Getting started in game streaming and uploading is not an easy task. There is a wealth of information out there, but a lot of it is out dated, subjective and often just incorrect. Having recently started both a YouTube and Twitch channel, we thought it would be a good opportunity to share our findings in the hope that they are useful to someone who may just be starting out too.
This article covers the following areas:
As you read through this, please bear in mind that we are right at the start of our streaming journey and whilst we’ve made a few mistakes already to get to this point, I’m sure there will be plenty ahead of us too. Let’s get going.
Your Online Objective
This is not as easy as you might think. Even if you think you’re clear on your objective, there is a chance that once you get going – you may decide to change direction.
We originally just wanted to focus on streaming games but once the kids saw how much fun it was, our channel / concept started to change into a combination of Game Streaming and online Family vLog type content. We also wanted to ensure that any content we produced as a family would be appropriate for any audience. What we also wanted to ensure was that when streaming live games, being family friendly is not really what the industry expects and does put a lot of pressure on the live broadcast considering you don’t have access to a time machine to take back anything that does come out from either you as the presenter or a guest.
The key here I think is to just get going. Don’t wait for that killer idea, don’t wait for things to be perfect – just get moving forward and don’t be afraid to change things up as you go. You are not your audience and you may be surprised at what they actually do and don’t enjoy.
To Stream or to Record
I guess this is probably the first decision you have to make. Up until recently, there were options for both Stream and Record using the same service but since Twitch changed it’s policy on being able to upload video – if you’re planning on doing both, you may want to split your attention over a number of services.
Streaming is essentially running live or very close to live feed that can include different elements, these include:
Gameplay Footage and Audio
Voice Server Audio (Discord etc)
What you choose to show is up to you and there are lots of opinions on this. These opinions range from always show a webcam right through to never show a webcam and everything in between. I personally wanted to try and get a decent balance whilst also trying to keep things as standard as possible to start with so opted for Gameplay, Webcam, Mic / Voice Service Audio and Branding. We will cover the tools and hardware used for this later in Part 2.
Streaming essentially means that once you start, you’re live(ish) – think of it like being on a live TV show. There are a number advantages to streaming including not needing to store any video footage locally (saving disk space), being able to be much more interactive with your audience, taking less effort and time to manage once you’re up and running and generally allowing you to be online more often which is great for building a presence faster.
Recording has the same considerations as streaming in terms of what to display but where as Streaming takes a lot of effort up front to get things going, Recording is more around capturing as much raw footage as possible and then editing / crafting ready for upload.
What we wanted to do was a bit of both. We wanted to have a streaming outlet so we could start to build and interact with a community and also somewhere we could upload produced recordings as an archive and grant viewers the opportunity to catch up / re-watch content.
Which Streaming Service to Use
Once we were clear on what we wanted to do, it was then time to decide which service or services we wanted to use.
There are a large number of services out there, but I think it’s safe to say that at the moment – the two service out in front are Twitch and YouTube, closely followed by Mixer. We have only tried Twitch and YouTube so far so have only included them here. If we do take a look at Mixer further down the line, we will be sure to post our thoughts.
Something worth pointing out at this point is that all streamers are not equal. There are tiers within each streaming service that entitle qualifying accounts / channels to different benefits including higher bit rates, transcode options to help viewers and of course options to monetize your content and get paid. In general and at the time of posting, Twitch has lower initial criteria to get to affiliate status (I beleive it’s 50 followers and a certain number of live streaming hours / concurrent viewers in a month) where as to get to affiliate with YouTube they would like you to ONLY get 1000 Subscribers.
Looking beyond Affiliate and towards full Partner status feels like such a long way out at the moment and I also get a feeling that they change so often than rather cover it hear, it’s worth checking with each service to see what their current policy is.
Twitch is currently the number one choice for live game streaming. When we first started out a few months back, Twitch looked like the main choice for us. At the time we were focused solely on game streaming which suited Twitch perfectly and at the time, they also allowed video uploads for new accounts. As we were experimenting with Twitch, we decided to look at incorporating the Family vLog content and also, Twitch changed their policy on allowing video uploads. This meant we needed to look elsewhere at least to begin with.
Twitch has a very straight forward and easy to use interface. They also have reasonable entry criteria for getting to affiliate status. Twitch has by far the most live stream viewers which generally makes it ok to pick up an audience and get going – whether you can keep them however with such an enourmous amount of competition is another question.
In terms of the technical stuff. Twitch has a pretty low upper bitrate limit of 6mbs for non affiliated accounts as stated in their Bitrate Recommendations. These are ok for some games, but if you’ve ever tried to stream a fast moving game like car racing for example, you’ll quickly work out that this is a tough limit to work with.
I initially wanted to stream in 1080p and whilst my system is more than enough to allow that, trying to cram a 1080p stream into 6mbs is challenging to say the least. To make matters worse, until you become an affiliate – the encoding options are limited. What this means is that if someone connects to Twitch with a connection slower than the bitrate you upload with – they will be buffered and often get the spinning cog of death whilst the connection tries to catch up with the stream. Until we reach Affiliate, we have to be mindful of the 6mbs upper limit and as such we recently switched to 720p @ 60fps and I have to say, the results have been excellent.
YouTube is the number one online video service in the world. Where Twitch is the leader in live game streaming, YouTube is by far the leader in video upload and ingestion. Once we had determined that both the change in channel direction and the choice by Twitch to remove video upload from it’s new accounts – it helped focus our attentions onto YouTube and start to explore the options available to us.
YouTube is a great service, but they do seem to make some very interesting decisions when it comes to policy. First and foremost, their entry level to the higher tiers of features and customisation are very tall. Believe it or not, you can’t even have a custom URL until you’ve attracted 100 subscribers!
For the most part, YouTube fit our need perfectly. We had a place we could upload video content and also, YouTube does have live streaming capability which was worth exploring. In our experience, YouTube does not handle live streaming as well as Twitch. It’s a bit more clunky to get the stream running in the first place and the interactive elements during the streaming are way behind what Twitch offers.
What we did discover however, is that along with tall requirements to get up to Affiliate status – YouTube currently has some strange policies around encoding. It has caused a lot of noise, particularly in new and emerging channels but if you Google “AVC v VP09” you’ll get a taste of what we’re talking about.
Although as with a number of Google policies, they are not fully disclosed – if you are a new content creator and uploading to small audiences, YouTube will encode your footage using AVC which when you play back, is very poor quality for a number of uses – particuarly video game playback which tends to be high bitrate / framerate. If your videos become popular however, they have a chance to be re-encoded using VP09 and there in lies the paradox. You need your video to be popular before it’s quality increases and the lack of initial quality could be the reason it doesn’t become popular. Go figure.
There are some known workarounds which are beyond the scope of this article, but it amazes me that this is the path YouTube is following – at least for now. The benefits to them are clear, AVC creates much smaller files on their storage and also will encode faster – but this is Google we’re talking about where you’d think storage would not be a major issue and seems like a very strange decision in my mind.
This aside however, YouTube did provide the best place for us to upload edited and recorded content.
Their streaming service seemed ok too, especially as it meant that anything we did stream ended up moving into the channel archive without any further effort.
As for YouTube’s technical stuff – they are more generous with the streaming bit rates (for now at least). I don’t think there are any specific limits here and you can view the YouTube Bitrate Recommendations but I suspect that if you go beyond the recommendations, there will be some transcoding going on. They also provide end user transcodes as standard for both live streaming and uploads, once the processing has completed that is.
As we got close to our initial idea, it was aparent that to satisfy our mixed requirements and split focus of both a family friendly vlog and also an outlet for live game streaming we needed to use both leading services for what they excel at.
We have selected YouTube for our family vlog where we will focus on recorded and edited content and Twitch for a more grown up / less moderated avenue for the streaming of live games and hanging out.
|YouTube – Team sOOtie
This is what we currently consider our main presence. All uploaded video ends up here as do recordings from the live Twtich streams.
Twitch – sOOtieLive
We’re only just starting to scratch the surface on our journey into live streaming and uploading. In this first part, we’ve discussed briefly the importance of knowing what you want to do, outline differences in streaming and uploading and some thoughts on both Twitch and Youtube.
In the second part, we will look at what to Stream, hopefully how to grow (assuming we do!) and some of the software and hardware we’ve been using to make this possible. Pop your email address in the box and use the subscribe button to ensure you get notified when we post Part 2.
Thanks for taking the time to read. Hopefully this has been useful and we look forward to hearing your comments below.