HDR screenshots and recording Star Citizen Gameplay

With HDR graphics being an option now in Star Citizen Alpha 3.20, I felt it worth letting everyone know you might run into issues with HDR enabled. The obvious quick workaround is just turn off HDR, but that isn’t always practical or desired. So, here are some things to keep in mind if you want to capture HDR gameplay.

First off, if you have an HDR monitor I HIGHLY recommend making the jump to Windows 11 if you have not already done so. HDR support in Windows 10 is inconsistent and haphazard. In Windows 11, go to Microsoft App Store and search for “Windows HDR Calibration”. Install and run and follow the step to dial in how you want your HDR content to look. You will be much happier with the results.

The built-in screen capture (Print Screen button) in Star Citizen will output a .JPG file in (default C:\Program Files\Roberts Space Industries\StarCitizen\LIVE\ScreenShots" , regardless of HDR being on or off. That said, I’ve found the HDR images to be overbright hot garbage. Regardless they are still JPG files, so not the best for quality.

Nvidia Shadow Play is often used by people to capture gameplay. The screenshots with HDR off are in .PNG files, much better quality due to not being lossy like with JPG. With HDR on, the captures are in .JXR format, aka JPEG Extended Range. The quality on these is also good, BUT support for the format is much more limited. For example, Discord does not support it.

I highly recommend Shadow Play (with HDR off) over the game’s built-in screen capture if you are looking for scenic captures.

Nvidia Shadow Play’s video capture is a different story. Recorded video with HDR off is captured in .MP4 files with H.264 encoding. However, with HDR enabled the file using HEVC. The Windows Photo app will link to a paid extension on the store to view. Depending on your setup, your video “might” look OK, with some software may look like oversaturated garbage. For example, if you play said video with Chrome, VLC, or uploaded to YouTube, you’ll get the following result.

Note that with some software (MS Clip Champ for example) it may look usable but not necessarily the best quality. You could also re-encode the video using a free downloadable tool such as Handbrake.

So far, my best results are with the Microsoft Game Bar Overlay with its included “clip” feature. Fortunately, it seems to be HDR aware and the results do not have the oversaturated playback problem above, and do not require the HEVC extension. This means you’ll not have to re-encode (Clipchamp, Handbrake) before uploading to YouTube. The primary downside of this feature is its limited to 1080p video. No 1440p or 4K.

Lastly, there is OBS, something I haven’t messed with much or have a lot of motivation to use here, since Game Bar does the job. Out of the box, my understanding is it has the same issues as Shadow Play. However, I’m told this can be solved with making changes to “color space” or something to that effect. I would appreciate it if someone more knowledgeable on OBS would reply on their recommendations here.

I hope you find this helpful, as it can be frustrating to capture a bunch of gameplay only to find it worthless. Let me know what you think and feel free to add your own observations.



The Spectrum post about HDR support and the user.cfg file edit.

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Thanks for that, I’ll need to review my HDR settings in game but I think I did dial them in correctly.

That said, there does seem to be issues with how some capture programs (Shadowplay, Gamebar, OBS) match or not what you see, and there seem to be multiple factors at play both in being HDR aware and settings. I’d recommend first getting HDR configured properly in Windows (HDR Calibration app mentioned above), then reviewing the settings mentioned in that Spectrum post.

Then take some sample clips with your capture program of choice and review the results.

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One thing to add regarding Xbox Game Bar that I forgot to mention. The screen capture outputs a .JXR file if HDR is enabled, but it ALSO makes a .PNG that is typically darker. So, every screencap creates two files. In addition, they are not limited to 1080p like the video capture. I probably should upload some files for comparison later.

In any case they seem to be of good quality and definitely preferrable over the built-in feature.

Edit: These are without any calibration tool.

Windows HDR: OFF
Star Citizen HDR: OFF

Windows HDR: ON
Star Citizen HDR: OFF

Windows HDR: ON
Star Citizen HDR: ON

Calibrating did improve everything, but the screen shots appear extremely washed out.