How to Record and View Valve Demo Files

Introduction: How to Record and View Valve Demo Files

Hello, and welcome to my guide on recording Steam Demos.
If you play on servers and you notice people who are not following the rules of the server, I bet you'd like to report them. But you need proof before you're able to make such a claim. Luckly, Valve games such as Team Fortress 2 and Garry's Mod 2 have a built in feature within their engine called demos. This guide will go over what a demo basically is, how you can record and access it as well as go into some basic editing for uploading to youtube.

This guide will also assume basic knowledge of gaming terms like console and bots.
It will also assume knowledge of files extension and file directories

For any questions leave a reply or message me. I enjoy answering questions.
A few people have asked me to make this guide and goal was to hopefully help others understand the basics of Steam demos and how to use them.
This guide will also go into some detail on editing.
This guide was made with Windows 7 machines in mind.

Programs featured in this guide:
PlayClaw 3
Sony Vegas 11
Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

This guide was originally written for Team Interrobang and their servers in order to allow every member to post complains and allow admins to watch demos when away from a computer.


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Step 1: DEMOS

Continue on to the next step to learn about demos.

Step 2: What Is a Demo?

A demo is a basically a recording file done with the source engine. It records a whole game as opposed to screen capturing with only records one view. A demo can only be watched within the game it was recorded but they all have the same file extension .dem. You may have noticed on all of the TI servers a player by the name of Interrocam or Source TV. These are bots whose sole purpose is to record every game session and upload them to a easy to access download page where everyone can access them.

Step 3: Making Your Own Demo.

You can use the TI demos if you'd like, or you can simply record your own demo. To begin recording a demo, open the console (developers console must be checked off in the advanced settings) and type in "record demoname" where demoname is the name of the file. It is always good to name it with the date and beginning time. When you want to finish recording your demo, enter "stop" into the console. The demo is automatically saved in the game folder.

E:\Games\Steam\steamapps\sd2_123\team fortress 2\tf
E:\Games\Steam\steamapps\sd2_123\garrysmod\garrysm od

You have to go to your steam install directory, steamapps, your username, the game, and the sub game folder. The demo will show up with a .DEM extension.

All relevant data that should be implemented in a complaint post as well as a download link for a demo.

Step 4: Watching a Demo

To watch this demo, first copy it over to your game install directory mentioned previously in making your own demo. Then load up the game and open the console. To play a demo type "playdemo " and after the space, a list of .dem files will appear in a drop down menu that you can choose. The demo will load and begin to play.

Step 5: What to Do in a Demo

I'm only going to go over the basics of demos such as ticks and goto.
The demo will begin and you will appear to be spectating in a game. You can do all the normal spectating operations such as first and third person view in TF2, but Garrys mod is only fly mode. In other words, it's difficult to catch an aimbot in GMod via a demo. To open the demo playback panel, press "shift+f2". From here you can go to certain parts of the video using ticks and adjust speeds. When the Demo playback panel is open, you cannot move around.

A tick is a specific moment in time within the demo that is more precise than a second. Members who watch demos sometimes mention tick numbers. These are important and helpful if other members wish to look at demos as well. To go to a specific tick, simply enter the tick number when the moment happened and click "goto:". When ever going backwards in time you will notice the whole demo will load slower compared to going forward in time.


The following steps will talk about recording your demo with PlawClaw.

The program I will be highlighting is PlayClaw 3. You can use whatever screen capture program you'd like.

Step 7: Knowing the Basics

It's important to understand almost every aspect of you recording program so you can get the best quality without taking up too much hard drive space. Some important things to find out is audio setting and compression. When I first used PlayClaw, the files were huge and the audio was being saved in 5.1 sound. It was basically a straight up recording of in the same format as my PC setup. These are my current settings.

It yields about 3-4MB/s in file size and saves two audio channels, one for computer sound and the other for my mic. If I were to record something while I was still in game and I used voice chat, it wouldn't record my voice. The video is recorded into and .avi format.
Also, remember to keep track of your videos as our can easily forget that you're recording and it will make a very large file. An entire game session can be around 15GB.

Step 8: PlayClaw Basics

Here are some pictures that show off some of the basics of PlawClaw allowing you to personalize it however you wish.
There aren't that many options to change outside of a game other than where to save the files, hotkeys, startup settings. Everything else is pretty much done in game.

When you first start the game a blue overlay will pop up on the bottom reminding you the basic keys and how to access the PlayClaw overlay. The default is LCtrl + Backspace.

There are a number of overlays that you can toggle that will show you data on how hot your computer may be running. They can also be toggled on or off if you wish for them to be recorded as well. I Prefer not to have them recorded. The overlays I use are my FPS, the Codec stats (shows the recording time and size), and my GPU info

For screenshots, choose your image format and key. The pictures size will be the same as your game resolution which is noted at the bottom of the screen as well.

Here you have a number of video settings . These are the video settings I used that I find give me the best quality, easiest to work with, and smallest file size.

You can have two audio sources recorded as once. These audio tracks are separate by default and can be toggled by a key if you wish such as your in game mic. It is also wise to toggle "Transform to stereo" as YouTube doesn't work with multiple channels. If you don't plan on editing a video, it would also be wise to toggle "mix sources in one track" or else your second audio source would not be uploaded.

When the video is saved, it is saved with the name of the .exe, the date it was recorded, and the time the recording was started in 24 hour format to whatever time zone your computer is set to.


Eventually you may want to upload your video to YouTube or something similar. YouTube has video limits such as length and size that will restrict you. This is why compression is a handy bit of knowledge.

Step 10: Just Compress

I received the Adobe Master Collection from my school, and this came with Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5 and what this does is takes a video and converts it to a different format. It also has a handy Youtube HD preset with makes it less effort. The new format will be H.264 (.mp4) and the file size will be considerably less. Just drop the recording into the queue. As it converts you will see the video playing through on the bottom so you can tell if it's working properly.

Step 11: Editing and Compression

Sometimes I have a bunch of little snippets that I can to be edited together. Master collection came with their video editor Premiere, but that doesn't like to play well with videos in .avi format. I instead acquired Sony Vegas 11 to do the job.

The part that I like better about using Vegas rather than something like Windows Movie Maker is that I can view the two audio tracks that I recorded and manipulate them separately as I please.

The first step is to start a new project. Open up Vegas and start a new project. The default width and height should me in 1080p this is fine as we will change the final resolution in the rendering process to 720p. When uploading demos and such to YouTube, there is no reason you should ever need a quality larger than 720p. It just eats up hard drive space and lengthens your upload time.

Next, modify your workspace to your liking that will make it easy and simple for you to do everything you wish to accomplish. This is my current setup.

Now that everything is setup, locate the files you will be editing and drag and drop them into the Project Media. After they are imported, drag and drop them into the timeline. The video will then separate into video and audio tracks. Vegas will then build peaks, this creates another file for each audio track. it will have the same title as the original file but the extensions will be weird.

Now for the basic controls of Vegas that will teach you what you need to know for a demo video. Almost all of the important actions have hotkeys and are simple to understand.
The first two are for starting and stopping the playback of the video. Spacebar will start the video from the blinking marker that is placed by clicking on the timeline stream. Enter will start and stop playback of the video but will replace the blinking marker every time it is stopped and will begin again from there.

The next is for splitting up the video into different segments. This is done with the "s" key. It makes a slice in the video/audio (whichever is highlighted and grouped). When segments are sliced, you can drag parts and move them around or isolate an unnecessary chunk and delete it.

Scrolling the mouse wheel will zoom in on the blinking marker allowing you to go frame by frame if you want to be very precise with your editing. You can move frame by frame with the arrow keys as well if desired.

The delete key will delete whatever is highlighted.

When your edited video is complete, it is time to render and compress it for uploading. Save your work if you desire (I personally don't as editing isn't that hard after a while). Go to File>Render As...

I personally render it as an mp4 as YouTube works with that best when processing. Title your video with the extension .mp4 and select Internet HD 720p under the .mp4 pull down. Make sure the "Render loop region only" box is unchecked.

You video will now render. It usually takes as long as the video is long and will be in whatever location you designated in the previous step.
NOTE: I've occasionally had a glitch where the video was rendered as "filename.mp4.tmp". I found that by changing the extension by deleting the .tmp part made it work properly and is still compressed to the correct size.


Ready for YouTube? You better. Log on to your account and click on upload at the top of the page. Select your file and watch the magic happen... or don't. This will really eat up your internet connection and it is not wise to play online until the upload has finished. As soon as the video is finished uploading, the quality will be crappy, it will take a couple more minutes for it to process and the video quality will improve.


You now know how I work ze magics with the demos. If you know exactly what you're looking for this can be done under an hour. This is why exact times are helpful when posting a in the C&D section of the forums.
If you have any suggestions or tips I would love to hear them and other may benefit from them as well. Again if you have questions of any kind don't be afraid to ask me via post, PM, or Steam.

This guide was designed for Team Interrobang Complains and Disputes and editied for school use.


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