Friday, June 3, 2022

Archiving Your Twitch Streams

In the entry Using YouTube as a Twitch Streamer, I spoke about how to get the most out of YouTube as a satellite platform to support your streams. There, I discussed several ideas for Affiliates or Partners, as well as a few extras for those who haven’t signed a contract with Twitch. But as I mentioned in that episode, my personal favorite use for YouTube is as a permanent stream archive. Any Twitch streamer can do this, regardless of Affiliate status, and it can be very useful in several ways. In this entry I’m going to cover the reasons I love archiving my streams, and take you through the various methods I tried when perfecting my workflow. 


So first of all, what are stream archives good for? Right off the bat, as you’ll know if you’ve been following The Twitch Playbook, I’m a big fan of watching old episodes to keep track of progress. And while it’s possible for a Twitch channel to save past broadcasts, they don’t get saved forever. They’ll stick around for a maximum of two months, possibly shorter depending on your channel, and after that they’re gone. I like to have my oldest streams around, just in case I want to watch them again later for some reason. I’ve found a lot of use from periodically revisiting episodes from a long time ago. Sometimes I can simply reassure myself how much better I’ve gotten, but other times I use those old shows to remind myself of a great feature I used to have, and possibly inspire something to implement on my current channel. 

For my kind of content, it's nice to have a
library of videos that viewers can browse.

Second, viewers can watch your archived streams. Based on the kind of content you make, the usefulness of this will vary. On my shows, since I play through singleplayer games and focus on the plot, viewers often like to catch up with the story’s progress by watching old episodes between streams. If I start on a sequel for example, the previous game may have appeared on my channel six months ago, and the stream wouldn’t stay on Twitch as a past broadcast for that long. Having an archive can be really useful for that. If you mostly do competitive games, entire stream archives won’t be as useful for viewers to watch in order to catch up with your streams, but they can be great to have in case you ever want to make compilation videos or track the improvement of your skills. Artists and musicians can find a similar use for this feature, being able to make timelapses or other clips from old paintings or performances without worrying about whether they’ll expire. 

And why put them on YouTube rather than Twitch? There are good arguments to be made for keeping your content stored on either platform. For me, YouTube is cleaner. There are better tools for sorting your content, editing after the fact, and adding descriptions, links and other information. Even though it’s nice to have everything all in one place on a Twitch channel, I personally think it’s better not to have my Twitch page cluttered with highlights alongside each stream. Plus, the way I archive to YouTube, the whole process is much more automated. 


Sometimes you need to let the machines
do the heavy lifting so you can focus
on more important things.

If you think about the amount of content I produce (now over 6,000 videos since starting my channel!), you could imagine it getting prohibitively time-consuming pretty quickly if I wanted to archive all my shows manually. For that reason, I worked hard to get all my episodes to YouTube in a way that requires the least input on my side, while still allowing the shows to be nicely formatted, well-organized, and uploaded in a timely manner. In order to reach that goal, I explored several different options: 

  1. Saving Locally - In streaming software like OBS, it’s possible to actually save a video of your stream to your computer while it’s broadcasting. This is technically the safest option for archiving, because if you have network issues during the show, all the content is still there in the local video file. However, this was overkill for my purposes, and the added time of uploading each file later would have taken too long.

  2. Highlighting on Twitch - As I mentioned before, you can actually make a Twitch highlight of a full stream, which will save it forever on your channel. But Twitch doesn’t have a great way to display large amounts of playlists, and there aren’t many good organization features for viewers looking through hundreds or thousands of old episodes.

  3. Download and Save - If you don’t want to save files locally while streaming, you could always download the stream from Twitch after it’s over, then post it on YouTube. This takes a lot of time however, and unlike the local saves, it will still show any network issues in the video you get from it.

  4. Video Export - As I mentioned in previous entries, you can actually click the ‘Export’ button on any stream in the Creator Dashboard, and Twitch will send it to your linked YouTube channel. This works well, but it takes time to encode and send to YouTube, and I personally don’t like having to remember to click that button after each stream.

  5. Multistreaming in Software - Within streaming software like Streamlabs OBS, you can actually go live to two platforms at once, right from the app. This only requires linking the two accounts (in my case, Twitch and YouTube) and hitting the Go Live button. It’s even possible to set the YouTube broadcast to private if you’re Affiliate, so it doesn’t break the 24-hour exclusivity clause in the Twitch contract. However, this doesn’t account for when you’re streaming outside of the software. And that’s what led me to my current method.

  6. Multistreaming with an Intermediate API - The solution I finally arrived at was to use the free intermediate service Restream, which would send my broadcast to Twitch and YouTube from its side. Now, you might think this sounds like it serves the same function as multistreaming from Streamlabs OBS, but it has one big bonus: my show gets archived, no matter what device I stream from. So whether I go live from my games PC, do a quick show from my phone, make art while capturing my iPad screen, or broadcast from an IRL streaming backpack, they all simply send the signal to Restream, and Restream does the work of sending the show to Twitch and YouTube. No need to set up all the specific settings on each device before I go live.

Depending on the setup of your channel, you may not need to use the same workflow I use. Even the options that were imperfect for my own streams might be what works for yours. If you want to archive your shows, make sure to consider what you actually need, and tailor your choices to those criteria. Just like I did when coming up with my solution. But no matter what kind of content you make, I think you’ll find some use from having your old streams around. Whether you curate them for others to watch, or you just keep them private to watch on your own and make videos from, consider archiving the streams you make on Twitch. 

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