Original post date: 1st September 2017
Creative streaming is still in its infancy but is becoming more mainstream and popular as place to hangout and learn new skills. There are a variety of creative channels that Twitch hosts and each has several streamers broadcasting at any one time.
I started streaming six months ago as a way to make working on personal projects at home easier. By creating and committing to a schedule, I've found that I now really enjoy working on personal projects at home and that my own learning has improved quite significantly. Before starting the stream I read several 'how to stream' guides but they only give you so much information. I wanted to write my own post about what I've learnt on my streaming journey as a way to help and encourage others to start streaming themselves. I've broken it down into three key areas:
These might seem obvious but will definitely help you start and maintain your stream if you're willing to invest a little bit of time into them.
The setup includes hardware, software, your internet connection, branding and your streaming environment.
Working in the games industry (and previously in film) I already use a pretty high spec home computer. Although there isn't a recommended computer setup for streaming make sure your computer can perform while under intense CPU/GPU stress. If you can perform intensive tasks without causing critical errors then there should be no problem streaming/recording whilst you're working.
A microphone and webcam are essential equipment for any stream. Viewers like to see who you are and hear your voice. This is especially important in creative streams as you will be asked questions about what you are doing and be asked to help viewers solve problems that they are having too. Seeing your expressions of triumph and failures while working helps makes it feel more human.
In terms of streaming software there are two main ones that people use: X-Split and OBS. I use OBS as it's free, works straight out of the box and is pretty easy to customise. It's worth setting up a moderation bot to keep an eye on your stream chat in case anyone becomes a nuisance to others. I've only had one issue in my six months and it was pretty minor. Nightbot is a good choice and allows you to set up customisable chat commands and viewer facing animations for new follows, hosts and donations.
If you're using creative software in your stream then you have to make sure that each one is properly licensed. If it isn't it goes against Twitch's Terms of Service and can end up with your stream being suspended or shut down completely.
Your internet connection has to be pretty robust for streaming. Connecting your machine physically to the router will give you the best results but connecting via wi-fi is sufficient. Try to limit the amount of data you're using on other devices during the stream as this will eat up a fair portion of the bandwidth. I found this article on Twitch helpful as it goes into detail on how you can make your stream as sturdy as possible.
As any professional company will tell you, consistent branding is a big plus to making you recognisable and reliable. Although branding is not essential to starting a stream I do think it is important to think about introducing one at some point. I spent a lot of time thinking up a branded look but in the end it distracted me from actually starting the stream. I'm not entirely happy with the branding I eventually created but it is consistent and will do for the moment!
Lastly, consider the space where you will be conducting the stream. Be aware of what's happening behind you and try to make sure you're as well-lit as possible so people can see your face. Filming against a green-screen will help take out any background elements though it's not completely necessary.
So you've got the right setup and you're ready to go but what is it that you actually want to stream? The content of your stream is important as it's what people will remember it by and why they will choose to tune in each time.
For creative streams I've found it easier to do one project at a time. This keeps the stream progress consistent from one stream to the next and makes it easier for everyone to see the gradual progression of the piece. Breaking a project down will also help create a streaming schedule for you to follow. This is important as it'll make it easier for you to plan when you want to stream and help your audience tune in as they will know when you will be online.
Planning is your friend here and I've found it to be a very powerful tool. My advice is to work out how many hours you want to stream for and how frequently. Depending on your answer will determine the best way to break down the project into manageable chunks which will give you an idea of how long it might take to finish a project. This also helps when selecting a project to do as you might not want to be working on a project for six months at a time!
Make sure to allow time for things to go wrong and remember that it is ok when things to go awry! You can’t pause the stream, fix the issue and then play the stream again. You have to be able to adapt to the situation as it happens. I find this to be the most interesting part of a stream as you're learning how to solve problems or at least how to go about solving an issue. It's also good to see that everyone runs into problems eventually and that no one gets it right one hundred percent of the time!
Try not to put too much pressure on yourself either. Sometimes a stream (and the work you create) goes really well, other times you feel like you haven't achieved anything. What's important is that you stick at it. Ask your audience if you get stuck with anything and if you can't solve the issue on your own then use google and forums to find a solution. It might not be the most inspiring thing to do in a stream but finding the answer and proving the solution works live is something that everyone can learn from.
Remember to add hashtags and communities to your streams in the dashboard. This increases your exposure across the broadcast channel and also makes it possible for your stream to be hosted on other websites. ArtStation has dedicated Twitch auto-hosting for each individual portfolio so be sure to set this up correctly. What better way is there to connect to the community by doing it for free through your own portfolio! (edit 02/10/2019: this feature is no longer active on ArtStation).
The reason why you want to stream is essential to the longevity of the stream both for you and your audience. You have to ask yourself why you want to do it. For me, I needed a schedule to stick to so that I would actually commit to working on personal projects at home. You could argue that I could have done this offline without a stream but for me, it made me more committed to my work knowing I had to be at my computer at a certain time even if no one viewed the stream.
In "Let's Play" streams the host has to be fairly entertaining for the audience to stick around. I think this is less important for creative streams as generally people aren't there to be entertained, they're there to learn. Interaction with the audience is still key but I've found that this tends to be more academic. People are interested in what you're creating and why you are doing it in a certain way. Be prepared to answer questions about what you're doing and don't shy away from giving demonstrations.
Remember, it's not all about you. Quite often I've been asked how I would tackle a particular task and why. I find these questions to be enjoyable to answer as they require you to 'think on your feet'. When you're live there's no time to research the perfect solution or record an error-free demonstration. You have to make it work (or attempt to) right there and I think this is an excellent way to learn, both for you and the viewers. Explain why you are doing it in a certain way or using a certain piece of software and don't worry so much about getting the perfect solution. The process or explanation is what people want to see and find most useful.
In anything art-related, critique (being able to give it and take it) forms a big part of the learning process. Be prepared to receive critique as you stream. Some people will love what you're doing, others won't. Be courteous (everyone is entitled to their own opinion) and ask why it's not appealing to them. The 'why' is what we use to improve so encourage viewers to give a description of why they don't like a piece of work opposed to giving a one-word answer. Likewise, when viewers ask for critique on their own work, give it. Be honest and be constructive. Say what isn't working for you and why.
Everyone wants to improve and be the best they can be but unfortunately there isn't a fast-track for this. You have to put in the work so asking for feedback is a step in the right direction to improving. The more you do it, the more you will get out of it. It's very important not take criticism personally either. Comments you receive are not aimed at you, it's aimed at your work. You have to detach yourself from it and the sooner you can do this the better. In order to rise through the ranks you have to build up a thick skin and this only happens by continuously seeking feedback. Keep at it and you'll become a better artist (and a better person) for it.