Configure a Live Streaming Workstation
Dedicated system for streaming desktop capture, webcams, and one HDMI source (camera or console)
Compact system with a video card for live-streaming of PC gaming along with an optional webcam or HDMI input
Tower system for live-streaming and editing with multiple cameras at houses of worship and other large events
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Live Streaming System FAQ
Q: What hardware is needed for smooth streaming?
A: That answer depends on both how you approach streaming and what sort of content you are broadcasting. The computer needs to be able to handle whatever you plan to stream first - whether it is a video game, desktop application, web conferencing software, etc - and then on top of that will have additional system requirements that vary with different streaming applications. We have a more info about some of these options further down this page, discussing the pros and cons to each, as well as another tab that covers gaming hardware requirements (for those who want to live stream their gameplay). Generally speaking, though, a fairly powerful CPU or a video card with NVENC support is the key piece to handle encoding the video stream. You also need an internet connection with good upload bandwidth in order to ensure the data gets out to your viewers smoothly.
Q: Should I have a separate computer dedicated to streaming?
A: If you want to stream content exclusively from other devices, like game consoles, then a standalone computer is probably the best way to go. If you want to stream content directly from a computer, though, you can configure it in such a way as to be able to handle both your computer usage and streaming at the same time. That may make the computer more expensive, but it can be easier to manage than having a separate computer alongside your main system just for streaming. If the activity which you are streaming is extremely CPU intensive, then the pendulum may swing back in favor of a dedicated streaming box. Additionally, if you stream from a combination of multiple sources at the same time then the system may need to be physically larger in order to have multiple capture devices to facilitate that.
Q: Should I get an overclocked system?
A: Overclocking is not really necessary, especially with the Turbo Boost feature that is built into many modern Intel processors. That already provides a clock speed increase under heavy load, based on how many cores are active - effectively an automatic, built-in overclocking ability. If you want to take things further, the CPUs and motherboards used in our Basic Streaming and Streaming & Editing systems support overclocking... although we don't overclock here at the factory, nor do we recommend doing so on your own. Overclocking will increase heat output and power consumption, and in the long run will put more stress on hardware than running at stock speeds.
Q: Should I get a solid state drive (SSD) or hard drive (HDD)?
A: We strongly recommend using solid-state drives on all computers these days. They have a huge impact on every aspect of computer usage, from faster boot times to more responsive operation. If you want to also record your stream, for editing later on or whatnot, then traditional hard drives are fine as secondary drives for storing media.
Guide to Streaming Options
Streaming live gameplay on websites like Twitch has become a popular way to share the experience of gaming, and for some a way to make money from their passion as well. YouTube has also started a streaming service, and sites like Livestream and Ustream offer similar capabilities but are aimed more at customers and use cases outside of gaming. Live streaming of a video feed or capturing what is displayed on a computer desktop is a lot less demanding than gaming, so we are focusing our recommendations on the needs of enthusiast and professional gamers. Almost everything on these pages is applicable to other types of streaming as well, though, especially the standalone streaming box.
There are four primary approaches to live streaming, each of which has different needs:
Software Based Streaming
This is the most basic type of streaming, which uses programs like Open Broadcaster Software or XSplit that depend on the CPU to handle the process of capturing video game content and encoding (compressing) it on the fly. Modern multi-core processors handle that pretty well, and most Intel Core series processors will only use 5-20% of the CPU's time to do that capture and encoding. If your games don't need the CPU's full attention to provide good performance this can be a fine approach to streaming, and software of this kind also supports a lot of options for mixing in a webcam, additional audio sources, and more.
- Highly configurable
- No extra hardware needed
- Both free and paid software options available
- Reduces performance in CPU intensive games
- Streaming and recording at the same time uses even more CPU resources
GPU Accelerated Streaming
Modern graphics processing units (GPUs) have dedicated video encoding / decoding hardware built-in, which is usually not operating when games are being played. NVIDIA has taken advantage of this to provide hardware-accelerated video capture using what they call NVENC. This technology debuted as part of the GeForce Experience software package, and was originally called ShadowPlay - though that name has been dropped since then. In addition, this hardware-accelerated encoding option is now also available through many software packages like OBS.
It is also still available through GeForce Experience, under the option to "Broadcast Live". The functionality there allows for easily including a webcam feed and microphone input, along with selecting where you want to stream to. It is a great way to get started with streaming, though, since it doesn't cost anything (at least for gamers using GeForce cards already) and has almost no impact on CPU usage or game performance.
- Minimal impact on game performance
- All our gaming systems come equipped with a GeForce card
- Easy to get started with
- Limited configuration options
- Cannot record and stream at the same time
- Requires a GeForce video card
Streaming with a Hardware Capture Card
This uses the same software as above, but ups the game with a hardware based capture device. That can take the form of a card inside the computer or an external USB device, but in either case the principle is the same. Video output in the form of HDMI is taken from the computer, routed into the capture device, then out again to the monitor. This reduces the load on the CPU somewhat (though not completely) but can help when playing CPU intensive games.
The downside is that capture devices can only pass through a limited resolution. Some capture cards are limited to a maximum resolution of 1920x1080, though 4K capable devices are available as well. Frame rate support also varies, and some devices can pass through higher resolutions / frame rates than they can capture (which can be important for gamers using high resolution or fast refresh monitors).
- Highly configurable
- Better performance than CPU alone
- Can capture from external sources like consoles
- Added cost (for the capture device)
- Resolution / refresh rate support
- Can still reduce performance in extremely CPU intensive games
Streaming with a Second Computer
More advanced streamers will often split out the duty of video capture and encoding into a separate computer, keeping their main system for dedicated gaming usage. This requires a capture card in the standalone streaming computer, but aside from that doesn't need to be especially fast. The same downsides apply because of the capture device, though: namely the resolution that can be captured by the hardware capture card.
A nice bonus this provides is the potential for increased stability of a stream. It isn't normally a big issue, but there is the potential for a game to crash - either on its own, or to cause a whole computer to go down. If you are streaming from a separate box then the stream itself stays up when that happens, along with any webcam feed connected to it. This may be especially helpful for people streaming games that are in development and more likely to have stability issues.
This approach is also compatible with console game streaming as long as the console you use has HDMI output. Technically a gaming computer with a hardware capture card could do this as well, but for console-only gamers a much less expensive, dedicated streaming box will do the trick.
- Highly configurable
- No impact on game performance
- Can capture from other sources like consoles
- Potentially a more stable stream
- Requires a second computer (added cost, space requirements, etc)
- Limited resolution support
Why Choose Puget Systems?
Rather than getting a generic workstation, our systems are designed around your unique workflow and are optimized for the work you do every day.
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