Capturing hi-resolution video from an iPad

We recently wanted to create a trailer for our upcoming game Flockwork. You can see the end result here, but we thought we’d share some of the challenges we overcame to make the video.

After doing some research, we concluded that there are a few ways you can make a video of an iPad game:

1. Use the iOS Simulator on your Mac. However, for most games the frame rate is terrible on the simulator. This usually only works well for non-game apps.
2. Use a video camera/digital camera to film the screen. There are plenty of Youtube videos that do this. However, the screen is often blurry and the color reproduction is poor. Also the screen is often blocked by a finger.
3. Use an iPad VGA adaptor and a VGA capture device like the iGrabber. This works, costs less than $100, but the quality wasn’t quite up to what we needed. In our case, we noticed a lot of noise and flickering. Not great if you’re trying to show off your stylish game!
4. Use an iPad HDMI adaptor and an HDMI capture device.

So, we decided to go with option 4 and acquired a Blackmagic Intensity Pro. This is a PCI card, so you need a PC desktop to plug it into. It’s not cheap, but the video quality is excellent.

To capture video, you’ll want a reasonably high-end PC. We found that the processor on a PC bought a couple of years ago (i7 @ 2.67GHz) worked OK, but we needed to buy some extra RAM.

Another issue was the hard drive. Because uncompressed high-res video takes up so much space, you need a drive with a very fast write speed.

We managed to find a clever workaround: we used a tool called RAMDisk to create a RAM disk up to 4GB in size (free version). As the name suggests, part of the computer’s RAM is used to create a virtual hard disk. To Windows, this appears as a normal disk – but of course with phenomenally fast write speed! By using the computer’s RAM as a disk we could capture a few minutes of video at a time, and this was perfect for the short clips we were capturing. For longer clips you’d want a fast hard drive or an SSD.

Here is a write-speed comparison of Hard Disk versus RAM disk (note the RAM disk write speed meter at 0.0 MB/s, i.e. off the charts!):

Click to enlarge

Comments, suggestions, or tips for recording video from an iPad? Let us know in the comments!

Juan Claudio Lopez

Juan Claudio Lopez is Business Development Manager, South America at ReignDesign. JC is from Chile and is currently based in Santiago.

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