Live streaming is one of the most popular forms of online content today and continues to grow. Although you may watch live streams regularly, the thought of broadcasting live videos yourself can be daunting. That’s why we wrote this beginners guide to building a live streaming setup.
We’ll go through why you should live stream, the absolute basic equipment and tools you need to start, and how to choose the right streaming platform for you.
Live streaming has taken off in recent years. Just look at the numbers:
Whether you want to turn live streaming into your new hobby, a source of income, or a marketing tactic for your business, there are more than enough reasons to start live streaming.
🧐 What is a basic streaming setup?
As a beginner, you need five basic things to go live: a camera, streaming software, a microphone, a computer and a good internet connection. You can also add accessories that will drastically improve the quality of your live stream without too much effort.
Start with the webcam on your laptop, or upgrade to a more powerful webcam without breaking the bank. The Logitech C922 Pro is a standard for live streamers, and the Mevo Plus helps streamers stay mobile.
👀 Streaming software
Streaming software, also called an encoder, takes the video and audio input from your computer and transmits it to the streaming platform of your choice. Hardware encoders are also an option, but software is free and much more user-friendly. There are lots of streaming software options out there, but one of the easiest to use is Restream Studio.
If you’re going live with a software like Restream, you don’t need a complex setup — you don’t even have to download Restream Studio because it runs directly from your web browser. All you need is a webcam, microphone and an internet connection. Restream has all the features you need in a powerful streaming software, such as:
While your camera doesn’t have to be super high-quality, you’ll definitely want a decent microphone. Depending on your setup, you could get a standing/shotgun mic if you’re sitting at your desk, or a lav mic if you’re getting up and moving around a lot. The Shure SM7B delivers high-quality audio and the Blue Yeti USB mic is a popular choice among streamers.
You will need a device to stream from and a laptop or desktop computer are usually your best options. You can also stream from a smartphone, but the wireless internet connection might not be as stable. It’s also easier to connect an external webcam and mic to a computer.
Your computer should be powerful enough for streaming — if you’re streaming a video game, you’ll need even more power. Also, use an ethernet cable to connect to the internet when streaming, rather than Wi-Fi.
🔥 Good internet connection
If you’re uploading video and audio to transmit in real time, you’ll need a solid internet connection. If you’re gaming while streaming, you’ll need a great internet connection.
⚙️ Accessories and extra gear
Accessories are extra. They’re not necessary to go live, but they boost the quality of your stream. When you’re ready to upgrade from the basic setup, check out these accessories:
- Lighting: Inexpensive, well-placed lighting can drastically improve the quality of your video, even if you’re using your laptop’s built-in webcam. Check out our guide to video lighting to learn more.
- Green screen: Green screens let you replace your real background with a virtual one. You’ll need a webcam and streaming software that accommodate this feature, however. We rounded up the best green screens for streamers if you’re interested in getting one.
- Headphones: If you have guests on your live broadcasts, headphones are a must to eliminate echo and ensure you can hear everything. Learn how to find the right pair for you with our list of the best headphones for live streaming.
- Capture card: Capture cards let you capture and stream footage from a wide range of devices, such as a computer, game console, camcorder or DVD player. Check out our roundup of the best capture cards in our full guide.
- Audio mixer: An audio mixer allows you to take multiple sources of audio and mix, balance and combine them into one signal. They’re ideal for streamers using more than one mic or playing music. We found the best audio mixers for streamers to help you choose one.
- Video switcher: A video switcher lets you switch between multiple cameras during your live stream. It’s a must if you have more than one camera for your live video. Learn more about how to use a video switcher in our guide to the best video switchers.
When you’re first starting out, you don’t need to invest too much in equipment. Dale L. Roberts, co-creator of the Live Streaming Tech YouTube channel, has advice for your first streaming setup:
Do not plunk down hundreds to thousands of dollars. In fact, do not break over a hundred dollars investing in any equipment when you go live for the first time.
👀 Which streaming platform to choose
You’ve planned your stream and set up your gear. Now can you go live? Sure! You just need to choose a live streaming platform — or two or three, or as many as you want if you multistream. With Restream, you can go live on multiple platforms simultaneously.
If you don’t have a particular niche and want a platform with good exposure and a small learning curve, then choose a general one like YouTube Live, Facebook Live or Twitter Live.
- YouTube Live: You can find streaming of all kinds on YouTube Live, from brands to independent content creators. Read our guide to YouTube Live for platform-specific tips.
- Facebook Live: Going live on Facebook is perfect if you already have a decent following there. It’s also ideal for small and local businesses. Learn everything you need to know about Facebook Live streaming and some essential tips that will make your stream stand out.
- Twitter Live: Twitter is also a generalist platform with a wide variety of live video content. Also, if your live streams will be about breaking news and updates, then you might find a home on Twitter Live.
- Instagram Live: Instagram is a popular platform for all kinds of brands and creators and going live can help you build a stronger community. Keep in mind that for now, most users can only stream on Instagram via the mobile app.
Gaming and e-sports are the biggest genres in live streaming today, so naturally there are several platforms dedicated to gaming.
- Twitch: Twitch is by far the most popular gaming platform. Its hugeness can feel intimidating as a beginner, so read our uploadultimate guide to streaming on Twitch for tips, advice and best practices. Twitch can also be a good platform for talk shows and live podcasts.
- YouTube Gaming: While not as popular as Twitch, YouTube Gaming has a modest-sized gaming community where you can find loyal fans. Read our tips on streaming with YouTube Gaming to get started.
- Facebook Gaming: Your third major option as a gamer is Facebook Gaming, where you can tap into the network you’ve already built on Facebook. Learn more with our ultimate guide to Facebook Gaming.
🎨 Art and Music
Of course, not every streamer is a gamer. Artists, musicians and other creators take up a decent chunk of the live streaming market share. Some platforms are dedicated solely to creators.
- Mixcloud: If you want to live stream music and DJ mixes or start your own radio show/podcast, then you’ll fit right in at Mixcloud. Our Mixcloud guide takes you through live streaming on Mixcloud step by step.
- Picarto: Picarto is a platform where artists can live stream while creating their work for supporters to watch. If you’re an artist looking for an established network to broadcast to, then you may find it on Picarto.
- Behance: Stream digital artwork, design, and photography on Adobe’s social network, Behance. Show off your creation process, connect with other designers and artists, or even host classes and workshops on the platform.
Professional live streaming has taken off in the last few years. Many companies and entrepreneurs are turning to live streaming as a way to promote their brands and grow their networks.
- LinkedIn Live: The best place to do professional live streams is on a professional networking site. LinkedIn Live videos see more views and engagement than non-live videos. Read our ultimate guide on streaming to LinkedIn Live to see what all the fuss is about.
- Restream’s web player: Another good streaming destination for your business is your website. You can help drive more traffic and reinforce your branding. With Restream’s live video player, you can easily embed live streams on your business website.
If you sell products online, what better way to promote your e-commerce business than with live shopping events?
- Amazon Live: If you’re a registered Amazon Seller or part of Amazon’s influencer program, you can broadcast live promotional content to help boost your sales. Learn how with our Amazon Live guide.
- Instagram Live Shopping: You can create a store on Instagram with links to your products, and users can complete purchases in the app. Create shoppable posts, videos and live streams.
- Restream live shopping: If you broadcast using Restream’s live studio, you can add links to your products as QR codes. Your viewers can shop your products on your website without having to leave the live stream.
When it comes to choosing the right platform, Dale L. Roberts advises picking one based on your audience.
If you’re going to live stream on the platform, discoverability is going to be key — and it all starts with identifying your ideal viewer.
You have to figure out who they are and what kind of content they want to see.
🌐 Stream to your own website
If you don’t want to stream to a specific platform, you can embed your live video on your website as well. Broadcasting to a website is ideal for live events, live shopping experiences or placing content behind a paywall
The downside to using your own website is that it’s hard to build a following, especially for beginners. Platforms like Twitch and YouTube already have millions of users you can tap into. With Restream’s web player, you can both broadcast to your website and go live on social streaming platforms to expand your reach.
With all these platforms to choose from, do you have to pick just one? No! With Restream, you can choose multiple channels to broadcast to simultaneously.
If you already have a fan base on Facebook but are looking to build your network on LinkedIn as well, you can live stream to Facebook Live and LinkedIn Live at the same time — double the exposure with the same amount of work.
💡 More live streaming tips
Lastly, check out these bits of live streaming advice. These nuggets of wisdom can help beginners, novices and pros successfully live stream.
- Find your niche: What will your live stream be about? Live streaming has a lot of popular niches already, and you can easily fit your content into one of them. Gaming, music, sports, IRL and e-commerce are just a few general topics. You can pick a subtopic to narrow your content down further.
- Choose the right time to go live: If you want people to watch your stream, you have to go live at the right time. Use this guide to figure out how to schedule your live stream to fit your audience.
- Make your stream look professional with appropriate graphics: If you feature high-quality graphics on your live stream, they’ll make you look like you know what you’re doing. But you must choose the right graphics for your audience.
- Choose what kind of live videos you’ll produce. Live streams come in all shapes and sizes. Some examples are interviews and Q&As, storytelling, educational videos, product launches, gaming, contests and webinars.
- Practice your confidence on camera: Talking into a camera without a physical audience behind you — and remaining interesting and engaged while doing so — is not a natural skill for most people. Ian Anderson Gray, a live streaming confidence consultant and public speaker, says to worry more about your content than how you look on camera. “We’re actually worried about how we look and how we sound, and the audience doesn’t care about that. What they’re interested in is just seeing you and your expertise.” If getting in front of the camera frightens you, then build up your confidence with our helpful tips.
- Set goals: It’s hard to measure success if you don’t set goals. Choosing your goals isn’t always intuitive, especially if you’re in unfamiliar territory. For new streamers, one great example is to broadcast at the same time every week, eventually increasing your broadcast frequency. Learn how to set goals as a live streamer with this guide.
- Monitor the quality of your live stream: 80% of viewers will stop watching your stream due to a bad viewing experience, and 25% will leave within the first four minutes. Learn how to monitor performance indicators, such as your bitrate, keyframe interval, FPS, dropped frames, video codec and more, so you can provide a high-quality viewing experience.
- Test your equipment: Mistakes and mishaps are a fact of live streaming. They’re always going to happen, but you can reduce the number and frequency of these accidents by testing your equipment.
- Define your audience: It might be difficult to know what to stream about if you aren’t sure who your audience is. Maybe you’ve decided you want to live stream yourself watching paint dry. That’s definitely a niche topic, but who would watch it? If you can’t define your audience, you can’t create good content. For Rob Balasabas, Head of Partnerships and Community at Uscreen, finding your community starts with addressing their pain points. “In the beginning, they [your viewers] don’t care too much about you as a person,” he says. “They just care about the question and the pain point that they have. So address that first, then you get to share a little bit more of your personality.”
- Value quality engagement over quantity. Engaging with your viewers during a live stream is essential — interactivity is the main goal of live video! Instead of focusing heavily on getting tons of viewers, aim to have meaningful and genuine conversations with the few viewers who do show up. Five highly engaged viewers are worth more than 100 bored viewers.
- Promote your stream: Nobody’s going to watch your live stream if you don’t tell them about it! Choose the right time to go live, send out a link to followers on social media, multistream to several platforms or make a countdown to generate hype. You can also create and post a short teaser to get audiences excited about your upcoming stream.
- Look at your streaming data. Most streaming platforms will provide you with basic metrics about your streaming time, viewers and other aspects. Dig into this data to see what potentially draws more people to your stream, or if there are certain elements of your broadcast that people might find more engaging.
You have several things to consider, prepare and test before you build your live streaming setup. With this ultimate guide and a can-do attitude — and with a little help from Restream — you’ll become a pro streamer in no time.