The most frequently asked question I’ve received over the past 9 months is, “How do you capture Xbox 360 footage on your iMac?” With 2-5 emails or Flickr messages coming in per week, I figured it was time to publish a How-To article. It’s really not an easy or obvious process, which is why it’s such a hot topic. But it’s not impossible or expensive. It’s simply a matter of knowing what you need to get the job done. While I’m using an Xbox 360, the same steps can be followed for any other console – including older generations.

Hardware Requirements

Before we get started, there are a few things you’ll need on top of your iMac and game console.

Setting up the Hardware

Assuming you have already installed and configured the EyeTV Hybrid.

  • Connect the break-out cable that comes packaged with it.
  • Connect the S-Video cable from your Xbox 360 to the S-Video input on the break-out cable.
  • Connect the Composite to 1/8 Headphone Jack Adapter to the Composite audio cable (red and white).
  • Plug the 1/8 Headphone Jack into the Line In port on the back of your iMac. Note: The newest EyeTV Hybrid’s break-out cable has both left and right channels directly on it. If yours does, plug the Xbox 360’s audio cables into those.

Configuring the EyeTV Software

While it’s not the greatest capturing software I’ve used, EyeTV is very simple to setup. Before we started, go ahead and turn on your console.

  • From the Controls menu, select the S-Video input source at the bottom. You should now see the Xbox 360 dashboard in the EyeTV preview window.
  • Open the Preferences window and go to the Display tab. Turn Overscan on and set the Deinterlace mode to Progress Scan.

You should now see the Xbox 360 Dashboard in the preview window.

EyeTV

We’re not actually going to use EyeTV to record the video, so no need to bother with the recording preferences. The reason we’re not using EyeTV to record is quite simple – it can’t keep up. The product website used to boast that it could capture game console footage with “virtually no latency” (I’m paraphrasing here), but “virtually none” is not the same as none what-so-ever. And unfortunately, even a half-second delay makes the game unplayable while you’re capturing.

“Hold Up, I can’t Hear Anything!”

This was a rather unpleasant surprise which lead to a decent amount of frustration until I found a simple solution in the form of a freeware app. For whatever reason, you can’t actually hear the audio from a Line In source on the iMac. You can record it and play it back, but you can’t hear it live. LineIn acts as a pass-thru and sends the input source directly to the output. In most cases, you will need to set your options to…

LineIn

Navigate through the Dashboard – you should hear the sound effects coming through your speakers now.

The Tricky Part

I’m pretty sure this is where most people get stuck. You get the hardware, figure out how to get the audio to come through your speakers, then try to record and realize it’s virtually unplayable. Now what? EyeTV can display the Xbox 360 in real time when it’s not recording, so taking that into consideration – why not capture the capturing software which is displaying the video? Sounds tricky, but it’s not, really. There are lots of screencasting apps that could probably do the trick. I chose iShowU, as it seemed to be the most straight-forward and decently priced of the bunch. Once iShowU is installed, create a new preset using the following settings…

Open iShowU’s preferences window and set the following…

iShowU

  • Options: Disable “Show video in Quicktime after recording”
  • Capture: Change capture guide colour to something bright that isn’t used on your desktop or Dashboard so it’s easy to see. I use bright green.
  • Storage: Set the directory where you want your videos to be saved.

The last thing we need to do before we can hit that record button is set the capture guide in iShowU. Click the “Edit recording area” button along the bottom of the app window and a 640×480 overlay should appear on screen. Carefully place it over the EyeTV window so that the guide is only around the video portion of the window – you may need to do a couple test captures to get it perfect. But breathe a sigh of relief… that’s it!

Capture Guide

Where to go From Here

Once you have some footage captured, there are many options for editing. The new iMovie which is part of the iLife ’08 bundle is pretty stellar and the MPEG4 codec I suggested for compression in iShowU outputs a compatible file that you can simply import into iMovie.

After all of this, you may be wondering why I haven’t published a gameplay video since I switched to Mac last December. Honestly, all of this is too much work. For something as trivial as capturing video, it’s a hell of a lot of steps which took me months of trial and error to find a solid solution. I think the tediousness of this whole experience put a huge damper on something I used to love doing and I now I have little to no interest it in any longer. It’s not all bad, though. I have more time to play games now. ๐Ÿ˜‰

And finally, I figured this all out a few months ago and haven’t really touched it since. There may be a few other settings that need changed in the apps, so please point them out if so and I’ll update my article.

18 Comments

You must really have an older EyeTV Hybrid or something. The one I bought a few months ago did have the audio inputs directly on the breakout cable, and it played the sound live no problem. I’m guessing here that anyone who has a newer unit can skip Linein completely.

…now only if my EyeTV Hybrid worked I’d play around with this some more. Too bad TV stopped working on it the day I got it and component input stopped functioning properly soon after. ๐Ÿ™

Your captured image looks excellent compared to what mine did with the standard component cables. I wonder if that’s because of the progressive scan / overscan enabling or the S-Video cable itself?

@Andre: I picked up my EyeTV Hybrid in January, so it’s not that old. Still cool that they upgraded the break-out cable, though.

When you say component input, I assume you mean composite as the EyeTV Hyrbid doesn’t support component. And if that’s the case, then yes, it would look horrible.

I have/had the same EyeTV Hybrid as Matt and he is correct about the entire setup. It’s way too much work to get it recordings and it doesn’t play as low latency as they claim. I finally got frustrated with mine after about a week of testing and setups. Regardless, nice to see you share the info, probably save you a couple emails now

[…] under I-always-wanted-to-know-how-you-did-that; Matt Brett shows us -in detail- how to get screen captures from the console to your […]

I actually own the same EyeTV Hybrid and find it difficult to capture video and audio simply from my old VHS…probably a 29hz/30hz misunderstanding from myself…the result is a beautiful capture but a skip (jump) every 6 seconds of capture…very odd!

Now that I know about IShowU… I’ll be doing some testing soon! Thanks for the help!

Matt,

I just bought an iMac in May, and picked up this EyeTv Hybrid as well. I too wanted to actually play my Xbox 360 on my iMac using the EyeTv Hybrid, but when using the yellow video input, it looks like crap. No where near as nice as the one you posted.

Also, you said you were having issues with widescreen in another forum and said you were contacting Elgato. Did you ever get that cleared up?

Thank you for compiling this information Matt. I gathered from the article that I could play my Xbox 360 on my mid 2007 iMac, but from Brian’s comment, now I’m not sure.

Any tips for simply playing Xbox 360 on my iMac?

@Patrick: Sucks to hear you’re having trouble simply capturing from an external source. The EyeTV Hybrid has definitely been a bit of a disappointment.

@Brian: Yeah, composite looks horrible, even at smaller resolutions. S-video is the way to go for a capture device that doesn’t have component or HDMI.

Regarding the widescreen issue – no, it was never resolved. If you set the display settings in the console to "widescreen", the EyeTV software doesn’t adjust at all if you have the aspect ratio set to auto – it merely stretches the image to fit the 4:3 window. If you manually set it to 16:9, the window dimensions change, but the image gets blown up and significantly cropped. I had a back-and-forth with Elgato for a while there, but it was never resolved.

@Charlie: I’m not sure about the 60Hz issue. I was told by Elgato support that the EyeTV Hyrbid didn’t support 60Hz games at all and he named Gears of War as being one of them. However, I fired up Gears and was able to capture it using this method without any problems.

@Chris: Nope, you’re pretty much out of luck. You can’t use your iMac’s display as a stand-alone screen. Sure, you could use the EyeTV Hyrbid and set the software to full screen, but you’re just zooming the 720×540 image (or whatever the "normal" resolution is). It looks horrible and you are forced to use a 4:3 resolution since the software doesn’t properly support 16:9 = gross.

Thanks for the reply Mike. So, do you think the quality of the s video on the iMac via the Elgato is of comparable quality to hooking up the Xbox 360 on a regular non-HDTV?

I was considering moving my gaming from our living room tv on occasion to the iMac (when the wife wanted the tv at the same time I wanted to play).

I only ask this before I go spend $30 on a s-video cable for my 360.

Hey Matt,

The EyeTV hybrid worked out pretty well for me, although after about 4 hours of halo it starts to give me a headache. It seems like there is a blur associated with quick motions, and I’m wondering if it has to do with the "virtually not delay"

Anyway, I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing as it definitely limits the time I can spend in front of the computer playing xbox.

Thanks for the post!

With European EyeTV hybrids, it doesn’t work, because PAL-60 is not supported (PAL is normally 50Hz, but a few games don’t like the lower refresh rate – normally because they’ve been ported from NTSC (60Hz, lower res) with the minimum of effort). I have tried, but you get a poor quality picture with all the red washed out, ie. the little EyeTV Hybrid is still speaking 50Hz only!

Thanks for the posting, I tried everything except the S-Video cable to get the lag to stop. I bought the S-Video cable and the lag is still there. My iMac 2.4 GHZ intel core 2 duo 256MB graphics card is my TV, and I am using a Plextor capturing device..(top shelf set me back about $250.) with S-Video and AV built in. I am not looking to record but just play. Can you tell me what you did to combat the lag factor? settings etc…

Thanks Man

Casey

Hi ya, Thanks a lot for the help already. I was just wondering… Is there a way that you can record on a mac using this method and simultaneously play your 360 through your TV?

Yeah, you can use an AV splitter box (they’re not too expensive, but it’s not something that a lot of shops carry). That’s what I did to get past the lag – which was about 0.25-0.5 seconds in my case, far too much for game play! So the TV gets the lag-free picture and sound, and the Mac (muted, of course) records it at its own pace. The one I got was http://www.maplin.co.uk/Module.aspx?ModuleNo=3562

[…] tripod and record off the TV screen ii) More complicated, but more stable, by the looks of things: Matt Brett รƒโ€šร‚ยป How-To: Capture Xbox 360 Video Footage on an iMac Just wondering if anyone’s dabbled in this before as it’s something I’d like set up for an […]

Can anyone verify whether this works with a PSP + S-Video cable?

I have a PSP and the S-Video cable, which I have tried connecting to other recording devices (not EyeTV or even Mac products). The problem is that the PSP is a bit fussy – that is, if it is connected to something that it doesn’t recognize as Progressive-Scan compatible, it will refuse to run any games.

Now, I know the EyeTV is Progressive-Scan compatible, but it would sure make me feel better if someone could verify (or disprove) that the PSP will actually recognize it as such.

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