IF I CAN DO IT, YOU CAN DO IT!
Written by CLAUS STAAL
A lot of people are doing various kinds of content creation, from YouTube recordings of their late night TTS games to podcasts and articles on websites. There are a lot of really great Star Wars Destiny content out there, and I for one am not just enjoying it - I LOVE IT!
As more and more people are getting into Destiny, and it really looks like the game is growing again, I've also seen an increase in live streams, whether it's from your regular gaming nights or tournaments (locally as well as internationally), and the YOUR Destiny crew had for a long time considered starting regular live streams from our Destiny Tuesday gaming nights in ASK Gaming Café (where we also record our podcasts).
The only problem is that I'm technically illiterate, which is funny since, in the words of the editor of our website Kasper Juelsgaard, "considering the fact that I anchor a Podcast, a YouTube Channel, a website, a Discord Channel for our patrons and testing group: The European Gauntlet, and also a Twitch Channel". Luckily, and this is a great testimony to the quality of the people who are helping out with the YOUR Destiny project, I'm surrounded by experts - in this instance particularly our video editor Angelo Gonzalez - who can teach even a sad tech-ass like me how to setup and run a live stream.
WHAT DO YOU NEED?
There are no limitation to how much money you can spend on a live stream setup, and while the setup we decided on is not cheap, it's still affordable, and relatively easy to transport and set up. I guess it's your ambitions and at the end of the day also the size of your wallet that decides what to buy and what to save up for, for later acquisition.
I mean, you can run several cameras, either camcorders, DSLRs, webcams or smartphones to make the live stream cooler, record the ambience and surroundings, create perfect lighted rooms, make specially constructed tables for the recordings, etc. Or you can go low-key with just a single webcam.
BUY A GOOD QUALITY WEBCAM!
I've enlarged the font and used caps lock all the way through just to underscore this point. It's simply essential for your live stream that the camera is of a good quality. In this particular case price and quality do go along, which means that while your average "ok quality" webcam might cost some 40$, a webcam suitable for live streams in "great quality" can set you back 200$. That's a huge difference, but the change of quality is remarkable. (I owe a big THANK YOU to Sean Aguilar aka Pearl Yeti from Artificery for this particular piece of advice)
I started out buying a 1080p webcam for recording games some 10months ago and I wish that someone had told me back then that it wouldn't cut if for streaming Destiny games. While the camera is not BAD, the dice look fuzzy and details are obscured in way that it just subtracts from the entire experience. If I had know how massive the changes of the result from switching to a 4k webcam would be, I wouldn't have hesitated a second in putting down that extra dough. The original camera was 100$, our current camera is 200$ - and it has been well worth the "investment". The important aspect here is not just the quality of the stream (720p vs. 1080p), but the quality of the optical elements in the webcam.
We use a: LOGITECH Brio 4K webcam (to the right). TRIPOD:
You might also want to buy a small tripod for your webcam. The Logitech Brio has a very wide angle, and doesn't need to be elevated more than 35-40cm from the playing surface in order to get a clear full shot! You could even just use a monopod (possibly weighed down or attached to the table using duct tape). Monopods are particularly useful if you operate with very limited space.
Below is a screenshot from a recent stream we did in ASK Gaming Café, and the camera catches all the action on the two playmats while being on a small weighed down monopod on the table approx. 35cm up.
Well ... shouldn't be necessary to state, but you do need a decent computer with a good CPU and GPU. If you are as dumb as me, then it might not make any sense, but that's the processing units of your computer for data and graphical elements. And streaming is taking quite a toll on your computer. When I'm on the move, I use my 13" MacBook Pro (mid-2013) and it does have problems running the stream in 1080p (it is a bit laggy), but runs effortlessly in 720p. When I stream from home, which I did in a few tests, I run it off my iMac (late-2015) and it has no problems streaming in 1080p.
Open Broadcaster Software is from my understanding the most frequently used streaming programme, and while I had absolutely no knowledge of what products to use before starting to stream, it seems to be great, relatively easy to use and best of all VERY EASY to find tutorials on.
TWITCH OR YOUTUBE ACCOUNT:
I have no idea which works better and both offer live streaming platforms, but we decided to stream on Twitch. Honestly, it was a coin toss that decided it, but I also find it to be easy to set up and extremely easy to find information on. Chances are that you know A LOT MORE about this than me. I'd actually find it unlikely if you didn't.
This video helped me in setting up OBS with my Twitch account.
Your upload needs to be of good quality. There are literally thousands of articles and videos talking about recommended Megabit per second for uploading a good quality stream, and while the stream quality is also dependent on the viewers internet, I found that I get really good results using my 4G on my smartphone. My network provider writes they offer 2-24 Mbit upload, and while that doesn't mean anything to me, it generally works fine for the YOUR Destiny Twitch Streams.
LET THERE BE LIGHT:
One of the things that will fundamentally change the overall quality of your stream is the lighting. Just like in movie making and photography, LIGHT IS EVERYTHING. You can achieve amazing results with relatively cheap equipment if your lighting conditions are optimal. Most of the time you will be recording in rooms that are dimly lit or use lights that are yellowish, too "cold" or too "warm", and while your webcam does have a few possibilities for adjusting the light, it will NOT be sufficient for making up for the poor light conditions offered by most gaming spaces.
Video producer for our YouTube Channel, Angelo Gonzalez, gave me a lot of invaluable information about lighting possibilities, and I'll try my best to make it understandable for you as well.
While lights come in all shapes and sizes (and with very varying price tags), the preferred choice should be LED-Lights. They are durable and don't overheat (they used to be very expensive, but are actually now reasonably priced and can be used for other things than just your Destiny streams). Any light you end up buying should fit the room where you'll do most of the recordings in order for your to get the right size and shape.The small light (to the left) will fit on a table, and might not even require a tripod, but does require batteries (which will add to the cost), while the bigger light (to the right) is much more of a classic studio setup, more expensive, can hold batteries, but also comes with an AC-adaptor.
The main purpose for you to set the light, and finding out how to set it up properly will take a bit of practice, is to ensure a properly illuminated gaming area (so your audience can actually see what it is going on, and remember just because you can see what's going on does not mean that it will be recorded/streamed in a clearly visible way) and to avoid glare in the part of the gaming area which is reflexive, i.e. dice and sleeved cards.
It can be an incredibly annoying experience as a viewer to be able to see the players and the cards, but not being able to see what the dice results are. We'll talk a bit about your placements of lights later.
Additions to your light setup can be diffusers and/or umbrellas. While they are not strictly necessary, they can help you to get the maximum out of your lights. They'll spread the light wider, more evenly, remove glare and make sure that your stream looks as smooth as possible. Diffused light as opposed to a direct source of light looks very "natural" whereas the latter can seem somewhat cold and artificial. Diffusers are really not that big an investment, and if you already decided on purchasing the LED-lights, I'd definitely recommend adding the diffusers and/or the umbrellas to your basket.
PLACING THE LIGHTS:
It does require a bit of practice getting the lights set up properly. Sometimes the angle or the position of the lights will add to the glare on specific parts of the stream, and you might not be able to adjust the lights to display everything super crisp and sharp, but then just adjust to the best possible state.
There's also a million articles and videos on how to place your lights, and while there's a lot that can be learned from it, your main objective is probably not to become an expert in light sourcing, but to ensure that your live stream will be of good quality (with the least effort).
The above image shows what can be achieved with a "bounced light" (click the image to go straight to a video explaining what you need to know about bounced light). It's particular useful in a smaller space where you might not have a lot room for setting up additional lights, etc. "Bouncing" light off a surface (like a white ceiling) can go a long way in illuminating a big area with just 1 light. If you are recording in a big conference space (i.e. at a large tournament) with high ceilings, then bouncing lights will not be an option in which case, you need to angle and position your lights directly.
Normally you don't want light directly opposite of your camera, because it will be affected by the light, and the recording will usually be too bright and create a lot of glare in the cards and dice making them very difficult to see.Whereas two lights angled behind the camera balances it out nicely and makes the playing surface easy to see (notice the sharp reduction in glare in the cards and dice).
As you get more games recorded, you'll make your own experiences and develop your own Best Practices.
A few things that I've discovered are the following:
- Position the camera in a slight angle. You don't want the recording to be a straight shot down on top of the players.
- Test you setup before you start the stream.
- Keep the Deck/Discard Pile farthest away from the camera.
- Instruct the players to keep the play area nice and tidy.
- Make the players ensure a proper boardstate, where it is clearly indicated how many resources a player has, maybe even adding a specific place for the resources, which upgrades are in play, etc.
- Some players like to shuffle their cards constantly when playing, and while it can be very difficult ... well impossible ... to dictate how players should behave during a game of Destiny (even on a stream), try and ensure that not too many things are happening at the same time.
- Use monocolored playmats (ours are black).
- Use the standard FFG token set (the cardboard ones that comes with the starter sets). It makes for a very easy viewing experience if the damage, resource and shield tokens are recognisable and easily distinguishable. Both players should preferably use the same kind of tokens. We simply leave a set by the table.
Good luck and happy streaming!