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How To Create Your Own Livestream On A Budget

As network technology has improved and gaming has moved into mainstream culture, live-streaming as a hobby has really started to take off. For the uninitiated, it's pretty much what it sounds like - you record a continual 'stream' of whatever media you choose, which is then uploaded to a streaming website or streaming service in real-time. Pretty cool, right? 

As a hobby, it's something that I myself have had a more-than-passing interest in for quite some time. Unfortunately, my less-than-stellar system (coupled with my lack of funds) meant that it wasn't really a viable hobby for me. At least...that's what I thought. 

Last month, I decided I wanted to do a bit of research, and as it turns out, setting up your own stream is neither expensive nor terribly difficult. I'll walk you guys through the process, in case you want to follow suit.

1. Figure Out What You Want To Do

This fellow definitely has it figured out.This fellow definitely has it figured out.

Since you're here, I'm assuming you want to stream games. That's primarily what most people tend to stream (and watch) anyway. Even so, it's worth noting that this is far from the only use for live-broadcasting software. It can also be used to great effect if you're an artist, for example (your fan-base will enjoy the chance to watch you work and ask you questions in the process), or to record footage of special events and the like.  

We're getting a bit off-track. Before you decide to start streaming, you need to ask yourself just what it is you want to stream. What games do you enjoy? What are you good at? What will people enjoy watching you play? Figure that out first, then move on to step two. 

2. Check Your Specs

Unfortunately, how much power your system's packing is pretty much the primary determinant for whether or not you can stream, right up there with  your network connection. Ideally, I'd recommend a system with at least 8 GB of RAM, a high-end quad-core CPU and a dedicated video card with around 512-1024 MB of dedicated VRAM. Now, you've a bit of wiggle room here. You can certainly get away with streaming on a lower-end system (depending on what game you're planning to play), but you might find that you've got to sacrifice a great deal of quality in-game or on your stream. 

There are also some games that you simply won't be able to stream, depending on your PC. There's one simple rule you should go by here: if your rig has trouble running a game by itself, you're not going to be able to stream it. End of story. 

Personally, I'd also recommend having a system that's capable of running a second monitor, so that you can keep an eye on your stream and make sure there's no glitches or bugs in the sound and video while it's running.  This is optional, and not everyone will deem it necessary. 

If you're not sure whether or not you'll be able to stream, I've a simple solution. Simply download your streaming platform (see below) and try a few test-runs with the games you want to play. Most platforms can save video directly to your hard drive just as easily as they can upload them to a server. Do this, and have a look at what sort of video and audio quality you're getting (as well as how much the act of streaming strains your system). 

As for your network connection, I'd recommend having a speed of at least 10 MB/S (more if there's going to be multiple people on the Internet while you're streaming). The reason I suggest this is that streaming - particularly in the case of online games - is extremely bandwidth-intensive. You want to make sure you've the network power to support it. Pingtest.net and Speedtest.net are godsends for determining this, by the way. 

Assuming your PC is capable of running a stream, it's time to grab yourself a platform. 

3. Download Open Broadcaster Software

Broadcastception?Broadcastception?

If you really want to, you can certainly shell out huge wads of cash for a premium streaming platform. I wouldn't recommend it, though. Chances are pretty high that unless you're planning on some professional-grade work, you'd simply be wasting your money. Instead, simply download Open Broadcaster Software. It's at least as good as Xsplit(a friend with more experience in streaming than I has informed me that it's actually better in many regards), and it's completely open-source. This means, essentially, that it's totally free. 

Once you've downloaded it, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with how it works. It's not too difficult to figure out. On the main interface, each "Scene" represents a different configuration of "Sources." You can add as many of these as you like; I've added one for each game I stream, so that I can easily swap between them when the desire strikes. Beyond that, all I'll say is that you should familiarize yourself with the platform before moving further. You can find a FAQ here, with a rather excellent video tutorial here.  

Generally, you won't need anything other than OBS to stream, so let's move on to the next step. 

4. Get A Webcam and Microphone/Headset

My personal recommendation.My personal recommendation.

If you're streaming, people probably aren't going to want to just see silent video of what you're doing. Although the webcam is an optional peripheral, the headset and mic most definitely aren't. You need to be able to talk. People need to be able to connect and communicate with you. Otherwise...you're basically just a walking game trailer.

For headsets, anything designed for gaming should suffice beautifully. That said, I'd recommend having a look at something by Steelseries, Turtle Beach, or Razer. For webcams, you generally can't go wrong with Logitech. One thing, though? Make sure you route your sound through your headset. People probably aren't going to want to hear your music blaring in the background. 

5. Choose Your Streaming Service

Next up, you're going to want to select your streaming service. I myself am partial to Twitch.tv, though there's also Ustream, Livestream, Sopcast, Bittorrent Live, and even a streaming service in the works with YouTube.  For this step, all I can say is that you should have a careful look at what each service offers, and then make your choice based on which one best suits your needs. Chances are pretty high you'll wind up with either Twitch or Ustream, though if you've a particular amount of ire for in-video ads (or subscription fees), Sopcast or Bittorrent Live might be more your speed. 

6. Troubleshoot 

Okay. Now for the fun part. First things first, set your channel to private - you're going to be putting out a few test videos (which you'll later delete), and you don't want anyone coming across your channel and getting a bad first impression.  The first thing you're going to want to do from here is acquire your path/stream key. Most services should offer this key up in either your settings menu or, in Twitch's case, a section known as "Streaming Apps." Paste this into the box next to "Play Path/Stream Key" under Broadcast Settings. 

Next up, you'll want to configure your sources. In this case, I'd recommend running the game you want to stream and setting up a Game Capture Source.  Right click to Add Source, then select from the dropdown menu. If you don't see your game listed, you might need to do either window capture or monitor capture.

Anyway, you're likely going to need to do a bit of trial-and-error here to get things working properly. Once you've managed to get everything running to your satisfaction, delete your trial broadcasts and set your channel back to public. You're good to go.

I'll see you online. 

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Nicholas Greene
Nick's Games Haven
InventorSpot.com
Follow me on Twitter @OmniscientSpork