As part of its Bungie Day festivities, Bungie unveiled the latest new service for Halo 3 fans, Bungie Pro Video. Now, those who subscribe to Bungie Pro -- which allows a larger file share and more storage for 750(~$9.38) per year -- can also render their saved Halo 3 films directly to a WMV video file on Bungie.net. We won't pretend to understand the technical wizardry behind it all, but we decided to take it for a spin and see how well it stacks up to other methods of video capture. After the break, check out some samples of Bungie Pro Video versus our own consumer-level capturing method.
The overall quality of the SD streaming videos provided by Bungie Pro Video is definitely acceptable. The colors are bright and the picture is fairly sharp. You'll notice some artifacts here and there, but that's to be expected from streaming video of this sort. The only shortcoming of Bungie's streaming video seems to be the player itself. Changing the dimensions within the source code doesn't actully change the size of the video, only the frame around it. Thus, if you want to embed it in a space that's narrower than 640 pixels (like, say, the main Joystiq content column), it's not going to look very nice.
That said, Bungie provides downloadable versions of all videos, so you can upload it to any service you like. Each video is hosted by Bungie for at least a month, but will be removed eventually, so you'll want to download a copy before then (though you could always render it again in the future).
Here's the same video captured using a consumer-level USB capture card, an Elgato EyeTV Hybrid. The video is noticeably blurrier than Bungie's SD streaming video, and the picture is darker. It's important to note that the video has been compressed twice: Once by the capture card and a second time by Viddler (you can download the uncompressed original above). Re-compressing the Bungie video would likely reduce its quality as well.
Bungie Pro Video HD 1280x720 via YouTube (Download)
Now this, this is something a cheap capture card just can't do (be sure to turn on HD in the player!). The video looks great, pure and simple, and it required no extra hardware at all. Granted, Bungie doesn't provide a streaming version of HD videos, so you'll have to manually download it and upload it to your HD video service of choice.
There's another caveat as well, depending on what you plan to do with your videos. Bungie Pro Video operates on a budget system, allotting each user five minutes of rendering per month. Consider that a single minute of HD footage counts as all five of your monthly minutes, and you don't get much. If you plan to use Bungie Pro Video a lot, you'll have to purchase more minutes from Bungie -- ten render minutes cost 100 ($1.25). Probably not ideal for all the budding Machinimatographers out there.
Summing things up, Bungie Pro Video is a pretty astounding technical accomplishment, and it should be great for folks who want to share their truly pro moments with the rest of the world. If, however, you want to be more creative, you're probably better off with a different capturing solution (there are even relatively cheap HD solutions, if HD is important to you).