A Cheap and Cheerful Capture Device That is Worth Every Cent and More
Human Things is a small team of console (Switch mainly it seems) enthusiasts who have built a near perfect record of creating high-quality third-party devices for your console. Their first device which was also crowd funded is the excellent Bluetooth audio transmitter for the Switch. For whatever reason Nintendo did not spec and install a Bluetooth transmitter into the Switch meaning that you had to use wired headsets if you wanted to be considerate of anyone around you. While slightly bulky, the first version was by far the best adapter you could buy and cheap too. After revising the adapter to be slimmer and creating a portable charger/dock solution Human Things have set their sights on the booming streaming market with the Shadowcast.
The Shadowcast is billed first and foremost as a way to output your console video to a laptop. This simple little device is recognised as a webcam by your PC and using the (very bare bones) Genki Arcade app you can play your Switch game on a larger screen without the need for a dock. Actually the Shadowcast is quite simply a very, very small dock in effect and the addition of the Genki Arcade app turns it into a capture device.
In the box you will find the Shadowcast, a USB Type C to Type C cable, though if your PC doesn’t have a Type C port it will work with a Type A to Type C cable, and the manual. Unlike other external capture devices that has an HDMI in, an HDMI out and a USB port, the Shadowcast does not mirror your video output to a PC. Physical setup is simple, plug one end of the cable into your PC, one into the Shadowcast and your Shadowcast into your HDMI out port of your Switch. This does mean that for the Switch you need to dock but handily Genki makes the aforementioned portable dock, so you won’t need to carry an official dock all over the place.
Using it on my set top consoles was just as simple, but it did prevent me from outputting my gameplay to my TV and my capture feed to the PC. But using the Genki Arcade App your game output and capture feed are the same. This brings up the issue of latency and while Genki advertises latency of 20ms which to me is not noticeable. In competitive games where every millisecond counts, this may be too much, but for the average player, even in competitive games, I doubt that this will be noticeable.
While the Shadowcast itself is quite an engineering feat, it is nothing without an app to run it. The Shadowcast is advertised to be compatible with OBS, XSplit and a handful of other broadcast and capture programs. However, if you just want a simple, plug and play app you can use the Genki Arcade app, Human Things’ first attempt at software. For the first attempt it is impressive, if simple. Launching it with the console on and the picture just appeared. No messing with settings in the app or Windows, it just worked. From the app you can specify a specific directory to capture footage and screenshots, a simple interface to prioritise either resolution or performance (framerate) and volume.
The Shadowcast can capture either 4K/30FPS or 1080p/60FPS, the Resolution and Performance settings in Genki Arcade. The app does not support any codecs besides what I assume is a webcam container and screen shots will only be captured in JPEG. I did try and use OBS by setting up the Shadowcast as an external capture device. But no matter what settings I tried; I could only use OBS to capture the desktop i.e. I had to run everything through the Genki Arcade and then use OBS to record or stream my desktop. OBS would recognise the Shadowcast as an external capture device and would pick up the audio, but not the video. I tried another program (Mirillis’ Action!) and had the same issue.
This is the major issue I have with the Shadowcast, the aftersales support. The website has almost no information beyond the crowdfunding marketing materials. The manual itself is a simple start up guide – sort of. It is two pages of not much information let alone details on physical or software set up. In fact there is not even a URL pointing you to the Genki Arcade app I just knew it was on their website and had to search around the site for it. Checking on the web there are not many guides at all as the device is still new and only shipping to Kickstarter backers although I have read a latency report where the writer seems to have got OBS working with the Shadowcast. I did tweet at the official account but have yet to hear back from them.
Despite this, the picture quality is excellent and as stated latency is barely noticeable. Using the Genki Arcade App is easy to use, but as a quality-of-life upgrade in the next version I would be happy to see them add hot keys to the app enabling you to hit one key to stop/start recording and to take screens. As an interim measure I have had to create keyboard macro recordings to simulate this functionality – a mild irritation, but an irritation, nonetheless.
Human Things’ Shadowcast is an affordable, at $40, mini capture device for anyone wanting to start their way in the video capture and streaming game. As a piece of hardware I don’t see much room for improvement, and while the Genki Arcade app is functional, it is a weak link. Human Things’ also needs to invest in support or at least set up guides on how to use it with more powerful capture software. This is a device I will use consistently and is definitely something to keep in my little bag of tricks either at home or on the go.
Software8/10 Very Good
Ease of Setup9/10 Amazing
- Easy to setup
- Poor aftersales support
- Integration with more popular software needs work