Table of Contents
- 1-A. What Is Movie Recording?
- 1-B. How Do I Record Movies?
2. The Settings
- 2-A. What Setting Affects What?
- 2-B. Why Does The Recording Stop Prematurely?
- 2-C. How To Set Up Before Recording.
- 3-A. I've Recorded The Movie. Now What?
- 3-B. Recommended Additional Software.
Hello and welcome to the World of Warcraft Movie Recording Guide for Macs! If you're reading this, chances are you're interested in setting up your Mac to be able to record your runs through the various raids and dungeons in WoW. And with the information in this guide under your belt, you'll be much more prepared to do so.
You will find the Movie Recording section within the "Mac Options" button on the game's "Options" menu. You can reach this by pressing the ESC key while playing.
1-A. What Is Movie Recording?
The Mac version of World of Warcraft can use the Apple Quicktime frameworks built into Mac OS X to actually record the screen while you play. It can even record the mouse, the UI (including your addons), and the game's sound. It cannot however record external apps like iTunes or Vent.
1-B. How Do I Record Movies?
Starting a recording without changing any settings in advance is simple. To start a recording, just hit:
Start/Stop Recording: CTRL + [
Press it again to stop the recording. If you have the option "Compress After Recording" disabled, you'll want to press the following to compress the movie into a video you can watch once WoW is closed.
Start Compression: CTRL + ]
Once compressed, you'll find the movie in your "Applications>World of Warcraft>Movies" folder.
2. The Settings
Within "Mac Options" in the Main Options Menu, there are a number of settings you'll want to be aware of:
2-A. What Settings Affect What?
This sets the overall size of the movie you record. This does NOT change your game's resolution while recording. It's simply the resolution of the movie file. Note that you cannot set this higher than what you are currently running.
This will also be the biggest contributing factor to the actual recording process performance, and the file size in terms of MB and GB the resulting movie file will be once compressed.
This limits the game's actual playing framerate of what the movie will be. It is the second largest factor in actual recording performance and filesize of the finished movie file.
For comparison's sake, all American and Japanese TV shows and movies are recorded in the NTSC format at 29.97fps. European and Australian TV shows and movies are formatted in PAL, using 23.98fps. Thus the European movies skip more frames, and appear to run faster than American versions of the same movies when run side-by-side. You can set the recoding framerate higher, but there's little need to do so.
The format in which your movie will compress into after recording.
H.264: Also known as MPEG-4 Part 10, is the generally accepted format for most all HDTV content out there today. It offers a good balance between quality and filesize. Use this for the best compromise between compatibility with various media devices and picture quality if you don't plan to do much post-editing.
Motion JPEG: An odd filetype. It's an old format with poor quality but tiny filesize. It was mostly used for most of the FMV's of older Playstation games like Final Fantasy VII. In more recent times, it is supported on the Apple TV at 35mb/sec at 720p. Not recommended for wide-scale compatibility.
Apple Intermediate Codec: Yet another format used almost exclusively by Apple. This is the best format to use if you plan to be doing a lot of post-editing with Apple's own video editing tools like Final Cut Pro after compression. AIC is by far the largest format, but like its name implies, it's designed as an intermediary format. It is completely uncompressed, and offers the benefit of less CPU crunching within Final Cut for easier editing. Use Final Cut to convert it to your format of choice afterwards.
MPEG-4: Or MPEG-4 Part 2, is an older alternative to H.264 with good compatibility. It ends up being a slightly larger filesize and of slightly worse quality, but works on slightly older hardware that doesn't have H.264 support.
Keep in mind that no matter what format you choose, the uncompressed movie that's being written while recording is in progress is huge, and will eat up the space on your hard drive fairly quickly. On a 1TB drive, WoW can only record for three or so hours, or less if you have a smaller hard drive, before it completely fills up the drive. At which point your OS X install and precious data may be at risk.
For best results, record the movies to an external drive that's not being used by either OS X or WoW. (see "How To Set Up Before Recording")
4. Recording Data Rate
The Recording Data Rate is how much data is being read and written to your computer's hard drive while recording. This is the number that the recording resolution and framerate affect the most.
2-A. Why Does The Recording Stop Prematurely?
In short, if the recording stops prematurely on its own, it's because you have the setting set too high.
The Recording Data Rate is where the speed of your hard drive matters the most. Mac Pro users will have a significant advantage over Macbook or Macbook Pro users even if the they have older machines simply because desktop computers come with faster hard drives. Laptop computers typically come with 5,400rpm or 7,200rpm drives. This is how fast the hard drive spins and reads/writes data. Desktop computers like the Mac Pro use the much faster 10,000rpm or 12,000rpm drives.
Your hard drive's speed matters more than your CPU or video card when it comes to recording. If the recording data rate is too high for your hard drive to consistently write with, the recording will stop prematurely.
This is most likely the cause of 99.9% of your problems if the recording stops on its own. 5400rpm drives can only handle around 35mb/sec while running WoW. This means that you Macbook (Pro) users cannot record that 1280x720p or 1920x1080p HD film you've been wanting to do. You'll be stuck to recording at something closer to 1024x640.
2-C. How To Set Up Before Recording.
Before recording, you'll need to set things up to make the most of what hardware you have. Mac Pro users don't have much to worry about. If you have a relatively new machine with a 10,000rpm hard drive, you can record your WoW recordings at 30fps at 1080p with very few issues. Macbook (Pro) users will have to set their recording settings quite a bit lower simply because of the slower hard drive. Something like 29.97fps at 1024x640.
If you don't have a fast hard drive in your Mac desktop, or are using a Macbook (Pro), you can get around the issue of the slow hard drive and the previously mentioned issue of putting your OS X install as risk in the above underlined paragraph by setting up a fast external hard drive and editing WoW's Config.wtf file to change the recording location that WoW writes to.
To change the the recording location, go to "Applications>World of Warcraft>WTF", open the "Config.wtf" file in any text editor, like TextEdit.app, then add the following line:
SET MovieRecordingPath "/Volumes/YourExternalDrive/Folderofchoice"
"YourExternalDrive/Folderofchoice" being the name of the drive and the file path of wherever you want to record to. You can get the exact name of your external drive by opening up the "Disk Utility" application, highlighting the drive within the app, and looking at the bottom of the Disk Utility window.
Warning: If you start a recording after you have edited the Config.wtf to record to an external drive while the drive itself is not plugged in, or if you typed in the filepath of the drive wrong, WoW will CREATE a HIDDEN folder on the Macintosh HD drive with the file path "Macintosh HD/Volumes/YourExternalDrive/Folderofchoice".
You will NOT be able to see this folder unless you open OS X's Terminal.app and type in the command to show hidden files in OS X. So if you are editing Config.wtf to point to an external drive, and you notice that your internal Macintosh HD drive is getting full over time for no reason, you might want to check on that.
To make sure this never happens, just set the recording button to something you won't hit on accident while playing with the external drive unplugged.
Also, the external drive recording method assumes that you are using a high-speed interface like Thunderbolt, Firewire 800, or eSATA to connect the Mac to the external drive. Thunderbolt being the fastest, followed by Firewire 800, then eSATA, then Firewire 400, then USB 2.
If the only options you have to choose between is Firewire 400 and USB 2, choose Firewire 400. USB 2 is fine for short bursts of data, but for continuous writing, USB 2 chokes pretty hard. Firewire was built with long continuous transfers in mind. USB was not. USB 2 writing speeds will actually perform worse than an internal 5400rpm drive in most cases when recording movies to an external drive. Don't use it if you have the option of a Firewire 400 or faster connection.
Notice: SSD drives, while fast, are NOT recommended for either installing games or recording videos to. They have a severely limited number of reads and writes when compared to the traditional slower mechanical hard drives. Using SSDs for continuous reading and writing of programs like games with texture caches, or as Photoshop scratch drives grossly cripples the life of the drive. Using them for heavy writing is strongly discouraged. Defraging them is especially harmful to their lifespan.
3-A. I've Recorded the Movie. Now What?
So you've hit "stop" on the recording, and are waiting for it to compress. What do you do now? The first step is to type the following into WoW's chatbox:
/console maxfps 1
The compression process takes a ton of CPU power to do it's thing, and WoW has to be running for it to do so. But if WoW's eating all the CPU power, that not only slows down the compression, it also significantly heats up your Mac to legitimately dangerous temperatures. Especially in a small enclosure like a Macbook. Limiting the game's framerate as low as it'll go during compression is the first priority. It'll speed up the compression as well as keep your Mac cool.
The next step happens after WoW is done compressing the movie file. If you've just recorded a raid run or something similar, you may wish to add your own soundtrack to the movie or edit out a couple wipes. For that, you'll need movie editing software. I'll list some recommended apps in the next section, but for now, let's just assume we're using Apple's own iMovie or Final Cut Pro to edit the movie in post.
No matter which format you choose to use before recording, you may notice that the movie file is rather large compared to movies of similar length you may have watched or downloaded off the internet. This is because the movie is significantly higher quality than most people need. You can reduce the size further without a noticeable drop in quality. To reduce the size of your movie, use your movie editing application of choice.
3-B. Recommended Additional Software
If you're like me, you just want a quick and easy way to get your new recording on Youtube without much editing. If that's the case I recommend:
HandBrake - http://handbrake.fr/
HandBrake lets you encode and compress most any movie format to whatever you'd like. It even has presets for the more common formats like H.264. Running your movie through HandBrake will compress your 40-man raid video to a much more manageable size with almost zero loss in quality.
VLC - http://www.videolan.org/vlc/
VLC is about the best media player on Mac OS X. Coupled with codec libraries, you can get this puppy to do just about anything from playing, decoding, to streaming from its own media server. If your video doesn't play on this thing, you're doing it wrong.
Perian - http://perian.org/
Perian is a video plugin for OS X's existing Quicktime frameworks. This'll basically let you use Quicktime Player to play movies it wouldn't have originally been able to run. This + VLC make a deadly combo.
AVI , WMV, Flash, and MKV movies via Quicklook, anyone?