Setting up your stream for the very first time can be a serious challenge. Here, we'll walk through some topline, basic rules of thumb you'll need to get your first stream up and running - and, how to best approach your upgrades!
This is one of the more dense subjects here in the Mixer Academy, so don't hesitate to take notes. Because, yes, this is going to be on the test.
The Topline Skills
It's a no-brainer, right? Your stream needs to be entertaining and engaging to your viewers in order for you to be successful. But, there's a lot of little things that aren't entirely obvious that go into making sure that your stream is fun to each and every person that drops by. Here's a few pointers to get you started.
Second only to you, Chat is going to be one of the most integral parts of your stream. While you're live it's important to ensure that you've got some sort of a running commentary to your gameplay - a part of that needs to be interacting with Chat.
First impressions can mean the difference between someone who becomes a long-term loyal follower of you and your community - or, someone who stays in your channel for ten seconds and then leaves, never to return. After all, if someone drops by your channel and sees you laughing and joking around that could lead them to chatting, which could lead to a brand new follower of your channel.
Here's a few pointers to ensure that you're interacting with Chat in a way that can promote discussion, and in turn potentially lead to more awareness for your community:
- If someone chats, be sure to say hello to them as soon as possible! If you've worked in retail it's a very similar interaction - you're just making them feel welcome. (With FTL on your side, this is a much more immediate experience as well.)
- Note that 'calling out' lurkers is a huge turn off for many. If someone just wants to stroll through and see what you're about, that's totally fine! Or, there's a chance they might just be a shy viewer - either way, making them feel comfortable is key.
- Want to know more about Mixer's Chat Commands? We've got a full rundown for you right here.
- Ever been curious about all the details regarding Mixer's Chat Settings? Check this out.
- And, remember that Mixer Staff members will be represented by a gold name in Chat. Mixer Staff would never contact you on an account with a different-colored name. Period. For more information on Chat Colors, you can check out this article.
For those that are unaware, Raiding (covered in our course on Stream Etiquette) calls for something a little different. Here's a few things to keep in mind if another gracious streamer suddenly drops their entire audience in your lap:
- First things first - as a quick refresher, a Raid is when one Streamer wraps up their broadcast, then encourages all of their viewers to all go watch another streamer together. (Usually accompanied with a Chat message, like "Streamer raid!")
- If you're planning on Raiding another Streamer, just be sure to ask for permission first. Not everyone is Raid friendly - though, many do denote this in their stream title.
- A host will usually accompany a raid, so be sure to say hello right away! Giving a shout-out to anyone arriving in a Raid will help spread goodwill first and foremost - and, the goal is to ultimately get the new community members and your own community to get to know each other.
- Ultimately, if you're getting raided, keep your cool! It can be exciting having another Streamer you know or idolize put their spotlight on you - and, spending the entire time constantly thanking people doesn't make for the best content. Use this as a chance to show off what you're all about!
In fact, if you know in advance that you’re headed for a big follower day (you're competing in a tournament, or you're headed to a convention), you may want to turn off or make your follower notification less obtrusive.
Alternate text ("alt text" for short) is information that describes any images on your Mixer profile. It’s displayed when an image doesn't load on a page, and is read aloud by a screen readers. Without alt text, someone using a screen reader won’t have any idea what the image is, so do yourself a favor and get it all filled out.
In order to add alt text, you can do it via the image editor or the source in your channel description:
- Go to the 'Image Properties' in your channel editor.
- Fill out the text box labeled alternative text:
Here's a few things to keep in mind when you're writing your alt text:
- For descriptive images, be sure to focus on your core message! For example, if you have an image that lists your schedule, put enough information in there so that your community members using a screen reader could make sense of it all. Format it as if you were writing a very descriptive paragraph.
- If there's a picture, just be sure to keep it simple! Think of it as writing a Tweet describing your image. And, be sure to focus on whatever message you want to convey.
It's not entirely unusual to get so hyper-focused on the game you're playing (or the meal you're cooking, or the art you're creating), and you forget to talk to the audience. While, for some of the most high-level competitive gamers this can be okay, by -and-large you're going to want to avoid dead air.
Dead air is a tricky subject for some to approach. But, it should be noted that even if you've only got zero viewers, you should always behave as if you're streaming to a captive audience. (You never know when someone's going to be passing through!) To do yourself a favor, just consider "thinking out loud" while you play your game. This isn't to be confused with reading through menus, out loud, in their entirety - but rather to speak through the pro's and con's of what your approach is, or what you're aiming to do during a particular moment in a game.
REVIEW YOUR OWN CHANNEL
And now, for perhaps the most difficult job of them all - watching your own content. While it can be difficult at first to watch yourself go through every little move and motion in a VoD, keep your goals in mind - you want your stream to be entertaining, you want your stream to be engaging, and you want your Chat to know that they're an active participant.
By watching your past stream VoD's (short for 'Video on Demand', and the ability to turn them on is in your Broadcast Dashboard) you can get a great understanding of what your audience is experiencing during your streams! Even a 20-30 minute watch can make a huge difference in seeing and hearing patterns in your stream.
DEALING WITH TROLLS
Trolls are inevitable, but suffering is optional.
While you, on an individual basis may have different ways for dealing with trolls, bear in mind that you set the tone for your community - and, it's up to you to uphold the standard of discussion you want to see.
On Mixer we've got a new update for Catbot that, along with our channel progression system, will let you custom-tailor your Catbot moderation settings level-by-level to help filter out any potential new viewers that aren't contributing as much as folks that have been in your community since day one.
By navigating to your Broadcast Dashboard, then by clicking on the 'Moderation' tab on the far left side of the window, you can review your entire set-up:
- Catbot Override: Getting a weird influx of Blueberries that want to let you know their most controversial opinions in Chat? Turn on Catbot Override and set a level. Any viewers that are of that level or lower won't be able to chat until they've graduated through your progression.
- Catbot Level Settings: Want to take a more customized approach? Check out the Catbot Level settings! Here, you can customize exactly what level of Catbot moderation you want, for level gaps dictated by you. (We've started you off with some of our favorite settings, just to get you started.)
And remember, above all-else - if someone crosses the line and breaks Mixer's Terms of Service or Rules of User Conduct, be sure and report them. A real live human here at Mixer will take a look at your report and take action accordingly, so always err on the side of caution and let us know what's up.
Remember too, Mixer has the Guardians (email@example.com) for you to email should you have a rule-related question, and the CAT team (firstname.lastname@example.org) for anything else.
This one's pretty easy - but don't forget to have fun! Above all else the viewers are there for you. Even if you might feel the pressure to play a game that's topping the charts, maybe take a break every once in a while and play a game just for you. You might be surprised at what your audience thinks!
WHERE DO I EVEN START?
Here, we'll dig into the finer points to consider on how to improve your streaming set-up, and how to best gauge when you should invest more in your channel.
Even our biggest Partners first approached streaming as a hobby - if even an expensive one. Explore what the medium has to offer, have fun as you progress, and spend some time streaming. (Months, even!) Only once you've walked a mile in your favorite Streamer's shoes will you be ready to follow in their footsteps.
THE EVOLUTION OF YOUR RIG
Your PC is likely to be the very heart and soul of your stream - and, as such, it has the potential to be a significant investment. Don't go rushing anything.
- Take it one step at a time.
- Set a budget.
- Decide what is realistic for you to purchase when you’re ready to take the next step.
If you're a competitive player looking for an edge, you might want to focus on your peripherals first (such as your controller, or mouse and keyboard). If you're an artist, you may want to focus on a higher-caliber tablet or some new software. No single path is right for every streamer!
Don't go worrying about getting the fanciest PC, or the nicest setup right out of the gate! Upgrading everything on your setup at once can make it difficult to discern exactly what changes you've implemented, or worse - it can cause a cascade of issues.
Start by picking one area of your stream setup (ex: your background, or your peripherals), or one aspect of your stream itself (ex: audio, or video performance) and work on that until you're happy. Whether you're starting with an Xbox or you're kicking things off from a battlestation, learning step-by-step can help you keep track of all the evolutions of your setup.
If your mic cuts out, desyncs with your video, or is crackly - it can drive away even your most loyal viewers. Making sure that your mic is working, and coming through loud and clear, is one of the easiest steps you can take to upgrade the overall quality of your stream.
As far as hardware goes, if you're just getting started, you can't go wrong using the Blue Snowball microphone. It's easy to set-up, and is widely used among streamers both new and veteran. (And, you can set them up in a wide variety of ways, depending on what sort of stream you're running.) If you're trying to keep with a steady USB microphone that's a bit more premium, the Rode Podcaster comes with a steady stream of recommendations.
But, most importantly, be sure and test your audio before you go live! You can do so with a quick recording from your streaming setup through your broadcast software of choice - and don't forget to include some live gameplay. Mixing your audio properly is a huge element to determining how drowned out you are during your stream's more riveting moments. Depending on your stream, you may also want to mix out your music so that only you can hear it. (A fair number of viewers still want their own tunes on in the background.)
You can mix the volume in your computer’s system level Volume Mixer and directly in your streaming software by raising or lowering the different audio channels (your microphone versus desktop audio, for example).
Above all though, just keep this tool at your disposal. Every single application you run has a big potential to change your overall audio mix, due to their own settings, your own OS settings, and everything in between. (Don't forget to keep your voice apps in check, too!)
Video quality can come in a lot of different forms. But, whether it's the quality of the game being rendered on-screen, the throughput of your stream, or your lighting and webcam, there's a lot to focus on.
To kick things off, we recommend the biggest individual plus-up you can make to your stream - you! Take a look at upgrading your webcam and lighting to get things started. In addition to being one of the easier upgrades you can make to your stream's production quality, it can be on the cheaper side as well. If your lighting isn't great and your camera is struggling to pick up a dark image, grab what you've got. If you've got any lamps around that you wouldn't mind repurposing, strategically place them around your set-up! It could make a bigger difference than you expect. (Or if you want to go with a more premium route, a lot of streamers put ring lights behind their monitor to ensure consistency.)
Ensuring you've got the right camera is an easy step as well. The Logitech C920 has a well-earned reputation among broadcasters, and for good reason. We've even heard of some streamers using a high-end DSLR (like a Canon D80) as their set-up. While a camera of that caliber is a good goal to keep in mind, starting off with a quality USB webcam will maintain until everything else is upgraded as far as it can.
And, of course, there's your set. To greenscreen - or not to greenscreen?
- THE CASE FOR: A greenscreen can allow you to make yourself bigger in the frame without taking up a huge corner of stream real estate. Your viewers will get a better view of your facial expressions while performing - all while showing off more gameplay.
- THE CASE AGAINST: Going without a greenscreen can allow you to make a highly personalized display behind you that highlights your favorite franchises, artists, action figures, models, and otherwise.
Either way, it's entirely up to you. But, should you opt to go with a greenscreen, don't worry about getting an expensive one! You can start off with a green bedsheet, just to get your sea legs. Too, both OBS and Xsplit offer chroma key background removal. Just ensure that you've got ample lighting, because your background will need to be as close to a single color as possible!
First things first - if you're streaming from your Xbox One console, you're already set and ready to go to stream. Here's everything you need to know.
But, if you're looking to stream to Mixer from your PlayStation or your Switch, you'll need to get your hands on a capture card. (If you're streaming from one PC, you won't outright need a capture card.)
Capture cards specifically capture (or, record) the audio and video happening on your console, and export it to your PC as a source in your streaming software. Elgato, Razer, and other hardware manufacturers have a wide variety of capture cards to go with in this situation, no matter your experience level - so, start your search wide! There's a lot of great options.
The holy grail. The battlestation. The rig. Your PC will be at the heart of your stream - but, make no mistake about it, you don't need to go overboard. Building a capable PC is very possible on even the safest of budgets, and can facilitate a great many stream activities.
First things first, it's best to understand why some streamers use one PC, versus two PC's:
- A single PC is a great route to go if you're just getting started. The more quality you demand for your stream the stronger your PC will have to be - but, to get started, streaming at 720p and 30fps is entirely acceptable. As an added note, your stream quality may differ significantly depending on what game you're playing, as there can be a wide variety of impacts they'll have on your GPU and CPU.
- With a dual PC set-up, each PC plays a different role. On your primary PC, you'll be building a gaming rig of your own design. But, your streaming PC needs to mostly focus its attention on the CPU and RAM, as it'll house your capture card - and, will be exporting your stream to the Internet. (So, you'll need to have an Ethernet port for each.)
DON’T DO IT ALONE
While we focused on topline tips here to help you guide your focus - don't go this road alone! Reaching out to your community and other streamers on social media is a great way to ensure that you're getting the most up-to-date hardware tips. And, given how fast new hardware is being created specifically for streamers, it never hurts to check.