Live streaming via services such as Twitch is becoming more common thanks to the advancements in computing hardware and faster domestic internet connections. People can now broadcast their unique content directly from their home or on the go to thousands of viewers. Live streaming is now a multi-billion dollar industry, and its global viewership is growing each year. So, if you are an established professional streamer looking to upgrade your setup or starting up your first channel. This guide tells you all you need to know to build a computer Workstation set up to deliver a silky-smooth streaming experience for your viewers.
Many other streamers who plan to use other platforms such as Facebook Gaming and YouTube may also find the information here helpful. Still, Twitch is currently the most popular go-to destination for live streamers and will therefore be the focus of this article. The platform is simple to use, supports a wide variety of video capture software tools and is highly stable. Furthermore, as of the time of writing, Twitch is attracting 140 million active users per month. Almost all gaming pcs are perfectly capable of starting up a stream, but if you wish to offer the very best quality footage at 60 fps at 1080p consistently and reliably, then we highly recommend tailoring your hardware for the job.
Single or multi-systems configuration?
The first decision you will need to make when purchasing hardware for Twitch streaming is if you want a powerful multi-purpose system capable of gaming, capturing video/audio, encoding those feeds and distributing all at once. Additionally, you may wish to record your feed and edit video in other applications such as Adobe Premiere for uploading to YouTube later. All these tasks may sound like a lot for a single system to do well, and a few years ago, this was true, but now computer hardware has come on a long way and can be more than capable. Multi-purpose Workstations such as ones based upon the Intel Core-X or AMD Ryzen Threadripper processor would be suitable for this varied workflow.
On the other hand, some streamers opt for a dual system approach because it can produce more stable streams. By splitting tasks across multiple systems, you can tailor hardware more towards a specific job and, as a result, improve performance. For example, you can fully optimise your primary system to focus solely on gaming. Your secondary system is now free to concentrate on all other tasks such as recording video, encoding video and managing chat.
Hardware vs software encoding?
Encoding is the process of taking a raw digital signal or, in the case of live streaming, often multiple raw digital signals to combine and condense that data into a smaller, more manageable file size. The encoding process is essential for live streaming as it allows video and audio to be sent over the internet in real-time to your viewers. General broadband is not fast enough to upload and download raw video files in real-time. Therefore, Twitch requires encoded video to deliver the content to your viewers like all online video platforms. This process is a very demanding task for live streaming because the data needs to be captured, encoded and delivered with as little latency as possible.
There are two ways in which the data can be encoded, known as hardware and software-based encoding. Hardware encoding has become far more common in recent years. It makes use of dedicated encoders built into most modern graphics cards or onboard graphics within Intel processors. Specifically designed hardware encoders are high-speed and efficient. However, they often use a lossy version of encoding, meaning there is a loss of some data and quality during the encoding process. This loss of quality is not enough to discourage most streamers from the benefits of high-speed hardware-based encoding.
We highly recommend selecting an Intel CPU or NVIDIA GeForce graphics card for hardware encoding because most video capturing software support these encoder technologies. If you prefer alternatives from AMD, they do have hardware-based encoders, however, some video capture software packages such as Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) do not currently support these. Speak with our technical sales team today if you require help to ensure you’ll have a fully compatible hardware and software arrangement.
Somewhat confusingly, software encoding uses software and hardware to encode the data. The difference is that the encoding is performed on your systems Central Processing Unit (CPU) rather than using dedicated hardware for the job. The general-purpose cores in your CPU are not as efficient at encoding video and audio files as dedicated hardware encoders. This process will also tie up some CPU resources that your machine previously made available to run your games or other applications. CPUs, however, do an exceptional job of maintaining higher quality video when encoding; therefore, if you have selected a high core count single system or a multi-system approach, then software encoding may be the right choice for you. In addition, because this technique does not require dedicated hardware for the job, there are no concerns with any processor having compatibility issues with your video capturing software.
A capture card can take video and audio data from an external device and make this data available to your capture software. Depending on your chosen streaming setup, one or more capture cards may be required. If you have selected a single system streaming arrangement and use a webcam connected via USB, no capture card is necessary. If you plan on using a multi-system setup, a DSLR camera, or plan on using your streaming machine to encode your stream from consoles, then a capture card will be required for each source of video input.
There are typically two types of capture cards, internal PCIe based capture cards and external USB capture devices. We highly recommended an internal capture card from a reputable manufacturer such as AVerMedia, Blackmagic Design or Elgato for optimal stability. However, if you require more flexibility and the ability to move your capture card from one system to another, an external USB option is ideal.