The Ultimate Live Streaming Setup

So you’ve been a gamer for a while, you’ve got some skills but you’re looking for something more. If there’s one thing that social media has taught us, it’s that even in this age of technological entertainment, sharing your experiences with others can make life a whole lot more fun.

That’s where Twitch comes in. In just 4 years Twitch.tv has gone from a small spin-off to a broadcasting behemoth boasting 100 million viewers every month – and it’s all for gamers.

Now with the likes of Pew Die Pie being seen by millions of people around the world – and even recently bringing out his own book, streaming has truly broken into the mainstream.

This phenomenon hasn’t happened in isolation. From Zoella’s YouTube videos to Lele Pons’s popular Vines, our generation slowly seems to be replacing traditional celebrities with real personalities (whether you like them or loathe them).

So with Twitch being the favoured source of streaming, how do you set up live game streaming? We’ll discuss everything from your social media aspects to your software/hardware requirements (as well as some ingenious hacks to help you along the way).

Whether you want to follow in the footsteps of PewDiePie, or just share some fun moments with your mates, our guide is the perfect way to get started.

Social Media & Vlogging

Vlogging – where complete amateurs can broadcast their talents on a single platform to reach a worldwide audience of millions. Covering a wide range of niche interests and building their own unique personas, businesses have tapped into this online sensation and partnered with them to boost their own popularity and sales. But now it’s time for a new contender in the vloggersphere – live gameplay streaming.

Partnering the vast number of vloggers with the concept of live game streaming has resulted in one of the world’s most successful moneymaking business ideas – helping vloggers increase their fan base while live game streaming has seen a tremendous increase in its audience, culture, merchandise and not to mention, sales.

Want to see just how successful Twitch’s vlogging players are? Check out the following stats:

  • TrumpSC (over 493,000 followers, over 67 million views)
  • LAGTVMaximusBlack ( over 161,000 followers, over 22 million views)
  • KittyPlaysGames (over 434,000 followers, over 12 million views).

How about the top games? As of writing here were the top 3 according to Twitch:

  • League of Legends
  • Counter Strike
  • DOTA 2

However, while many avid gamers will be keen to use Twitch, it’s worth mentioning now that there’s also the option of Valve’s Steam functionality. With Steam the original platform for games such as League of Legends, unfortunately it was lacking the in-demand feature of streaming – but this has now become available for gamers, after Steam Broadcasting went live earlier this year. It’s an extremely simple process, so long as you know someone’s Steam ID. Head to their profile then select “Watch Game”, which then sends a request to the player’s Steam client and if your invite is accepted, then it’ll start streaming immediately. We’ll keep an eye on the progress of Steam’s new service in the coming months.

Gaming Culture

What has originally been just a games-only experience has now turned into a live event – with streaming opening the doors to create entertaining and informative real-time content. Where people once communicated in chat rooms, you can now see players talking to their fans and demonstrating their techniques. YouTube was the first truly popular site that enabled players to watch pre-recorded footage of their games but Twitch took it a step further – allowing gamers to share live gameplay while simultaneously interacting with their audience.

Additionally, streaming has also shown people the different types of games available – with gamers flitting from the mainstream and finding out more about niche titles, which in turn has revolutionised gaming culture to create gaming sub-cultures. We’re now witnessing the rise of vloggers, and how their different personalities have helped make them the video stars that they are today.

But before we get carried away with establishing ourselves as the ultimate vlogger, let’s cover the technical stuff first.

Setup

With the majority of live game streaming taking place on Twitch, we’ll use this as our example. So, to begin broadcasting to Twitch, you’ll need desktop software that can record and stream from your computer, as well as a Twitch account.

What Software Should I Use?

Many users opt for Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) to use with Twitch for streaming as it’s free and simple to use – plus it’s compatible with both Windows and Mac OS. Once the OBS has been installed, the next step is to create the “scene” for your broadcast (i.e. choosing what you’d like to appear in the Twitch stream). Most scenes comprise three main aspects: the game stream itself, the webcam feed and the watermark (we’ll talk about the watermark further on in the piece). After that’s been done, register with Twitch to set up your gaming account.

For advanced features such as encoding, check ‘Use CBR’, select ‘Enable CBR padding’ with the max bitrate at 3300 or 80 per cent of your upload throughput – however, suggested bitrates for different resolutions are recommended below:

  • 1080p: 3000-3500
  • 720p: 1800-2500
  • 480p: 900-1200
  • 360p: 600-800
  • 240p: up to 500.

When it comes to your audio encoding, AAC should have a bitrate of 64-128 – however, this is completely personal preference as well as bandwidth constraints.

Which Accessories Do You Recommend?

We quizzed a selection of Twitch users to find out their personal recommendations – so here’s some advice straight from the experts. In terms of webcams, you can’t go wrong with the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 – with many of our survey respondents choosing the Logitech brand for both their microphone and webcam. Equipped with a flexible mounting arm and face tracking, the Logitech C920 is a top choice because of its hardware h.264 encoding. This is hugely beneficial as this takes a lot of the compression stress off your processor, while h.264 is the only supported video format for Twitch streaming. However, if you’re considering using the in-built mic of your webcam, then the Microsoft LifeCam Studio for Business has a great microphone that will pick up your audio from anywhere within your room.

If you’d rather forego the webcam and prefer using a microphone, then the Blue Microphones Yeti is the top choice of many of our gamers. Blue is a high quality brand, creating professional mics – with the Yeti edition offering more versatility due to its ability to record in stereo thanks to its multiple receivers.

If a dedicated microphone like the Yeti won’t fit in your budget, a good headset to go for is the Plantronics GameCom 788 which has great audio quality for its price.

What Pieces of Equipment Can Twitch Users Not Live Without?

So far so good – there are plenty of top brands to choose from when it comes to your accessories. But which pieces of equipment are truly vital to provide the ultimate live streaming experience?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of users hailed their PC as their one piece of equipment they could not live without. For RodRoy1, Extremepcuk and Scautura, a PC is absolutely essential, with the latter commenting: “The rest is just trivial. The PC is the heart, without it I can’t stream.”

For others, the most important piece of equipment is a game capture card – without which, the live streaming process just could not happen. Lewlewlive and kandosii both chose a game capture card as their equipment essential, while darkshadowvee prefers the Elgato capture card and belynz, the Avermedia capture card.

Not forgetting microphones, xNoizi favours the Blue Yeti while the Blue Snowball mic is used by lenedoesnotpop and petitMew, who mentioned that the “sound quality was far better than a headset.”

Creating The Game Stream

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Firstly you’ll want to set up the top attraction, your game window – as this is the main area your audience’s attention will be focused on. Add the Game Capture feature, and this will automatically open up a second window with a list detailing all the programs OBS can see currently running on your system. Choose the game you’ll be streaming, then click OK.

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Start your game up then add a new source to the list of sources listed in the OBS window.

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In the OBS window, select the Preview Stream option to see how your feed’s looking. If the game’s been opened in the windowed mode then it’ll display within the preview area of the window – but if the game’s in full screen, your preview’s likely to appear as a black screen (don’t worry, the game will stream as normal once the window has been maximised).

Don’t forget that you have the option to stream your entire desktop as opposed to a single program – which is usually favoured when broadcasting a feature involving multiple programs, such as a tutorial. It’s important to bear in mind that certain games may not work with OBS’s Game Capture mode, but these can still be streamed simply by broadcasting your desktop (which you can do by right-clicking within the Sources box and selecting the Add > Monitor Capture option).

Starting up your webcam feed

This is where you the vlogging aspect comes in – whereby adding a webcam stream alongside your gameplay allows you to interact with your audience. To activate this feature, right-click in the Sources box then select Add > Video Capture Device. Now you just need to choose whereabouts you want it to display within your broadcast – its default positioning is in the upper-right corner of the screen, but you can move its location by selecting the Edit Scene button.

A big part of streaming is the personal touch – where the audience is treated to an up-close and personal experience with the players. However, it takes more than just a webcam to get people to watch you – it’s important to let your personality shine through on your stream so don’t be shy!

Setting the stream

The hard part’s over – now all you need to do is visit the Twitch site and register as a new user.

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Select your name in the upper-right corner of the screen then once the drop-down menu appears, select Dashboard.

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You can check out a preview of your stream from the Dashboard, but it won’t display on the screen until you’ve connected your OBS with your Twitch profile. To enable this, click on the ‘Stream Key’ tab, then select Show Key and copy the code onto your clipboard.

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Open up OBS and choose Settings, then in the Broadcast Settings tab, pick the ‘Streaming Service’ and select Twitch. Next, copy the streaming key to the bit highlighted “Play Path/Stream Key (if any).”

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You’ll be notified that OBS isn’t optimised for Twitch, but don’t panic – it’s just talking about the screen ratio! You can either adjust these settings manually in the menu or even easier, just select the large Optimize button located at the bottom, then preview your stream one last time. When you’re happy with the layout, choose the ‘Start Streaming’ option in OBS – and you’ll see the stream appear within your dashboard over on Twitch. Just below the stream you can write a description and choose the game you’re playing, which in turn helps others find your channel quickly and easily. After that, it’s just a case of fine tuning and tweaking it until you’re happy with how it looks and feels.

Gaming Etiquette

Now you’ve got your streaming under control, you’re probably itching to get in on the action. That’s fine, as long as you know your basic dos and don’ts – but if you’re new to this gaming setup, then it’s best to note down the following guidelines:

DO practise good streaming habits – by letting your audience know what time you’re going live. By giving them a routine, they can fit their schedule around you.

DON’T troll. Did you hear about YouTuber Kootra getting a surprise live on stream back in 2014? Someone thought it would be hilarious to report the Counter-Strike player to the authorities as an active shooter at the place he was streaming from – resulting in a SWAT team storming his room, cuffing him then searching his premises. Don’t be that guy.

DO get involved with your audience. One common trait shared by the majority of successful streamers is that they paid close attention to each and every one of their new viewers – which in a fan base of thousands can be extremely difficult to do. Welcome any new people who join your stream, and if anyone has any questions about certain moves you’re playing, be prepared to answer them. If your audience begins to feel like a third wheel, they’re likely to look for a more engaging channel.

DON’T overdo it. While many streamers do it for the love of gaming, there are some who do it purely for the money – and if you’re one of them, then you may need to look elsewhere for your revenue. It’s only those that really put the hard graft in that can consider themselves successful enough to make it a living, but make these options available for your viewers by displaying them in channel art under your stream – you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by how much people are willing to give if they like what they see. Here are some handy tips for setting up your donation panel.

DO network with other streamers. It’s about being social, so practise this approach by being sociable with other streamers. Ask them if they could take a look at your stream and if they like it, then perhaps they could mention you – a little endorsement can go a long way in getting you noticed. Additionally, Twitch also offers the option for streamers to be part of a ‘Team’. These teams are groups of streamers that show their support for one another and have their channel shown on the team page. Look into joining one of these teams to get some traffic towards your channel, or see if you could create a team with another streamer.

DON’T be selfish. Just because you’re doing well it doesn’t mean that you should take all the credit – remember how you first started out asking for help? Apply this same approach to others getting started. If a streamer takes the time to give you a shout out, then do the same back; you’ll have gained a loyal fan, one who may end up with a decent following of their own.

BT Shop’s Top Live Streaming Tips

  • Background. Inviting your audience into your home is an extremely personal experience – however, be sure not to make it too personal by having an inappropriate background/room.
  • Lighting. Some prefer a well-lit environment for their audience to see them clearly, while others prefer mood lighting (such as dimming the lights to create an intense atmosphere).
  • Twitch Chat. Just as you’d be polite when engaging with your audience via webcam, so you should adopt this same policy when using the Twitch Chat feature. While the majority of people who are on Twitch will be well-behaved, be mindful that a small number of your audience is likely to be trolls. One such annoyance you may find is something known as a ‘Kappa’, the face of a former Justin.tv employee (Josh Kappa). This emoticon denotes sarcasm or trolling due to his ‘smug’ appearance, but if you end up being continually hit by this emote, follow these two steps to reduce this spam:

Subscription-mode. This stops non-subscribers from being able to chat in the channel.

Moderation. Streamers can designate moderators (both bots as well as real people) to monitor the chat. Anyone caught using blacklisted keywords receive a time-out, which over time will increase until they are permanently banned.

  • TNotifier. Want to keep up with any new followers or mentions? This program enables real-time notifications to pop up during live streams – ideal for Twitch.tv. It’s also extremely useful for those running fundraising campaigns, as it will let you know each time a new donation comes in (an integral part of Twitch, it’s not uncommon for streamers to do charity fundraising on this platform).
  • Prepare a good gaming monologue. When you first start out, it’s highly likely you’ll find it nerve-racking talking to an audience you can’t see. So before you carry out a live stream, why not do some practise streams? Get a fun and informative internal monologue going and before you know it, your conversation will flow naturally.
  • Create – and keep to – a schedule. It sounds obvious but you’d be surprised at how many people fail to do this – informing others as to when and how often you’ll be streaming will do wonders for increasing your audience. Put on Twitter and Facebook when you’ll be streaming, and word of mouth will see more and more people watch you stream.
  • Mic and music. Just as your webcam is beneficial for your stream, so is having a decent mic and soundtrack. A stream with an echo can be one of the most annoying things to endure, so if using a desk mic or an in-built mic in your webcam then you must wear your headphones. Another stream element that is proving popular is having music play in the background while you’re gaming – but if you thought you could play music from the same computer you’re streaming from, think again; as Twitch comes with an automated system that mutes recorded streams from playing copyrighted music. In this case you may want to try Twitch’s royalty free music library, or you could just use the in-game music. Just remember that whatever your sound setup, the balance between game audio, mic and music is crucial. Each of these aspects should be set at a volume that complements the other – but if this sounds like hard work, fortunately OBS has a means of allowing you to record streams where you can test your setup, watch your recording then adjust accordingly to suit your set up.
  • Watermark. Give your stream the professional touch with a watermark, the logo that shows up in the bottom corners of the majority of broadcasts. Simply right-click within the Sources box then select Add > Image. Choose your image and opacity, and that’s it – you can also position where the watermark will show in the final stream using the Edit Scene option.

Now you’ve got the basics of live streaming under your belt, tweak your settings until you find a setup you feel the most comfortable with. What tips do you have to perfect the ultimate live streaming setup? Share your streaming suggestions with the rest of the gaming community today.

With thanks to…

…our Q&A respondents for all of their helpful advice and handy expert tips:

RodRoy1
Chazzdoomington – @ChazzDoomington
Demise11 – @thedemise11
Billzy79 – @Billzy79
Smithy1294 – @Smithy1294
XNoizi – @xnoiziHD
Scautura – @Scautura
Lenedoesnotpop – @LeneMewww
Obzyer – @clayd442
PSUlive – @psudotcom
Darkshadowvee – @vincentmiriams
Belynz – @BelynzHD
Kandosii – @NerfTrey
Terrorhertz – @terrorhertz
Weefz – @Weefz
Kyyrie – @poobuns
Lewlewlive – @lewlewlive
PetitMew – @petitmew
Extremepcuk – @Extremepcuk
Tgshd – @gamesshed

If you have any unanswered questions then please ask away in the comments sections, we’ll be more than happy to help.

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