Friday, February 5, 2021

Tips for Setting Up Your Stream Equipment

When setting up equipment for your stream, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. There’s typically so much to think about: hardware compatibility, interconnecting cables, software, patches, and a thousand other little things in between. Because of this, we often end up becoming frustrated and dejected when everything doesn’t go as planned. What we thought would be simple fixes or upgrades end up taking hours, and more complex tasks like building a PC can leave us stranded with a half-finished machine while we wait for replacement parts to arrive. Over the years, I’ve found a few general guidelines and shortcuts when trying to implement new equipment into any setup I’m working with, and these have helped me greatly when getting into streaming. 


What’s the biggest enemy of the average person trying to set up equipment of any kind? Expectations. Our own hopes and ideas often get in the way of being effective planners and problem solvers. We’re typically so excited about the thing we just unboxed that we leave all good practices behind and simply want to start using our new toy as soon as possible. The psychology here is understandable- we’ve been thinking this way since we were children, receiving gifts on holidays or birthdays and immediately playing with them. But when doing something complex like creating a stream, there are a lot of moving parts. You’ll run into numerous technical and artistic challenges when dealing with cameras, lights, microphones, various software or any number of other items. You probably won’t get it right on the first try, if the item even functions at all. To avoid being disappointed, expect every equipment alteration, improvement, or replacement process to take longer than expected.

You don't have to know what's going to happen, 
you just have to know that something will happen.

Don’t let your stream get cancelled because you tried to set up a new camera ten minutes before planning to go live. Don’t be late for a dinner plan because you’re stuck troubleshooting a microphone. In my own experience, I can’t think of any piece of equipment whose setup process didn’t have hidden time sinks. Something always needs to get redone, altered, replaced, patched, or otherwise worked on. With your own setup, plan for equipment changes to take two or three times longer than whatever you think is a reasonable amount of time. That way, you won’t always be disappointed when things either go wrong, cause delays or require extra work. For big projects like building a PC, you should assume an even longer wait. Expect you’ll have at least one dead part in the initial build, and won’t be able to use that machine at all on the day you start putting it together.


The physicist Arthur Leonard Schawlow once said, “ Anything worth doing is worth doing twice, the first time quick and dirty and the second time the best way you can.” This certainly holds true when setting up stream equipment. If you want to avoid frustration, put things together in stages, testing them out in an ugly, imperfect way before properly arranging them. 

Here’s an example of what I mean: Imagine you just bought a new webcam. You take off the plastic, admiring its beauty. You uncoil the cable, carefully routing it to fit neatly into the crevice behind your desk, binding everything together with cable ties so the wire is completely hidden. You set up the camera, adjusting the placement so it’s in exactly the right spot on your monitor. You throw away the box and clean away all the packing materials. Everything is tidy and perfectly integrated into your stream setup. Then you turn on the camera and it doesn’t work. 

Test things properly before implementing them.

Now you have to take the camera back down, cut those cable ties, un-thread the cable from behind your desk, fish the box and packing materials from the garbage can, and send it all back to Amazon for a replacement. But what was the problem here? Sure, the camera’s defective status is partly to blame. Mostly however, the problem was your mindset. You should never assume the first time-setup for any piece of equipment is going to be the final setup. Like I’ve mentioned in several other entries, you should always begin with the most important things before moving onto making it look good. Here, that would involve making sure the camera works and has all the parts it needs. You can test that just as easily by plugging it into the front port of your PC, with the cable bulging in an ugly arc, and pointing it at a speck of dust on the table. The act of setting everything up before you had made such an essential check was only because you had allowed your expectations to get in the way of good critical thinking. Of course, this thought process doesn’t only work for cameras. You can use the same mindset with any piece of equipment. Do a quick and dirty setup process first, so you can check everything required, before you do all the extra work to make it look good. You’ll often be thankful you did. 


One major place where I’ve made just about every mistake imaginable is in building the various iterations of my PC, and upgrading it throughout the years. Expecting the process to take longer than anticipated, as well as using a first principles testing method, has helped me enormously in preventing those time-consuming mistakes that would otherwise require me to take everything apart again for one reason or another. Frustration causes the most problems when setting up tech, and by taking these steps I hope that you too will be able to sidestep this issue when working on your stream equipment. 

No comments:

Post a Comment