Whether you’re live streaming a conference, an event, or even just a sit-down chat in front of a camera, there are a few pieces of equipment you’ll need to get started.
And these can range from basic equipment like webcams and microphones to more complex pieces of equipment like encoders, mixers, and audio interfaces.
If this is your first time streaming, though, the challenge you might be facing now is figuring out the tools you need.
Even if you’re an experienced streamer looking for an upgrade or you’re creating content for a large media publisher, we’ve got you covered.
In this guide, we’ll go over the different gear you’ll need — and recommendations for how to pick the right ones for your needs.
Types of Live Streaming Equipment You Need
Here are the basic pieces of equipment you need to get started streaming live videos:
We know you know this already, but let’s start with the camera.
Recommended cameras for different budgets
- Low budget: Devices like Logitech or Anker cameras attached to your laptop or desktop or a smartphone camera like an iPhone are both excellent choices. These devices come at relatively affordable prices and their setup processes are also straightforward.
- Medium budget: a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) or mirrorless camera will give you a higher video quality and more control over the settings than a webcam or smartphone would.
- If you’re looking to invest a bit more, you’ll often find the highest video quality and most innovative features in camcorders or professional video cameras from brands such as Sony, Kodak, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic and others.
What to look out for when picking a live streaming camera
There are many types of cameras to choose from, each with its own set of features and capabilities, but these are the basic features to look for in a camera you’re considering buying:
- Resolution: The higher the resolution, the better the video quality. At the very least, look for a camera with at least 1080p (Full HD) resolution so you can capture videos that are crisp and sharp.
- Frame rate: This determines how smooth the video looks. A higher frame rate will result in smoother motion and a more realistic-looking video. But of course, buy what you can afford — while aiming for at least 30 frames per second (fps); that’s often the minimum for good quality live streaming.
- Low light performance: This is important if you’ll be live streaming in dim or dark conditions. Look for a camera with good low-light performance so you can still capture clear and sharp videos even in low-light situations.
- Autofocus: This feature allows your camera to automatically adjust the focus to keep the subject in focus. And this is important for live streaming, as the subject may move around during the stream.
- HDMI output: This allows you to connect the camera to your encoder (more on this later) or any other device like a monitor or TV using an HDMI cable.
2. Video hosting platform
A video hosting platform is a website or service that allows you to upload and share your video content.
For example, YouTube, Vimeo, JWP, and Twitch are all popular video hosting platforms. When you record a live stream, the video is not stored on your computer — it’s hosted on one of these platforms.
So, essentially, without a hosting platform, your audience will not be able to access your live stream.
Recommended video hosting platforms for different budgets
- For a low budget, platforms like YouTube and Vimeo offer free hosting and basic features — like embedding, analytics, etc. — to get your live stream up and running.
- For a medium or higher budget, platforms like JWP offer more advanced features and customization options.
With a premium video hosting platform, you get access to additional features like ad-free playback for viewers, more streaming security features, and more.Most of all, you get more control over your video hosting and how you want it to work, making it easier and faster to get your live stream out there.
What to look out for when picking a video hosting platform
- Video format support: Make sure the platform supports the video format you will be using for your live stream. For instance, most platforms support MP4, Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (MPEG-DASH), HTTP Live Streaming (HLS), or WebRTC, but not all will support the older formats like Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP). So you want to make sure your platform supports the format you plan on using.
- Analytics: Look for a hosting platform with analytics reports that provide detailed insights into how your viewers are engaging with your content — so you can better understand what’s working and what’s not.
- Bandwidth and storage limits: Check the limits on bandwidth and storage to make sure they are sufficient for your live stream. For instance, if you plan on doing a lot of live streaming, then make sure the hosting platform has enough bandwidth and storage to handle it.
- Security: Choose a hosting platform that offers secure playback for your live stream content — to protect your videos from piracy or unauthorized downloading. Look for features like digital rights management (DRM) protection, watermarking, encryption, and more.
- Integrations: If you plan to share your live stream on social media or other platforms, look for a platform that offers easy integration. For instance, our video hosting platform JWP integrates third-party devices or apps like Chromecast, so your viewers can watch the live stream on their TVs.
An encoder is a device or software that converts the video from your camera into a format your viewers can stream over the internet.
For instance, if you are streaming a video from your camera, the encoder will take the raw video feed and compress it into a streamable format such as MP4, AVI, MOV, or WebM. This ensures that viewers can watch your stream with minimal buffering or other issues due to slow internet speeds.
Here are the most important reasons why a video should be encoded:
- Minimize the video recording size
- Reduce buffering for a streaming video
- Change aspect ratio or the resolution
- Tune up the audio format and quality
- Update old-school files to today’s modern formats
- Meet a specific target bit rate
- Make a video work with certain software or hardware
So, without a streaming encoder, the video from your camera cannot be transmitted over the internet.
Types of encoders
- Hardware encoders: These are physical devices that connect to your camera and convert the video into a streaming format. They are typically more expensive but usually offer better performance and reliability — mostly because they offload the task of encoding from your computer.
- Software encoders: These are applications you can install on your computer and use to encode the video from your camera. They tend to be cheaper, but they can cause issues — especially if your computer isn’t powerful enough to handle the task of encoding without supporting hardware.
Recommended encoders for different budgets
- For a low budget, software encoders like OBS Studio, XSplit, and Wirecast are free and offer most of the functionalities you’ll need to get up and running. But any of these tools can also get quickly expensive if you need more functionalities from them.
- For a higher budget, hardware encoders like TriCaster, Blackmagic ATEM Mini, LiveU Solo, and the Teradek VidiU are relatively affordable and offer advanced, professional-grade features.
What to look out for when picking an encoder
- Input formats: All streaming encoders have inputs, but make sure the one you’re choosing has enough inputs to connect all your video sources and audio sources (e.g. camera, microphone, etc.). These inputs should also have the right connectors — e.g. HDMI, 3G-SDI, etc.
- Output format: Make sure the encoder supports the output format that your video hosting platform requires, e.g. MP4, WebM, etc. So you need to check both your encoder and your streaming platform to make sure they are compatible.
- Compression: Compression can make a huge difference in the quality of your stream, so make sure your encoder has adjustable compression settings for different types of videos and bandwidths.
- Latency: The latency of an encoder is the time it takes for a video frame to move from the camera source through the encoder to the live streaming platform. The lower the latency, the better — so make sure to check this before you buy an encoder. But generally, hardware encoders tend to have the lowest latency.
4. Live video streaming platform
A live video streaming platform is a website or service that allows you to stream your video in real-time to your audience. Essentially, it’s where your audience will watch your live stream.
There are a couple of types of live streaming platforms you can choose from:
- Free platforms: These platforms are free to use, but keep in mind they may have limitations on features, customization, and monetization options. Examples include YouTube Live, Facebook Live, and Periscope.
- Paid platforms: These platforms offer more features and customization options than free ones, as well as monetization options like pay-per-view streaming and subscriptions. Examples include Wowza, JWP, Ustream, DaCast, and Vimeo.
These are just a few of the many live video streaming platforms available, so you can find the one that best suits your needs. No matter which platform you decide to use, make sure it’s secure and reliable for streaming quality video.
Recommended live video streaming platforms for different budgets
- For a low budget, free platforms like YouTube Live and Facebook Live are good options.
- For higher budgets, you can use paid platforms like Wowza, JWP, Ustream, DaCast or Vimeo.
What to look out for when picking a live video streaming platform
- Compatibility with your encoder: Make sure the platform supports the output format of your encoder.
- Monetization options: If you plan to monetize your live stream, check the platform’s monetization options and requirements. You may need to consult the documentation or support resources for both the encoder and the streaming platform to determine if they’re compatible.
- Customization options: You may want to customize some parts of your live streaming video like branding, layout, and so on. Some streaming platforms offer more customization options than others, so check to see which one is right for you.
- Integration with other platforms: If you plan to share your live stream on social media (e.g Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook) or other platforms, look for a platform that offers easy integration.
Lighting is another important factor for the quality of your live stream. Proper lighting can make your video look professional and enhance the viewing experience for your audience. And without it, your video may look dark, dull, or washed out.
Or it could look too harsh and make viewers uncomfortable.
Types of lighting solutions for live streaming
- Natural light: This is light from the sun or other sources outside your control. It can be unpredictable and may not be sufficient for live streaming. But usually, you could also position yourself or the event (depending on your situation) to take advantage of the natural light.
- Ambient light: This is light from sources within your control, such as lamps, ring lights, stage lights, or overhead lights. It can provide a consistent level of light — especially if your live stream is indoors — and enhance the quality of your video.
- Continuous lighting: This is light from dedicated lighting fixtures (e.g. studio lights) that provide a consistent level of light, even when you move. It can be more expensive than other lighting solutions but is usually better for live streaming.
- Strobing or flashing lighting: This is light from fixtures that flash or strobe at regular intervals. It can add drama and visual interest to your live stream but may be distracting to the viewer if used in the wrong event. So it’s best used for more dramatic events like music concerts or other types of concerts.
So, when picking a lighting solution for your live stream, make sure to consider the type of live event you’re streaming and the environment you’re streaming in. And if you decide to use strobing or flashing lighting, make sure it enhances, rather than detracts from, the viewing experience.
Recommended lighting solutions for different budgets
- For a low budget, ambient lighting or continuous lighting fixtures like LED panels or softboxes can provide good lighting at an affordable price. And this is particularly a great option if you’re streaming indoors.
- For a medium to budget, continuous lighting kits with multiple fixtures and control options can provide more control over the lighting. This is perfect for more complex live streaming events and lighting setups.
- For a high budget, you can splurge on lighting fixtures like spotlights or strobing lights that can provide more dramatic effects and control. This is great for music performances or other more dramatic events, as it can help set the mood and really bring your live stream to life.
So, no matter what budget you have, you can choose the right lighting solution for your live stream. It can take some trial and error, but the right lighting equipment setup can really make your live stream look more professional and enhance the viewing experience for your audience.
What to look out for when picking a lighting solution
- Color temperature: This is the “warmth” or “coolness” of the light in an environment. Ideally, you want to find a light that’s in line with the color temperature of the environment you’re streaming in. For instance, warmer light (e.g. 2700K) is more yellow and would be appropriate for indoor environments, while cooler light (e.g. 5600K) is bluer and better suited for outdoor streaming.
- Color rendering index (CRI): This measures how accurately colors are reproduced under the light. A higher CRI (e.g. 90+) is often better for live streaming, as it will accurately reproduce colors. But there are situations where a lower CRI is preferable. For example, if you are trying to create a particular mood or atmosphere with your lighting, you may want to use a light source with a lower CRI to create a more subdued effect. Ultimately, the choice of lighting for a professional live stream will depend on the specific goals and requirements of the streamer.
- Brightness: This determines how much light is emitted by the fixture. A higher brightness will provide better lighting but may also require more power. Most lighting solutions have adjustable brightness settings, so make sure to choose the right one for your live stream.
- Control options: If you want to adjust the lighting during your live stream (and you likely would want to), look for light solutions with control options (e.g. dimming, color temperature, etc.).
6. Audio equipment
Audio is another critically important factor in the quality of your live stream. Quality audio can enhance the viewing experience for your audience. But if it’s bad, it can take away from the viewing experience.
When picking an audio solution for your live stream, consider the type of live event you’re streaming and the environment you’re streaming in.
If you’re streaming a concert with multiple speakers, for instance, you’ll need more advanced audio equipment like a microphone array or mixers. But if you’re streaming a small lecture in a quiet room, you may just need to use your computer’s built-in or an external microphone for decent sound quality.
Options for capturing audio
- Built-in microphone: Many cameras and laptops have a built-in microphone that can capture audio. But while these microphones are the most convenient option — since you don’t have to spend extra on them, they may not provide the best audio quality for a live stream. So if you have the budget, consider investing in an external microphone.
- External microphone: As mentioned before, an external microphone often provides better audio quality than a built-in one.
So if you’re serious about getting good audio for your live stream, investing in a good external microphone is a must. There are many different types of microphones to choose from, each with its own characteristics; we’ll share a few options below.
- Audio mixer: If you’re planning on live streaming a multi-speaker event or conference, an audio mixer can be a great option.
An audio mixer allows you to combine multiple microphone inputs into one, providing better control over the sound mix and making it easier to adjust individual levels. But keep in mind you might need a technician or audio engineer to help you set up the mixer because of all the technicalities involved.
Recommended microphones for different budgets
- For a low budget, a simple lapel microphone or a USB microphone is often the only audio-capturing tool for good sound quality at an affordable price.
- For higher budgets, a shotgun microphone, condenser microphone, or lavalier microphone, such as Shure mics for example, can provide better audio quality and more flexibility.
What to look out for when picking a microphone
- Type: Different microphones have different characteristics and are suited for different purposes. For example, a lapel microphone is good for capturing speech, while a shotgun microphone is good for capturing sound from a distance.
- Connection: Make sure the microphone can be connected to your camera or encoder using the appropriate cable, adapter, or through Bluetooth.
- Directionality: The directionality of a microphone refers to its sound pickup pattern. If you need to isolate and amplify sound from a specific direction, you will want a microphone with a directional pickup pattern. And if you need to capture sound from a wide area or from multiple sources, you will want a microphone with an omnidirectional pickup pattern.
- Sensitivity: This determines how well the microphone can pick up low-level sounds. A more sensitive microphone will pick up quieter sounds and provide better audio quality. But if you’re in a noisy environment, it may pick up too much background noise. And a less sensitive mic may not pick up all the details of your audio.
7. Capture Cards
Capture Cards are kind of the unsung heroes of live streaming because not many people are aware of them, but they are key players in delivering high quality streaming videos.
Essentially, a capture card is an electronic device that makes the transfer of audio and video signals from source to another source possible, most of the time from an analogue source to digital data. What’s even better is that capture cards maintain the excellent quality of those signals during the transfer. This is why they play a big role in live streaming – because they allow you to take the output from your camera, video game console, tablet, iPad or another computer even, and transform it into a format that’s fitting for broadcasting over the internet.
To cater to all the different needs of broadcasters, there’re lots of different capture cards. Most of them can be split into two broad categories:
- Internal capture cards – a popular option for PCs, this type of capture card attaches to your computer’s motherboard and it works very closely with the computer’s hardware to give you optimal performance
- External capture cards – a standalone card that connects to your device on the outside – most of the time it is connected by an HDMI cable and a USB cable
The most important thing about capture cards is their capacity for enhancing hardware performance, overlaying and audio enhancing. Encoding your stream on your computer’s CPU can be a very intensive task, that is why these cards can offload, or dump, the intensive task from the CPU to the card itself. This makes the stream much smoother as a result.
Overlays are available with capture cards, which can allow you to blend content into your live stream additionally. You can overlay feed from your webcam or additional graphics, which can deliver some engagement points for your viewers. And additionally, capture cards can help you adjust your audio signal as well as allow you to tweak your audio settings in the middle of your live stream.
Some of the most famous capture card manufacturers are Razer, AVerMedia, Elgato, BlackMagic Design and Magewell, among others. They all offer many different options suitable for any budget and needs, whether you are live streaming your gameplay or doing a podcast.
Cables and connectors are necessary to properly connect your live streaming equipment together.
For instance, to connect a camera to your laptop, you will need a cable that is compatible with both your camera and your laptop. And the type of cable you need will depend on the specific connections available on those two devices (your camera and laptop).
Types of cables and connectors needed for live streaming
- HDMI cables: If your camera has an HDMI output and your laptop has an HDMI input, you can use an HDMI cable to connect the two. This will allow you to send high-definition video and audio from your camera to your laptop.
- XLR cables: XLR cables are cables that are used to connect audio equipment, such as microphones, mixers, and amplifiers. XLR cables have three-pin connectors on each end, and they are commonly used in professional audio applications. The three-pin connectors on XLR cables are typically color-coded, with each color corresponding to the different signals carried by the cable.
- USB cables: These are used for connecting your microphone or other equipment to your computer. For instance, if your camera has a USB output and your laptop has a USB input, you can use a USB cable to connect the two.
- Fibre optics cables: These are cables that use strands of glass or plastic fibers to transmit data using light. They can transmit data over long distances at high speeds, making them ideal for long-distance communication. They are commonly used in telecommunications and internet infrastructure.
Overall, the type of cable you need to connect your equipment will depend on the specific connections available to each piece of equipment. So it is important to choose cables that are compatible with your specific equipment.
Recommended cables and connectors for different budgets
- For a low budget, use affordable cables and connectors designed for basic live streaming applications. For instance, you could use HDMI cables to connect your video equipment and use RCA connectors for audio.
- For mid-range budgets, consider using higher-quality cables and connectors that are designed for more demanding live streaming applications. For example, you could use XLR cables to connect your audio equipment and use SDI cables to connect your video equipment.
- For high-end budgets, you may want to consider using the highest-quality cables and connectors that are available. For example, you could use fiber optic cables for long-distance signal transmission, and use multi-pin connectors for complex audio and video setups.
Ultimately, the best cables and connectors for your live streaming setup will depend on your specific needs and requirements. So choose cables and connectors that are compatible with your equipment, and that are capable of providing the performance and reliability you need for high-quality live streaming.
What to look out for when picking cables and connections:
- Length: Make sure the cables are long enough to reach the equipment you are connecting.
- Compatibility: Make sure the cables and connectors are compatible with the types of equipment you are connecting.
- Quality: Higher-quality cables and connectors will often be more expensive, but they provide better performance and durability.
9. Computer or laptop
A computer or laptop is necessary for running the software and tools needed for live streaming.
For instance, you need it to run live streaming software, which is what you’ll use for capturing and transmitting video and audio from your live streaming setup to the internet. You also need a computer or laptop to run encoders and monitor your live stream.
Types of computers or laptops needed for live streaming
- Laptops: These are portable computers that are designed for mobility. They are typically smaller and less expensive but may not always be as powerful as desktop computers.
- Desktop computers: These are powerful computers that are designed for performance and scale. They’re typically larger and more expensive but offer better performance than laptops.
Recommended computers/laptops for live streaming
- For a low budget, a basic laptop with an Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM is likely all you need to get a good performance for live streaming.
- For a higher budget, a mid-range laptop with an Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM or an iMac will often provide better performance and multitasking capabilities.
What to look out for when picking a computer or laptop for live streaming
- Processor: A faster processor (e.g. Intel Core i7 or i9) often provides better performance for live streaming and multitasking.
- Memory: More memory (e.g. 16GB or 32GB) will allow you to run more software and tools simultaneously.
- Graphics: A dedicated graphics card (e.g. NVIDIA or AMD) will provide better performance for video editing and gaming.
At the end of the day, you get what you pay for. So when picking a computer or laptop for live streaming, make sure to consider your budget and needs. Choose one that can provide the performance and reliability you need for high-quality live streaming — as long as it’s within your budget.
10. Stable internet connection
Without a stable internet connection, your live stream may be interrupted or even unavailable to your audience. So, a stable internet connection is critical for transmitting the video and audio from your live stream to your audience.
Types of internet connection solutions
- Wired connection: This is a connection to the internet using a physical cable, such as an Ethernet cable. It provides the best performance and stability but may be limited by the length of the cable.
- Wireless connection: This is a connection to the internet using radio waves, such as Wi-Fi. It is convenient and flexible but may be affected by interference and distance.
What to look out for when picking an internet connection solution
- Stability and reliability: It is important to work with an internet service provider (ISP) that has a reputation for providing stable and reliable performance. A stable and reliable connection is necessary for transmitting high-quality video and audio for live streaming.
- Bandwidth: The bandwidth of your internet connection is also important. Live streaming requires a lot of data to be transmitted, so choose a solution that provides enough bandwidth to support high-quality live streaming.
- Cost: The cost of your internet connection solution is another factor to consider. Choose one that can provide the performance and reliability you need that fits within your budget.
A tripod is a useful piece of equipment for stabilizing your camera during a live stream. It helps prevent your camera from shaking and provides smooth, steady footage.
Types of tripods
- Tabletop tripods: These are small tripods that are designed to be placed on a table or other flat surface. They are compact and portable but keep in mind they may not be as stable as larger tripods.
- Full-size tripods: These tripods are larger and provide extra stability, making them ideal for ground use. But since they’re heavier, carrying them around can be challenging due to their size.
Recommended tripods for live streaming
- If you’re working with a tight budget, then investing in an inexpensive, relatively-feeble tabletop tripod containing a ball head and quick-release plate is the way to go.
- For a higher budget, a full-size, sturdier tripod with a fluid head and a pan/tilt handle to get different camera angles can provide better stability and control. Or you could use a professional tripod with a motorized head and remote control.
What to look out for when picking a tripod
- Load capacity: The load capacity of the tripod determines how much weight it can support. Make sure the tripod you’re going with can support the weight of your camera and any additional equipment.
- Height: The height of the tripod determines how high your camera can be positioned. So pay attention to the height range of the tripod and make sure it can reach your desired shooting height.
- Sturdiness: The sturdiness of the tripod determines how stable it is. A sturdy tripod will provide better stability and prevent your camera from shaking. So check reviews and look for one that’s well-built.
12. Automation Equipment
To take the heavy lifting off of your shoulders and take your stream to the next level, there is now gear that’s all about control and automation.
For example, there is Elgato’s Streamdeck, which is like a pro mixer with stylish LCD keys that you can customize yourself. You can teach it to launch apps, switch scenes and keep the audio levels in check.
During production and in post-production, these types of tools can help content creators and broadcasters save time during chatting and customization, while also having multi-platform support and mobile integration.
13. Mobile Equipment
Streaming from your phone can be a little bit different than from your computer. You can still do it only with your phone, if your phone is one of the newest iOS or Anrdoid models, but there’s also equipment that can level up the quality of the live production on your mobile device.
Here’s some of the gear you can check out for mobile streaming:
- A handheld smartphone gimbal – makes your videos much steadier
- A tripod with a ball head – a tripod as versatile as a Swiss Army knife
- A compact on-camera for better audio quality
- A travel-friendly lighting gear
- A mobile-streaming app and an all-in-one RTMP-enabled video hosting and streaming platform
Troubleshooting common problems with live streaming equipment
Even with the best live streaming equipment, there will be times when things don’t go as planned. Here are some common problems that you may encounter and how to troubleshoot them.
1. Audio problems (e.g. echo, feedback, etc.)
There is a myriad of things that can cause audio problems, such as improper microphone placement or sound reverberation. And the problem you face will determine how you should go about fixing it.
For example, if you’re dealing with an echo, try moving the microphone away from any reflective surfaces. If you’re having feedback issues, try lowering the microphone’s gain or moving it further away from the speakers.
2. Video problems (e.g. choppy, blurry footage)
Video issues are usually caused by low bandwidth or poor internet connection. And sometimes they can be fixed by adjusting the quality settings of your streaming software.
If you’re having trouble with choppy footage, try lowering the resolution or bitrate of your stream. If the footage is blurry, try increasing the resolution or using a higher-quality camera.
3. Connection problems (e.g. buffering, disconnects)
Connection issues can be caused by inadequate bandwidth or poor internet connection. And one of the best ways to fix them is to upgrade your internet package or switch internet service providers.
In some cases, you may also need to upgrade your streaming hardware or software. For instance, if your stream keeps buffering, then you may need to switch streaming services or upgrade your computer’s processor. Or if it’s latency-related issues, try reducing the resolution or bitrate of the live stream or upgrading your internet connection to a faster speed or lower latency.
As you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to live streaming equipment. Hopefully, this guide has given you a better understanding of the different types of gear available and what will work best for your specific needs.
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