So you are ready to start live streaming. How do you get started? This intro article from DFW Streaming will outline the basics you need to get your own live stream up and running.
What gear do I need?
Well, that depends on a couple of factors. What kind of content do you want to stream? What kind of budget do you have to get started? There are many options that can get you up and running, from no cost (or at least, no cost you haven’t already spent), to semi-professional setups, to big budget productions. Here, we will start simple, and build from there.
At the bare minimum, you need a modern smart phone. Any modern smart phone will have at least a decent camera and microphone, and the ability to run an app that can stream live. You may have already come across this ability with your preferred social media app, like Facebook, Instagram, or Youtube. Each of these platforms has the ability to let you live stream directly from your phone’s built in camera and microphone. To take this simple method a step further, you can find an app that supports RTMP streaming, and have the ability to stream to just about any source (look into Larix Broadcaster (IOS, Android), which has the ability to stream to the DFW Streaming platform, among many others).
Streaming from a smart phone can be pretty limiting though – you are stuck with one camera / video source at a time, and audio that isn’t so great, especially in a noisy environment. To take your live stream to the next level, you will need:
Streaming Software (and a computer to run it)…
The options here are many, but we are going to stick to a few basics here for the new live streamer. OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) is free and open source, and is one of the most common (and powerful) platforms available for live streaming. There are even customized versions available specifically for gaming (look into Streamlabs OBS, or SLOBS if you are a gamer). Above and beyond OBS, there are quite a few paid options, depending on your production budget. Look into Wirecast and VMix for more powerful live streaming solutions, though it is DFW Streaming’s opinion that you can accomplish just about everything you would want to do with OBS (preferably with a simple camera switcher added).
For the purposes of this blog, which is geared towards beginner streamers, we are going to focus on OBS. Once you have OBS installed, you have the ability to connect to any number of built in live platforms, including Twitch, Youtube, Facebook and more. If you are looking to be able to stream to multiple platforms at the same time, we suggest you look into Restream or Castr – both offer free or paid versions which will allow you to stream from OBS to several platforms at the same time. (DFW Streaming’s live platform comes with the ability to restream to one additional source already, even with the FREE version!)
In addition to the multiple built in options of where you will be streaming TO, OBS also has a ton of built in options for sources you will be streaming FROM, which is one of the main reasons you will want to build YOUR live stream on a streaming software.
OBS, and any streaming software, is built on Scenes, Sources, Transitions, and Outputs. We just went over outputs, so let’s get into the other side of the software, the input side.
Scenes, Sources & Transitions
In OBS, the first thing you will do (after running through the Setup Wizard), is start with a blank Scene. Scenes in OBS are collections of video, audio, and graphic sources that you are able to customize to your own preferences. You can have 1 camera as the main source, with an audio feed from another source, and a different camera Picture in Picture, with a custom lower third graphic – and any combination of these and many more. Play videos from other sources, capture your game play from a console (more on this later), trigger sounds – the options are almost limitless, especially once you really dive into OBS and start exploring scripts and third party plugins. Regardless of your choices, you want to treat each Scene in OBS as a finished video you want your viewers to watch. You will then build several of these finished videos to switch between, and keep your viewers engaged.
All of the different layers and options you build into your Scenes are called Sources in OBS. A Source can be a camera, a video file on your computer, a browser or application window on your computer, a microphone or audio card, and quite a few other options that you will definitely want to explore. All sources can be used in different arrangements in your Scenes. i.e. if you have 2 camera Sources, you can make 2 Scenes that switch between the main camera and the PIP camera, without having to make a source each time.
Once you have at least 2 Scenes built with different, or at least differently arranged, Sources, the next thing you will look at is Transitions. Transitions in OBS work slightly differently depending on if you are in Studio Mode or not – we suggest you start your OBS journey in Studio Mode, so that you get a feel for how Broadcast video works.
In Studio Mode, you will see 2 video windows, with Transitions in the middle. Program video is the video currently being streamed live. Preview video is the scene that will come up next, if you were to use a Transition. Transitions in Studio mode have a default (which is the Transition you have chosen below the video window), and several other options. Any of the options will work slightly differently to switch between your Scenes, and we highly suggest you exploring all of these options. In Studio Mode, when you transition to a new Scene, the previous Scene will become the Preview, allowing you to quickly switch back if needed.
Beyond the Basics
Now that we have gone over the basics, let’s get into a few details of your Sources. First things first (from our perspective as Live Audio Engineers) is sorting out your audio. Every video source you set up in OBS has the ability to have its own audio source – sometimes you want this, sometimes you don’t.
In OBS, your default setup will likely have Desktop Audio set as the only Global source. This audio source is going to broadcast any audio that plays from your built in sound card. This is ideal for capturing audio from browsers, games you play on the same computer, or microphones that are built into your computer. If you don’t need audio from any of these sources, you will want to either mute your Desktop Audio on your computer, or mute it in OBS. If you have any Audio Sources that you want to always broadcast, regardless of which Scene you are in, you will want to set those up in Settings / Audio / Global Audio Devices. Any audio sources not set here will only play when the Scene they are in is active (Program).
If you are a DJ, or live streaming a DJ set, you are going to want to be able to set a Global Audio Source that is a stereo feed from the DJ Mixer. The best (simplest) way to accomplish this is to get an audio capture device like the iRig Stream. This will give you several options for audio capture from external devices at a fairly low price point. There are many other ways to do this, and you may already have the hardware you need to capture this kind of audio, if any device you currently use can be used as a USB Audio device. Feel free to contact us if you have questions.
Video Capture (beyond the basics)
If you have gotten this far, you probably are looking to expand beyond the default camera of your phone or built in webcam from your computer. In OBS, most external webcams will simply show up as available Sources when you add a Video Capture Device. Using a couple of different USB webcams can help you build a collection of interesting Scenes, and may do everything that you need. If you are a gamer (or a new streamer with nicer cameras or a budget), you may want to step up the quality of your video capture options. Gaming on the same computer you are Streaming from can be done, though you will always be limited by your processor speed and GPU. To stream a console game, high end camera, or a PC game from another computer, you are going to need a Video Capture Card.
These Capture Cards come in many different varieties and formats, depending on your need. You can get USB based HDMI Capture cards to bring in HDMI to a laptop, or PCI based cards for desktops, or even step up to something like an ATEM Mini switcher to bring in multiple HDMI Sources with hardware Transitions. Any way you look at it, if you want to bring in video from an external source that has an HDMI (or other professional video) output, you are going to need some form of (HDMI) Capture Card. Look into Elgato or Blackmagic.
Sync (the final basic step)
With all of the things we have talked about so far, you can imagine how deep we can go into the details of each. The last thing I want to mention is sync. If you have the ability to use the audio directly from a video Source (like from HDMI), that is always preferable. Using a single source for audio and video will keep your audio in sync with your video. Often times, this is not an option, especially with live streamed DJ sets. In this situation, you will have one or more Video Sources, and a Global Audio Source. You may find you need to offset the Audio in order to be synced with the Video. Typically, you are going to offset the Audio by a certain margin, in order to keep time with the Video, which takes more processing power. This is easy to do in OBS by going to the gear icon on on your Audio Source, and going to Advanced Audio Properties. Every 1000ms of delay set here is equal to 1 second of delay – if needed, you will probably be between 100ms and 750ms, but play with it to find exactly what you need.
That’s a Wrap!
Hopefully this long winded explanation has helped you get started with your live streaming journey. If you need more help streaming with DFW Streaming, please reach out to us.