How to record direct feed footage from iOS to a Mac or PC

By , Dec 6, 2013

Game Capture HD HDMI USB Lightning Digital AV

Lots of people have asked me how I go about recording footage directly from the iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. The process is one that is simple and straightforward with the help of a couple of hardware and software tools.

From time to time I will record footage directly from an iOS device, while at other times, I like to record the screen using an external camera so that you can see my hands as I work with the device. Depending on the circumstances, I’ve been known to switch up my methods for doing so.

The bottom line is that there are times in which you should definitely go the direct feed route as opposed to recording the screen externally. As the saying goes, there are many ways to skin a cat, but the method that I’ve been using has been working quite well for me. Have a look inside as I spill the details on what makes a successful iOS device recording setup.

The first thing you’re going to need is an iOS device. I like to record from all devices, including my iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Although this can be done with older devices that use the 30-pin connector, in this example I’ll only be using newer devices—the iPhone 5 and above—that sport the Lightning connector.

The second thing you’ll need is Apple’s Lightning Digital AV Adapter. This adapter allows you to connect your iOS device directly to an HDMI output. The Lightning Digital AV Adapter lets you output video directly to a television, and features a Lightning input port for charging the device while outputting video. In this example, we won’t be using the Lightning Digital AV Adapter to output video to a television; instead we’re going to use it to make a connection between the iOS device and video capture device via a short HDMI cable.

Lightning Digital AV Adapter 02

The Lightning Digital AV Adapter outputs iOS video over HDMI

The video capture device that I use is the Game Capture HD from Elgato. Not only does this device work extremely well for capture any HDMI source, it’s also fairly inexpensive and features a pretty robust software application. The Game Capture HD is capable of capturing video up to 1080p, and features an HDMI input and A/V input for capturing video, HDMI passthrough for displaying video on an external monitor, and a USB connection for connecting to your Mac. Needless to say, this is the device that makes this whole process tick.

Game Capture HD

Elgato’s amazing Game Capture HD is the perfect tool for capturing video

As its name states, the Game Capture HD is designed for capturing content from video game consoles like the PlayStation and Xbox, yet, it works great with any other type of non-HDCP protected video content as well. I should mention that I’ve used it to record a few Apple TV tutorials, but those are limited in scope due to the Apple TV’s implementation of HDCP. If you aren’t familiar with HDCP and what it does, I suggest reading its Wikipedia entry for more details.

According to Elgato, the Game Capture HD uses advanced hardware H.264 encoding to capture your gameplay in stunning 1080p Full HD, while at the same time, keeping the file size low. I’ve found this to be true in my experience with the device, although I wasn’t capturing gaming from a traditional console. The end-result quality of the videos captured from iOS definitely meet my standards, and will likely meet yours. There are quite a few settings to be found in the preferences for the Game Capture software, so you can play around with those a bit to create a precise capturing environment that works for you application.

Capturing Direct Feed Video from iOS

Capturing direct feed video from iOS

The setup for capturing content from an iOS device is like this:

  • Connect the Lightning Digital AV Adapter to the iOS device
  • Connect an HDMI cable to the HDMI port on the Lightning Digital AV Adapter
  • Connect the opposite end of the HDMI cable to the HDMI input on the Game Capture HD
  • Connect a USB cable to the USB port on the Game Capture HD
  • Connect the opposite end of the USB cable to the USB port on your Mac

Capture Chain

The finished “capture chain”

Once you have this chain setup, start the Game Capture HD software, and click the red record button. It should now start capturing the video input from your iOS device and saving the recording to a pre-designated place on your computer. It even captures input sound, which is great if you’re playing a game and want to showcase the full experience. As a matter of fact, I use this exact method for filming our We Play gaming series.

Game Capture HD Destination Folder

Game Capture HD’s preferences

Along with basic capturing functions, the Game Capture HD software features basic editing capabilities as well. Once you edit your captured video to your liking, you then have the option of uploading the finished product directly to a service like YouTube, or for sharing via Twitter of Facebook.

Another feature that I really enjoy about the Game Capture’s software is its live streaming capabilities. If you have a YouTube Partner account with live streaming enabled, you can use the Game Capture HD to live stream direct feed footage straight from your device. This function, like the rest of the functionality of the Game Capture HD, was originally intended to work with console gaming, but there’s nothing stopping you from using its features to capture iOS video.

Game Capture Live Stream

The software’s built in live streaming functionality works well

This basic setup is what I have used for quite some time now, and it is essentially fail proof. It’s cheap, requires relatively few parts, and, best of all, it just works. I highly recommend the Game Capture HD to anyone interested in bettering their iOS video authoring skills. If you’re not a Mac user, remember that the Game Capture HD works for PC users, too.

I’m interested to hear what you think of the setup described in this post. Be sure to share your thoughts, comments, and suggestions below.

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  • Prasoon Singh

    How can you show your touch input? Like a white circle showing where you touch?

    • Justin

      I think it’s a jailbreak tweak, because he doesn’t do it on his iOS 7 devices if you notice.

      • http://bnjm.org/ Jeff Benjamin

        Right. It’s a tweak called TouchPose. Look it up on iDB.

      • Justin

        Thanks Jeff. I am really interested in this, so I will look it up. Thanks!

    • Sound_Mind24

      is a jailbreak tweak call “display recorder” not what Jeff said

      • http://bnjm.org/ Jeff Benjamin

        You can use Display Recorder, but that’s not what I use to show touch input on my videos. I use what I mentioned below—TouchPose. It’s the better option by far.

  • Stayo

    Is there any easier methods???

    • CC-Dog

      Use AirServer on your computer, and AirPlay Mirroring from your device.

      • http://bnjm.org/ Jeff Benjamin

        Yes, this is an option, but it definitely jeopardizes the integrity of the final video.

      • Alex

        How so?

      • Sigurd Boe

        quality

      • Prasoon Singh

        I agree. I used AirServer before and it just squishes your iOS screen. I now have an elgato capture so I will try this method out soon once I get the two cables.

      • Alex

        I’m asking for details. Is the video grainy using software only programs with bluetooth, is it the bluetooth causing issues, is the video compression terrible and can’t be changed, does it stutter during record, poor frame rate?

      • Andrew Roth

        I’ve used Reflector as well as AirServer and can say that Reflector is much better and is cheaper, but it’s still not perfect.

  • thetomthebomb

    How much $ for all the hardware?

    • http://bnjm.org/ Jeff Benjamin

      About $220~

      • thetomthebomb

        That’s really not bad. I was expecting it to be more.

  • Suparjito Teo 

    why not use Reflector?

    • http://hbang.ws/ Adam D

      Lag and quality loss?

      • Suparjito Teo 

        nope. i made a video for my app. using Reflector to record the screen. no lag and quality is pretty good. you may check it here. youtube .com/watch?v=yjc6Cv_KWTA

      • http://hbang.ws/ Adam D

        Interesting, wasn’t the case for me when I tried it…

      • Suparjito Teo 

        Then i suggest you may try it now. because there are many improvements from version 1.6. :D

      • http://bnjm.org/ Jeff Benjamin

        Reflector works fine, but you still don’t get the 100% quality that you get from a direct feed. This primarily shows up with games and network intensive tasks. For your average demo, it’s generally okay.

  • felixtaf

    4.15 (In video), Jeff tried to dismiss the low battery notification of his iPod touch on the live feed in Mac! It happens!

  • felixtaf

    Top Secret revealed! Thanks Jeff. Have seen so many questions about this display recording in iDB’s youtube page… Finally answered with a neat video.

  • http://twitter.com/_conath c0nath

    If you were one of the lucky ones who downloaded xRec (or any other screen recording app) before it was pulled from the AppStore, you can just use that.

    • John Louis

      not on ios7

      • http://twitter.com/_conath c0nath

        Afaik, it >only< works on iOS 7, not on older firmware!

      • John Louis

        Are you sure you can use xRec on IOS 7? I was lucky enough to download, but when I use it on my 5s on IOS7, it does not work?

      • http://twitter.com/_conath c0nath

        My bad, it only works on >iOS 6<, not iOS 7. Sorry

  • Skymann

    What I’m about to suggest isn’t necessarily direct but depending on your router is close enough. You can do much the same with an Apple TV is you mirror your device. It isn’t compact and if you don’t have a good router or you do WAY to much it will start to lag.

  • Snailpo

    Thats not a micro USB by the way

  • Nabil El Hajjouti

    Juste use Reflector to mirror your iOS device screen on your Mac and record your Mac screen with Screenflow.

  • http://bnjm.org/ Jeff Benjamin

    Like I stated: for gaming and network intensive tasks, Reflector is *not* an option. You aren’t doing gaming or network intensive tasks in your video, which is perfectly fine. But people need to recognize that Reflector isn’t the answer in all situations, which is what I’m highlighting.

  • chumawumba

    Apple should seriously implement Mac to iPhone airdrop.

  • Andrew Roth

    How do you get the blurred background and device frame? Thanks for sharing this!

    • Jerwyn Feria

      It’s a custom video affect probably done at video editing.