You’ve been streaming on Twitch for a while, you finally made Affiliate (or even Partner!), and you’re ready to take your streaming game to the next, more professional level. If you’re in that place, you might have different needs for your A/V setup than the average person. Streaming has unique challenges that require specific techniques and hardware to overcome. Here, we’ll go over the next steps you can take.
For this guide, we’ll assume you’ve reached the point where you’re streaming professionally enough to have already handled the basic upgrades, like getting a separate camera or a better microphone. Some of the gear we’ll discuss will be on the pricier end of affordable, but if you’re looking to make streaming your business, it can be worth it.
Upgrade Your Acoustics
Hopefully, you’ve already given some thought to your acoustics by this point, but once you have some money to spend, it’s worth considering what you can do to make the audio in your recording space sound better. According to experts at the architecture and acoustics design firm WSDG, there are two kinds of acoustics you can plan for: the acoustics inside the room you’re recording in, and the sound coming from outside of it.
“You can be inside of a bunker, zero noise coming in and out from the space, and the bunker could sound like shit,” Sergio Molho, a partner at WSDG, told WIRED. This is because sound bouncing around a room, or loud devices, can cause echoes and unwanted noise. To minimize this, you can buy acoustic noise-dampening panels, which not only dampen the noise, but also make your studio look more professional.
“Conversely, you can be in a tent that sounds amazing, right? But you're gonna hear everything that's going on around you,” Joshua Morris, another partner at WSDG, added. Isolating sound from sources outside the recording space can be tougher. Soundproofing a room is expensive, but if you’ve already gone pro, it might be worthwhile. However, relocating to a new space might be even easier.
Audio Mixing Boards and Interfaces
Livestreaming means you can’t clean up your audio in post, so you need controls to help you get it right while you’re streaming. This is where audio mixing boards can come in handy. These offer inputs for each microphone and audio source you’re using and an array of dials and buttons that let you tailor each input to your needs. You can adjust gain levels and EQ settings and even add effects on a per-input basis. You can also mute inputs with the push of a button, all from one board. Controlling live audio is usually a job all on its own, so if you want to make things easy on the person you’ve got managing a half dozen microphones for your D&D streams, get them a mixing board.
You might also already have an audio interface, but if you don’t, consider the ergonomics and features of what you’re using when buying one. For example, the SSL 2+ is a high-quality audio interface with two input channels, just like most others. However, it comes with big, easy-to-access dials, including a massive blue knob for your monitors (more on those below) and bright LED displays that can show when you’re peaking. This can be extremely handy when you’re streaming and want to pay attention to your levels out of the corner of your eye and adjust them without having to look away from your game.
Video Switch Boards
Likewise, if you’re using multiple video inputs, it can sometimes be easier to use a physical video switcher than to fiddle with multiple video scenes in OBS. Each input gets its own button, and you can swap between them with a single push. Some models even come with a lever for fading between two inputs, which gives you a lot of intuitive control over transitions that you can’t quite get with software.
One of the more popular models, the $300 ATEM Mini, comes from Blackmagic, the company behind free editor DaVinci Resolve. These switchers are simplified, affordable versions of the kind of control boards used in traditional TV stations. The ATEM Mini can automatically key out your green screen footage in the switcher itself, and the ATEM Mini Pro can even record video to the board or stream directly to Twitch or YouTube.
Control Decks to Automate Your Production
Livestreaming to sites like Twitch and YouTube comes with an extra layer of production quirks that can slow you down if you don’t have a way to automate them. Things like starting your streaming software, sending out social posts to let your fans know you’re going live, or applying effects while you’re live can all be time-consuming if you have to take your eyes off your stream.
This is where devices like the Elgato Stream Deck come in handy. This programmable board has 15 LCD keys that can be programmed with custom actions across major streaming software, like OBS and Mixer, to switch between scenes, apply overlays, or get online quickly. If you’re not working with a huge streaming crew but could still use the speed of professional automation, this is a nice middle ground.
Audio Monitors to Hear Your Own Sound
How often have you been streaming for a half hour before you notice that Twitch chat is telling you your audio sounds like crap? If you want to prevent this from happening—short of creating one audio setup and then never touching it—you can get an audio monitor (or, as they’re sometimes called, “studio monitor”). These are different from your regular speakers because, unlike most consumer speakers, they are designed to not touch the audio signal. No post-processing, no special effects, no automatic volume adjustment. Your audio signal is what you get. Using audio monitors to test your audio before (or, Twitch gods forbid, during) your stream can save you a ton of trouble once you’re live.
And Finally: Backups of Everything
The No. 1 rule of live productions: No matter how prepared you think you are, you’re never prepared enough. Assume that your equipment can break, malfunction, or simply not work the way you expect, and have a backup plan for everything. That doesn’t mean you have to buy two of everything on this list, but it doesn’t hurt to keep the old hardware you used to use lying around for a while. If your production travels, bring backup hardware options that are at least good enough for your quality needs. The last thing you want is to wind up recording the biggest interview of your podcast’s life on your phone’s internal microphone.
The backup principle also applies to the software you use. Most streaming software allows you to set profiles with specific setups for which microphones or video sources you’re using and how they’re configured. If you change your equipment—or even just want to tweak what you have—keep your old profiles around. That way if something goes wrong during your stream, you can easily swap back to your old configuration.
In general, it’s also a good idea to test everything—more than once, if you can—before you go live. Once you start to broadcast, any problems that arise will interrupt your stream, potentially costing you viewers. But if you know, as much as possible, that your setup is working correctly before you click “Start Stream,” you can focus on putting on a great show.
More Great WIRED Stories📩 The latest on tech, science, and more: Get our newsletters!Can a digital reality be jacked directly into your brain?Future hurricanes might hit sooner and last longerWhat is the metaverse, exactly?This Marvel game soundtrack has an epic origin storyBeware the “flexible job” and the never-ending workday👁️ Explore AI like never before with our new database🎧 Things not sounding right? Check out our favorite wireless headphones, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers