Friday, April 30, 2021

How Low-Tech Items Can Help Your Streams

All kinds of equipment can contribute to your Twitch streams. In past entries, we've talked about subjects from the realm of computers, video, lighting, audio, game systems, software and more, each with different levels of complexity to choose from. In the entry Turn Your Household Tech Into Stream Equipment, I even helped you to find and organize all the technology you may have amassed in your normal life without realizing, and harness that for your broadcasts as well. But there's another category of item that I haven't touched on explicitly, which I value very highly for streaming. What about the equipment that isn't even equipment? I'm talking about the lowest of the low-tech. Sometimes, all you need is a little creative thinking, and the right item to get the job done. 


You've probably heard the classic story about writing in space. In the 1960's NASA realized that pens weren't able to function properly in orbit, so they spent millions of taxpayer dollars developing a new kind of pen that could eject ink onto paper efficiently in zero gravity. Meanwhile, Russia simply gave their astronauts pencils. This legend is based on several fallacies, but that doesn't change the power of its message. Often, like Alexander cutting the Gordian Knot, you can solve complex problems with the absolute simplest of solutions. And if something takes too many steps to solve, you're probably exploring the wrong pathway. This is the kind of thinking we've applied in past entries like Simplify Your Streaming Problems when optimizing nebulous concepts like our streaming ideas, but it applies just as well with good old, non-nebulous hardware. 

I first learned about the WWII bicycles from the
game Heroes & Generals.

Throughout history, some of the most difficult technological problems have been solved with the simplest non-technological solutions. For example, did you know that throughout World War II, soldiers regularly rode bicycles around the battlefield? (And for anyone who skipped history class, this was at a time when cars, tanks and motorcycles had already very much been invented.) This was so prevalent that various armies actually prepared assaults using bicycle squadrons, and the British even created folding bikes that they could attach to their paratroopers as they jumped from planes. Not only could a bicycle help a soldier move faster and carry heavier loads than they could on foot, but bikes could actually traverse trickier terrain than cars, didn't require gas, and were completely silent. All the money in the world wouldn't have been able to create a better high-tech solution than this simple, human-powered vehicle, when faced with certain types of problems. I try to apply this valuable lesson to my streams wherever I can. 


One low-tech item I've mentioned in several previous entries is the notebook. This is a great way of keeping track of streaming problems so you can solve them later, and in a pinch it's faster and less intrusive than opening your phone, navigating to the notes app and tapping away. I do the same with various sticky notes, leaving them on my keyboard if I need a reminder of something before the next show begins. I've also drawn marks on my headphones' volume bar with Sharpie to indicate the various sound settings I use for my streams, so I don't have to guess. All these things allow my mind to stay clear, and operate my stream with less friction. And none of them require anything more than typical household stationery.  

The seated position in my streaming area is a major concern for me as well. I design the experience of being at my desk in the most convenient way possible, so that I minimize the need to get up during a show. Everything is within arm's reach. I keep multiple bottles of water on coasters in the corner of my desk so I won't need to replace them often during a broadcast, and I have an ultra-insulated coffee thermos, so my hot drink won't get cold until I'm finished with it. I use adhesive wall hooks to take advantage vertical space around the desk, hanging things like headphones, microphones, props and other items that I can grab at a moment's notice. I even keep a little compact mirror from the dollar store nearby, so I can check whether there's food in my teeth right before going live. As we've explored in past entries, it's a difficult enough psychological trial to go live each day. Each time you need to get up from your chair right before your stream starts, it can chip away at that willpower. So it pays to design your stream area for maximum convenience, and as you can see here, that doesn't necessarily mean you need to buy anything expensive- or anything at all. 

Every day on stream is now like a day
beside the pool!

There are other invaluable low-tech tools I've found to fix major issues, which simply improve my quality of life while streaming. A bright light used to shine around the volume dial of my computer speaker, and it always distracted me in the corner of my eye, until I cut a piece of black construction paper to block the glow. In one instance, I found that my arms would have big indentations cut into them after a long stream, and sometimes even lose circulation, because of where I typically rest them on the edge of my desk while holding a controller or using a keyboard. Instead of buying a new desk or doing anything else drastic, I found a pool noodle at the dollar store and cut it to fit over the desk's edge. It perfectly padded the area, and has stayed in place for over a year. This one fix alone has measurably improved my streaming life, and all it took was a little bit of creative thinking. 


Streaming isn't always about the things other people can see when they look at your broadcast. It's also about making sure you're comfortable and confident while you sit in a chair for several hours a day, so that you can fully enjoy what you love doing. When thinking about my stream, I value my lowest-tech solutions just as highly as the high-tech ones. In fact, when discussing streaming with friends, I often find myself talking more about the most seemingly-insignificant additions (like that pool noodle) more than any of my actual stream equipment. And my friends who are streamers often brag about their own low-tech fixes. Because when you're doing this day in and day out, anything that improves your quality of life becomes a blessing. And in this regard, low-tech items can majorly help your streams. 

No comments:

Post a Comment