I was recently asked about my setup for livestreaming and filming Youtube videos. Since this is something that came about as a result of a good deal of trial and error, I thought it might be nice to spare others the same struggle. So here is a brief explanation of my setup for filming videos as of March 2022. I'll try to keep this reasonably up to date as my technique improves.
In some cases, I've linked to where I bought the products from. These aren't affiliate links – they're merely conveniences and ways to keep track of the particular products.
It can get expensive to set up a studio to produce videos, but chances are that you have some of the equipment already. Also keep in mind that this is a (relatively) mature setup: I've been producing online courses since mid-2020 and streaming since late 2021, and I've gradually upgraded things to the point outlined here. You can certainly get started with a lot less.
I'd also like to note that half of this setup has come about through the help of my producer Lucy. So let's all thank Lucy for helping us make better videos!
The format of the channel is as follows: the source of all videos is a stream which I do every week for 2–4 hours. I break it up over two days or else my voice would give out. If you can stream for longer than 2 hours straight, I doff my hat to you.
I like to break up each streaming session into 2–4 segments. These segments will later be extracted from the stream video and uploaded to Youtube as separate videos. Therefore, Before and after each of these segments, I do a greeting for Youtube.
After the stream is done, I leave up the full stream video (this full stream recording is called a VOD, or video on demand, which I didn't know beforehand) so that people can watch it later.
Then, Lucy takes the stream video, chops it up into segments, does some light post-production on audio and colour, adds a short intro segment, and schedules it to be uploaded according to our upload schedule (currently 3 videos a week).
For streaming, I use Streamlabs OBS (requires subscription) to stream simultaneously to Youtube and Twitch. There is a learning curve to this software that I haven't fully ascended yet. But, nevertheless, it is the centrepiece of the whole setup. You will need to look things up when setting up Streamlabs OBS. In some aspects Streamlabs OBS works the same as the free OBS Studio (which Streamlabs OBS is built on), and in others it has its own idiosyncracies. So keep that in mind when looking up solutions – sometimes searching for "obs" works and other times it won't.
Some things I've learned about Streamlabs OBS:
- Streamlabs OBS won't automatically show you the combined YouTube/Twitch chat. You need to activate this yourself every time by clicking Multistream.
- If you plan on using stream footage to create other videos, you should record your streams locally rather than relying on downloading them from Youtube. Lucy (my producer) and I have found that Youtube compresses longer streams even when you download the supposed full-quality version.
I currently use a Windows desktop to stream. At the time I started in late 2021, my Macbook Pro (2014-era) was showing its age and my Windows desktop was the only machine capable of streaming. I will be testing out streaming from a 2021-era Macbook Pro in the coming months and will report back.
I have found it important to have a wired Ethernet connection when streaming. On a wireless connection, I experienced stuttering and dropped frames. Your mileage may vary here, depending on the particulars of your internet connection.
I use a dual-monitor setup: one monitor is for the content of stream, and the other I use to monitor the chat and hold any notes I'm using. Be mindful that the aspect ratio of a youtube video isn't necessarily going to be the same as your monitor. Streamlabs OBS (or equivalent) will help you set up your windows so that they fit on screen when you stream.
I have two microphones I can recommend. The one I use for streaming is the Behringer XM8500. Note that this microphone requires phantom power, so I also use a mixer (specifically the Behringer XENYX 302USB). This route requires some fiddling with settings, but there are ample tutorials on Youtube.
As a simpler alternative, I can also recommend the Samson Q2U, which connects by USB. I use this on my non-streaming computer and would have no hesitation in using it for streaming as well.
In each case I use a boom scissor arm (example) to hold and position the microphone close to my mouth. This is essential to get good, clean sound.
I also use a foam windscreen to reduce breath sounds and pops. It's not perfect, but it's unobtrusive, unlike the pop filter I used in earlier videos, which tended to block my view.
Finally, be sure to wear headphones while streaming to minimize any potential for feedback.
Right now I am using a simple 1080p webcam as the video source, the Logitech C920. I have tried getting my relatively inexpensive DSLR camera (the Canon EOS Rebel T7) to work for this and the framerate was unacceptable. In general, you will need an expensive camera to use it to stream. I don't think this investment is worth it for my channel right now but I hope to change this in the future.
Note that, for prerecorded videos, the Canon EOS Rebel T7 is perfectly acceptable, and, in fact, looks great. If I ever return to doing prerecorded videos,
The thumbnail production process is more involved than I'd imagined it would be at the outset. At the beginning of the week, I do a photoshoot (Youtube's algorithm likes goofy poses, so be prepared to sacrifice your dignity) in the clothes I'll be wearing for the week's stream.
This is important because scheduling the stream in advance, along with a thumbnail, means that people will see that it's scheduled on their Youtube feeds. Keeping the outfit constant between stream and thumbnail is important because people use the outfit as a signal for whether they want to watch the edited videos: if they've seen the stream with that outfit already, they won't need to watch the excerpt videos where I'm wearing the same thing. Yes, people actually do keep track of this!
My sister Katie acts as photographer, using my Canon EOS Rebel T7.
I then send Lucy the photos and she crops, colour corrects, and decoration to them. We use a plain photo without decoration for the stream thumbnails, and add a frame and text to the excerpt videos.
Lighting is a difficult topic. I use a 45 Watt CFL bulb with 5500K colour temperature mounted on a pole on the other side of my desk. I have set up the light with a white diffuser umbrella in front of it, as is pictured in this product listing (I don't use this particular product, but I do use one like it). I do this not only so that the light is more even but also so that I don't have to see a bare bulb.
Along with this, I ensure that all other lights in the room are off when filming and that the blinds are shut. Otherwise, the lighting is just too variable to work with.
I had thought a very plain background would be best, but in fact it seems to look better to have some visual interest in the background. I use a folding screen, a bookshelf, paintings, and plants, and it all seems to work. Some people have even asked me if it was a green screen!
One thing that surprised me is that the background started looking even better when I put more distance between me and it. That separation seems to make the subject (yours truly) 'pop' out and avoid getting lost in all the detail. So, if you can, don't film directly with your back to wall if possible. I think I have about a metre between my desk and the wall and this looks good without taking up too much space in the office.
The only reason I'm able to create so much content is that I do it live. I have perfectionist tendencies, so when I'm left without a deadline, I tend to take ages to create anything.
Livestreaming, by contrast, has forced me to accept imperfection. Instead of treating videos as precious objects that can be perfected, I now treat them as classes, lectures, or workshops which are captured for posterity. They're imperfect but they have a live "energy" that makes up – I think – for the inevitable "ums" and "ahs".
As a result of accepting the imperfection of livestreaming, I am able to create content in great quantity, and have ended up learning a great deal more than I otherwise would have. The parable of the two pottery classes, I think, is relevant here.
I hope this guide helps you! Please let me know on Twitter if you have any questions.