Imgorthand/E+ Collection/Getty Images
So, you’ve decided you’d like to give live streaming a shot. Good! Live Streaming is exciting and based on recent studies shows no signs of going away. From watching live music and body painters, to watching the live feed of your favorite podcast, or hanging with your favorite creators at the grocery store there are no shortage of ideas and creative topics that you can stream.
Once you’ve had the opportunity to read “How to choose a streaming platform” and you know what platform you’ll be pushing live on, it’s time to explore the wonderful world of hardware. Welcome to part two in this 4 part series “Live streaming for Musicians”
Hi I’m Reina, voice and ukulele coach on Takelessons Live, and veteran live streamer. Today I’ll be breaking down for you the wide array of options for hardware when you decide to start live streaming. Before we get into today’s topic I’d like to take a minute to remind you that live streaming is what you make of it.
Some creatives are live streaming as a way to connect with their audience. They simply want to host a casual Q&A or promote an upcoming event. Other creators are looking into live streaming as a way to supplement their income. While, still another group of creatives is ready to go all in and reach for the stars as they dream of their next big career move as a full time streamer. The goals you have set for yourself as a streamer will impact what equipment you are willing to invest in. Let’s get into this!
First things first, you’ll need a camera. Gone are the days of your great grandfather’s radio show. Live streaming is all about the visual. If you are dabbling casually in streaming, and are just starting to explore all that the streaming world has to offer, you can use your camera phone. The camera on your phone will deliver a better quality than some lower end webcams.
If you’d like more customization with gain, focus, zoom, white balance, chroma key (greenscreen), etc… you’ll want to invest in an external webcam. Logitech, GoPro, Osbot, and Elgato all make reliable webcams used by many professional streamers.
If you are fully invested in streaming and looking to create a totally professional visual experience for your audience, you should look into mirrorless and/or DSLR cameras, like a Sony or Canon or Panasonic.
Even if you have the best, most crisp visuals on the internet, no one will be excited to watch your streams if your audio is not up to par. I know I said streaming wasn’t some old timey radio show, but audio matters. Think of your own tolerance for static, broken audio, and glitchy sounds. It’s very frustrating to know something is going on, but not being able to hear it.
If you’re using your phone to stream you can use the mic built into your phone. This works great for beginners, IRL streams, and on location streaming. The next level up from the phone mic is the USB mic. Elgato, Shure, and Blue, along with many others make USB mics.
The benefits of a USB mic include not needing an interface to route the input sound to your computer. Because of the rise in podcasting, USB mics have been upgraded and have pretty good quality sound. A USB mic would work well for most visual artists, and content creators. Musicians keep reading on.
For the best quality sound you will want to use a condenser mic. You can use one with, or without phantom power. You will need to plug the mic into your mixer and your mixer into an interface. This means you will need to purchase a condenser mic, mixer, interface, and all necessary cables. You will also need inputs on your mixer for all of your instruments. Using a mixer will give you the very best quality sound for your live stream.
That last paragraph was not only for musicians btw. Graphic designers, you deserve to sound your best too! A mixer will allow you to add more flair to your stream. You’ll be able to add background music, integrate sound from your desktop, etc… Gotta love hardware. Endless options and endless possibilities.
I streamed with my Logitech webcams for almost a year and no matter how I tweaked the settings on my webcams my picture was still grainy and unimpressive. I had a difficult time lining up my audio to my visuals, and as hard as I tried I just didn’t understand why my streams looked so low quality compared to other streamers I knew were using the same webcam as me.
After trial and error, and the help of my streaming community, I decided to upgrade my one $8 Amazon ring light for two Elgato key air lights. It was like magic. Suddenly the visuals of my stream were competitive to that of my favorite streamers online.
Lights are very important. You don’t need to invest hundreds of dollars right away, but you need to make sure that your stream area is well lit. This could mean making sure the sun is in front of you, not behind you if you are IRL streaming. If you don’t have external lights or lamps make sure you set your streaming rig in front of a well lit window. Regardless of what system you use for lighting your streams, make sure you are illuminated.
Once you are established in streaming you can look into the 3 point lighting system to give yourself the most professional lighting setup. This will involve multiple light sources. Two in front, one behind the main subject. The main subject being, YOU. The light behind will be softer. Maybe a colored light or an aesthetically pleasing lamp that also happens to be totally useful. There are lots of lights that connect to your stream and will create fun light shows when events happen like: subs, follows, donations, etc.. The names of these events are different depending on what platform you are using. Philips Hue, Nano Leaf, Wyze, all connect 3rd party apps like Lumia Stream, that make the magic happen. A fun added benefit for aesthetic and chat interaction.
Monitors can be used whether you have a laptop or PC setup. They are not needed if you are using your phone. When you are first starting out you’ll probably have one monitor. If you decide to stream to Facebook, Youtube, Twitch, or to Tiktok using your PC you’ll find streaming is infinitely easier with a second monitor.
One monitor can be used to operate your streaming software. *We’ll cover software more in depth in the next video of this series. Your second monitor can be used to see chat better, or to have lyrics for the songs you are singing, or to share media with your viewers. There are many streamers that use 3 monitors. While I’m sure this makes streaming a breeze, three monitors are not necessary.
The preference is yours whether you want a traditional monitor or a curved monitor. There are so many options available these days. Whatever type you decide on, make sure you have monitor risers. If you are streaming for longer periods of time, and/or streaming regularly, your neck and spine will thank you for the alignment.
Most streamers sit while streaming. Unless you are streaming to Instagram or TikTok, chances are your streams will be longer than 1-2 hours. This means you will be sitting for long periods of time. Your health is the most important part of your streaming career. Your mental and physical health matter immensely.
Chairs are not electronic hardware but they should be treated as integral streaming equipment. Some streamers use gaming chairs, others use office chairs. Be like Goldilocks. Try lots of chairs and find the one that works for you.
Other honorable mentions –
Webcam, microphone, lighting, and quality audio are a must have for a live stream with a competitive edge. In addition to these streaming necessities there are a few other streaming hardwares that can add a professional shine to your broadcast. None of these honorable mentions are required for streaming, but I would be remiss to end this blog without mentioning them.
- Elgato stream deck – If your stream will have lots of scenes, videos to be triggered, and/or alerts, a stream deck can be very helpful. With the touch of a button you can switch scenes, play videos, trigger alerts, turn lights on and off and more. Seamless transitions for you and your viewers.
- Capture card – You can use a capture card to connect a laptop to your PC’s stream output. You will also need a capture card if you ever decide to stream video games.
- External hard drive – Your overlays, emotes, stream art, and other stream assets are going to take a lot of space on your computer’s harddrive. It can be helpful to have everything saved to a harddrive or backed up on your dedicated streaming harddrive. Yes. You should have a hard drive dedicated to all things streaming. It will fill up fast.
- Mic stand – if you have a USB mic there is a chance that the mic will come with its own stand. If you have a condenser mic you will need a mic stand or mic arm to hold your mic.
- Headphones – All headphones are not created equally. You can get in-ears, bluetooth, or over the ears. Try as many types as you can and find out what works best for you.
- Tripod – Whether you are using a phone or webcam, a tripod is going to be one of your best friends. You can get a tall tripod that extends from the ground, or a desktop tripod. Perhaps you’ll decide on having one of each. A tripod will be one of your best friends in the streaming business. Allowing you to have a steady visual while freeing up your hands for other streaming tasks. A tripod will also allow you to get angles that holding your webcam simply won’t allow
The buy in for a fully professional streaming setup can be quite expensive. Start slow, start with the basics, and upgrade as you go. Make a wish list to keep your hardware dreams organized. Once you have a good idea of all the hardware needed to get your streams up and running join me in part three of this series where we’ll discuss streaming software. See you there!