Friday, January 22, 2021

Turn Your Household Tech into Stream Equipment

If you’ve been following The Twitch Playbook for a while, you’ve heard me talk several times about how easy it should be to go live. I often suggest using things you have lying around the house, so you can start broadcasting without zero preparation required, as well as zero pressure. This is a great way to save money and make quick course-correcting decisions. Even more importantly, it’s a great mental workout that can help you think outside the box when setting up and improving your channel. Whether you’re getting ready to start streaming right now, or you want to add onto a channel that’s been going strong for years, don’t discount the benefit of turning household tech into stream equipment.


The first step when taking advantage of your household tech is to avoid throwing it away. The amount of valuable parts which get trashed, lost or otherwise overlooked in the average person’s home is astounding. Old PC parts, controllers, adapters, cables, keyboards, headphones- the list goes on and on. And there are a few good habits you can start right now, in order to remedy this under your own roof. 

Accumulate useful items and keep them organized.

Anyone who’s worked in IT services, PC repair, video editing, or any other behind-the-scenes computer job probably knows to keep a well-stocked drawer full of computer cables. And if you don’t, I highly suggest you begin your collection today. Each piece of technology you buy will come with some new cable or other, and all these extra USB, lightning, eSATA, HDMI, 3.5mm audio, Ethernet and other cables can be interchanged with any device that uses the same ports. All you have to do is hold onto them when you get them, and keep track of where they are. I can’t tell you the amount of times that keeping a drawer full of cables has saved me from a tough situation. Not just when cables go dead either. When switching around tech, adding pieces to my PC, or coming up with some new stream idea, this saves me a trip to the store and allows me to make fast, versatile updates to my shows. 

It doesn’t have to be cables either- as I mentioned earlier, any technology can make a difference. When I switched from a single PC to a dual PC setup, I was able to repurpose all sorts of items for use on my second machine. Since this computer only handled the stream itself, and didn’t have to run any games or other taxing software, I was able to connect my 10-year-old iMac keyboard. Its keys didn’t press so well for everyday use, but it works fine when I only need to hit a few buttons to make the stream go live. It was the same with the out-of date monitor I had replaced, the headphones with a broken volume knob, and the mouse that couldn’t hold a left click. I even plugged in old sticks of RAM when I upgraded to better ones on my main PC. This second machine may sound like The Island of Misfit Toys from Rankin Bass’ Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer cartoon, but it didn’t need anything fancy. I knew exactly what I was going to use it for, and wherever I could, I simply plugged in anything that would get the job done. At the time I thought I would use those old parts as a temporary solution, but to this day they’re all still in use on that streaming PC. Unless one of them completely breaks, there’s no need to change them out. 

Try going around your house and looking for any spare cables, old obsolete tech, or anything else you may not have thrown out yet. You might be surprised how many things you accumulate. Check old phone, computer part, and other boxes in the back of your closet- the spare cables inside will probably give you a good head start on your collection. Keep them organized neatly in an easy-to-find place, and you’ll be surprised how often they come in handy. From there, you can continue to build this emergency reserve as you go through your normal life. 


I’ve spoken before in Twitch Playbook entries about how you can also utilize normal, non-technological items you have around the house. I use all sorts of things to hold cameras, improve lighting, decorate the background of my shots, and create ease of use during my shows. This is a category where all of us are even more likely to be well-stocked without even realizing, because everybody has random things around their house which can be useful if they only look at them differently. 

In earlier entries, I spoke about how I turned cheap IKEA desk and standing lamps into my stream lighting by using a few simple film school fundamentals. Look around your house- are there any superfluous lamps you could put into your streaming area? Even in the room you already stream from, there might be better placement options if you consider the overall shot. You may find that you don’t need any professional lighting solutions at all. For more on this, I covered the actual lighting techniques to use in the entry How to Make Your Camera Look Better.

Creative camera solutions are my specialty.

I’ve also spoken in previous entries about using every method imaginable to position cameras when needed. I’ve stacked up books to raise them up, propped them against boxes, even taped them to various surfaces. When I’m traveling for work, no two hotel streaming scenarios are the same, so I’ve gotten really good at improvising. Most recently, I used a car phone holster to clamp my phone to my desk. I’ve also gotten creative with items that can improve my quality of life while streaming. Using picture hanging hooks to hold my headphones on the wall and free up desk space worked wonders. Bringing in a little side table next to my desk to hold my coffee and water saved even more room near my keyboard. Utilizing sticky notes and legal notepads helped me organize thoughts and stream improvements without getting up or stopping a show. Think if there’s any way you could improve your general quality of life while streaming by using household items- you might be surprised how much even the smallest improvement helps your mental clarity! 


You own so many useful items, even if you don’t realize it. As I’ve often mentioned, a perceived lack of necessary equipment is one of the biggest excuses preventing hopeful streamers from embarking on their journeys. But if you get better at recognizing those things you overlook every day, you’ll find that you’re more equipped than you thought. You might not be able to make the exact kind of show you’ve envisioned in your head, but that’s usually for the best. Scale back your ambitions and make the show you’re able to make right now. The same applies to anyone trying to upgrade their existing streams. Those tech upgrades may have been sitting under your nose all along. As I mentioned in the entry Make the Most of Your Streaming Setup, always think in terms of what you have, rather than what you don’t have

So hold onto the small pieces of tech you accumulate when buying something new, and avoid throwing away the items you think are obsolete. These things may have a whole new life waiting for them, if you keep them around for a rainy day. And don’t discount the things around your house that aren’t computer-related. Lights, furniture and other fixtures can all contribute to a more polished stream, even if they’re not made for streaming, and weren’t purchased with streaming in mind. I’d bet that each of our homes holds at least five new and interesting ways to stream, which we haven’t previously considered. We just have to open our minds to the possibilities. 

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