Streaming buyers guide
What is game streaming ?
Streaming is an incredibly popular trend of sharing videos of your favourite games for other people to watch on video platforms such as Twitch, YouTube and Mixer. Whether you are motivated by showing off your best gaming moments or creating a welcoming environment for your community, with skill, dedication and a bit of luck you too could become the next big streamer. This guide will walk you through what hardware you need to consider to optimise your streaming setup.
Seven main factors
There are seven main factors to consider when choosing your streaming setup.
"You don't need to equip yourself with the latest components inside your streaming PC however having some of the latest tech will ensure you can play the most current games at the highest quality. It's also worth keeping in mind that if you're streaming FPS games like Fortnite, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Rainbow Six Siege, you won't want to experience FPS drops while streaming as it can affect your gameplay."
The process of capturing, editing and encoding video requires high-end hardware, so we recommend as an absolute minimum a six-core Intel or AMD CPU, 16GB of RAM, GeForce RTX graphics and ideally an SSD rather than an HDD large enough to store your latest streams. A more powerful system will enable you to process videos quicker and add more post-processing effects.
3XS Systems produces a wide range of gaming PCs and laptops optimised for streaming, click on one of the buttons below to view the our latest systems or configure your own.
The second consideration is what streaming software you’re going to use. Open Broadcaster Software, more commonly known as OBS, is a very popular free open source download, while other commercial applications are available such as XSplit.
If PC gaming isn't your thing or if you want to capture the console exclusive games, consider adding in a capture card to your streaming workflow. There are a range of capture cards available to buy such as the Blackmagic ATEM Mini, the AverMedia Live Gamer and the Elgato Capture Card series which are available as an internal PCI-E or external USB connection, capable of capturing either 1080p or 4K video in high-end models.
PRO TIPSetting up your capture card to stream from a console is simple. You can watch how to set up an Elgato Capture Card by our streamer Rage Darling Here
If you’re only intending on streaming PC games and your PC is powerful enough to both play and process the stream, then a streaming card isn’t strictly necessary. However, some professional streamers do use a setup comprising two PCs: one PC to play the game, and a second PC, armed with a streaming card, to capture the signal over HDMI. This diagram below shows how a dual PC setup would operate.
With literally thousands of streamers out there, an engaging and clearly recorded commentary on your stream is the best way to distinguish yourself. If you can’t afford to buy a dedicated microphone you should use the microphone built into your gaming headset. This has the advantage of being positioned close to your mouth, so shouldn’t pick up too much background noise.
PRO TIPDon’t be tempted to use the microphone built into your webcam, even if you have invested in a high-end model such as Logitech C920 HD Pro, the audio quality is nowhere near good enough for streaming.
Once you’ve established yourself as a streamer it’s a good idea to invest in a dedicated microphone. These range enormously in price, but for around £50 the Blue Snowball iCE microphone is a great choice, offering significantly better audio quality than a headset.
Not all streamers appear on-screen, some just provide an audio commentary, but if you want to appear in the stream then a good quality camera and lighting are crucial.
Although many action cameras and many DSLRs can be connected directly to a PC or laptop via USB we strongly recommend buying an Elgato Cam Link. This simple device acts as an interface between the camera and PC, enabling you to record directly onto your PC rather than camera’s limited on-board memory.
PRO TIPBefore buying a new camera to use with the Cam Link make sure to check the list of compatible cameras
A good place to start for a budding streamer is the Logitech C920 HD Pro webcam.
The next level up in quality and price from a high-end webcam would be a camcorder or action camera such as a GoPro.
"For the ultimate in quality, professional streamers normally use a Mirrorless Camera, a good example of this is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7. Mirrorless cameras not only provide the best image quality, but are the most adjustable and controllable for different light conditions.
Last but not least, if you are going to be visible in your stream then you also need to invest in some lighting.
The simple rule for lighting is that you need at least two lights; a primary light source commonly referred to as the key light and a second light source known as a fill light. Both lights are normally positioned behind the camera at different angles, helping to even out and remove the uneven patches of light and shadow created by one another. Depending on the shape of your room and the amount of ambient light you’ll need to play around with ideal positioning of the key light and fill light.
A great place to start is the Elgato Key Light bundle, which includes a pair of 2800 Lumens lights plus a Stream Deck lighting controller. There are many other lights available if you want to save some money but if you have the extra budget then the Elgato key lights are a great choice.
No true streaming set up is complete without accessories and although not all of these things are necessary, they will definitely aid you in your content creation. Whether they help you control your stream content more easily with a stream deck or transfer you into a completely different environment with a green screen, you can pick and choose exactly what works for you and your budget.
Green Screens are used to help combine two video streams together, in this case the first video stream from the game and the second from your camera. Using a process known as 'chrome key compositing' or 'Chroma keying', your streaming or recording software will make anything green transparent (including clothes). So if you have a Green Screen behind you, and you configure your Chroma key in your streaming software, you'll have no background behind you and you can overlay your webcam stream on top of your game for a nice, clean look.
We recommend the Elgato Green Screen range. These are available in a variety of sizes, including pop-up collapsible models and roller drive models.
Controlling your stream overlays can be quite complicated when they're just a mix of keyboard hotkeys. You might often forget which one is your going live scene and which on is your camera scene. Fortunately this is where an Elgato Stream Deck steps in, this multi-action control pad allows you to macro directly onto the device with LCD keys showing you exactly what's what.
There's currently three options to choose from, a 6 button version, a 15 button version and a 32 button version. They all function the same as the other but the larger ones just allowing you to have more control over your stream.