Getting Twitchy: How to Vlog 101
September 15, 2019 9:28 AM   Subscribe

My adult daughter and I want to do a series of... podcasts? vlogs? let's plays? focusing on video game advertising. This involves going through Humble Bundle bundles, Steam queue, and various other listings about games, rather than reviewing/playing the games themselves. Starting budget goal: Less than $50, fewer than 10 hours of prep work. This is something we want to do for fun and maybe pizza money.

We might also play games. But mostly, we have a blast going through my Steam queue and looking at bundle collections and talking about what we might like or not like about what we see. (I like noting which sci-fi games apparently left no budget for lighting their spaceships. She pointed out that the difference between "adventure" and "horror" is whether you're walking around with a flashlight. Flashlight means horror.) At some point, we realized we'd love to share our chats with other people. We don't think we'd get famous, but we do think we'd have fun. We thought about doing podcasts (that's easier, right?) but realized we need to be able to show off the game listings.

We know basically nothing about the tech involved, and almost as little about the "business" side. (Like, Twitch, YouTube, something else? Should we have a website? New accounts everywhere, or jump in with what we have now?)

Tech: We have an Alienware 17 laptop running Windows 7. We should have all the processing power we need. We're aware of OBS and have attempted to use it, with mediocre results. It seems... complicated, and it looks like high frame rate capture makes huge files.

Do we need:
  • Special recording software? Is OBS best, or something else? Or can we just record via Twitch and a YouTube feed? Does Twitch have built-in "record your game" software? (This tells you how little I know about how Twitch works. I got an account because my Am Prime account gives me free games. Which I don't play.)
  • A monitor? Multiple monitors? (That'd put us over budget, but we'd get plenty of other use out of it.)
  • A new external drive, 2tb-4tb, before we get started?
  • Microphone(s)? (Eventually, yes; do we really need them to start?)
  • Cameras? (Probably same.) (We might opt for not doing cameras at all, especially at first. Neither of us is photogenic, and women who get famous for geeky things get death threats.) (We don't think we'd get famous, but it only takes one episode catching the attention of some high-profile alt-righter to change that.)
  • Sound/video editing software? (...not if we're using Twitch, right?)
  • New accounts - gmail, youtube, twitch, steam, etc?
  • Name, logo, branding things? (Again: of course we need these. Will we regret it if they're not finalized and polished before we start?) (Assume we will have a modest but dedicated following someday.)
  • A Patreon page? A new Patreon account as creators instead of our current subscribe-to-things Patreons?
  • Something else I'm not realizing I should ask about?
Daughter watches a bunch of let's plays and vidcast/vlog things. I watch basically none, but have seen the one she throws at me. (I've enjoyed Extra Credits, Ross's Game Dungeon, Game Grumps, and MatPat.) I'm more tech-savvy; she's more industry-savvy; I'm much more business-savvy.

Short, TL;DR Version: Daughter and I want to do gaming-related vlogging without showing our faces. How much prep do we need to avoid "ugh oops we did that all wrong" later, or should we just grab the highest-recommended free software options and get started?
posted by ErisLordFreedom to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (2 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: That sounds like it could be a lot of fun! Building a new channel is a very slow process (people mostly want to watch what a lot of other people watch), but you seem to have reasonable expectations.
  • OBS Studio dominates streaming and recording, and it's worth learning to use. There's a version called Streamlabs OBS that has more features suited specifically to Twitch, like built-in chat and on-stream donation alerts. You might have an easier time getting started with it than with the more general-purpose OBS Studio, especially if you want to have fancy stuff like alerts. Other streaming software I'm aware of either costs money or (like the Shadowplay feature built into Nvidia's driver package) is only suited to streaming plain game footage.
  • A second monitor would be ideal. One for the window you're streaming, one for OBS, chat, and whatever else. Trying to do everything on a single laptop display would get cramped quickly. You can probably get away with one display if you use OBS's window capture rather than display capture. That way if you need to have a window on top of the area you're capturing, like when you need to tweak something in OBS mid-stream, it won't show up in the streamed video. (The downside is that window capture can be more finicky than the reliable display capture, which just streams what's on your monitor.)
  • You've already discovered that video files can be gigantic. A large external drive is essential if you're planning to store your archives locally. If you're willing to let YouTube and Twitch store your videos (with the small but present chance of losing them to e.g. mistaken music-copyright detection), you can get by with just keeping the latest recording or two.
  • Laptop-mic sound quality is a pretty poor first impression for what's more or less a talk show. Twitch viewers are generally more sensitive about audio quality than having a polished video presentation. If you plan to stick to a $50 budget, I'd recommend spending it all on a desktop microphone. Your microphone is likely to pick up fan noise from your laptop; OBS has a noise suppression filter which can mitigate that.
  • Cameras are very much optional. Loads of streamers rarely or never use a camera. Also I've seen trolls wander into Twitch channels where a woman is streaming w/camera and start spouting abuse in chat. It sucks a lot, but it's a factor worth planning for. (Speaking of which, if there's someone you trust who's willing to moderate chat, that would give you fewer things to juggle while you broadcast.)
  • You don't need editing software if you're only planning to stream and upload unedited archives. OBS can compose video from multiple capture sources and mix audio from your microphone with audio from the programs on your PC. It's all-in-one. Most streamers who post archives to YouTube don't do much or any editing, and YouTube has a simple in-browser editor that works well enough if you need to clip some empty space out of an archive.
  • You'll want a dedicated email address, Twitch channel, and YouTube channel, as well as whatever other social media pages you'd like to use. Twitch streamers practically all use Twitter to let their audience know about upcoming streams, so that's especially worth setting up. You don't need your own domain or dedicated website at all. Most streamers seem to use their personal Steam accounts. If you're worried someone who decides they don't like you might look up your Steam profile and find a way to follow it to other accounts or your real identity (seems unlikely but that's the only risk that comes to mind), lock down your Steam privacy settings before you start.
  • Viewers don't expect small channels to have a super professional presentation, though the ones that do stand out. You need a name for people to follow, but branding efforts beyond that are less important up front.
  • I'd say find an audience first, then worry about how to take donations. Twitch has built-in donation features ("bits" and subscriptions) that give the streamer a smaller share than Patreon, but are lower friction for the viewer and have fun incentives like subscriber-only custom emoticons. Access to those is limited to Twitch affiliates, and becoming an affiliate requires hitting some channel goals for streaming activity and viewership. Some streamers supplement that with Patreon subscriptions and one-time donations via sites like Streamlabs. Views for live-stream archives on YouTube tend to be very low, so that's not worth considering as an income source. Still, that's all stuff to look at later in my opinion.
Other things... If you find a good audience, consider setting up a free Discord server. That's the most popular way to turn an audience into a community that chats outside the stream. Discord's voice chat is also a common way for streamers to have remote guests, should that ever come up. Consider adding background music to your streams, either royalty-free or game soundtracks to avoid Twitch's copyright filter. Music removes some of the pressure to fill dead air.

This sounds weird after such a long advice post, but you two can mostly just learn as you go? You're not going to make mistakes in hobby streaming that can't be fixed. No point in having a whole plan set in stone before hand.
posted by skymt at 1:32 PM on September 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

skymt covered a lot of great points. I'll add a couple more (I've been streaming art and gaming on a weekly basis for almost a year now, with a very small following, all for fun).
  • You mentioned high frame rate being a concern. That and the audio bitrate can be adjusted in OBS's settings window (it's under Output). Check up on Twitch's broadcast requirements too. For video bitrate, I have mine at 2000 Kbps (my internet is basic crap) and viewers had no issue following what's on screen, although it's definitely not HD quality. Depending on your internet connection, you can go higher.
  • For branding, an internet name is sufficient, and a profile pic helps personalize it a bit but totally optional (for now). Twitch also lets you set up an "offline" image on your channel so when you're not streaming, it's not all black and empty (but you can worry about that later).
  • Remember to take short breaks if you're streaming for more than a couple of hours! If necessary, you can set up a special screen in OBS for "BRB" moments.

posted by curagea at 4:03 PM on September 16, 2019

« Older Medical Alert Watch?   |   Should I try heated floor mats or rugs this winter... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.