A Beginner’s Technical Guide to Streaming on Twitch

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Lately, there’s been an increase in articles touting what a great branding and awareness platform live streaming is. This is true. If you have a winning personality and a talent for something visual, it’s kind of awesome. Anything goes as long as it’s not illegal on YouTube and Facebook Live. But we have an elephant in the live streaming studio: Twitch.

Twitch: Live Streaming with Restrictions

Twitch, purchased by Amazon in late 2014, is a live-streaming platform that was birthed out of Justin.tv (R.I.P.). Originally only “Let’s Play” style live streaming, its expanded parameters now also include Gaming Talk Shows, Poker, Music and Creative. It is important to note, though, that your stream must fall into one of the approved categories.

This platform is dominated by the ever-valuable 18-45 male demographic and comes with all their special quirks. This includes distrust of advertisers, use of ad blockers and an occasionally toxic outlook on the world. Much of the Twitch audience are also Redditors and/or on 4chan normalfags, /b/tards and shitposters. Most marketing blogs don’t use these terms. This is why I’m writing this: So you don’t look like a scrub when you try Twitch, which can be pretty willing to flay you alive if you don’t belong.

Welcome to the internet. Just call me Virgil.

No RAM, No Bandwidth, No Service

The technical needs of streaming on Twitch are pretty up there. I can’t stress enough how crucial it is to have a high-quality computer and a solid internet connection. Skimping on these two needs is like taking the wheels and engine out of a car: You get a car in name only.

So what are the immediate technical needs to livestream on Twitch?

  1. 32 GB of RAM helps maintain a smooth stream. Many pro streamers use two computers to hit this mark and free up some processing power. One computer plays a game or records the video, and the other encodes and uploads the video. The minimum you can get away with is probably 16 GB, but  your output will suffer for it. Expect a stuttering stream and/or pixelated image.
  2. Get the best, most steady internet connection you can afford. Fast is great, but steady is better. Low-bandwidth causes what Twitch calls “broadcast starvation.” This is when there’s no data to broadcast because your internet pipes are clogged.
  3. Download encoding software, specifically OBS (free) or XSplit (free to a point, and then it costs money). In my experience, while I personally prefer OBS, XSplit has a lot of features that I feel work a bit better. Because OBS is open source, it can be finicky, and you may need to roll back updates that didn’t quite go as planned.
  4. Assuming you want to be seen (some of the Gaming streamers don’t), you need a good webcam. Believe it or not, there’s one camera that is the overwhelming streaming camera of choice, and it’s not expensive: The Logitech Pro Webcam C920, which, as of this writing, is about $61 on Amazon and available with Prime. The thing just works.
  5. To be heard, you need a microphone. This is probably the most divisive piece of equipment that streamers will bicker about. The only thing we really agree on is that you don’t want to use the one on your camera, if you can avoid it. I like headset-based microphones, because it’s pretty easy to get a nice surround sound for myself without disturbing anyone else who’s around. A lot of streamers, though, like using a freestanding mics like a Blue Yeti, currently available for $128.99 on Amazon and with Prime.

Getting Started

I won’t lie: You’re going to look ridiculous. You’re going to have to troubleshoot your equipment, your lighting, your framerate, your mic settings, etc. etc. Count on the first stream being a troubleshooting nightmare, unless you have someone with you who’s streamed before. A small tip: 30 FPS and higher is a nice goal, but it’s unrealistic with the way that livestreaming works. Use our live streaming calculator to figure out your starting point, and please don’t be insulted when it tells you the frame rate will be really low. It’s a limitation of the technology as it exists right now.

More importantly, if it’s just you, you’ll probably feel ridiculous. You’re sitting at a desk, doing something relevant to Twitch, but essentially talking to yourself. You know the ironic part of it? You start off talking to yourself because no one is there, then people show up. You talk to the people until there gets to be too many of them, then you’re back to talking to yourself. Did I mention that Twitch is a really good way to get to know yourself and build your self-esteem on a personal level? Because that. All day, that. You will talk to yourself so much. It’s a good idea to have an outline of topics to talk about so there’s less silence.

How Do I Know This Twitch Stuff?

I’ll write more about live streaming and its challenges as time goes on, but I wanted to get this article out because of the misinformation I’ve been seeing with regard to the Twitch platform in particular. For whatever reason, there are a lot of marketers out there who mean well when they write about Twitch being this awesome catch-all for 18-45M, but they haven’t experimented with Twitch and don’t know about it’s occasional weirdness. They don’t know about the backlash against some advertisers or the resentment of cam girls. They don’t know that there are scholarly articles on how conversation topics vary wildly from gender to gender, and the topics can be downright toxic for female streamers. They don’t know that there’s a speedrunning community that’s very active and a corruptions community that’s hilarious.

Personally, when I have the time, I stream on Twitch. I watch Twitch while I’m working, and I make it a point to watch several different streams throughout the week.

If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments! I personally think streaming is changing the way people approach content marketing as well as entertainment, so I’m pretty hyped to write more about it.

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