If you’re looking to start streaming, the initial set up can be daunting. I remember when I started streaming for the first time a few years ago and had many questions on how to start and what to do. When I was getting started, I learned a lot from a collection of guides online and my own experiences; this article should cover much of the setup and questions regarding setting up your stream! If you're just looking for help setting up Stream Labs OBS, or SLOBS, we have a great getting-started guide as well!
This is my setup, primarily for streaming phone games, and I’ve included the build list here.
What Kind of Computer do I Need to Stream?
One of the first questions new streamers ask is, “what kind of computer will I need to stream?” However, there’s no one definitive answer to this question, as it is all based on the content you are streaming. Are you looking to stream the latest release of Call of Duty? Then you may want to look into high-end gaming computers. Are you looking to stream yourself reacting to the latest game trailer? Then you’ll be able to make do with a more budget-friendly build.
Dual Monitors are Amazing
The one thing I do highly recommend when it comes to streaming, getting a second monitor. A second monitor will let you monitor/interact with your chat, see notifications and offer extra flexibility while the other monitor is busy with the content you’re streaming. It doesn’t even need to be an expensive gaming monitor, as the point of this second monitor is just to display information regarding your stream. For more information on setting up a second screen with your setup, please visit our article; Dual Monitor Setups for Laptops (and Desktops).
Photo courtesy of Mistax
There are A LOT of accessories to use or not use when it comes to streaming. Some are must-haves, such as a microphone, a headset, and even a webcam, while others can wait until you’re further into streaming, such as Green Screens, Ring Lights, and StreamDecks. For a more in-depth break-down, we have a separate article regarding Streaming Equipment. Getting started doesn’t require many additional accessories, but you may want to look into more and better equipment as your streaming journey continues.
One thing you may need at the beginning, however, is a capture card. A capture card is a tool that allows your computer to receive the output of another device, such as a game console. If you have plans on streaming using a game console, you will need a capture card for it to interact with your streaming software. Capture cards can also be used with high-end DSLR Cameras, turning them into webcams for your stream. They can also be used for dual PC streaming, using a second computer to split the work of streaming from just one computer.
No matter how good your computer is, you will see a drop in your games’ performance while you are streaming. The performance drop may not be significant, but your streaming software needs to use some of your computer’s resources to send your stream out, or “encode,” to the streaming platform of your choice. A two-computer streaming setup separates this process from your main computer, freeing up resources. Essentially, your main PC has become a console, linked to your streaming PC via a capture card. While streaming with a two-PC setup, you will not see a drop in your primary PC performance. Having two PCs could be a more cost-effective option than a full upgrade to your gaming PC, as the dedicated streaming PCs are relatively inexpensive to build.
The specs for your streaming PC can be light since its only job is to encode. It just needs to have a visual output and a capture card inside. Here is a streaming PC build I made for around $600, including the El Gato HD60 Capture Card. Remember that you will need a keyboard, mouse, and monitor for the second PC, but it is worth considering if you are looking to make streaming a profession.
An example of a Dual PC Setup using one PC for encoding and the other for the actual game.
Photo courtesy of Err0hStreaming PC SpecsGaming PC Specs
At the moment, there are two popular options of streaming software, both free and readily available online: OBS and the modified version by StreamLabs, StreamLabsOBS (SLOBS). There are benefits and downsides to both software.
Ease of Use
SLOBS is the combination of OBS and the StreamLabs utility, meaning everything you need to stream is available in one package, including easy-to-use widgets to improve your stream. Widgets like Chatbox or Alerts are easy to setup through SLOBS. You will have to add these to OBS and require additional steps to set up.
Resources and Strain on the System
One of the main issues with SLOBS is the higher system strain it puts on a computer. Because it comes with so much pre-installed, it can draw more power and resources from your computer. If you see performance issues using SLOBS, switching to the less resource-intensive OBS could be a solution for some performance gain.
Excluding the widgets, OBS is open-source and easily adjustable. There are tons of OBS plugins to use to enhance your stream, such as audio monitors, transition managers, countdown timers, and more. SLOBS, however, is managed by StreamLabs and does not allow the use of plugins.
OBS will always receive their updates first. SLOBS will receive the update as well but on a delay. How long that delay varies from update to update.
SLOBS has some of it’s extra features like certain overlays, custom widgets, multi-streaming to different websites all locked behind a premium membership of 12$ per month. While OBS doesn’t have these features either, some dislike SLOBS monetization and a few pop ups that can come up recommending it.
If you do switch to OBS, you will need to add the utilities that StreamLabs or StreamElements can provide, such as Alerts, Chatboxes, etc. These are usually done through a Browser Source to their respective link.
Here are links to both StreamLabs and StreamElements YouTube Channel as they both have great video resources when it comes to using their resources for your stream.
Low Viewer Count
It’s ok for your first streams to be small. Not everyone hits it big immediately, and streaming is becoming more and more popular, which means more streamers for viewers to pick from. It’s common for new streams to be 0-4 people. But, regardless of your viewer count, treat every stream as if it’s your opportunity to make it big. Viewers stay when you are interacting with them and your chat!
Have some topics or discussions ready for your stream before you start. Think about what you did today or earlier in the week. Stories are great for viewers and the streamer to connect.
DMCA and You
One of the biggest worries of streamers right now is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA. The DMCA prohibits streams from using unlicensed music, ranging from songs played while streaming to in-game music. Getting a DMCA strike often means nothing more than getting your stream muted, but multiple DMCA strikes can result in your account getting banned and potential legal action.
If you feel like a song you are listening to is DMCA claimable, or that YouTube video you are reacting to has a copyright song, I recommend skipping the song or muting the video. There are free-use libraries for music that are DMCA-Free and can safely be played on your stream.
Growing Your Stream
Stream whatever game you want to stream; there is no need to force yourself to play a game. It can be nice to try out a new game but don’t force yourself to play if you aren’t enjoying it. Viewers watching you play games to get frustrated will leave when you are enjoying a game.
Look for a community! Join other small streamers who are streaming the same game and get to know them. Getting to know the other streamers within the community for your main game is an excellent way of gaining an audience and can benefit both you and your new community.
You will get bad viewers; it’s bound to happen. Whether it be bots or just people who are out to ruin someone’s day, simply time them out or ban them and move on with your day.
Setting a schedule for your stream is helpful and lets your viewers know when you are usually going live so that they can plan to come back.
If you are on Twitch, be sure to enable FrankerFaceZ and BetterTwitchTV emotes for your chatbox. These are additional emotes that your chat can use and you can manage on their respective website.
When ending your stream, be sure to host other streamers in the same community! They will give your channel a shoutout as a sign of good manners. Also, be sure to inform your audience of the next time you go live and a plan for that stream! That way, they know what to expect and can plan to return.
Submit photos and a description of your PC to our build showcase
See other custom PC builds and get some ideas for what can be done
Services starting at $149.99