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elgato game capture and syncing a mic

22 Oct 2013

2013-10-22 22:29:41 -0500

So in a week that just wouldn't quit (given that this is now the next week), I've been discovered all sorts of jacked up things.

I don't know if it's a problem created by 10.9, or just a problem I didn't previously even realize was a problem.

Basically, the elgato software doesn't always sync up the mic to itself properly. I'm talking about when you enable a microphone inside of the software itself. That copy of the mic will actually be out of sync.

I only know this because I happened to do a test recording where I just randomly started singing along with the menu music. The copy of the mic on the elgato's video track itself was on like a 1 or 2 second delay.

Once I discovered this, I did a few more tests. It seemed to be a crap shoot as to whether the mic would be in sync or not (though the out of sync copies never seemed to be as bad as the 1-2 second delay on the original copy).

my original sync method - enabling mic in the elgato software

This is why this is such a big problem: I've been using the elgato software as my reference track. Here's how it works.

I also repeat the process at the very end, so I can see just how far things have drifted out of sync.

The awesome thing about this method is that Final Cut Pro can use it for automatic synchronization. It just freaking works.

So of course, when I discovered that sometimes Elgato doesn't even place the mic audio in the correct place, that basically means that it becomes worthless as a syncing tool.

alternate synchronization - making the TV audio loud enough to be heard on the mic

Unfortunately, this just didn't work all that well. But here's how the method works:

So onto how this actually ended up.

First, FCPX wasn't able to properly synchronize the two tracks automatically. It didn't actually give an error or anything. Instead it produced a combined clip that was out of sync by 15 minutes.

Next, when I tried to sync it by ear, it also didn't work out very well. Though the TV was loud enough to be heard on my mic's track, it just wasn't loud and clear enough to be easy to synchronize with. Plus, I learned tonight that it just wasn't any fun trying to synchronize two music tracks, when one of them is crystal clear stereo, and the other has been recorded by a microphone that was never intended for that purpose.

To top it off, there's another problem with this methob. But maybe I should explain the reverse first though.

In the first method, once you enable the mic on the elgato software you can just randomly speak about things. You can produce whatever audio you need to produce to make it easy to sync later. Also, it's being recorded directly into the software, so it's quite clear and easy to hear.

However, with the TV sync method, you're relying on the TV/game audio to produce both sound (obviously) but also sound that is distinct enough to be easily synced with in post.

For instance, with Tomb Raider, I was often pausing in the middle of a single player match in order to take a break. At the pause menu, there is no music or anything. At that point, the only way I'd have to create some sound would be to randomly click around in the menu. I don't think that would be very fun to try to sync with. I mean, compare that to doing something like saying "1 2 3 4" and so on into a microphone. You're not going to confuse "three" and "four", but similarly, you might confuse your third and fouth menu change noise, because they're basically the same exact noise.

Now one potential solution would be to unpause the game and fire a weapon. Ya know, something distinct. Something easily heard. Something that would be easy enough to sync with.

The problem is, that's not always an option. And who wants to waste ammo like that?

the ultimate syncing solution - that I haven't figured out yet

What I've wanted to do from the very beginning was this: record the TV audio and the microphone audio directly and simultaneously to one device for the entire session.

By directly, I mean, an actual cable. None of this nonsense with using a mic that may or may not provide a distinct enough copy of the music.

And by simultaneously, well, that's the whole point isn't it? You need at least one reference source where the 2 things were in sync with each other.

And by the entire session, it's because it's nerve-wracking to do this method of having to remember to disable/enable the microphone appropriately in the elgato software. To be clear, I only left the mic on once by accident, and luckily that happened to be one of my test recordings. But the simple worry about whether it was left on by accident is enough to be slowly driving me nuts. I would much rather prefer that I create a reference track that is just going for the entire session. None of this remembering to start/stop, enable/disable appropriately.

Now this reference track wouldn't even necessarily need to be great quality. So long as it was good enough to be used for syncing, you could just throw it away in favor for the game audio captured by the Elgato software and the microphone audio captured by Reason (or Audacity or whatever).

The problem is that I don't have the equipment to pull this off. And of course, since I (wrongly) believed my first method to be working flawlessly, I didn't really look into what it would require.

I suppose I could split the signal from my optical audio processor in order to feed it into both my headphones and then something to record the reference track. Or I suppose I could just live monitor the reference track itself so that I wasn't having to split the signal.

Problem there is that (as far as I can think) I don't have the equipment necessary to take the headphone jack output and pipe it into a computer. I think maybe using the appropriate adapters and then a jack designed as an instrument input might work, but that would be mono, so that absolutely would not work if I were using that signal to live monitor.

Now, if I had 2 instrument inputs, then I could have stereo, but then I've got the problem of needing an audio interface that has at least that, and the ability to record my mic as well.

I swear, the whole thing just makes my head spin.

Frankly, given that the elgato sync method (the one I had used up until today) has been the least hassle, I may well just continue to take my chances with it.

What I might do is see about combining this method with something lower tech. I saw someone do a sync method where they would name out of the menu items as they were highlighting. To me though, it just seemed too imprecise. And too much of a pain.

Though maybe I can think of a more clever way. And the hope would be that it was just a one-time glitch ya know. That the method I've been using only failed (in a big way anyhow) that one time. And that everything else would be reasonably in sync.

Ugh.