When Nvidia revealed the GeForce GTX 780 in May, it teased a new feature that would leverage Kepler's video decoding block to record in-game action. Dubbed ShadowPlay, that feature is finally available in the latest GeForce Experience software update.
By far the coolest thing about ShadowPlay is "shadow mode," which constantly records gameplay to ensure that epic moments can always be preserved. With the touch of a hotkey, gamers can save the last several minutes of footage to an MP4 file ripe for YouTube. ShadowPlay also has a manual mode that lets users start and stop recordings themselves. The two modes can be enabled at the same time, and they can record simultaneously.
Much of the heavy lifting is performed by Kepler's built-in H.264 encoder, so the performance impact should be minimal compared to existing, software-only solutions. Nvidia says the hit is typically 5% and can reach 10% in "the most demanding cases." That said, the company cautions that the performance impact may be greater on SLI setups that churn out extremely high frame rates.
ShadowPlay records video at 1080p, and users can choose between three quality levels that correspond to 15, 22, and 50Mbps. In Windows 8, available storage is the only thing that limits the length of manual ShadowPlay recordings. Shadow mode's user-configurable buffer is capped at 20 minutes. Windows 7 users have to make do with a 10-minute shadow mode maximum and manual recordings up to only 3.8GB. There are some other restrictions, as well. ShadowPlay only works with full-screen games, and it's limited to DirectX 9, 10, and 11 titles.
To use ShadowPlay, a GeForce GTX 650 or better is required. So is a desktop system; the software doesn't work with Nvidia's notebook GPUs right now. ShadowPlay will be expanded with future updates, though. Support for Twitch.tv streaming is coming in a future release. Let's hope Nvidia finds a way to make the tech work with OpenGL titles, too.