If you run an Nvidia GPU, which for better or worse is the majority of you out there, making use of the dedicated h.264 encoding chip (present on all Nvidia GTX GPUs from the 600 series [~2012] and newer) is the best way to ensure that recording has the least impact on the actual performance of your game, almost regardless of the processor you’re running. In a number of 3rd party recording tools you can use that built-in encoder (often listed as “NVENC H.264“), but by far the fastest and most intuitive way, is to simply use the official tools provided by Nvidia, via their multi-purpose Geforce Experience software.
Geforce Experience unfortunately requires that you sign-up for an account (traditionally, or by signing in via a Google or Facebook account), but it’s really not a problem for the vast majority, and the software optionally serves 3 different functions:
- Game Optimization – I wouldn’t recommend this feature to most advanced users, but it can be of assistance to the less informed. You scan your system for installed games, after which it populates a menu of games viewable as covers or a detailed list, from which you can launch the games and optimize them based on your hardware/resolution. It lists all of the settings out with your current settings and what it thinks are optimal, along with many titles having descriptions and screenshots depicting each setting. You can optimize each game individually, and even tailor it using a slider balancing quality vs performance.
- Driver Updates – You can toggle both notifications of new driver updates and/or the automatic pre-download of them. You can quickly see your current and the newest driver versions along with newly supported titles and the full patch notes for each.
- Share – This is the aspect we’ll be covering today, and it encompasses both image and video+audio capture, uploading/streaming to sites like Twitch/YouTube/Imgur, in-home streaming of live gameplay to the Nvidia Shield line of devices, and even streaming gameplay to a friend via a Chrome extension and receiving their M/KB or controller inputs in return so that they can play your game (a similar feature is available on the PS4). These functions require that additional services are run on your system, and some users have reported small performance hits in certain games with them running. If you don’t plan on using any of the sharing tools you can turn these services off temporarily/permanently by simply toggling the single button within General>Share section in Geforce Experience’s options menu.
Nvidia’s suite of sharing tools honestly wont cut it for professional content creators and particularly streamers (who are going to want to use NVENC in conjunction with something like OBS Studio), but it’ll do the job for the average user. The only blatant exclusion for simple gameplay capture is that while you can change your mic volume, the mic and game sound are mixed in the output file rather than separated into tracks. You can get around this by recording voice separately in something like Audacity, but you’ll have to sync them up in your editor of choice. Something like OBS Studio however is capable of recording up to 4 separate audio sources (game, mic, discord, and a music player, for example) and storing them separately within a single video file to be adjusted/muted/filtered in editing.
Your options aren’t entirely restricted though, as you have control over resolution and bitrate for all of the recording/streaming modes, your microphone of choice and it’s volume, which of the notification pop-ups are shown, and the hotkeys for all of the recording/streaming/screenshot/HUD commands. And again, all of the features of the program are optional, if you just want it as a recording tool you don’t even have to see the game setting optimization or driver update portions.
Sorry to AMD users and those looking for something with a bit more control, in future we may cover some alternatives.