Welcome to our guide on streaming! After searching the internet for a good comprehensive guide on streaming, we felt it was a bit lacking. There are many specific guides but few combine all the information you’ll need into one handy, easy to read, picture-filled article. If you want to start streaming, this is the place to be. We’ll walk you through the basics and also whet your appetite by touching upon some of the more complex streaming things that you’ll need to know.
Streaming is simply recording yourself playing a game so others can watch. This is usually done live, and usually involves a mixture of being entertaining and decent at a specific game. Not all streamers start with producing live content though! Some use highlight reels of great gameplay and post them to long-term content providers such as YouTube. Several streamers have started out as YouTube personalities such as NightBlue3 and then branched out into streaming.
You are probably familiar with sites such as Twitch and Mixer. In fact, streaming is so popular that Twitch alone has 100 Million new viewers per month. As an industry, streaming continues to grow immensely becoming one of the most popular and enjoyable ways to embrace gaming.
So, it’s natural after watching some streams and being a gamer for some of us to jump in and start our own streaming journey! It’s also natural to be a bit confused in the beginning. If you have never streamed before or just want a brush up on some broadcasting tips and terms, our guide is for you. In this guide we cover,
Most guides on the internet lack a comprehensive touch so we’ve compiled our own stream guide to help you become a stream superstar. Depending on how deep you want to go down the streaming rabbit hole, there are a ton of accessories you can buy as well. I'll list my favorites as we go, but you don't necessarily need all of them so make sure to do your own research to find exactly what you need!
Streaming isn’t one-size fits all, rather it’s a creative art. Every streamer does things a little bit different and there are limitless set-ups you can have. There are different streaming software bundles, streaming services you can broadcast from, and even unique devices that capture footage for editing and live broadcast. The equipment can vary immensely but every decent set-up has a few essential parts.
These three things are needed for a good starting broadcast but there are also other items to consider for making your stream quality competitive (Mic, Camera, good PC, Capture Card). We cover all of that so get ready to learn!
The first requirement of streaming is a device to play games on! Seems obvious enough, eh? While your device may be capable of playing games, it might require outside hardware to stream. Currently any modern PC/Mac, PS4, or Xbox One is capable of streaming through the device. For those using Nintendo products or vintage consoles, unfortunately, a separate PC is required. Still, don’t despair at the situation, it’s easy to set-up a stream with a Nintendo product if you have the right equipment.
You are about to start encountering some industry Jargon. Streaming has its own vocabulary so we’ll do our best to break down terms as we go. If you get lost, just scroll back on up and look over a section. Once it clicks, you’ll never forget it.
PC setups fall into two simple options. A Single System PC setup (Such as a desktop or laptop computer) and a Dual system set-up. What’s the difference?
A single system setup is just a PC that streams while concurrently playing a game. So technically an ordinary laptop can be defined as a single system setup. This is great for starting streamers but since streaming can be CPU intensive, it can affect everything from game quality to stream quality if you concurrently broadcast on a single system. We recommend pursuing a better set-up including multiple monitors. Single systems are the easiest to use and require very little technical knowledge but its natural to outgrow them. Streamers learned to get around the technical limitations of streaming by using two interconnected PCs.
A dual system setup uses two computers. One computer plays a game and merely sends the footage to an outside source (A capture card) similar to plugging a computer into a secondary monitor. All that is sent is visual and audio data such as an HDMI signal. The advantage to this is two-fold.
First streaming can be a bit intensive on your computer, running OBS software, camera software, and more in the background may affect your framerate. Secondly, broadcast software comes in many flavors but often can conflict with the games you play. It’s not designed to concurrently capture, encode signal into a digital file, and send it online. All of this creates a massive opportunity for broadcast failures.
So with a dual system set-up, a primary PC runs and plays the game, this PC is connected to a Capture Card (A special piece of hardware that encodes video data) that is either connected to or directly part of a secondary PC. The secondary PC records the visual and audio footage while simultaneously allowing it to broadcast. Since a separate PC is doing all the recording and broadcasting, the stream has less lag and fewer issues overall. This is the best set-up for streaming. You can use a single PC as well to simulate the exact same process with consoles.
PS4 and Xbox One both have streaming software hardwired into the console itself. Streaming is extremely easy with both of them. We’ll cover this in depth below. Ultimately though, you’ll want to connect your Console to a PC when you start feeling confident with your streams. Connecting to a PC has several huge advantages, for instance, you get access to the same quality streaming software that a PC User has, it allows you to save your footage (And excess footage) and you have better peripheral support. Most consoles have one HDMI slot and can handle a couple of controllers. With a PC you can use multi-monitor set-ups to watch your feeds, configure different quality audio set-ups on the fly, and separate your headset from an actual high-quality microphone. Beyond that, it allows you to use any streaming service and is necessary for Nintendo products.
Once you start creating and producing content, you still need somewhere where you can send your content to so that people can view it live and afterward as well. Streamers have a great selection of free streaming options that really aren’t better or worse so much as different. Most streamers use a mix of services so we’ve included some of the unique features found on each streaming site.
Unique Features: Largest audience. The most trusted platform. Excellent with consoles such as PS4 and Nintendo products. Niche for vintage gamers and some other minor audiences. Best monetization.
The mother of all modern streaming sites. Twitch is one of the most visited websites in the world at any given time. As a streamer on Twitch, you have access to the largest streaming audience and all the features you will generally need to create a diverse platform. As the prime streaming option, other services can’t compete with the sheer widespread use of Twitch.
Both Mixer and YouTube (In relation to gaming) struggle to get as many viewers as Twitch. They have a very diverse set of features for creating profiles, storing content, interacting with your audience, and conventions such as TwitchCon. The content has also grown in diversity. While you won’t find many makeup tutorials or extreme sports like YouTube, you will find streams catering to other gaming hobbies like board games and Tech Reviews. As a forerunner in the industry Twitch is starting to cover a more holistic grasp of the gaming-industry.
So for streamers who only want to include gaming related activities, this will be your best bet for reaching the most people and building an audience. As far as monetization goes Twitch offers a wide-range of features from helping create merchandise to a sponsored streamer program with good ad revenue. Those who are considered top streamers can make quite a profit using the different outlets’ Twitch allows for financial growth.
Unique Features: Co-op streaming, audience interaction features, optimized for Xbox One and PC crowd.
Mixer is a newer streaming service. It was launched in early 2016 and was eventually bought by Microsoft the same year. This means that both PC and Xbox One streamers will be prioritized. In fact Microsoft has started integrating it into the OS optimizations making it the best Cross-platform play option (For those using Windows Play anywhere).
Mixer is by far the smaller audience and really caters to those seeking a more intimate streaming audience. The audience is not only encouraged to interact with streams, they are rewarded with options such as the ability to add sounds and vote on which gun or weapon should be used. Combined with the ability to co-op stream, Mixer is one of the best platforms for new streamers seeking to use streaming as an internet entertainer. It’s a bit harder to search for older content and doesn’t offer as many language options but the amount of investment into Mixer has grown it beyond infancy into a youthful mainstream competitor for Twitch.
The biggest drawback is that content is limited to gaming. Some of the more niche audience members will find themselves on Youtube Gaming or Twitch if they desire a Cosplay guide or more specific content. Mixer is monetized but since the audience is smaller, you will most likely make more money on Twitch or YT Gaming. That being said, the small intimate scale of Mixer does leave room for budding stream stars. Those who can get in and crack this audience first may in fact do best on this platform.
Unique Features: Most diverse audience, not limited to gaming content, can save videos easily.
YouTube began offering live streaming content in early 2011. Since then the content has slowly grown with YouTube even offering a gaming specific platform focus. Currently a diverse toolset exists for those who want to stream to YouTube and if you understand the algorithms that they use, offer a monetized platform as well.
One of the best things about YouTube Gaming is the audience! YT casts a wide net and allows you to do more than just Video Game based content. This is useful for those seeking to stream tutorials, do Tech reviews, or perhaps engage in other professional uses of streaming such as Cosplay. You can even Vlog about life while using streaming as a more occasional or monthly highlight activity.
If you are seeking to stream regularly but also want to stream about your personal life, this is the best platform for that style of streaming. One of the negative aspects of YouTube is the large scale changes in monetization that have recently occurred. It’s become harder and harder to understand the changes toward content generation so some streamers have found themselves moving onto Twitch. The pay has increased but so have the mystifying rules for making your content visible.
One final note, YouTube isn’t very friendly towards Nintendo streamers. Nintendo is a notorious user of copyright takedown laws and you should be careful that your content won’t be removed or demonetized. They recently have created a specific partnership with Nintendo which takes approximately 30% of revenue from Nintendo related content, so Twitch is usually the better option.
If you still have questions on which streaming to pick, check out this in-depth comparison article from Techradar. They cover nearly every important feature and highlight the pros and cons of each service in great detail.
Many live streaming services have begun to pop up. Usually in conjunction with other social media services such as Facebook Live and Periscope. For a gaming focused content producer, those offer some short-term opportunities for practice with limited risk. It’s always an option if you want to stream for friends and family first (Trolls can be brutal) or use a service like Periscope which most likely will not be recorded forever. If you want to have a presence in the streaming community and make a bit of side cash, the big three are definitely your best options.
You can stream without a mic or camera but the most successful streamers show emotions, speak while playing, and engage with the audience. The audience you stream to will most likely be watching to interact with you, the streamer. Streaming is a mix between being adept at gaming and being a performance artist or entertainer. Some simply stream themselves from a computer desk attempting to let personality shine through. Others create elaborate characters (Such as this pirate-themed streamer or this recently famous streamer who plays a cop in games like GTA V). A few more equipment pieces can make your streaming experience top-notch.
Your camera is a critical piece of streaming hardware. While 720p is a good broadcast target it’s best to hit Full HD. Any camera that streams in 1080p will do fine. There are a bunch of options out there ranging from terrible quality to glorious 4K. Just know that your audience wants to see you. Yes, you. That means a decent camera setup helps them fall in love with you as an entertainer and hear all the fun and witty comments you make while ganking in Dota 2. We really love the Logitech c920 camera. Having full HD and a good FOV makes it easy to stream and be in the picture while not feeling constrained to a small area. Just a fantastic option if you are looking to get into streaming.
Webcam microphones just can’t compete with the quality of a dedicated microphone. When you first start streaming, having a headset with a mic does the trick. Often headsets come with high-quality audio components so you can voice chat in game. These simple microphones are high enough quality to stream with and interact with people while gaming.
As your set-up evolves though, consider a separate mic with a mic stand. This helps give a lot more control such as pop filters and controlling environmental noise. It also makes it easier to engage your streaming audience and chat in Discord without annoying your teammates if you play competitive games such as CS:GO. If you get really serious about sound and want to use an XLR mic, you will need some separate audio hardware, so keep that in mind.
For beginners, I recommend grabbing a Hyper X Cloud Revolver headset as it combines killer audio with a nice Mic. For those who want a more traditional professional looking mic, check out the Blue Yeti USB Microphones.
Adobe Premiere is high-quality user-friendly video production software that gives you immense freedom and technical options for creating content. With Premiere you can edit clips, add music and voice-over, add in subtitles, and snip together hours or years worth of footage into cohesive clips. You can even save footage that was never broadcast, create intro and outro cards, and air it later.
Basically, without production software like Adobe Premiere you are limited to always performing live. You can’t even create even a simple promo for your stream without decent video editing software. Adobe offers Premiere on a subscription basis and allows it to interact with other Adobe products such as Lightroom and Photoshop so that you can create fantastic content.
Check it out here.
Coming in both external and internal formats, capture cards allow you to use a PC or laptop as a streaming machine. As we mentioned in our Dual System Set-Up section, capture cards take your raw footage, encode and save it into a digital file which allows you to stream incoming game footage or save it for later without losing quality.
With a console, using a capture card allows you to broadcast with incredible software like OBS so you can make stunning transitions and be free to create content you love. We have sifted through many of the cards on the market and created a Capture Card guide so that you can make an informed decision and purchase a capture card you can’t live without. Check it out! It covers the process of selecting one in-depth and also helps you understand why Capture Cards matter.
We came to the conclusion that the best card you can get right now is the Elgato HD60 Pro. This PCIe internal Capture Card recorded flawlessly and is full of useful features, you can also pick up the external HD60 if you don’t have a streaming PC.
Lighting kits are all the rage with Youtube. Basically, you use studio quality lights to illuminate your face. Darkly lit rooms can make it hard to see your emotions and just look bad. A lighting kit is a cheap and easy solution.
One perk beyond producing a more enjoyable professional appearance is that lighting kits can also hide skin blemishes as well. Just another tool to make your stream stand out a little more. LimoStudio won us over a long time ago with an excellent product line for photographers. One of these kits will help make your streams look professional and stylish.
A popular equipment choice for modern streamers is Green Screen. While broadcasting you may find it useful to make your background look different (Such as adding subtitles) or to eliminate the area around you as a streamer. This makes your gameplay standout and gives you more room to put yourself without intruding on your gameplay.
It’s a simple touch but the allusion of streaming from a studio is much cooler than the reality of streaming from a bedroom. Green Screen kits aren’t super expensive and can be both permanent (Painted wall) or mobile such as the popular collapsible Chromakey kits. If you are interested and want to know more about what green screen entails, check out this video to see the process with OBS, it’s pretty simple.
There are many green screen kits online, the one below was a detachable green screen kit and for those who want a sturdier set-up, most kits with a stand will do like this one here.
Select a streaming service or even all three. Make an account and get ready to stream soon. We have a few more steps before we go live.
The final item we need is streaming software. While consoles have onboard applications that allow quick streaming at the beginning, you’ll outgrow it. Once you become accustomed to broadcasting, you will naturally want to add a bit more quality to your stream (Video, Transition Slides).
This is where working with a Capture Card enabled PC comes in, similar to a dual-system setup, you can send your HDMI feed from your console to a Capture Card and then stream using high-quality stream software running through a PC. This is the best option for those wishing to use extraneous hardware as well (Such as a webcam) because you can guarantee compatibility beforehand.
There are three great options for streaming software that you’ll want to start with below.
OBS has become the de-facto stream software for newer budget conscious streamers. Since OBS is free, high-quality, fully featured, and open source, few competitors can match what is available for free! OBS is an open-source option for those needing streaming software. This means that it is constantly updated by a rabid fan-base who loves all things streaming.
It is fully-featured and recommended by a wide variety of professional streamers. We can’t recommend OBS enough. It does everything you’ll need while remaining free. Some of the more complex features such as Chromakey Green Screen are activated by installing free modules as well. The biggest flaw with OBS is that the open-source nature makes OBS a no-frills product that can be slightly challenging to understand at first.
People pick XSplit because they prioritize ease of use. While OBS is very powerful, the layout can be a bit mystifying to everyday people and it simply cannot compete with the easiness of XSplit. Just a few clicks and you are streaming, getting a feel for features is very manageable as well. XSplit is a great choice if you are intimidated by the Windows 98esque feel of OBS.
The one reason that XSplit hasn’t gained prominence is that it does cost money and it’s on a subscription basis. If you are creating revenue though, this is easily paid for by monetizing your stream. It’s always worth a look if OBS makes you a bit nervous and super user-friendly.
One of the newer options for streaming is Nvidia’s free platform Shadowplay. Easy to use, lite on features, it does something very unique in that it uses GPU processing instead of CPU processing for encoding. This means you can stream at high quality older content without stressing your CPU out or even really dropping stream quality.
It’s a fantastic streaming option but doesn’t have the features of XSplit or OBS. Very user-friendly though and great for starting. Unfortunately, Shadowplay only works with Nvidia products but AMD offers similar streaming software, Crimson ReLive. For those with integrated graphics, CPU software is your best bet but be aware that the minimum Hardware requirements for most streaming services require a dedicated GPU.
So now let’s go over our checklist,
Read through that list and make sure everything is set up properly. That way you’ll save time and won’t accidentally go live with a broken mic or a webcam that needs driver updates. Finally, let’s set-up our room.
It may seem common sense but take a minute and treat your stream space like it is a set from the filming of a tv show. If you are using a webcam it’s especially important to make sure anything you want private (Such as a college poster, identifying information) is removed from the background. Set up your space to show your face and anything else you want.
Also, don’t leave a bunch of clutter on your desk. Pick up trash, clean it up, this is a professional stream space after all.
Test out your audio and video feeds as well. Your webcam will probably need some adjustment and if you don’t have a lighting kit, you may need to bring in a light source such as a table lamp for some higher quality footage. Once you feel good about your stream space, take a moment and make sure you have the time and privacy to stream. If you live with other people, give them a warning so they don’t interrupt your first stream (Nothing says winner like mom bursting in to harangue you about laundry during an Overwatch match).
We are ready to begin!
To demonstrate how easy it is to stream, we’ve created an in-depth guide for first-time streamers. For this exercise we chose to use Twitch and a Single-System Windows 10 PC with a single monitor (A desktop computer). We will purely be streaming gameplay (No mic or webcam feed). If you are interested in streaming with a console or Dual system set-up, we’ve made some quick how-to guides as well for most platforms.
Log into Twitch (It should look like what you see above). Keep this window in the background, you’ll be back on Twitch in a second! If you don’t have an account, make one. It’s quick and free!
Open up OBS by right-clicking and choosing Run as administrator (Most modern systems will use the 64-bit version). If you haven’t downloaded OBS yet, you can download it for free from here.
Select No to the Auto-Configuration Wizard. You want to learn these settings yourself anyways.
Go to File > Settings
In the settings section of OBS highlight the Stream category. This is where you input what is known as a Stream key. Stream keys are private keys given by a website such as Twitch, Facebook, or YouTube that you plug into OBS. OBS then uses this key to access your account and profile when going live.
Normally you can request a new stream key as well from streaming hosts (For instance, when sharing a stream, if you gave out a temporary one). Absolutely keep this code private. If it is lost or stolen, someone could take the code and stream onto your account and profile without your permission. Follow the steps below to get your stream key from Twitch.
Go back to Twitch and highlight your profile name, then select Dashboard. This is your place to change your stream settings (Such as using tags, titling streams, selecting the game that will be streaming)
Next select settings from the Dashboard panel and click on the word Stream Key
A panel asking if you want to see your stream key will now pop up.
Go back to OBS, insert your stream key, and click apply at the bottom. You are all set! If you go live now, it will automatically start streaming to Twitch. You can easily set up other streaming hosts as well and switch over with a simple menu change.
Note: I reiterate, DO NOT give out your stream key. Also if you are switching between a service like OBS and Shadowplay, it’s easy to get lazy and share your whole screen. This can be disastrous. Make sure you pay attention so nobody (Especially trolls!) hops on your stream and causes some chaos.
So now Twitch and OBS are connected. The process is similar and actually easier for both Shadowplay and XSplit as well if you used those programs instead.
Next, we need to customize our broadcast. If you want a video of yourself in the stream, subtitles, graphics, or anything that you want in your stream. Here are some good terms to know,
Scene: The scene box allows you to set up a stream scene that matches your preferences for easy switching. For instance, if I want to show gameplay with some subtitles and then switch to my Webcam on the fly, I can create two separate scenes and quickly switch between them. A scene consists of a specific stream setup with video and audio feeds and more.
Source: The source box is where you add in what will be streamed, for instance for your video feed you might add a Game Capture source. For your Mic, you might add an Audio Input Capture source. There are MANY different ways you can set up your sources.
One of the handy features is the little eyeball symbol, this hides whatever source you have. Also, the lock will make it so you can’t accidentally move or block a source while streaming. Finally, sources have layers, make sure the ones you want visually coming first are on top. I.E. if you have gameplay footage with a camera over it, you have to make sure the top layer is the camera. Otherwise your camera footage may be playing behind your gameplay footage and you’d never know!
We are going to add a game source and an image source to our first stream, and then go live!
Click the plus icon in the source window and select the Game Capture box.
Click Ok, for this stream we are selecting the game Starbound so if you stream regularly, you can name the source something such as Starbound Feed or whatever game you play for easy understanding.
We are going to stream a non-intensive game so that we can easily Alt-Tab and check our settings. For this example we chose Starbound.
In the properties panel we have several settings. Mode means “What form of capture should we use?” For this we will try to capture a broadcast of a specific program.
For Mode select Capture Specific Window.
Next you have the option to select one of several different windows and programs. Since we are streaming Starbound we want to select the program Starbound.exe. This will change depending on what you play, I.E. Fallout 4 would be Fallout_4.exe. Most programs are named something similar but its ok if you get this wrong the first time. There is no harm selecting options until you get the right capture (As long as you aren’t live).
You should be looking at a stream of whatever game you selected. Congratulations! You are now streaming! If you want to add a camera, simply go to the source window and add a new source and select whichever feed your camera goes to. Below we added an image source, just to show how easy it is.
Finally, you can actually click and drag your image source or camera source. You can shrink it as well. You can also shrink and minimize your game capture source.
Click start streaming! You are now live! Go over to Twitch and watch your own stream just to test it out. It might lag behind a bit, this is ok, some minor setting changes may fix your lag issue or a Dual System Set-Up, but it’s pretty impressive to be as far as you are now!
There are a lot of different types of set-ups. Basically they all boil down to,
Input/Output > Connected to Streaming Software > Connected to Streaming Host
It’s that simple but you might find it complex to stream something such as a Vintage console. Below are some common streaming set-ups for consoles and more.
Using a capture card is actually quite simple. Most capture cards come with specific software from the manufacturer that you run on the PC. For setup, you are basically directing the HDMI feed of your primary system to feed into the capture card. Sometimes this means using HDMI throughput (We cover that process in our Capture Card guide if you are interested!)
The visual/audio information is sent to a secondary PC and plugged directly into the capture card. The stream can then be seen, recorded, modified, and streamed through the secondary PC to the internet. Super simple.
Since most consoles have 1 HDMI slot, modern capture cards come with a second HDMI slot that can plug into the monitor or TV and then a direct slot for the PC to plug into as seen in the diagram below.
Streams Directly To: Twitch, Mixer, YouTube Gaming
System exclusives like Horizon Zero Dawn bring in the viewers quick. Since the 4.5 update, PS4 has added pretty good streaming support. PS4 comes with streaming apps enabled and can directly stream to Twitch, Mixer, and Youtube Gaming from the console. Simply download the appropriate Application and then connect it with your account!
Streams Directly To: Windows 10 PC, Mixer, Twitch
Similar to Sony, the Halo loving studios at Microsoft have been working hard to prioritize streaming. Xbox One has a very simple streaming process and easily allows you to stream to most streaming sites by simply opening an application. One unique feature in the recent Windows 10 creators updates has been increased focus on Xbox One Streaming. Now you can directly stream Xbox One footage to your PC and consequently stream from the PC using Shadowplay, OBS, or a similar program.
Streams Directly To: Only a Capture Card
Streaming on Nintendo Products is an annoying process. Basically no Nintendo products have built-in streaming services. The Switch has hinted at possible future updates but as it stands, you currently need to fiddle around with a Capture Card to stream Nintendo products. Basically you connect the Nintendo product into a Capture Card, plug the Capture Card into the TV/Monitor and PC. From there you set the source in OBS to your Capture Card. Hopefully this will change but Nintendo Streamers have one of the toughest challenges in streaming today.
Want to stream Pokémon Go or Clash Royale? It’s easy! Android and iOS both have different streaming partners. Android can stream directly to Youtube Gaming while iOS connects with a multitude of apple devices. From those devices you can easily set-up an OBS feed as seen above. Streaming on mobile has never been easier!
Love to play Pokémon Red, but don’t want to just hover a camera above the Gameboy and hope it looks good? Vintage console streaming is very specific, usually involving a Capture Card with a variety of older port options. Don’t fear though! In our Capture Card guide we selected some cards that will allow you to stream some of the more ancient game stations. Another nifty trick that can help is connecting your console to a TV and capturing the output on the TV as well.
We have the basics but now we want to understand some deeper aspects of streaming! Worry not, that’s why we are here!
When you broadcast, it’s a bit hit or miss who your audience will be. Unfortunately, the majority of people do not have blazing fast internet worldwide. This means that broadcasting in 4K, while glorious, is also a bit impractical for much of your audience. So what should your stream quality be?
Should I stream at the highest possible quality? Or stream at a lower quality? That questions a bit complex.
The majority of audience members will find 720p streams at 30-60 FPS the most comfortable. Again, your audience may be college kids with shared Wi-Fi, people at Starbucks, homes out in rural areas. Internet worldwide has increased dramatically in quality but the largest pool of people watch at 720p. So what’s this mean? Should you drop your graphics settings down?
Most streaming services and software allow you to select the quality of your stream. When you play a game at a high resolution (Let’s say 4K) all the information is rendered beforehand. It looks gorgeous. When you drop the stream quality, YouTube or Twitch convert your stream into a lower quality image that is easier to view on computers with poor internet or old monitors. Twitch for instance allows you to set the resolution of your streams (So you can stream at 4K) but most people will see a version that is downsampled. Some services do this anyways to save on bandwidth.
Downsampling takes the excellent quality image and runs it through a process where extra pixels are removed to simulate the image at a lower resolution.
What’s that all mean? If you produce 4K content, but stream at 720p, it will look better than producing 1080p content and streaming at 720p. Fancy math is able to simulate some of the missing graphical beauty. So streaming at the highest possible graphical settings is fine.
Where it gets complex is the audience. Some viewers will immediately leave a stream if it has too high of a resolution. They don’t want to wait for it to load. You also have to have very good internet to upload live at superior quality. The better your stream quality, the more strain on your computer and internet connection. So even though you might be capable of streaming at advanced levels, it might be better to stream at a lower level. It can reduce lag, and much of your audience won’t see your 4K visuals anyways.
Most streamers tend to create content at a 1080p resolution and then stream it at 720p but 1080p is still a great option. This can all be set with your streaming software and streaming host.
What’s with all these technical terms?
Don’t worry much about advance terms you hear thrown out now and then. Most won’t affect you until you’ve had quite a bit of experience. There are a ton of technical terms you’ll hear thrown around when you get into streaming such as bitrate, a useful measurement for how much data you are streaming at and how much bandwidth viewers need.
There’s a ton of incredible guides out there such as this one that can help you key in your settings for streaming. When beginning, these things won’t matter as much, but as you gain experience you’ll start wanting to learn the technical side of things, from networking to video editing.
After you’ve gotten your stream set-up, your settings right, and the taste for broadcasting, a few simple things will help you drastically increase your fan following.
When people look up your stream, they also are investigating a streamer. Make sure you have an updated profile with a good headshot, logo, or whatever identifying factor you want to use. There are scores of “Lightning Bolt” headshots on Twitch that say, “I am too lazy to actually create a profile.” Take some time, it doesn’t have to wow your audience but it hooks them into your feed and unless they are viewing your feed in full-screen mode, they’ll be staring at your profile the whole time anyways.
Streaming starts for most as a lonely endeavor without anyone viewing them. Eventually though you do build a few followers here and there. When you first start out, greet new followers. Send them a shout-out or ask them to follow you. This fan interaction is a huge reason people fall in love with streamers in the first place. It might be hard with a single monitor setup to follow moving text.
Some streamers use multiple monitors to get around this or even have a friend on standby that helps them with the communication aspects. You can be inventive, just make sure to communicate well! Here are some other communication strategies.
If you swear or do something considered NSFW such as regularly playing a very violent game, let your audience know. Most streamers post a list of rules/expectations within the stream profile but it’s nice to reiterate this occasionally. Nothing alienates an audience more than an off-hand remark about a sensitive subject. If you comment on political views, religion, or other subjects, make sure to inform your audience beforehand. Several high-profile streamers have encountered issues by straying into those fields without setting the expectation that they will talk politics or something edgy in a specific community.
People watch streams like they watch a favorite weekly television show. The best way to help your audience watch your streams is to create a schedule and stick to it so that they can regularly watch. Make sure to post the expected times you’ll stream early.
As a rule, most streamers post this on the profile page of their streaming account. Shoot for 2-3 consistent times a week that people can watch you stream for 1-4 hours. This way you cover a wide variety of lifestyles and timezones (People love to watch Twitch but still have day jobs!). Make sure you are consistent and warn people a day or more in advance if you can’t make a stream. This helps keep expectations in check but builds a consistent following that tunes in for you and your personality.
Most stream services have great options for contests including custom bots that allow you have your users input a phrase or number to be entered into a drawing. Streams also have voting options too. Using these tools, an excellent way to build an audience is through giveaways. This doesn’t have to be something extremely valuable either. It can be a handmade item or a loot box from a game like PubG. It can be a key to a crate in CS:GO. As you monetize and grow, you may do larger giveaways or even have a sponsor offer to give something away. Just another tool for growing your audience.
Every region has different legal obligations for contests so make sure you are aware of that.
Part of creating a streaming community is creating content that helps them feel included. Inside jokes are one of the best ways to do this. Content creators such as those at Good Mythical Morning create inside jokes that fans notice years later, streamers such as PewDiePie make you laugh while referencing old material.
Inside jokes just work towards making you feel like you are part of a community and experience. For example, this year the Monolith Studios stream embraced fans by using a Corgi image and making a video of the viral character Az-Lar. Little touches like this kept the community engaged and falling in love with the streamers involved so that they made a rabid fan base for an upcoming game. Stick with any streamer who has made it and you’ll start to see the incredible ways that they are engaging the community and creating inside jokes.
As you play games, incredible stuff happens. Whether it’s a killer Ace in CS:GO or losing to a ridiculously thrown grenade in battlefield, hours of footage collect. One way to grow an audience is by editing highlight or sizzle reels together, often with a bit of commentary, and releasing them for your audience.
Some people live for the thrill of making a scene and making people who are having a good time suffer. Trolls are an inevitable part of the streaming experience. There is one golden rule to follow, don’t take what trolls say personally. It’s easy to feel upset, hurt, or offended by some of the anonymous things you’ll see and hear while streaming. While you can report people, it’s not always easy to strain out the trolls.
“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly--until you can learn to do it well.” – Zig Ziglar
Your first broadcast can be killer to your confidence, especially if you are a perfectionist. Things may go wrong technically, you might feel nervous and unenjoyable to watch, you might even die a couple times in AC: Origins when you normally have a good handle on fighting as Bayek. This is ok.
We rarely see famous streamers when they are starting, instead we see them when they have become famous! There is a huge learning curve to having a fun broadcast, both in terms of technical knowledge, and also just being entertaining. It may take a few streams, or maybe many before you feel comfortable or have found your niche. Expect to have a few rough goes. Some of the most famous internet entertainers use a mixture of scripted content and rehearsed content, they also have enough failed broadcast sessions to feel confident. Just keep at it and you’ll do fine!
Earning money while streaming is one of the reasons that people begin streaming in the first place. While most of us think that streamers only make money through clicks and advertisements, there is an entire economy streamers use to make a profit. Below are some ways that you can earn money streaming.
After becoming popular enough (Such as becoming a Twitch Partner) you can start creating income through subscription models. This is where someone pays a flat fee such as $4.99 a month for your premium content. For many viewers, this is actually quite valuable, for instance, a top-tier Hearthstone player may have incredible strategies that you can’t see unless you view the premium feed.
This also means that streaming to subscribers has significantly less noise from people who don’t want to pay money, thus weeding out trolls or other annoyances. Subscription models are a great way to make income but you have to be very careful not to alienate followers who have grown accustomed to free content. Patreon is another avenue, where you have people pay to support your work and you send them a bit of unique content on the side. Just be aware that becoming a partner means having a large number of regular viewers and some pretty sweet content.
The more popular a streamer is, the more views they get and advertisements get played while streaming. The big three content hosting sites offer incentive to popular streamers by giving them a portion of the advertising revenue. Realistically this is a rather small portion though so streamers have created alternative methods for increasing cash production.
Selling merchandise is a popular way to add side cash. While this has been a regular occurrence with famous YouTube stars, getting the inventory, ordering a bunch of items, and then keeping them on hand can be painful. It can be a lot to take on and a risky investment but many streamers make the bulk of living expenses from selling Merch.
Twitch has actually streamlined the merchandise system by allowing streamers to upload logos and twitch takes care of all the inventory, meaning you can just sell to your loyal followers. People have created posters, buttons, bags, caps, shirts, and much more. Some study into branding might help you think through whether or not the Merch route is for you!
Much like a celebrity or sports star, fame makes for good advertisements. Streamers often wear or show-off gear, appear in different streams and commercials, and become spokespersons for huge companies. A Pro-gaming streamer might find he is selling Mice and sponsored like an Extreme Sports star. An entertaining streamer who makes people laugh may get a new show on YouTube Red or be involved with doing a special “Sponsored Stream.”
This is one of the most profitable ways to make money in the streaming world but it does take awhile to get to this level. As you progress in viewership and relationships, you may be approached by a company who wants a high-quality gaming representative or even pursue relationships with specific companies (Such as LA Beast did to get Crystal Pepsi back using Youtube). Companies love a good brand story and will easily pay you thousands or tens of thousands for an advertisement campaign.
The figures vary widely from streamer to streamer. This article breaks it down into details but in general, top streamers can earn up to six figures with some content creators like PewDiePie earning millions. Those streamers though? They’ve somewhat arrived. Most can expect to make the odd pay-check of a couple hundred dollars if they are consistent and building a good following. If you grow and learn the industry though, it could become a career.
Streaming intellectual property can exist within a legal gray area. Technically video game publishers have every right to ask a streamer to stop streaming a game. If an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) is breached or repeated takedown notices sent, the consequences can range from simply losing your account on a hosting site to actually paying fines. Below are several things to keep in mind when streaming.
Since Video Games are someone else’s art and have significant volumes of original content, publishers vary on how much they want online. With the increase in streaming though most mainstream publishers and near all Indie developers have realized streaming is the best advertisement platform they can have.
Because of this, streamers work in a legal gray area. If they use profanity or stream illicit content while using a game, the publisher may actually ask them to stop or send a DMCA Take Down Order. Too many of those and you’ll lose your streaming account. The reality though is that the industry loves streamers. You may be invited to see exclusive content early and even allowed to post it to your stream (Which is guaranteed to rack up views).
As long as the relationship is beneficial to both gaming companies and streaming, it’ll be a win-win for the industry. So, what’s that mean? When selecting a game to stream, most are safe, especially e-sports like CS:GO and Dota 2. You will probably never encounter some sort of DMCA issue.
Some publishers though do tend to interfere in the affairs of streamers and content producers. Nintendo is notorious for this, and as they have started integrating streaming with the Nintendo Switch, that will hopefully change but the outlook isn’t looking so hot. If you stream on Youtube Live, you probably will encounter resistance with them including demonetization, losing up to 30% of Nintendo stream content revenue, or outright denial of the ability to post.
Whatever you do in regard to streaming games, it is wise to stay away from streaming any form of television (Especially live broadcasts of sports and movies). While having a tv running in the background will probably go unnoticed, it’s good to avoid any tv or movie streaming. It’s possible that you’ll get a quick take-down notice and account suspension.
The TV and Movie industry do not feel benefited at all by streaming (And most likely are not) but there is a viewing audience that attempts to see content for free. Youtube is rife with tv streamers but it's only a matter of time before most of them are shut-down and at worse fined or prosecuted for piracy. So just don’t do it.
There are a couple different ways to stream, one is to stream direct feeds of the games you play. This is relatively safe. The other is to stream using a screen capture method. Be aware that if you forget you are streaming, people could see anything from your email to watching what sites you use.
It’s not uncommon for a streamer to accidentally get interrupted by someone while streaming, and while that looks professional, you could quickly find yourself having a private conversation in front of hundreds of fans! So take precaution and always be aware of what content your audience sees. If you struggle with making sure your streams are only showing content you desire to be seen, perhaps practice some good stream habits before going live.
We hope you learned something from our streaming guide. Thanks for taking the time to learn with us as you learn the ins and outs of streaming. If you’ve learned something, tell us what you learned in the comments below. As always share, comment, smash that like button, and keep coming back for more awesome guides about everything gaming!
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