Whether you’re an entertainer, gamer, or small business, showing up online with great content on a regular basis is key. When it comes to engaging content, video is king, and king among kings is live streaming. So, it makes sense to try out live streaming for yourself if you’re trying to grow any brand or even if you just want something fun and engaging to do in your spare time.
Here are the fundamentals of the live streaming equipment you'll need to get started.
You need two basic things to livestream:
If you have a smartphone, you already have all the equipment you need because your phone has a camera and microphone and can connect to any existing streaming app as long as you have internet access. You can get started right away with that.
You may find that you want to improve quality for at least some of your streams, though, so you'll probably want to start with a few upgrades.
No matter how good your image is, what really determines the level of perceived quality in video content is sound. Unless you’re throwing down a quick and dirty mobile update on the go, the first upgrade you’ll want to make is a microphone.
The key point here: get the microphone close to you. The farther it is from you, the more amateur you’ll sound. A simple lavalier microphone can cost as little as $12 and work wonders here. Many live streamers opt for headset mics instead, but the concept is similar.
Another option USB podcasting mic, such as the Blue Yeti USB microphone. For anywhere from $100 to $300, a USB microphone may be all you need.
If you want to go pro, standard XLR mics aren’t that much more expensive, and even the industry standard for broadcast mics, the ElectroVoice RE-20, is under $500.
Just remember that an XLR mic requires an audio interface – another cost and complication. In the long run, it’s worth it for great audio and the option to record, but don't consider it a must-have early on.
You can pay anywhere from around $50 and up into the thousands for a video camera capable of streaming. Of course, how much you spend depends on how much video quality you want and how many features you really need.
At the lower end of the spectrum, entry-level streaming cameras such as the Logitech C930e do a great job with no fuss. Cameras like this are simple USB devices and usually come with a built-in microphone, so if you have yet to upgrade your mic, you've got a good start.
With good lighting (easily achieved with a big window), entry-level cameras can look great. 1080p is enough resolution for most streaming purposes. Many pros use this level of camera and never upgrade.
For more control over your image, you may want to upgrade to a prosumer DSLR camera. They cost anywhere from $800 to $3000 but add the option of shooting in 4k (handy if you want to record livestreams) and a lot more image control.
Pro cameras with all the bells and whistles give you even more image control, durability, ergonomics, lens exchange, and everything else you’d expect to get in a real broadcast studio – provided you can spend enough. Pro-level cameras can cost anywhere from $1500 to $20,000 and on up. In the middle of this range, a great option is the Panasonic AG-CX350 4k Camcorder.
When you go pro, the thing to bear in mind is that you’ll need to know what you’re doing. Pro cameras don’t just hook to a USB connector and plug and play. You may even need a hardware livestreaming encoder to properly compress video for streaming, which adds cost and complication.
Livestreaming isn’t complicated on the surface, but it’s a deep subject. We’ve covered the two major basic types of equipment you’ll need besides a phone, laptop, or desktop computer. To improve quality immensely, start with your microphone and camera. Whether you stream to Facebook, Twitch, YouTube, or any other platform, a camera and mic will always be there.