There are plenty of places online that can offer recommendations for the most expensive PCs, cameras, lights, microphones and capture cards money can buy, but knowing what you actually need is another question altogether. Many professionals stumbled into streaming using the barest of minimum required equipment and we can all tell stories of how frustrating those early streams were. It doesn’t have to be frustrating to get the best equipment, however!
The purpose my How to Stream on Twitch and Succeed series is to save you some early Twitch streaming headache. There is no greater headache than wasting money on hardware you don’t need, so I’m going to discuss a few equipment scenarios here and you can decide which is best for you.
At the very least you’ll need two things: stable internet access and a device to stream from.
It seems obvious enough that fast Internet access is a requirement. However, your upstream is the less obvious requirement. Likely, you’ve seen ISP’s advertise packages as “Up to 100 Mbps!.” They are describing your downstream speed, or the rate at which you receive data measured as megabits per second.
What you need is to know your upstream speed, or the rate at which you send data. We’ll discuss stream quality in a future article, but the standard currently is to stream right around 3000 Kbps, or kilobits per second. That means you would need over 3 Mbps of upstream bandwidth to stream.
Give your current speed a test over at Speed Test.net and look at your upload speed. It’s not uncommon for US broadband providers to advertise packages of 50 Mbps but only have 1.5 Mbps for your upstream speed.
That’s what I had when I started. Icky.
We’re very lucky to live in the time we do, as you can stream from your PC, PS4, Xbox One, or even a cell phone.
PC: To make use of your own desktop or laptop, you’ll want to grab either OBS or Xsplit. I list both for completeness sake, but honestly, XSplit is a steaming pile of shit and costs money. OBS is free.
PS4: Sony’s PlayStation 4 is an absolute breeze to stream on Twitch. After setting up your account information in the settings broadcast menu, you can then use the share button on the controller to begin broadcasting live to Twitch at any point in-game. However, if you are going this route I recommend grabbing the Playstation 4 Pro as the added 1 GB of memory and extra processing power allow it to stream up to 1080p at 60 fps.
Xbox One: Only slightly more difficult than the PS4 but not by far. You’ll need to download the Twitch App from App section first. Then, open the Twitch app and click broadcast. After, you can open the game set your broadcast settings and begin your stream. The Xbox One S appears limited to 720p at 30 fps though and 2500 Kbps at best, although it still supports 4k Blu-ray.
Cell Phone: The Twitch and Streamlabs apps both offer live streaming capabilities from your phone if you are eagerly anticipating joining the IRL community with your incredibly interesting and varied life. Fair warning, they both will drain your battery quickly so be ready with a high-capacity charger.
That’s it! Couldn’t be simpler, right?
However, you’ll probably want a couple more pieces of gear to push ahead of the amateur streamers and look a bit more professional.
Recommended Starting Gear
First and foremost, get yourself an ISP that has a 5 Mbps upstream or higher and hope it’s not Cox. Otherwise, all the best equipment in the world isn’t going to make your stream watchable.
Unless you plan on streaming only in the IRL category, a PC is going to be recommended for all setups. Reason being that for a professional quality stream using the PS4, Xbox One, or any other console you’ll be wanting to use a capture card.
Try to focus on a powerful processor here, but in all likelihood, you’ll want to play a game while streaming. So you’ll want a video card that can easily perform at whatever quality settings you’re used to because as soon as you hit Start Streaming you don’t want your frame rate to drop too abysmally.
Games that are CPU heavy, often with a lot of physics simulations or other effects, are where a dual PC setup will shine. Games like Fortnite, Overwatch and Battlefield 1 can be absolute monsters with even the best equipment.
One or two things will happen if the game and OBS are wanting to use more of the CPU than exists:
- The game will drop in frame rate, stutter, or become choppy as OBS takes CPU priority to handle encoding. Solve this by lowering in-game settings or capping your frame rate (both Fortnite and Overwatch allow this).
- The game will perform fine on your end, but your viewers will see stutters and stops as OBS overloads the encoder and begins dropping frames. This can be fixed by lowering stream quality. Either lowering the bit rate, frame rate, or output resolution will mean there’s less information to encode.
Recommended Gear: Custom build or the best video card and most RAM you can fit in your budget.
Any webcam capable of a clear picture at 720p should be absolutely fine. You don’t need to go too crazy here to begin unless it’s an art or cooking stream, then you’ll want to save some money on the PC end to push toward a higher quality camera.
Recommended Gear: Logitech HD Pro C920
It’s important to talk to your viewers constantly. In addition, it’s incredibly important that you don’t sound irritating as fuck.
Even the worst voice can become an NPR personality with a decent microphone. These don’t have to be expensive. In fact, if you record yourself on a headset mic you might have for gaming, listen to it and ask yourself if it’s alright.
Try screaming at it. Try whispering. Try recording yourself with sounds around you. Does it pick up police cars passing by?
All of those are important, but personally, there is nothing that beats a high-quality studio microphone. Studio mics begin in the $60-80 range and can go as high as you can imagine. For the purposes of starting gear, I have two recommendations.
Recommended Gear: I absolutely love my AT2020 and the AT2020USB+ gets a whole heck of a lot of praise.
Recommended Gear: Now, the AT2020 is a condenser microphone, which I won’t get into the details of, but if you are in an area with any amount of noise it’ll pick it up in addition to your voice. If this sounds like you’re streaming spot, grab the AT2005USB. The AT2005USB is a dynamic microphone which is closer to what NPR uses for interviews.
If you aren’t streaming content from your PC or art you’re going to need a capture card. Depending on if you’re streaming retro content over composite or newer content over HDMI you have some different options here too.
Recommended Gear: Dazzle DVD Recorder HD if you intend to do any retro streaming. It can accept composite and s-video.
Recommended Gear: Elgato HD60 S if you plan on streaming from a newer system that can output via HDMI.
It’s not so bad, you just need to go buy a bunch of shit! Hopefully, it wasn’t as much as you initially worried about to start with the best equipment. If you can think of any other must have pieces of equipment, or are worried about the necessity of some other piece of equipment I may have forgotten, tell me about it in the comments below!