For years gamers have poured resources, blood, sweat and tears into the games they love. For most gamers, the joy and excitement they get from competing and indulging in video games are more than enough for most.
With the onset of game streaming, most gamers are finally finding a way to make money out of gaming or simply share tips and tricks with other gamers.
Whether you’re considering streaming as an enthusiast or a professional gamer looking to add an income stream to your arsenal, this guide will walk you through everything you need to have a broad and quality streaming set up.
What do you need for Game Streaming Setup?
Contrary to popular opinion, live streaming isn’t narrow and shallow. There are plenty of different goals you can have for your stream. These can include anything from socialising with other gamers to driving sales or making money by sharing your knowledge in gaming.
You can use different equipment and content to achieve the goals you have in mind for your streaming setup.
Although streaming is flexible, it is also rigid. That’s because regardless of the reasons, the content, or the network you choose to stream on, the setup usually remains the same.
Some of the items you will need to set up your first stream include:
- A video and audio source
- An encoder to transform your content into the appropriate format
- Internet connection
- A streaming platform or website where people can watch your stream
With these few and affordable items, you can get your first live video streaming setup up and ready.
Audio and Video Source
An excellent live stream starts with a video and audio source. Without the source, you can't have a stream even if you have all the other equipment.
Ideally, the source is the video and data you will feed into the encoder. In this case, it can be a live stream from your gaming stream or a camera that captures you giving tips on gaming and other related topics.
Depending on the purpose of your stream and the kind of content you want to share, there are several video and audio sources you can consider for the stream. The most common among gamers are:
- A webcam
- An advanced DSLR camera
- The screen of your gaming computer
- A built-in microphone
- An external microphone
- Keyboard or controller
For gamers, the computer screen is the most practical source of video data. As you play, the video and audio from the game are fed into the encoder and streamed to the world simultaneously. Using your computer screen is ideal for streaming tutorials and how-to videos or similar content.
In some cases, when you want to show off your gaming station or reviewing some new gaming equipment or hardware you purchased, a webcam will come in handy. A webcam is also handy if you want to overlay footage of yourself.
Advanced webcams will come with a decent built-in microphone that reduces clutter at your gaming table while ensuring you get quality sound to your viewers.
For exceptional results, there are few things you need to keep in mind when selecting your audio and video source.
- If you choose to use a camera, it should capture at least 720p@24fps for a good quality feed.
- Only use a webcam if you don’t intend to move a lot.
- You can use multiple cameras.
- You will require a capture card if you want to use camcorder and DSLR cameras.
Encoders are devices that take data from the camera, screen or capture card and convert it into a format compatible with the streaming platform.
There are two types of encoders: a software encoder and a physical or hardware encoder. For beginners, the software encoder is a better choice because it’s free. It will lower the cost of your streaming setup.
Nonetheless, you should know the differences between the two and when you can transition from one to the other.
Benefits of hardware encoders
- Hardware encoders are designed for streaming and are pretty reliable.
- They don’t rely on the computer’s processing power.
- If you have a hardware encoder, you don’t need to use a capture card.
- They can be hard to use and upgrade.
- If you’re wetting your feet before investing in streaming, it’s not advisable to use hardware encoders because they are not the most affordable option.
Benefits of Software Encoders
Software encoders are the exact opposite of hardware encoders. Some of their benefits include:
- They are affordable. In fact, some of them are entirely free to use.
- They are easy to use and upgrade. You only need to download new and improved versions.
- There are plenty of options to choose from. You can choose the one you find most user-friendly.
- Software encoders rely on the computer's processing power. They are often limited and can affect your gaming experience because they will share resources with your game.
- If you choose to use a camera with an HDMI output, you will need to use a capture card when using a software encoder.
For first-time gamers that are just starting their streaming career, software encoders come highly recommended. They allow you to start streaming as soon as possible and with the least challenges possible. Although they might slow your gaming PC slightly, the difference is not noticeable if you have a decent rig.
It's not enough to have an internet connection when streaming. You need a good connection. An unstable connection will lead to buffering, and it will also lower the quality of your video source in a bid to improve the upload speeds.
How to ensure you have a good internet connection for streaming
An encoder uploads data in real-time as it's being encoded. Considering that video data requires substantial internet bandwidth and decent speeds, your internet connection should be able to handle the demand.
Here are a few critical factors to remember about streaming and upload speeds:
- Bandwidth and speed – The bandwidth is often determined by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). In most cases, the bandwidth declared by the ISP is usually lower than the upload speed you can actually achieve.
- Test your upload speed first – It’s best to test your internet speeds before committing to streaming. There are several ways and websites you can use to test your upload and download speeds online.
- Maintain a buffer – To ensure a seamless experience for those viewing your content, your upload speed should always be between 20 to 40% higher than your streaming bitrate. For a 3,000Kbps stream, you should have upload speeds of between 3.6 to 4.2Mbps.
- Stability is critical – It’s not enough to have a fast internet connection. You also need it to be stable. Instead of using Wi-Fi, consider using a cable to connect directly to the modem. Disconnect other devices that might use up the upload speed to ensure total stability.
Most software encoders will automatically pick the ideal settings for your streaming. But you can tweak some of these settings to create a balance between your internet connection and the bitrate of the video you’re streaming.
As a precaution, you should also check the bitrate recommendation on your preferred streaming website or platform. Most have recommended bitrates to ensure quality streams across the board.
You will be spoilt for choice when choosing streaming platforms. Although the selection can be overwhelming at first, classifying them can make it easier to pick the right one.
There are free options, others have tiered structures, and there are also social networks that have their own streaming services. If you're aiming for premium services, there are options that have paid streaming services.
Gamers who are new to video streaming should stick to free options. Although these are free, they have unique features and video quality, so you're not at a loss for anything. Some of the free streaming options have the greatest following, which makes monetising much easier.
When choosing a streaming platform, consider how you will connect the platform with the encoder. Most avenues will provide you with a stream key or a stream URL which you will need to put into the encoder for the platform to receive data from you.
It might help if you go with a streaming platform that matches your intent. Luckily, there are platforms designed for gamers, so you shouldn't have any problems there.
Starting a Successful Live Stream
Now that you have all the equipment you need, you can start planning your first live stream. A successful live stream requires careful planning.
Think about the content of your live stream. Pick an ideal time and date for the stream and schedule it. Some of the platforms even let you set a schedule for the stream, so your followers know about the stream.
Once everything is set, you only need to follow four simple steps to have your live stream set up:
Step 1: Connect your video and audio source
First, you will need to connect your audio and video sources to your computer. Depending on the equipment you have, you can connect directly or via a capture card. Ensure all your devices are well connected and the drivers load and work properly. If you’re going to use your computer screen as the source, things get much easier.
Double-check that your batteries are fully charged. Where possible, opt for a power adapter over batteries.
Step 2: Add the source to your encoder
Once you have all your video and audio sources connected to your computer, add them to your software encoder. How you add the sources depends on the software encoder you're using. Nonetheless, it should be relatively straightforward.
Step3: Configure the stream
Some of the software encoders have an auto-configuration feature. You can also do it manually to ensure the stream fits your selected streaming platform. Aim for a resolution of 720p to 1080p and around 30fps with a bitrate of around 5,000Kbps. These settings will ensure an optimum viewing experience for your followers.
Step 4: Connect to the platform
Head to the streaming page on your preferred streaming platform and obtain the streaming key or the streaming URL. Copy and paste the unique key to the encoder to connect it to the streaming platform.
After following these steps, all you have to do is click on "start stream" on your encoder, and your first live stream is online.
Sending out your first broadcast is a substantial milestone. It might make you feel nervous at first. But you should have complete trust in your hardware if you’ve done everything right and the software will do its part.
To keep your followers glued, you have to be authentic, engaging and as honest as possible. If you’re starting gaming streaming as a hobby, you keep at it long enough, you can transform it into a career. No matter how you look at it, consistency is key. You shouldn't give up, especially at first, because it might start slow.
When setting up your first stream, it helps to have a monster gaming rig. Because gaming PCs are fitted with a graphics card, it’s easier to use a software encoder and leverage their brute processing power. Using this approach will save you money and the frustration of having additional hardware.
If you have a voice-over for your live stream, you can use the same headphones you use for online gaming. For the best quality sound, you can have a dedicated microphone.
As a hobby or a profession, game streaming is a satisfying undertaking that allows you to extend your gaming knowledge to other gamers and potentially make money out of it should you decide to pursue it professionally.