What to Know
- Share your gameplay with the world, get feedback on your skills, and trade video game stories via a Let’s Play (LP) video on YouTube.
- Use a video capturing device like Elgato Game Capture HD60 or AverMedia Live Gamer Portable and get a really good microphone.
- You don’t need a high-end gaming computer but you do need upwards of 4 to 8 GB RAM and a lot of hard drive storage space.
This guide shows you what you need to record quality Let’s Play game videos, and provides some step-by-steps on recording and editing them.
When we say «video game content for YouTube,» we’re talking footage like Rooster Teeth’s «Red vs. Blue,» Achievement Hunter videos, Game Grumps, and TheSw1tcher’s «Two Best Friends Play,» to name just a few.
Pick a Game to Record
Your first step in making a Let’s Play video is an obvious one: picking the right game to record. If you’re making your game video for fun and to share with a few others, you’re probably going to choose your favorite games. However, if you plan to monetize your videos, you want to think about which games will attract attention and draw an audience.
The games you record yourself playing should be visually interesting in some way—even if it’s for how terrible the graphics are, for example. You want to avoid games that are very repetitive because these can bore your viewers.
Extremely popular games have a lot of videos dedicated to them on YouTube, to the point that YouTube is saturated with them. New gameplay videos of Minecraft, for example, are going to have a very difficult time getting noticed for two reasons. First, your Minecraft video faces competition from thousands, if not tens of thousands (or even more) of other Minecraft videos out there. It’s very difficult to get noticed in this sea of videos.
Second, with saturation, there inevitably comes audience fatigue. Fresh takes on a game like this can be hard to find, and people tire of them.
Choose a Video Capture Device
One of the main pieces of hardware you need, especially if you’re recording from a console such as a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, is a video capturing device. This allows you to record the video output of the game and store the video file on your computer.
Some gaming consoles have protections in place that make it a little harder to record your gameplay. Be sure to read what your video capturing device has to say about your console to ensure you have all the appropriate hardware and software components required to record the video. Also, check out a full guide to the basics of capturing gaming videos for YouTube.
Lots of video capturing devices are available to choose from. Popular options include:
- Elgato Video Capture
- AVerMedia AVerCapture HD
- Hauppauge Video Capture Device
- DIGITNOW! HD Game Capture
Some video capture devices support a microphone for live commentary. Video connection types include HDMI in most cases, with some supporting component or composite connections. The recording quality, particularly for producing YouTube videos, is fairly even among all of them.
All the devices mentioned above can record your console gameplay footage, even in 1080p. High performance does come with a cost, however, and a decent capture unit can run you anywhere from $90 up to $150 or more for the best units.
Choose a Microphone and Audio Accessories
Adding your own audio comments to your video requires a microphone. You can use an internal microphone on your computer, or the mic on a gaming headset; however, if you want better, more professional sounding audio, you want to get a USB microphone.
A popular choice among podcasters and many video producers on YouTube is Blue’s Snowball mic for around $70. You can also step up in quality and go for the Yeti Studio, also from Blue, for about $150. While any microphone records audio, you usually get better quality with a higher-end device.
We recommend recording your voice audio separately from your video. Though video recording software does let you record voice audio too, recording your commentary separately with Audacity software, for example, gives you greater control and options during the editing process.
Optional Accessory: Pop Filter
A pop filter (also called a pop guard, pop shield, and pop screen) is a simple filter that attaches to your mic to prevent the popping sounds that can be caused when fast-moving air hits the mic when you’re speaking into it. They diffuse and deflect the rushing air caused by pronouncing sounds like «p.» Pop filters can also keep spit from getting on your mic.
Pop filters come in a variety of types, from foam caps that fit over your mic to nylon or metal discs that sit between the mic and your mouth. Costs vary, but they are generally affordable. Even cheaper pop filters can improve your audio recording over having no filter at all, so if your budget is small go with a cheaper one.
If you’re recording and inserting video of yourself as you play, such as with an inset picture-in-picture, you want to avoid the larger disc-shaped pop guards because they tend to block the view of your face.
Optional Accessory: Mic Boom
A mic boom may be useful depending on your setup. It’s an adjustable arm that can be attached to your microphone and positioned more easily for recording your voice.
You can often find microphones, pop guards, and mic booms bundled together that can save you money and give you everything you need for professional recordings all in one package.
Ensure Your Computer Can Handle Video Editing
Trying to edit a video on a computer that’s not up to the video editing task can be frustrating, resulting in slow-loading menus and sluggish video playback. The right hardware is crucial for high-quality and efficient video editing. If you’re patient, you might be able to get by with cheap hardware, but that isn’t always true. Check the program’s hardware requirements before you purchase anything; consider checking in with fellow gamers in online forums, too, for tips on what to buy. A couple of key considerations include:
- RAM: You don’t need a high-end gaming computer to do some video touchups, but it isn’t uncommon to need upward of 4 to 8GB of RAM for some video processing.
- Hard drive space: If your game is hours long or high resolution (especially 4K quality), or both, it can take up an enormous amount of storage space. Consider getting another hard drive, such as an external hard drive, if your main drive has only a small amount of free space.
Fast Internet Access
The need for internet access is obvious, but a fast connection with good bandwidth is recommended. Internet service often quotes its download speed, but you may not find the upload speed as boldly advertised. This is because upload speeds are slower—sometimes significantly slower—than download speeds.
You’re going to be uploading your game video, so the upload speed is more important for you. It determines how long it will take for your videos to go from your computer to YouTube. For example, if your maximum upload speed is only 5 Mbps (0.625 MBps), it can take a full two hours to upload a 4.5GB video file to YouTube.
Video Recording and Editing Software
Your video capture hardware may come with software for recording your game, but it might not have all the features you’re looking for if you want to produce a truly professional-looking video. A free option for recording video is Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). This is a popular open-source application designed for game capturing. You can choose from a huge offering of both free and commercial video editing software.
Versions of Windows that have Windows Essentials installed can use the built-in Microsoft Movie Maker app for light editing, and macOS users can use iMovie. You might also consider more advanced (but not free) software, such as VEGAS Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro, or MAGIX Movie Edit Pro.
Audio Recording and Editing Software
You can use a free program like Audacity to edit the minute details of the sound file, and then encode it in the audio format your video editor requires.
Audacity is perhaps the most popular audio editing software among YouTubers and podcasters, and for good reason; it offers a huge number of features and options that make audio recording and editing very easy.
Recording clear and coherent commentary while playing a game live is not as easy as it may seem and can take practice. To avoid silences, or «dead air,» you can record your audio commentary after you record the video, and then edit it together.
Set up the Video Capture Device
A video capture device works by interposing itself in the video signal from your gaming system to your TV or monitor. The device then allows you to connect a computer, with a USB cable for example, and feed the video simultaneously to your computer where the video capture software records it—all without interfering with your gaming.
As an example, here’s how you would connect the Elgato Game Capture HD60 S to an Xbox One to record video.
- Install the Elgato Game Capture software on your computer.
- Plug an HDMI cable into the HDMI OUT port of the Xbox One.
- Connect the other end of the HDMI cable to the IN port on the Game Capture HD60 S.
- Connect a second HDMI cable to the OUT port on the Game Capture HD60 S.
- Plug the opposite end of the second HDMI cable into your TV or monitor.
- Connect the USB-to-USB-C cable to the HD60 S, using the USB-C end.
- Connect the opposite end of the USB cable into a USB 3.0 port on your recording computer.
- Turn on the Xbox One.
Using Audacity to Reduce Background Noise
When you record your commentary, your microphone may pick up subtle background noise. Here’s a step-by-step on how to clean up an audio track in Audacity and eliminate background noise.
- Click the Recording Device dropdown menu and select the microphone you’re using to record your commentary.
- Click the Recording Channels dropdown menu and select 1 (Mono) Recording Channel.For vocal tracks like game commentary, it’s best to record in mono rather than stereo. Stereo recordings shift with your position. This can be distracting for the listener.
- Click the Record icon and start your commentary. Leave a span of silence at the start of the recording a few seconds long. When you’re finished recording, click the Stop button.
- Left-click at the start of the waveform and drag to select only the span of silence at the start of the recording (don’t include any of your voice recording in the selection).
- Click Effect > Noise Reduction.
- Click Get Noise Profile. This samples the selected portion of your audio track so Audacity can clean up the background noise.
- Select the entire audio track by clicking the audio track details to the left of the waveform.
- Click Effect > Noise Reduction again. In the Noise Reduction window, don’t change any settings. Click OK.
If your video or audio data needs to be in a different file format (e.g., you need the video to be an MP4 instead of AVI file or the audio to be in MP3 format instead of WAV), try using a free file converter program.
When you have your gameplay video and your commentary audio ready, your next step is to combine them into a single video file that you can upload to your YouTube channel. You can do this in the video editing software you’ve chosen, such as iMovie, Adobe Premiere, or other software.
Tips for YouTubers
When you publish videos to YouTube, there are some important considerations to keep in mind and mistakes to avoid to keep your videos visible, and potentially keep them earning you income.
Avoid Copyright Issues
In the distant past, copyright issues were a huge minefield when it came to making gaming videos for YouTube, but things have changed. Many game companies have issued blanket statements allowing gamers to create and even monetize videos, with few restrictions.
However, you still have to be mindful of copyrights. This is especially true with respect to any music you might use in your video. Make sure you’re fully aware of the sounds your video has; don’t simply add a song you like during the editing phase without checking its copyright restrictions. YouTube might strip it from your video before it’s even published.
What’s more, if your video doesn’t comply with YouTube’s Terms of Service, its Community Guidelines, as well as its Adsense Program Policies, your video will likely be demonetized. If YouTube demonetizes your video, it earns no ad revenue for you. Obviously, if you want to make money from your creative game video work, you want to avoid running afoul of these policies and getting demonetized.