Fraps is a program for Windows which allows one to take screenshots and record video from DirectDraw, Direct3D and OpenGL applications. It can also display the current framerate in 3D games, whenever, wherever.
I got to know Fraps when a friend of mine was looking for in-game videos to use in her video presentation for school. Another friend recommended Fraps.
That's the phrase to describe it.
Fraps is small and simple. It hasn't got any special advanced features. Only the basic things are included, which I find it to my liking: you don't need to study a 500-page manual before you can use Fraps; it's practically plug-n-play - in this case: install-n-play.
First of, there's the FPS counter and benchmark tool. The first displays an FPS counter throughout the entire game, and is independent of the game itself, so that you can look at it wherever, whenever you want.
Secondly, there's the possibility to benchmark your games. It's doesn't work quite the same as all those other benchmarking tools, in a good way. Rather than using methods like 3Dmark or any of those other "artificial" benchmark tools, this one benchmarks directly on the game you're playing (which is imho the only true way of benchmarking your system).
Then, of course there's the ability to make screenshots, and the main prize, record your gaming progress in FMV.
Making screenshots is easy. In the application, you select the destination directory, and file format (the demo version can only do BMP; the retail have the ability to capture in JPG and PNG). Same goes for video capture. It automatically names the files, and the only thing you have to do is press the right key to start and stop the recording. While screenshot capture is pretty much unconfigurable for the rest, video capture has some additional options to set. You can select which sound source to use - the default of letting Fraps choose for you is sufficient, though - the fps to record in (up to 100hz), and whether to record in half-size (divides the game resolution in half), or in full-size (keeps the resolution of the game). Note that the maximum resolution to record in is 1152x864, but who wants movies in that size?
Well, one thing I can think of is probably the massive amount of disk space required when you're recording. Of course, this is tweakable as well: a resolution of 1152x864 takes up a lot more space than 640x480 of course. The other thing I've noticed, is that Fraps automatically splits recordings at near 4GB. This would be the normal thing to do on FAT32, but unnecessary on NTFS - maybe a feature request for a new version.
My friend (who recommended Fraps) also made the remark that it uses its own video codec. As a result, you can't simply distribute the video captures on the web or network, because the audience would require the FPS1 (that's what the codec is called), in order to view the recordings. I don't entirely agree with him for two basic reasons, though.
First of, the FPS1 codec is a more specialized codec. I tried it out myself: by converting the video to Divx (or Xvid or another), bitrate maxed out, the result would show visual artefacts, which are known to those types of codecs, whereas it's not the case with the FPS1 codec. Of course, the FPS1 codec consumes a whole lot more bandwidth, but sometimes, it's necessary to keep the originals; for video processing for instance, where it's not acceptable to have visual artefacts.
Secondly, if you're planning on showing the videos to other people, you have to recompress audio anyway, as it's uncompressed PCM. Why not directly encoding in MP3 or WMA or another codec: easy, it would take up far too much system resources, and the game would not run as smooth as all, showing hickups and such, even in your recordings (it's realtime, remember?).
In short, Fraps is a good application, and easily beats its competition, both by its abilities, as well as its price.