Note: My streaming setup has changed. See My Streaming Setup 2020 for the new setup.
Given this web site is mostly a place where I write stuff up so I don’t have to remember it, but which may be of use to others as well, here’s a short rundown of my current Twitch streaming setup.
First, what am I streaming, and what features do I want?
- The currently streamed game is Horizon: Zero Dawn, a PlayStation-exclusive game. So I want to stream what I’m playing on my PS4
- I want audio ducking. That is, I want game audio to be reduced in volume while I speak into the microphone, but want full game volume when I’m quiet. Too many streams have very low audio so it doesn’t conflict with their commentary, which I find hard to hear.
- I want to have overlays that show current chat messages and my channel logo, and notifications about new followers.
- I want to have a bot running in the channel with which the users can do things like add their names to a “name queue” (so I can name in-game characters etc. after them), or play sound effects.
Why not PS4 built-in streaming?
PS4 built-in streaming is really nice:
- You just push a button on the controller and you get a menu from which to start/stop the stream.
- It shows the chat onscreen at the right edge of the screen.
- The PS4 has reserved capacities for streaming, so no stutter or slowdown, even without an extra PC and hardware capture card.
- I can just plug in a USB headset and the mic will be used for commentary, and the headphones will play game audio without it being picked up by the headset mic.
- Chat notifications and other private data is automatically blurred, and switching out of the game turns off stream video, so I don’t have to worry about accidentally showing my friends list, PSN ID or private messages containing sensitive data.
Sadly, it has a few downsides:
- Text wrapping in the chat overlay is horrible. I think they just use Japanese-style character wrapping instead of breaking only at spaces between words.
- The chat overlay doesn’t show all Twitch emotes, only an older set.
- There is no way to call up Twitch’s web site to check how the stream sounds or whether there are compression artifacts without an extra PC.
- No support for a bot. I still have to run a PC for the chat bot.
- No game audio ducking.
First setup: Double headphones
- Elgato Game Capture HD
- TFT Display with audio-out jack
- Jack extension cable with in-wire volume controller
- Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000 headset (w. microphone)
- iPhone earplugs
- PC for Game Capture software, bot.
I have a TFT with a built-in audio out jack that I use for my PS4. So I insert my Elgato Game Capture HD device between the PS4 and screen (via the Elgato’s passthrough). I use Elgato’s software (which does audio ducking) to apply the overlays (web overlays showing the old Twitchalerts overlays that are now part of Streamlabs), and do the actual streaming. If you don’t have a screen with an analog output, you may have to get an analog audio adapter for the PS4, or an HDMI audio extractor.
I use the USB headset to record commentary and check audio on the Twitch web site, on the PC. The PS4 feeds its audio to the Elgato, which forwards it to the TFT’s audio-out jack. I plug my iPhone earplugs into that with the extension cable (and volume control, as the screen has none). Since the EGCHD (different from later models) has a delay, the headphones let me hear the game audio as it is right now, and I mute playback of the delayed game audio in the Elgato software.
This works, but wearing earplugs under the headset is a bit uncomfortable.
Bonus: I can put the windows for Game Capture and the Streamlabs Chatbot on the PC’s internal screen and thus keep an eye on chat and stream health easily on that “second” screen. The Streamlabs bot even lets me increase its text size so it’s easy to read.
Second setup: PS4 audio passed through PC
To fix the headset situation, I used a jack-plug-to-jack-plug cable to feed the audio from the TFT into the PC’s microphone jack. Then I set the PC to “listen to” the microphone device. This means that the PC now plays the PS4’s audio with nearly no delay, through the USB headset, and I don’t need the iPhone earplugs anymore.
Game audio recording still goes through HDMI where the Game Capture gets it. This is necessary because the first-generation Game Capture HD I have has a delay on it and it would be difficult to line up the late video with the audio coming into the mic port.
Third setup: Elgato Sound Capture for bot audio
Elgato Game Capture for Windows comes with a “virtual audio cable” application called Elgato Sound Capture. It has a few modes to run it in. I use its “Music” mode to take the audio the chatbot plays on the PC and make Elgato’s Game Capture software record it (Because Game Capture only records the PS4).
To do that, I set up Sound Capture’s output device as the default system output device, then tell Sound Capture to play back through the headphones. I switch it to Music mode and check the “Capture Music” checkbox that now shows up in the Game Capture software’s “Elgato Sound Capture” section widget.
The Streamlabs Chatbot plays all sounds on the default audio output device, so feeds it into Sound Capture now, which plays it back to my headset and also forwards it to the Game Capture application.
I can now adjust the audio for the “Music” (the bot sounds) in the Game Capture app.
The one downside of the Game Capture Software
Currently, switching between scenes with web overlays causes them to flash as white rectangles. This is ugly, and an issue OBS doesn’t have.
But since I want good ducked audio, and I don’t want to install ducking software that is complicated to set up (and thus hard to maintain), I’m willing to take that. If you do not switch scenes, you won’t notice this either.
That said, once I stream a PC game again, I may have to revisit this and find a way to get ducking into OBS because Elgato’s software doesn’t capture from PC, only from the capture device.
Other setup miscellanea
Both the PS4 and PC are plugged into wired internet, to avoid Wifi issues and get full Gigabit speeds for stream upload.
I also have a Blue Icicle XLR-to-USB adapter that I use with my XLR mic for better audio quality, but I prefer the headset, as it means I can turn my head to check out a noise or the clock and still remain audible. If I ever do webcam streams again (I have a Logitech C270 for that), I might forego the headset and use the mic on a separate microphone stand, and go back to the iPhone headset, which is less noticeable on cam.
My microphone stand is one of those full-height ones that you can stand on the floor, because table stands would pick up the noise and vibrations from me typing on the desk.
The Elgato Game Capture HD was a gift from back when I worked at Elgato (I left in mid-2017). I used to work on the Mac version of Elgato Game Capture. That said, for capturing from the PS4, with overlays and all, a capture device is the only choice, so I think even if I was biased, I am not recommending anything I wouldn’t recommend otherwise.