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General Setup

Encoding and streaming a video to Twitch is a very CPU-heavy task. If you encode the stream and play your game on the same PC, you can encounter serious problems even if your PC is nuclear powered. It is not always easy to balance the distribution of the available CPU power between the encoder and the game. Either you encounter annoying frame drops in-game or your encoder delivers a laggy stream.

To avoid the above problems I decided to run a 2-PC setup. One PC for gaming and another PC for streaming (both nuclear powered of course). But if you do that, you have to deal with the fact that your audio and video signals from the gaming PC somehow have to be transferred to the streaming PC. In addition to that, you surely want to talk to your viewers with a microphone. And a webcam would be great, too. So there are a lot of things to consider.

Voice

Mic: t.bone HeadmiKe - D AKG
XLR Adapter: t.bone PPA 200
Voice Processor: dbx 286s
Equalizer: Behringer FBQ1502 Ultragraph Pro

I completely rely on hardware processors for my voice on stream. I do not like the integrated compressor and noise gate filters in the Open Broadcaster Software. The compressor sounds weird and I prefer using an expander rather than a noise gate on stream because it sounds much more natural. In addition to that, the software does not offer an equalizer.

My microphone is a t.bone HeadmiKe - D AKG. In order to use it with a normal XLR cable I have a t.bone PPA 200 phantom power adapter attached to it. The mic is plugged into a dbx 286s microphone processor, which has everything but an equalizer on board. You get a mic preamp, low-cut filter, compressor, deesser, enhancer and a nice sounding expander (or noise gate) packed up in a single pice of hardware. Because it lacks an equalizer, I have wired up a Behringer FBQ1502 Ultragraph Pro to its insert loop in order to make my voice sound less mid-heavy and smooth. The insert loop is placed right before the compressor which is also very helpful. You shape your tone first and compress the hell out of it after that.

Audio

Mixer: Behringer XENYX Q1002 USB
Audio Production Interface: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

I like to be able to level my various audio signals on stream independently. Here is a list of all the signals I have to deal with and where they are coming from:

Signal Type Audio Source
My Voice Mono dbx 286s
Game Sound Stereo Realtek HD Audio on gaming PC
Output of my mixing software Stereo Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 on gaming PC
Teamspeak Stereo Realtek HD Audio on streaming PC
Background Music Stereo Mobile Phone

All these audio signals find their way into the Q1002 mixer which is plugged into the streaming PC via USB. The streaming PC itself only captures the final stereo mix of the mixer. This is what you hear on stream.

A common question about this setup is: How do I use my voice signal for Teamspeak simultanously? That is actually pretty easy. Nearly every mixer has some kind of aux bus. A what? A parallel output besides the main outputs which you can level independently. In my case on the Q1002 that bus is called "FX Send". It is normally used to hook up external effect processors to the mixer. But we can also abuse it to "grab" only the voice signal from the mixer. You just have to connect the "FX Send" output to the microphone input of your audio interface of the PC you are running Teamspeak on. And I strongly recommend reading the manual of your mixer!

Video

Capture Card: AverMedia Live Gamer EXTREME
Webcam: Logitech C920

Another hurdle to take is to capture the desktop or game content on the gaming PC and send it over to the streaming PC. For this purpose I use an AverMedia Live Gamer EXTREME USB 3.0 capture card. There are two ways of using the capture card. One way if you are using a 60Hz monitor and another (but more compicated) way if you are using any monitor that supports anything above 60Hz.

Using a 60Hz Monitor

A capture card usually has a HDMI input and output. The "intended way" of using this card is to plug in a HDMI cable from your gaming PC's graphics card into the capture card's input. The capture card then works as your primary monitor on the gaming PC. But now you do not see anything, right? So plug another HDMI cable into the capture card's output and from there into your primary monitor of your gaming PC. The USB connector of the capture card is plugged into the streaming PC. This way, the capture card works like a HDMI splitter: One signal goes straight into your monitor, the second signal can be received on the streaming PC via USB and can be captured with any streaming software.

Using a >60Hz Monitor

HDMI only supports 60Hz and no HDMI splitter or cable in the world can change that at the moment. But what if you want to play your games on your 144Hz monitor while streaming? That is where things get a little bit more complicated and gamers often start to struggle. So the capture card only supports 60Hz. That means you cannot use the output of the card to wire up your monitor. Leave your capture card connected to the graphics card of your gaming PC via HDMI. Then wire up your 144Hz monitor with your graphics card, too. Use either DVI or DisplayPort (both support 144Hz). On your gaming PC Windows will now recognize two monitors: Your 144Hz monitor and, in addition to that, your capture card. Now there is one final hurdle to take: How the hell do I clone the contents of my 144Hz monitor to the capture card which runs at a different refresh rate? Usually people tend to work their way through the graphics drivers and try to just clone the monitors. On Nvidia graphics cards that actually works, but you will encounter serious screen tearing. AMD does not even provide to cole monitors with different refresh rates. I suggest you just use OBS for that (see Software section below). If you right click on the main capture area of OBS you will find a context menu entry called "Fullscreen Projector (Preview)". With this option you can basically clone anything that OBS previews to any monitor of your choice with very little impact on your CPU usage. And that is the way I do it.

PC Specifications

Gaming PC
Mainboard: ASRock Z170 Extreme4
CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K @4.0GHz
RAM: 16GB DDR4 2800MHz
SSD: Crucial MX100
Graphics Card: Shappire R9 390 Nitro
Audio Interface: Forusrite Scarlett 2i2
Sound System: Logitech Z-2300 THX 2.1
Operating System: Windows 10
Streaming PC
Mainboard: AsRock Z77 Pro4
CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K @4.0GHz
RAM: 8GB DDR3 2400MHz
SSD: Crutial MX200
Graphics Card: Intel HD 4000 IGPU
Sound System: Logitech Z-2300 THX 2.1
Operating System: Windows 10

Software

The only software I need for streaming is Open Breadcaster Software MultiPlatform. It is completely free of charge and works like a charm. Consider supporting the developers with a donation in order to keep them going.

Stream Settings
Output Resolution 1280x720
Downscale Filter Lanczos
FPS 30
Bitrate 2200kbit
Use Custom Buffer Size Disabled
Keyframe Interval 2
Use CBR Enabled
CPU Usage Preset Medium
Profile Main
Audio Sample Rate 44.1kHz
Audio Bitrate 128kbit