Friday, July 22, 2022

Setting Up Pre-Stream Automation

In previous entries, I’ve spoken about how I create habits and systems to facilitate the streaming process. Entries like Creating a Pre-Stream Checklist explored my method of defining what I need to get a stream started, and then following that script to the letter every time I go live. There are many items that may appear on a pre-stream checklist. Some are physical, like turning on lights or cameras. Others occur in software, like getting your scenes calibrated and opening necessary apps. Finally, you prepare and format various aspects of your show on the internet. In this entry, I’m going to detail my specific process in tackling this last step, and how I’ve improved my stream prep by a large margin by using some simple shortcuts. 

Turn your setup process into an 
assembly line.

By automating this part of the pre-stream process, I’ve been able to make my content higher quality, cut down on production prep time, and significantly reduce errors all in one stroke. If you’ve only created a handful of streams so far, the technique I’m about to describe may sound like overkill. But after your hundredth or thousandth stream, you’ll grow to appreciate anything that can get your shows onto the air faster, with fewer errors. And though my specific order of operations isn’t going to magically work for your channel’s content, I guarantee that if you take the internal logic of my decisions to heart and create your own custom automation steps, you’ll start to see better results on your channel within only a few broadcasts. 


When getting ready to do a show, before setting up OBS or even opening my game, I execute my initial pre-stream setup. This all occurs on a set of Google Chrome tabs, in which I title the episode, choose its Twitch category, prepare it for multistreaming (I go live to Twitch and YouTube simultaneously), add any necessary other details, and open the two monitoring windows I use to keep an eye on the stream’s status and chat. 

This is all done in the same exact way, and in the same exact order, every single time. In Google Chrome, I have a ‘Pre-Stream’ folder in my Bookmarks Bar, with every page I’ll need to visit saved in chronological order. By simply choosing to open the entire folder at once (you can do this by middle mouse clicking the folder itself), Chrome will instantly populate my browser with every tab I need to set up my show. I can then close each tab as I finish its corresponding task, and when they’re all gone I know the show is ready. This turns pre-stream formatting, usually a swirl of things to remember and possible mistakes to make, into a simple assembly line process. It lifts a huge burden from the mind. Here are all the tabs I use when setting up my show, and what I use them for: 

  1. Twitch Video Producer - I use this screen, which shows all my previous broadcasts, to copy the name of the most recent episode of whichever game I’m going to play. A simple step, but an important one. 

  2. YouTube Studio Live Dashboard - Here, I choose the YouTube Stream Key that I’ve set up for my show (which for some reason on YouTube needs to be selected every time you go live) and paste the title of the episode into the broadcast’s info. All my episodes of a game are numbered, so I make sure to increase that number and remove any extra formatting from the previous episode title. I change the hashtag in the description, set a general ‘Going Live’ thumbnail I’ve created, choose which game-specific playlist the episode will be on, set the game title in YouTube’s category section, and paste in a set of appropriate tags. All this ensures that most of the formatting work for my YouTube archive is finished before the stream even begins. 

  3. Restream Dashboard - I use this step for a few simple yet necessary tasks. First, YouTube’s ‘Event’ (a pre-made set of show info, which contains everything we set up in the previous tab) needs to be enabled every time a stream goes live or it’ll default to a generic title, so I enable the event that I set up in the second tab. This step is also a nice way to check that I didn’t miss anything while setting up the info. Then I select the new show title I’ve created and copy it, so we can bring it to: 

  4. Twitch Stream Manager - Here I paste in the episode title I copied from the YouTube show, and I set the Twitch category. 

  5. Twitch Chat Popout Window, Twitch Stream Manager - These final two tabs are both meant to be used at once. I have three monitors on my PC, so I play the game on the center screen, open the Twitch Chat Popout Window on the left, and the Twitch Stream Manager on the right. This allows me to check various stats, along with chat messages, during the broadcast. Once these windows are placed on my two satellite monitors, I can move into opening the game and setting up OBS.

That’s the process. Those six tabs are opened automatically, in a specific sequence, every time I get ready to set up my show. I always address them in the exact order they’ve been opened, because I’ve meticulously worked out that order for maximum efficiency over the years. You’ll notice that it even opens Twitch four separate times. This is meant to discourage me from needing to think in this setup stage, to instead simply follow the plan I’ve already laid out. Each tab with a Twitch window is used for a different purpose, at a different stage of the process. I don’t leave old tabs open and go back to them, or click to different screens within the same tab. I close a tab when its specific task is complete, and move down the line. There is much less room for error when I don’t need to think about where to navigate next. 

I’m very proud of this quality of life improvement in my Twitch channel, because the time saved compounds over the many streams I’ve done. Remember, I’ve broadcast over 6,000 livestreams on my channel at this point. Any time saving method is going to make a huge difference when extrapolated to such a scale, and this particular method saves more time than most. 


There's always room for iteration in 
any strategy. 

Having said that, I still don’t consider this configuration of pre-stream setup tabs to be perfect. There’s always room for improvement, and I try to keep an open mind. Even in the last few months, I’ve added an extra tab with the YouTube Studio Live Dashboard at the end, so I can monitor that stream along with Twitch. In the past few years, I’ve also added another set of simple tabs on my separate streaming PC, which automatically opens the Google speed testing tool to test my connection before every show, as well as Restream’s monitoring software so I can see what the show is doing before it reaches Twitch. This last step is important for me, because it allows me to see at a glance whether an issue or outage is caused by my broadcast, or by the Twitch platform receiving the broadcast. 

This whole process is one of the biggest time-saving and accident-preventing improvements I’ve made to my channel over its lifetime. With the setup stage down to a science I can think about more important things, like making a good Twitch stream, without worrying about whether I’ve forgotten something along the way. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve refined this workflow over the course of thousands of my own broadcasts, and it works specifically for the content that I make. Simply copying what I do won’t work for your own shows. But if you come up with your own set of steps, you’ll see an improvement very quickly. So try setting up some pre-stream automation on your channel. Your shows will thank you for it. 

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