Streaming is a lot of fun, but it̵
Of course, you don’t need everything in this article, depending on what kind of streaming you’re doing. For example, if you don’t want to show your face, you can skip the webcam part without any problem. However, if you’re looking for a high-quality viewing experience for those tuning in, paying attention to the smaller details when it comes to audio and video helps a lot.
Check your hardware
Streaming is not an easy task for your computer to perform. It requires a lot of processing power to stream whether you’re streaming games or just a webcam feed. You need a fairly powerful CPU and GPU even in the beginning.
If you’re currently working with integrated graphics of your CPU, your stream probably won’t look that good (assuming you’re running it at all). And if you’re already having trouble running the games you want to stream, then that should be a good indication that you need a PC upgrade before getting started. Having the processing power to support your stream is crucial for a clear and smooth transfer (in addition to your internet connection). That doesn’t mean you have to spend thousands on a top-notch rig, but investing specifically in a better GPU is probably a good idea to boost performance.
The audio settings
Audio is an important part of streaming alongside video, so you want to make sure you’re doing it right. A lot goes into how your audio sounds, from the microphone you’re using (which we’ll get to shortly) to the room you’re streaming in. The two main problems you will fight are background noise and echo. Turning off items like fans and making sure your doors and windows are closed are good steps to combat the former, but echo is a trickier beast to tackle.
First, the echo largely depends on where you stream. Small rooms with a lot of furniture will naturally take away a lot of echo, while large, spacious rooms will produce a lot of it. Acoustic foam is the easiest solution to this problem; placing some on the walls will remove the echo and you will get a clearer sound while streaming. If you’re on a tight budget, some thick blankets hung against the walls can also work – you can even make your own foam if you want at a relatively low cost.
Acoustic foam also blocks sound entering or leaking out of your room – the latter is especially nice if you want to be noisy and not disturb others around you.
The final audio-related point of interest is pop filters. These filter out plosives while recording and we highly recommend them for streamers. Plosives are a loud sound that occurs when fast moving air hits your microphone. It is especially common when you say a word with a “P” sound in it. Some microphones may require special pop filters, but common options like Aokeo’s should work for the vast majority of microphones.
A pop filter
Speaking of audio, you need a decent microphone for streaming. While you may have a webcam or headset that you currently use as a microphone, spending a little money on a good microphone can significantly improve the quality of your stream. We’re going to discuss a few starter-friendly options here, mostly USB microphones for their plug-n-play nature.
XLR microphones are still worth checking out and provide higher quality audio than USB microphones. They usually need audio interfaces to work properly, which is another pot of worms, but the only XLR mic featured here, the Shure SM58-LC, doesn’t require such complications. But we will come back to that shortly.
- Blue snowball: For the money, the Blue Snowball is one of the best microphones you can grab. While it looks a bit unusual for a microphone, it delivers solid audio quality and is a great starting place for new streamers. There are no unique features to speak of – all you can do with software is adjust the microphone gain – but it’s still one of the best microphones on the market.
- HyperX SoloCast: If you’re looking for a more compact microphone, the SoloCast is part of the popular new breed of mini microphones. But don’t let the format fool you, it still records great audio and has some useful features like the mute button on the top of the microphone.
- Blue Yeti X: When it comes to USB microphones, the Blue Yeti X is the cream of the crop, at an appropriately high price. It offers numerous functions in the multi-function rotary knob, including gain adjustment, a hotkey for mute the microphone and dynamically mixing your computer and microphone audio. It’s a great mic if you want to sound good without getting into XLR mics.
- Shure SM58-LC: XLR mics can be tricky to set up properly, but the Shure SM58-LC is an easy entry-level option that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. It’s a dynamic microphone, so no audio interface is required to work for live recording. You can still use it via a cable like the Shure X2U, but all you need to use the microphone properly is an XLR to USB cable to connect it to your PC.
A good camera
If you want to include a camera in your stream, you might as well make sure it’s a good one. And luckily you don’t have to spend a ton for that; some of the more affordable options out there perform great for live streaming.
- Logitech StreamCam: As its name implies, the StreamCam is Logitech’s webcam specially designed for streamers. The StreamCam is a versatile webcam that can film in both vertical and horizontal formats, record at 1080p, 60 FPS, and has autofocus and automatic exposure settings via Logitech Capture. It’s a great camera if you’re looking for a simple USB solution, even if it’s pricey.
- Logitech C920x: The C920x is one of the most popular web cams on the market, delivering 1080p, 30 FPS footage at a not outrageous price. It doesn’t have any flashy features, but it’s a great webcam that should serve your streaming needs well.
- Your phone: Your phone probably contains a pretty good camera, so why not use it? Via EpocCam you can use your iPhone as a wireless webcam for your streams. It’s simple, looks great, and doesn’t cost a penny. While EpocCam was previously available on Android, it was removed after Elgato bought the app. DroidCam is a good alternative to Android devices that is also completely free.
- A DLSR camera: Buying a DLSR camera just for your streaming setup when you start out is too big an investment – these cameras don’t come cheap. However, if you already have a camera from Sony, Panasonic, Nikon or Canon, you can use those cameras as webcams. Normally you would have to use a capture card to use DSLR cameras as a webcam, but thanks to the software released by each of those companies over the past year, only one cable is now required.
Some other accessories
To wrap up your setup, let’s discuss a few things that can make your streaming life easier.
- A Capture Card: Capture cards come in many shapes and sizes, but Elgato’s are the most trusted for capturing images from a variety of devices. Whether it’s a fancy camera or your PlayStation 5, capture cards can be critical for certain streamers. For example, if you want to stream console games, you must have a capture card. Elgato produces plenty of capture cards, from the high-end 4K60 S + to the more standard HD60 S. It just depends on what resolution and frame rates you hope to achieve and how much money you have to spend. If you’re looking for something budget-friendly, KeeQii’s capture card costs significantly less than Elgato’s offering and works great for basic stuff.
- The Stream Deck: Another product from Elgato and the Stream Deck is specially designed to make streaming easier. With fully customizable LED buttons, you can edit your Stream Deck to perform a variety of actions at the touch of a button. Whether you need to bring up a particular screen on your stream or just mute your microphone, the Stream Deck can do it all. A variety of Stream decks are available from the original standard size model, XL model and now even an app for your phone.
- Some lights: When you have your webcam on, you want your viewers to actually see you. That’s where some lights like this one from Neewer can come in handy. These simple lamps can rest on your desk and provide ample lighting in your room. You can adjust the power, height and angle of the lights as you see fit, and all you need to do is plug it into a USB-A power source.
Now that we’ve discussed the physical equipment, let’s talk about the software that enables streaming in the first place.
- Steamlabs: This is the go-to software for many when it comes to streaming. Streamlabs features a slick, easy-to-learn user interface that offers enough freedom to completely customize your streaming setup. There is also the full power of the Streamlabs app store available, which offers even more features.
- OBS: This open-source software offers a lot of freedom for customizing your stream overlay and setup. OBS can be a bit tricky to get to know your way around, but it makes up for that due to the surprisingly low toll on your CPU – if you’re concerned about performance, OBS is the software for you. It is also available on macOS and Linux devices, unlike Streamlabs.
- Reliving Nvidia Shadowplay / AMD Radeon: Both software come with graphics cards from their respective companies. It’s simple streaming software that, while limited in usability, is fine for new streamers who don’t want / need anything complicated. Just want to hit a “Go Live” button and be done? Any of these will do that for you, depending on the type of graphics card you have.
- Disagreement: While not necessarily a streaming show, Discord will be useful to your streaming businesses. It’s the voice chat software of choice for most streamers and for good reason. Thanks to the audio enhancement features, the people you talk to will sound good, even if their microphones aren’t. This will save you some hassle if you want to stream with friends, while maintaining the quality of your stream. Discord also has a special Streamer mode, which activates automatically when it detects you are live. This will delete all private account information from Discord in case you accidentally open a screen you didn’t intend.
Streaming is a complicated practice, but with the right gear by your side, it gets a lot smoother. While there is always room for upgrades and improvements, building a solid starter set can be done without losing hundreds of dollars.