Determining the gear you need versus want to start streaming
Let’s talk about equipment. Whether you game, host talk shows or stream IRL, you will need hardware. The reason why this is important is that you can’t create without these tools. Examples include a computer, phone or Streamlabs OBS. And certain things will give you an edge, especially if you are a gamer like a nice mouse and keyboard.
Before we dig in, let’s first address one of the most common misconceptions about streaming: you don’t need expensive, cutting edges to get started. Many of your favorite streamers got started with a standard setup and waited until their careers took off before upgrading. To stream PC games, the key things you need are a good gaming computer, some accessories and streaming software.
Also, if you are a content creator who is not a gamer, a lot of this section may not be relevant. You are welcome to skip. We are adding this section simply because a sheer number of people who are aiming to be live-streaming content creators come from a gaming background.
Hardware & Accessories
Some consoles like Xbox and Playstation provide tools to stream directly through their game or platform. These tools are easy to use due to their streamlined, plug-and-play nature and great for those just getting started. However, these typically provide few customization options.
Configuring a gaming or a streaming PC is beyond the scope of this course. There are troves of advice on this on the web and YouTube. Budget and your goals will be the largest factors in determining the exact build of your PC. That said, we do want to call out three things you should keep in mind: GPU, CPU, and RAM.
GPU (or Graphics Processing Unit) is important for all users when choosing your PC. The GPU will power the graphics in your games and help encode and broadcast your stream, so some respectable level of power is essential for game streaming. In addition, GPUs receive meaningful upgrades every year. While not necessary, they are still as frequent, if not more than CPUs. You will upgrade your GPU two or three times before you need to replace your CPU and RAM.
Ensuring your PC is packed with the right RAM (or Random Access Memory) for gaming is essential if you want to get peak performance out of your system. A simple way to think about RAM is multi-tasking. How many concurrent things do you normally do? Maybe you have your game running, Streamlabs OBS for streaming, a web browser with many tabs and a group-chat on Discord. If you are single PC gaming and streaming, 16GB is considered the standard baseline for AAA titles since RAM demands are increasing. To future proof your PC for new releases, 32GB of RAM is recommended. RAM is hardly ever upgraded since nowadays the timings and frequency are high end and static, meaning compatibility is no longer an issue. Once you get high end RAM, you won’t need it again until DDR5 becomes a thing.
CPU (or Computer Processing Unit) is an integral piece of hardware since its job is to carry out commands that you input into your computer. You will need to strike a balance between your CPU and GPU options. If you buy a specific GPU and then the CPU cannot support the processing speed necessary, it can cause bottlenecking to occur. This will reduce the quality of your playing experience and stream. Since your CPU determines other parts of your computer such as your motherboard, you will want to spend the time deciding how you will wish to upgrade your PC in the future and ensure that your CPU will be able to support newer GPUs in the future.
The #1 most important thing for a gaming monitor is the refresh rate. Do not assume that larger resolution or larger screen size necessarily means better. A large screen that refreshes poorly will make the game appear less smooth. There are three main refresh rate gradients, and each one will cost more money. We can’t tell you what to pick, but what we can say is that the most important differentiating factor among the monitors, especially from a gamer’s perspective, is a refresh rate.
Folks care about resolution, aesthetic, brand. These things do matter for some, and it is entirely up to you what you pick. For example, if you decide you want to play many tables of online poker on one screen, resolution might be more important to you.
A mechanical keyboard is considered to be superior to the non-mechanical keyboard. The reason is 2-fold. First, your input registers better. There is less chance of a misclick. Second, it is a lot more durable. Your AWSD will not be worn out.
When choosing keyboards, you have the option between wired or wireless. With wired keyboards you don’t have to worry about the battery dying and they are generally cheaper. That said, technology is getting much stronger for wireless peripherals.
There are volumes written about the mechanical keyboards and the switches so going in-depth here is beyond the scope of this course. We suggest you try a few out and see what tactile feedback you prefer.
Similar story as with a keyboard. We recommend you get a mouse designed for gamers. Why? It will be more reliable. It will feel better. It will be more durable. The teams that design gaming mice interview and study dozens of professional gamers to align on the design, look, feedback, buttons for these mice. They are designed with a gamer in mind. Our personal preference is to select a wired mouse. The number one reason is price.
Adjusting your mouse settings, specifically DPI, is something you can and should do after you purchase the mouse. That is yet another reason why it's best to invest in a gaming mouse rather than using a default mouse that ships with your PC. Typical gaming mice today come with software custom-designed to tweak the mouse settings.
Mouse pads are a critical part that many overlook, especially if you are trying to excel at a specific game genre. Gaming mouse pads are not expensive but will go a long way to improve your gameplay and overall comfort.
Consider a different mouse pad size for different genres. FPS players are known to have the largest surface area for their mouse pad for a reason. They want a full range of motion when tracking a player. You can pick a different mouse pad size based on the game you select or you could also opt for a large carpet-like mouse that will give you enough room for any game. You never have to worry about sliding.
Another absolutely critical part of your setup. Now we are getting into components of your setup that are useful for anyone and not just gamers.
Here are two key things to consider: comfort and wired vs wireless.
- On comfort, we recommend reading reviews and ideally trying them on in person. If you order something and it does not fit great on your ears, return it. It is okay. Few things are more frustrating than feeling as if your headset is heating up your head or sliding.
- Wired vs wireless is a simple decision based on all the research we’ve done. We recommend wireless.
While a headset is perfectly serviceable for new streamers, the quality may not be the best and you may not want your audio input tied to your headphones. Standalone USB microphones are very simple to use and deliver much better audio quality. Audio is probably one of the most important assets of a stream.
You want to be heard. You will be part of Discord groups, premades, scrims with your community. You are talking to your chat. In fact, you can be streaming at a lower resolution, not have a webcam, etc. and people will stay if your audio sounds good.
Any USB microphone will do. You don’t have to feel like you need to go extra-fancy unless you’re a professional, profitable streamer or audio quality is super important to your content (i.e. podcasters).
Of course, you need a way to show off the real star: You! For some skill-based users, the gameplay may be the real product, but even then, most viewers like to see and hear the person they’re watching play. A USB camera will help viewers get to know you as the personality behind the gameplay and commentary. Unless you’re on a laptop, most desktops don’t have a built-in webcam and those are seldom the best quality. A webcam capable of at least 720p 60fps video quality is the industry standard for most streamers today and will future proof your gear.
While some streamers will use external cameras like DSLRs, USB webcams are perfectly fine for new streamers. Keep in mind that image quality also depends on your bitrate and connection quality. Having a high-speed internet connection will improve your production values, game connection, and stream reliability.
With the PC requirements and accessories out of the way, how do you bring your gameplay and entertaining personality to the masses? Some games will have a broadcast function built where pushing a button is all you need to push your gameplay live to a linked account where viewers can tune in. This is similar to how consoles like Xbox and PlayStation deal with streaming across the board. However, not all games support this functionality and this is where streaming software comes in.
Great live streaming software gives you the tools to take your live stream to a whole new level thanks to the increased customization options available. The most popular streaming software are Streamlabs OBS, OBS Studio and Xsplit.
When choosing your streaming software, consider the following questions:
- Which operating system do you use? Some streaming software isn't available on all operating systems.
- How much support do you think you’ll need? You pretty much get what you pay for regarding support.
- How many websites do you want to stream to simultaneously? Your software should support streaming to a custom RTMP. If it does that, you can multistream. However, you may need to pay in order to use a third party service to multistream so make sure that your selected service includes them at a price in your budget.
- Where are you streaming to? The mainstream platforms like Twitch, YouTube and Facebook Live won’t be an issue with most streami ng services but if you have specialized content delivery networks you’ll want to check to see if they’re supported. Basically, make sure your software supports custom RTMP.
- What’s your budget? Finally, you need to figure out how much you’re willing to spend on streaming software especially when you’re just starting out.
Choosing the best live streaming settings for your platform is vital to a successful broadcast. Keep in mind that the best settings for live streaming are not necessarily the highest quality settings. When it comes to live streaming, your video quality and bitrate are important aspects to consider.
Video quality is one of the most important aspects of video in general. There are two things you need to focus on: resolution and frame rate. The resolution is the size of the video on the screen in pixels. A video is essentially several still images in a sequence which each image called a frame. So if the frame rate of a video is 30fps (frames per second), then it means that each second has 30 images. The more frames you have, the smoother the video will be.
For high motion games, you want to stream at 60fps. It is better to sacrifice resolution for fps when it comes to high motion games. Otherwise, you should be fine streaming at 30fps. Note that a higher resolution will require a higher bitrate and a higher frame rate takes more from your hardware.
Bitrate (Internet Speed)
You have a certain amount of available internet bandwidth and part of that is dedicated to uploading. Bitrates refer to how much data is sent through your live stream. A higher bitrate takes up more of your available internet bandwidth. Your video bitrate should always be 20% lower than your upload speed to keep your live stream stable. Always test things before going live to make sure you’re putting out a quality and stable stream.
Each platform has its own specifications. Although they might be similar, it’s important to know what’s different between them to make sure your live streams are stable and have good quality.
Here are the requirements and recommended settings for some of the more popular streaming platforms:
General Setup Ergonomics
The beauty of this section is that, for the most part, this is all within your control. That’s right! Limited to no money needed. General setup of your desk may seem like a small thing, but it is crucial because little things compound to larger things in the long-run.
There are three key things that we recommend.
- Maintain a monitor at eye level. You do not need a fancy monitor stand or arm for this. You can literally use books. Place a few books under your monitor to match your eye level when you are sitting down straight. This is key! Why? Avoid slouching. Good posture is not just beneficial for your health but will put you more in the zone. When you are sitting upright and present, you are ready to engage at 100% whether it is a game or a podcast or something else.
- Make sure there is some distance between you and the screen. You want to preserve your eyesight. Plus, it will make it difficult to process your screen if you are too close.
- If you are using a gaming chair or an office chair that has a reclining functionality, consider setting that to a stiff angle. Your default position will not be slouching, and when you are sitting upright and engaged you will be more alert and do better. All these small things add up. Let’s start the day strong!
Bonus If possible and yes, this one costs money, consider investing in a standing desk! Studies show that these are healthy.