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Streamer Guide Ep.2 - Hardware Requirements

If you’re planning on streaming, you’ll need a few bits of hardware to get started:


- Desktop PC or Laptop

Used to game or stream from


- Console

Used to game and stream from


- Capture Card

Used to capture any video from consoles to PC


- Microphone So everyone can hear your beautiful voice


- Audio Mixer or Chat Link cable

An extra required to seamlessly bring party audio into the stream


- Webcam/DSLR/Mirrorless Camera

I mean why wouldn’t you want to show your beautiful face & live reactions?


- Lighting rigs

An extra used to balance foreground & Background lighting for the camera


- Internet & Home networking

Quest for the infinite green bar


-Extras

Mic Arms, Tripods, Green Screens & Streamdecks



DESKTOPS AND LAPTOPS


Depending on how you want to stream, your PC’s power will matter a lot. If you're gaming on a console, or using a secondary PC to stream from, you won’t need that much power, as all the gaming is being rendered on another system. Meaning you will only need enough power to encode the video live, and handle every extra you add onto it. Spending $400-$600 on a laptop or cheap entry level desktop will be enough, but if you're looking to game and stream on the same system, you will need a lot more power, and wouldn’t look at spending anything less than $900-$1200 as you will have to sacrifice some of your GPU or CPU to encode the video live.


What's encoding?

Encoding is the process of compressing imagery, making it smaller and easier to transfer online. It is the most demanding part of streaming outside of gaming itself. Encoding can be done via your CPU or GPU. Your CPU can encode much better quality, but can demand A LOT more power whilst your GPU can encode at high quality without excess CPU demand. However, it will require the codec built in, and will consume some GPU power to encode live. So make sure to take your encoding preference into consideration when deciding how you will stream, and where to prioritise your power.


The PC market is huge and complicated to a layman, but if you're not tech savvy, and are too scared to build your own PC, we would recommend going to somewhere like PowerGPU.com to build you a bespoke system to suit your needs & budget. We'll be taking a look at specific CPU and GPU requirements in a future article.


CAPTURE CARDS


Capture cards have been around for a while, they essentially allow you to pass a video signal through them (analog or digital), and convert it into something the computer understands. In this instance, it’s the most essential thing for streaming any console/phone/media device onto your computer.




They range from $10-$200, and can do anything from 720p 30 frames per second up to 4k 60 frames per second recording depending on your preference, but always remember, you get what you pay for. We would recommend Elgato as they are the industry standard in a lot of streaming peripherals.


MICROPHONES


Due to how capture cards work, it’s complicated to pass through microphone & party audio at the same time as the game audio. So we would recommend buying an external mic to plug straight into the PC.


Thanks to the music industry, studio and desktop mics are plentiful, and a quick Google will show you exactly what I mean. The preferred brand amongst streamers is Blue microphones, as the Snowball & Yeti being top of the list for medium cost, relatively high quality mics.


Microphones cost in the realms of $50-1500+ depending on the quality you desire.




AUDIO MIXER


An audio mixer is a small box that splits your audio channels, and gives you a physical way to manually set audio levels and Equalisation. Due to how capture cards work, it’s hard to get the audio between game, party and mic working correctly with a Console to PC setup. Mixers come in all shapes and sizes, splitting anything from 2 to 30+ channels, but in this industry, you probably don't need anything more than a 4-8 channel mixer.


The main one we would recommend would be the Astro MixAmp. This gaming oriented mixer is compatible with Xbox, PS4 & PC (XB & PS mixers are different), and will split your party and game audio at a turn of a dial. The Mixamp works with any headset with a 3.5mm jack, and gives you the option to input an extra channel, or output all the channels out to a PC.



Another option would be to go for an Elgato Chat Link cable. This cable helps with adding the party chat from the console directly into your elgato/mic in on your PC, while making it the cheaper option to the Mixamp.


CAMERAS


Cameras allow your viewers to see you live, adding a more personal touch to the stream. Webcams work great as a cheap, mid quality option, while top streamers have started using professional DSLR and mirrorless cameras to get the highest quality picture available. Webcams are an all in-one package that brings clear live video to your stream with a simple plug and play setup. Though for an extra price & setup, DSLRs and mirrorless cameras allow for a significantly better quality and flexibility due to its access to different lenses, and more advanced low-light camera sensors giving superior sharpness and image quality. However, it does involve investing in a capture card, tripod, power cable and a nice lens to make it all worthwhile. This isn’t a camera review article, so all we’ll say is that doing a bit of research before buying will go a long way.




Webcam features:


+ Light & Compact

+ Plug & Play

+ Designed to fit over monitors

- Even the best webcams, lose quality in low-light

- Limited in manual settings

- Auto-features unnecessarily strain CPU


DSLR features:


+ Multi-lense attachment allows for a range of visual options0

+ Wider range of manual settings than webcams

+ Better quality sensors allow for clearer low-light situations

+ Can double up as a vlogging or photography tool which is a reasonable investment if you're looking to diversify your content

- Heavy and generally large

- Not specifically designed for long video sessions, and can overheat

- Requires extra capture card, tripod, and power cord investment

- Generally more expensive


Mirrorless Camera features:


+ Smaller and lighter than DSLR’s

+ Better option for vloggers

+ Multi-lense options

+ Generally a cheaper option to DSLR’s

- Not specifically designed for long video sessions, and can overheat

- Requires extra capture card, tripod, and power cord investment


LIGHTING RIGS


Light is a science and art in its own right. Photographers spend years mastering the art of light, but all overlooked one vital factor; your beautiful face. 2 important things in photography that can be brought into streaming is composition and light. Luckily, in your case, most of the camera frame should be focused on you (we’ll get into more advanced compositions later on), so getting the light right is vital.


The best channels out there have custom multi light setups, branded background lighting, or studio grade light diffusers. Good lighting on your camera, and a nice balance between foreground and background can be the difference between a watchable and unwatchable stream.




INTERNET AND HOME NETWORKING


Good internet; one of the most vital things for the modern gamer. The majority of studios are now opting for online only games to keep profits from the pirates, while preload culture and faster available internet is killing the physical market with only 17% of the market now (down from 80% a decade ago). 5G is starting to roll out boasting speeds upto 300mbps in the air, and with the game streaming platforms & Shadow PC’s allowing top end PC gaming on your phones, tablets, or cheap laptops, all essentially meaning the gaming industry is about to explode. A lot of things can determine how good your internet is, location being the most vital. Distance from your exchange & home location play a vital part in your ping & internet speed. If you want the best, finding a home right next to an exchange with an ISP that provides a symmetrical line (same up & down speeds) is your best bet. Saying that, most people don’t have that option, so here are a few things to help improve what you already have.


Router - Most stock ISP routers work well enough for what they are worth, and if you aren’t good at networking, we would recommend you just stick with them. They are quite prone to overheat if kept in the wrong place, so storing it somewhere open is definitely recommended. Buying 3rd party routers have its benefits in build strength, network stability, DDoS protection via VPN routers, and stronger Wi-Fi signal, but it comes at a price. Good routers cost in the range of $60-$350+, with TP Link, Netgear & Asus being the main companies to look out for.


Powerline Adapter- The saviour and grace of multiroom ethernet wiring and Wi-Fi boosting. Powerline adapters pass your internet signal through your homes electrical wiring. This allows any room in the same breaker with a power plug, to have Internet via ethernet with no extra hard wiring, or to boost your Wi-Fi signal in those low signal rooms. Powerline adapters can be as cheap as $30 for a pair, up to $150+ for multi adapter setups and speeds up to 2 Gbps.




Ethernet Cable- Most stock routers from ISP’s come with ethernet cables. These cables are usually cheap, and can’t handle the higher speeds. If you notice random disconnects, degrading speeds, or have started to receive the whole jungle of fruits and berries our beloved devs love to use for error codes, the first thing I would check would be the cable. Investing in well built Cat 7 ethernet cables are worth it as they only cost in the realms of $10-$30 and can save you a tonne of stress down the line.

Ethernet cables are split into different Categories to identify them. Use this table to figure out the cable required for your current internet.

Cat 3 - up to 10 Mbps

Cat 5 - up to 100 Mbps

Cat 5e / 6 - up to 1 Gbps

Cat 6a / 7 - up to 10 Gbps


EXTRAS


Microphone Arm- Used to reduce as much noise & vibration being caught on the microphone. This is for all those guys who get screamed at for having a USB mic on the table next to their Cherry MX keyboard. They cost anything between $15-$300 depending on the quality and build you need.


Tripod- Used to hold your camera up. For streaming with a DSLR or Mirrorless camera, Gorillapods are probably the most practical thing. They are small, flexible & cheap. $10-$50 will be enough to get you something practical for streaming.


Green Screen- Used to remove (or key out) any background from the camera, allowing you to easily cut/replace BG imagery. Can be done with any uniform colour in the background, but as green does not match any skin or hair tone, it’s the industry standard for keying out the background. Anything from a large green cloth ($5-$20), green screen stands ($10-$150), to a fully painted green wall ($10-$20) will work, what matters is that the background is flat and evenly lit.


Stream Decks- Being able to switch scenes, add custom sound & visual effects, tune your lights, or trigger an event at the touch of a button, becomes the ultimate tool for any 1 man production team. Elgato Stream Deck, SD Mini and SD XL are the industry standard ($60-$280), but Macro Keyboards, Smart Phones & Tablets, and unused keyboard keys are also good alternatives.




Next we'll be looking at what software options you have and digging a little deeper into the world of OBS and Streamlabs! Make sure you're following is @getrektlabs for news on future content and to keep an eye out for our weekly content creator rebrands! We have some big surprises on the way.


Article by @etski edited by @An00bisgaming

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