious about XLR connected mics and audio interfaces, but he also does headsets and usb connected mics too. Any newcomers can use this as a way to find a decent sounding and cheap mic. He also has some tutorials that might help as well.

If you can code, you can technically use AviSynth to edit. It’s a lot of effort though, and I mean a lot of effort. I used to use it before I got a good internet connection that meant optimisation was pretty much meaningless. Here’s some sample code from one of my old projects:

Any GUI with drag and drop editing on a timeline is way better, although you can use something like FFmpeg to basically encode your AviSynth script into any format that you want.

Now I just use Premiere because editing is way faster.

Nvidia Shadowplay I’ve never been a fan of, and that was due to the fact that it tended to record in Variable Framerate (VFR) mode, which made desyncing of audio a massive pain in Premiere. Maybe it’s changed, but I don’t feel like trying to update GeForce Experience at the moment.

Possible suggestion: Maybe in the future have something about getting OBS set up? Ive been working with it off and on for awhile and haven’t found anything I like.

Updated OP with microphone and audio recording/editing software. I’ll hopefully make some adjustments and make some additions mentioned before I go to bed tonight, too.

Guides are on the todo list, as are a collection of useful links like audio hardware reviewers.

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To add to the microphone thing, if you are unable to set your microphone space properly due to reasons beyond your control (like how I’m stuck with obnoxiously high ceilings), make sure to find the mic best suited to your space. My Blue Snowball essentially became useless after my move because of the echo, so I had to look into dynamic mics to get proper recordings going.

I would like to stress that unless you’re really tight on cash and need a mic that can record more than one person, don’t get a Blue Snowball and instead get the Snowball ICE. You gain virtually nothing from the omni-directional setting as the EQ from that microphone capsule sounds really bad.

I also can’t stress the importance of a stability stand for a Snowball enough, even if you just rig something together yourself. The thing is damn top heavy and if you have, say, cats who love knocking things over, you’re gonna be editing out a lot of banging as it hits your desk.

I hate that the “Just put a blanket around your whole setup” thing works, but it does work.

I live in Australia and it murders me to do it, but it works.

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Even though I wouldn’t recommend it, you can record lossless video with OBS (by using x264 at CRF 0, controlling compression ratio with either ultrafast (fast encode but poor compression) or veryslow (slow encode but better compression) presets) instead of using something like Dxtory.

Don’t forget that XLR mics usually need a bunch of kit coming with them: Amp, cables and usually a tripod if you don’t want to be holding it the entire time. I’d recommend a pop filter, which is something you can make yourself with common items found in most homes, and if you want to spend more on better audio quality, I’d recommend putting the money into a shock mount rather than a fancier mic.

edit: oh, and since there’s a few cheaper ribbon mics on the market now: if you get a ribbon mic and an amp, don’t turn “phantom power” on.