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I’ve been dabbling with streaming for a while, now. A while back, I was streaming enough to get Affiliate status, even. Until last night, I’d not ever really felt like my setup was equal to what I wanted out of the experience. Some new hardware has changed that, in a major way. I streamed for a couple of hours last night and it was such a good time. I’m honestly blown away by how much I enjoyed it.

To that end, I thought I’d take some time and talk about the hardware involved. So, first off:

My Needs

The thing I’ve wanted to do for a while is stream from my consoles (Switch and PS4). Yeah, the PS4 has streaming built-in. It’s not great. I have the PS4 camera and the wireless headset. That means things need to stay charged, and the camera quality is only okay. I can’t change how things look, and for me to see the stream chat, the screen real estate is reduced. It’s hard to see things, and the text breaking in the chat is, uh, not good.

The Switch has no built-in options for streaming.

Also, I need to be able to speak, be animated, be engaged, and not get so loud that my voice carries and wakes or disturbs my partner. I often stream when she needs quiet, and I’m not willing to prioritize my streams over her comfort.

All of this meant I needed some help. I got one piece of hardware that completely changed things for me. I’ll cover that in the next section.

Important:  I didn’t drop the money for all of this stuff at once. It’s hardware that I’ve accumulated over the last three years as I’ve moved from just writing into writing, podcasting, and streaming. I’m privileged to have been able to afford this stuff. You don’t need all of it to get going for yourself. This is just my new ideal setup.

The Hardware

Computer: Asus ZenBook Pro with a Core i7-6700HQ, 16GB of RAM, a 500GB SSD, and a GeForce 960M with 2GB of RAM
Monitors: Laptop screen and a VGA monitor I got from a friend (on top of a milk crate so it’s above my laptop screen)
Blue Yeti, on a mic arm and pop filter
Camera: Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920
Capture Card: Elgato HD60 S
Internet: 200mbps connection through WoW, Ubiquiti Unifi Ap-AC Lite, connected to a Ubiquiti router
Consoles: Nintendo Switch and PS4
Software: OBS
Extras: Seven port Atolla USB 3 hub

That’s the rig! A few important points, if you’re looking to do this yourself:

For the computer, whether it’s a desktop or laptop, you need to have a discrete graphics card. It’s not just for running games on the computer itself. GPUs can be used for a lot of different tasks right now. The Elgato capture card is able to use the GPU to encode and decode the incoming video, which leaves the computer’s main processor free to do the work of streaming.

The capture card is really what makes this setup work for me. The Elgato HD60 S has an HDMI in, an HDMI out, and a USB 3 out. You plug your console into the unit, plug the USB into your computer, and plug the HDMI out into your TV or monitor or whatever. I have it set on my desk so the Switch and the PS4 are both in easy reach. All I have to do is change the HDMI input into the HD60 and I can easily move from one console to the other.

The Arrangement

Like I mentioned before, I’m using OBS on my Windows PC. The computer sits directly in front of me, with OBS up on the screen. OBS recently updated to include the ability to update your Twitch channel, and has integrated chat. My second monitor sits above my laptop screen, and when I’m streaming, has the output from the Elgato so I can see what I’m playing. I also set OBS to output its own audio to the headphone port on my Yeti mic, that way I can hear what I’m playing.

The key to all of this working for me is having the headphones plugged into the Yeti. I discovered this only recently, but when you have headphone in the Yeti, it acts like a monitor. That means I can hear myself and, most importantly, my volume levels. That allows me to speak on stream, stay engaged, and not get so loud that my voice carries upstairs and wakes my partner. That’s so dope.

I can also run games on the computer itself and stream those, but there’s a big quality drop. I’m asking the computer to do a ton of work in those instances. Using the HD60 means the computer can output everything I need it to.

For Twitch, I’m outputting everything at 1920×1080, streaming at 6mpbs, and at 60 frames a second. The freed up computer hardware allows the resolution and the fps. My recently upgraded network hardware allows for the 6mbps. The upshot of that hardware and how it handles traffic is that my partner should be able to stream via the Roku we use, and I should be able to stream all at the same time.

For the USB hub, that’s just for convenience. My keyboard has some faulty keys (and the laptop is out of warranty) so I have a wireless keyboard and mouse. That plus the mic, webcam, and capture card means I’m out of USB ports. The hub means convenience, so if I need to take my laptop out of all of this, all I need to do is unplug the power, HDMI, and USB. Sweet.

The Wrap-Up

I’ve wanted a setup that helps me feel like I’m hanging out with people while I’m playing. The combination of the vertical monitors, the quality of the stream, and the easy access to people in the chat meant that I basically spent two hours playing video games and drinking with friends last night. It was wonderful.

I often have time at night after my partner goes to sleep, so I expect that I’ll be doing this a lot more often. If that sounds interesting to you, find me on Twitch.