Live Streaming Equipment Setup Guide
Are you considering live streaming for business or entertainment needs? This live streaming equipment setup guide will tell you everything you need to know.
Live streaming in 2021 is quickly becoming a part of daily life, both for work and leisure. Whether you want to expand your brand reach to a streaming platform like Twitch or simply connect two offices for a remote meeting, you will need a specialized set of live streaming equipment to do so.
You're probably trying to figure out what equipment you need to live stream. The answer is there is no simple answer: different types of streams will have varying requirements, but at the center of any setup is your computer. Most modern PCs have some light streaming capability, but advanced tasks like running multiple microphones or capturing your screen can require more powerful hardware. No to worry though, this live streaming equipment setup guide will tell you everything you need to know!
Should My Business Be Live Streaming?
Video is a core component of most businesses' content marketing strategy. It's easy to see why — most marketers1 are seeing an increase in web traffic and lead generation from their videos. In some cases, such as how-to or explainer style videos, video can lead to a reduction in calls to support teams.
And the live video market continues to grow. Twitch, for example, has north of 5 million independent broadcasters, although the platform continues to be gamer-centric. But even more general audiences are engaging with live streams on platforms like Facebook Live or Twitch.
If done right, live streams can be a great opportunity to capitlize on for social media engagement and spreading the reach of your brand. The most crucial part of running a successful live stream is understanding the type of stream you wish to run. This will help you determine the exact hardware and software you will need to operate your live stream successfully. The most common distinction is made between streaming for entertainment or business purposes. Both uses will share some hardware needs but can have vastly different practical applications.
You may need to receive audio input from multiple sources or compile numerous video sources into a single output. Luckily, there is specialized equipment available to help make both of these tasks possible. Before purchasing any live streaming equipment, however, think carefully about what and where you are going stream:
Business Live Streaming
Live streaming is quickly becoming a significant part of professional industries everywhere, from virtual meetings to broadcasting presentations and conferences. The need for remote communications is more extensive than ever, and live streams have proven to be a solution for many problems pertaining to location, especially for conferences, or business presentations and events.
Professional level streaming setups are both affordable and easy to set up and maintain. The benefits far outweigh any costs when implementing such services, and most business-grade laptops already have the required hardware to stream effectively.
Entertainment Live Streaming
One of the fastest-growing industries of recent years is live streaming for entertainment. This can include the streaming of videogames, live music, theatre, and just about anything else you can think of. Streaming activities beyond basic screen sharing or conversation can take substantially more powerful equipment, so keep that in mind when purchasing your live streaming setup.
Most entertainment streams will utilize what is called a capture card to process a video signal of the activity they are doing, whether it is playing a game or using multiple camera inputs. Managing multiple inputs on top of playing a game or encoding video can require a high-end computer, or in some cases, multiple PCs to be run properly. You can get started streaming with a decent PC and some light other equipment. Be warned, however, that costs can quickly rise while adding equipment to improve your live stream setup.
Live Stream Equipment Checklist
Streaming for business or entertainment will both require a basic set of equipment, including a:
Most laptops have a decent camera and microphone built-in, and depending on their hardware, they can handle most basic live streaming activities such as virtual meetings or presentations.
The need for more equipment arises when streaming for entertainment or adding multiple audio or video inputs to your stream. With every new input, your computer and equipment have a significant amount of added work to be done. Getting the proper hardware is key to ensuring your computer and live stream will function the way you intend. To help you with your live streaming setup, here’s a checklist of all the equipment you could need for streaming and some detailed information on how they can benefit your next live stream:
The heart and brain of your live stream is your PC. Without the proper computer, all the peripherals in the world couldn’t help improve your stream quality.
- The CPU or processor is the most important component when streaming because it handles the brunt of the workload.
- Next is the GPU or graphics card. Unless you are streaming games or high-def video, you can get by without using a high-end graphics card. If you plan on playing or streaming any games, a top-tier GPU is a must.
- Another critical and often overlooked aspect of a streaming PC is i/o, or input and output. This term refers to the ports and possible connections available on your computer. Port shortages are more common on laptops but can still happen on desktop PCs. A good practice is to think of all the things you will need to connect to your PC, such as keyboards, mice, microphones, cameras, or any other peripherals. If you already own a machine and need more inputs, consider a USB hub.
There are many different types of microphones out there with even more recording patterns and unique features. When it comes to microphones for live streaming they come in four categories:
- Integrated Microphone- Integrated microphones are built-in microphones typically found on laptops. Built-in mics can work for a short meeting or to capture a single individual’s audio but can quickly become a nuisance when used in a loud or open space.
- Headset Microphone- You could use a headset microphone for live streaming, but the sound quality will be comparatively thin and tinny vs. a dedicated mic. If you're purely a gaming streamer, this may suffice, but if you're wanting the highest quality audio possible, you'd want a dedicated solution.
- Dedicated USB Microphone- The next step up in quality is a dedicated USB microphone for streaming. This could be any USB interface recording device. USB microphones plug directly into your computer and use software to manage audio levels and recording patterns. These mics are most common in gaming live streams where high-quality audio of a single individual needs to be captured and added to a stream. Dedicated USB mics can also help in work environments, because they add another level to the overall quality of sound and greatly reduce background noise.
- XLR Microphone- The last and most serious form of microphones is XLR. These are professional audio recording devices that require a specialized piece of equipment called an audio interface, which connects to your computer via USB. Audio interfaces serve as a more powerful external sound card, since laptop and desktop sound cards don't have the same level of quality. The benefits of XLR microphones are numerous. These devices commonly allow multiple individuals to have dedicated audio inputs that can then be managed and mixed separately to achieve optimal sound quality. XLR mics and audio mixers are fantastic for any live stream that could require multiple audio inputs or the need to adjust audio levels or switch sources frequently.
Video Camera for Live Streaming
- Integrated Video Cameras- Like with microphones, most modern laptops come with some form of integrated webcam. Again, these built-in devices are great for quick meetings or presentations but quickly fall behind their dedicated counterparts in terms of quality. Using integrated devices for live streaming are limited by their single usable camera angle and inability to adjust to light or record quick motions or movement.
- Smartphones- Many modern smartphones could also be used as video cameras for live streaming. However, a phone battery will often deplete faster than a dedicated webcam or a professional camera, so you'll likely have to leave it plugged in. Also, depending on the length of your stream, you may need to use your phone in the middle of it! If you have an extra, unused smartphone that can shoot 1080p video and are on a budget, this could be a great option for you.
- Webcams/Cameras/Camcorders- Dedicated webcams or even professional cameras or camcorders can be integrated into any live stream by interfacing with your PC. Having a dedicated camera for live streaming also allows you to move camera angles to remedy such problems as pesky lighting or unflattering and unprofessional camera angles. With your added video source, you can then use software to adjust exactly how you want your webcam or other elements to be presented on screen. You can even use a dedicated webcam with a built-in device to create multiple viewing angles in some cases. Separate cameras for streaming also allow professionals to look at what they are working on or presenting without having to stare into the camera, which provides a more natural and interactive overall experience.
When using integrated recording equipment, lighting will most likely not be necessary. This is because it is challenging to implement lighting solutions with the limited functions of built-in devices. You will most commonly see lighting devices used in conjunction with external webcams and video recording devices.
Many external lights can be attached to webcams or other devices to create a single easily moveable and usable piece of equipment. More robust lighting solutions could require their own mounts or tripods to use appropriately. Added lighting can provide clarity to your stream and ensure that you have consistent lighting quality available no matter the time of day.
When live streaming any kind of game or external video source, you will need a capture card. These devices connect to your PC typically by USB and allow you to edit and broadcast video from an assortment of other devices such as video game consoles or multiple cameras. Using a capture card can take some of the resource strain off your PC but will not work on lower-end systems and setups. Make sure to check you have enough inputs and computing power to handle adding a capture device to your live stream.
Audio mixers are used to set up multiple high-quality audio sources. These devices can go a long way to help improve live streams, such as meetings with multiple parties in one room or streams that could take place in various locations. When implementing an audio mixer, an important thing to remember is that a dedicated person will need to operate the mixer to manage audio levels and set when different inputs are being broadcasted or recorded.
The act of processing all of your video, audio, and capture inputs into something that can be broadcasted across the internet is called encoding. This workload is primarily handled by your CPU or GPU but can be aided by software or other dedicated hardware.
The more complex and layered your stream is, the more intense it will be to encode. If you plan on running multiple video and audio inputs, you may want to consider some high-end hardware or software to ease your encoding workload. One of the main reasons such a high-end computer is needed for streaming is the resources required for the intensive workload of encoding.
Arguably the most crucial component of streaming next to your computer is your internet connection. You could have the best hardware in the world, but if your internet connection is not fast enough, your stream will struggle.
For offices, something to consider is how many users you will have live streaming at one time. With each added user, internet requirements grow exponentially.
Most home networks can support a single user live streaming but could begin to struggle if other network users start using significant bandwidth. Another factor to consider is data caps. Most residential internet service providers have stiff caps on the amount of data you can upload and download a month. Unfortunately, live streaming is one of the most data-intensive things you can do on the internet, and those caps can be met sooner than you think. Be sure to check with your ISP to avoid any costly overage fees when live streaming.
Tripods and Various Mounting Devices
Mounting devices such as tripods for cameras, lights, and microphones can add another level of professionalism to your stream, whether for business or entertainment. Varying camera angles and consistent lighting help to hold viewer attention and make your live stream feel inviting. Most peripherals such as dedicated mics and webcams come with some form of mounting solution, so make sure you have all the essential equipment before investing too heavily in added mounts and tripods.
Whether you are a gamer streaming the latest hits to the masses or trying to pitch your presentation to the corporate office, having a quality live streaming equipment setup is essential. Everything from weekly meetings to new job interviews are happening remotely, and a professional-looking live stream could be the difference you need to stand out in work and entertainment.
Integrating high-quality equipment and components into your stream will help you get your message across while keeping your viewers engaged. Remember, no component is more important than your PC or internet connection, so that is the best place to start when looking into setting up your own live stream.