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Streaming doesn’t always require a ton of money or gear.
Wondering how to live stream to all your friends and followers on Twitch, YouTube and Facebook? Streaming your games, thoughts and opinions—or just everyday life—has become a popular way to gain a following during the past year of relative isolation, and thanks to better streaming tools and accessible accessories, it’s easier than ever. You do still need some tech to get you started though, and if you wan to make your stream look professional (or at least not overly amateurish) there are some must-haves you need to start your own streaming studio.
Maybe you have a few bits of this kit already, or maybe you need to outfit a whole new streaming studio, but this list of what you need has everything: cameras, microphones, lights, green screens, capture cards and audio interfaces, with a few options to help you out no matter your budget.
The Logitech Brio is a versatile webcam that supports a variety of popular resolutions, including 720p, 1080p and 4K, giving you plenty of options for your stream’s quality and overall bandwidth. It has a built-in HD auto-focus and light correction, helping you get a great looking picture from the first time you turn it on. You also have your choice between USB-A and USB-C connections, and it’s compatible with Windows 7 through 10.
If you don’t quite want to spend as much on your webcam, you can settle for the perfectly adequate 1080p resolution of the Logitech C922 Pro Stream, a great webcam for streaming. Its 2MP sensor picks up excellent quality video at 30FPS even in low light conditions and has a 78-degree field of view for a broad look at you and your backdrop. The built-in swivel mount makes it easy to angle this streaming camera to get your good side when you’ve set up your home streaming studio.
If funds are tight but you still want to get up and running with your online stream sooner rather than later, the Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000 is a great option. For under $40, it represents one of the most affordable ways to capture your pretty face in 720p HD, and its universal attachment base gives you a variety of tripod or alternative mounting options, letting you place it where you want.
Another advantage of this camera is that it’s designed with USB 2.0 in mind, so if you only have older USB standards on your laptop or desktop, this budget streaming camera is a great pick.
The Elgato Key Light Air is powerful, well connected and very customizable. It gives you the option of adjusting brightness and color temperature wirelessly from your computer, smartphone and tablet thanks to its Wi-Fi connectivity, and you can tweak the height, rotation and angle with the included telescopic stand.
With full support for Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android devices, this light works well just by itself, but if you need more light or additional light sources, you can easily double up on the Elgato Key Light Air for more.
If you don’t go for the more expensive LED lighting option, traditional bulbs can offer similarly soft lighting using a softbox. This Mountdog solution combines energy efficient lamps with a nylon-lined diffuser for a uniform and warm light that will help eliminate harsh shadows to make you look great. You get two in this pack, as well as telescope tripods for each lamp and a carry case should you want to take your streaming setup with you to a different location.
For more intimate streams (or when you’re operating on a lower budget) a ring light is a great solution to give your face ample, uniform light. This light is controllable with your Android or iOS device, letting you adjust through three color options—cool, yellow and medial—for a range of lighting styles.
Despite the low price, it comes with its own tripod for angle and height adjustment, and the two year warranty guarantees that if you have any problems, you can have your ring light swiftly replaced.
This Neewer green screen is big and thick, offering you plenty of space to operate your stream in, as well as blocking any light or color sources from behind the screen. It’s pretty affordable, comes with three handy-clips to help you mount it, and it’s washable so you can clean it when it’s seen some heavy use. Made from strong and durable materials, this green screen’s finished edging prevents tearing, and there’s a built-in hanger for curtain rails and tripod mounts to make hanging easy.
If you don’t have the space for a permanent green screen installation or you like to keep your streaming set up mobile, the Neewer Chromakey Collapsible Backdrop is a great solution. For under $50, you get two collapsible and reversible chromakey screens in green and blue. They might be small when folded up, but when sprung open they still measure 5 x 7 feet, giving you plenty of space to work with to add any background you want with ease.
Elgato might be a relatively new face in the microphone market, but its first entry is a great one. The Wave 3 combines a high-quality condenser microphone with a digital audio mixer that helps you combine as many as eight different audio streams for import into your chosen streaming software incredibly easily. This is a super intuitive streaming microphone that bundles a number of important functions into a single device, taking away some of the expertise required to setup your stream and letting you get on with the job of being entertaining.
Blue makes some of the most popular microphones for streaming, and its Yeti range is the pinnacle of that demand. The latest version is the Yeti X and it builds upon the powerful condenser recording capabilities of the original Yeti, moving from three microphone capsules to four.
It now includes an LED panel to let you know at a glance what your levels are like, and you can make on the fly adjustments to various aspects of your recording using the new smart knob control. The Yeti X is a little pricey compared to its contemporaries, but you get what you pay for: an excellent condenser microphone that continues to woo streamers new and old with its broad array of features and strong specifications.
If you need the most affordable microphone to get into streaming with, and especially if you want to record more than one person at a time, the Blue Snowball is a great way to do it. At just $50, it’s around a third of the price of many of the more capable streaming microphones, and as such does only offer omnidirectional or cardioid recording, but recording quality is decent and the bundled stand helps you place it exactly where you need it. It’s available in four distinct colors, but this Ice white version is the most affordable right now.
Audio interfaces help you boost your microphone recording levels, listen closely to what you’re recording, and manage any other inputs with useful controls. There are many solutions out there, but the GoXLR gives you everything you need in a high-quality audio interface, and looks fantastic too.
Alongside the excellent hardware interface itself, the GoXLR offers a robust software package that lets you make fine tuned adjustments to your voice and any other audio inputs you have. You can also apply voice effects to make yourself sound different—not only fun, but anonymizing if that’s necessary for your stream.
A little more understated than the GoXLR, the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 MK2 is a workhorse audio interface that punches well above its weight at this price. It allows for the recording of extremely high quality audio, has four analog and dual digital inputs, and is fully compatible with Windows and MacOS systems.
Since it requires only a USB power source, the Komplete Audio 6 cuts back on cable waste, and the built-in LED audio levels help you watch for clipping across all of your inputs simultaneously.
Focusrite has a reputation for quality products at affordable prices, and the Scarlett Solo 2×2 is arguably the best of them. It has a great build quality and offers both analog and digital inputs in a compact, attractive package.
The output sound on the Scarlett Solo is excellent and includes phantom power for condenser mics. It has full support for 24-bit / 192 kHz recording, plus you get USB-C for both power and connectivity. This is a high-quality, supremely portable audio interface which will help you make the most of any minimalist streaming studio.
If you don’t have a high-end desktop PC to house your capture card, the Elgato 4K60 S+ is the best of your best options. It can capture gameplay at 4K resolution at 60 FPS with HDR10 fully supported, and it can plug straight into a laptop or miniature desktop PC. Better yet, you don’t even need a PC handy as it can record directly to SD cards. Zero-Lag passthrough guarantees that no matter what you’re recording or streaming, you won’t see any effect on your gameplay either.
For the ultimate in gaming footage capture, you really need an internal capture card. The Elgato 4K60 Pro MK.2 is the pinnacle of such a card. It offers true 4K 60 FPS footage capture with on-the-fly encoding. The only downside is you’ll need a high-end desktop PC to power it and it’s not the cheapest option out there.
What you get for your money, though, is a sublime capture card that can not only capture footage at the highest resolutions, but the highest frame rates too. If you stick to 1080p, recordings can reach up to 240 frames per second, a boon for slow motion editing and something few other capture cards can even come close to.
It’s not cheap, but the Razer Ripsaw HD capture card is much more affordable than the best of the best, and it works just as well recording PC footage as it does for consoles. It offers 1080p 60 fps recording with 4K 60 fps pass-through, so you don’t have to limit your own visuals just because you’re streaming at the same time.
It includes HDMI 2.0 input and outputs, USB-C 3.0 high-speed data transfer and power, and 3.5mm jacks for headphones and microphones, making it capable of audio mixing if you want to stream without a dedicated audio interface.
Whether you’re recording videos for later editing and upload or streaming live to your followers, the right streaming software can make all the difference.
The most popular streaming software is Open Broadcaster Software, or OBS. It’s a high-performance, real time video and audio capture suite that is well supported by major streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube and has deep support for audio and video sources, letting you customize your stream to your heart’s content.
It’s also compatible with Windows, MacOS and Linux, so whether you’re capturing footage to your desktop PC, MacBook or low-power Linux machine, you can use OBS just the same as anyone else.
If you find OBS a little daunting to learn, Streamlabs OBS is much easier to get to grips with. It’s built on the same foundation as OBS, but has a more intuitive interface that could help you get up to speed quicker and more easily. It also claims to have greater optimization for better performance, but many would argue otherwise. It also lacks a Studio Mode, which more advanced users (or aspiring advanced users) might miss.
If you have a powerful Nvidia graphics card, you could opt to use Nvidia’s Shadowplay. Unlike most streaming software, it encodes your footage using the GPU rather than the CPU, offering a much more powerful encoding solution. That can preclude the need for a capture card too, potentially saving you money in the process.
Shadowplay isn’t as capable a streaming solution as OBS or SOBS, however, so power users will want to opt for either of those options instead. Luckily, the latest NVIDIA GPUs make this functionality readily available for third-party apps.
You don’t need a monstrously powerful PC for streaming, but it can help. If you just want to stream yourself in a VLOG format or podcasting, then all you really need is your phone, but if you want to record gameplay footage, play around with green screens and 3D visual effects, then a reasonably powerful computer is a must.
Twitch recommends a system with at least 8GB of RAM and an Intel Core i5-4670 CPU. Any mid-range PC from the past five years should be able to meet that specification, although laptops may need to be a little newer or higher end.
If you’re streaming console game footage, you’ll need to factor in the cost of an internal or external capture card, depending on whether you have a desktop PC or laptop. If you’re streaming PC gameplay, you’ll need to make sure your PC can both handle the game you’re playing and the encoding. If you only just meet the minimum specifications for Twitch, you’re not going to be able to both play and stream at high resolutions and frame rates.
If you can’t quite afford a big PC upgrade along with all the recommended streaming accessories, you could use an older PC as a dedicated capture and streaming system, leaving your main PC to handle the gameplay. That can be a little more complicated, but it’s a good cost saving solution if you have an old PC handy, and places far less demand on both system than if either was doing both the playing and streaming.