My streaming setup

As you have probably noticed if you follow my projects for an extended amount of time, I do love streaming. The idea of personal media has become an incredible creative influx in today’s web culture. Think of great podcasts, let’s plays and weekly shows you enjoy.

Since I’ve changed my workflows and my software stack around a bit in the past few months, here is a small look at how I work. I am not suggesting this setup is generally awesome (because it is clearly not) but at least it’s a solid, mostly software-based foundation.

I’m not the average player who simply streams his progress. I am too lazy for producing a continuous series of videos. Another problem is that gameplay is – in my opinion – only interesting at 720p and/or higher resolutions. Unfortunately, due to the poor cut-throat politics of the German Telekom, it is impossible to get proper broadband internet access. I have to put up with ~100 kiloByte/s upload and mere 10 Megabit/s downstream. The best I can manage with that is 480p with about 700-750kbps video data and 96/128kbps AAC audio.

However, I do want to be able to record in high-definition anyway. Ideally I record in 720p@30 and stream in 480p@30 – in realtime, that is. Technically this should not be an issue, my computer supports Intel Quick Sync so I could (in theory) encode my local high-definition copy of a video without suffering any performance penalty. I specifically mention “in theory” because reality leaves me in despair.

In the past I have used Dxtory and Xsplit to stream. Dxtory can output data to both file and a pseudo-camera. The camera output could then be used in Xsplit to stream in 480p. Unfortunately Dxtory does not give any specific resolution details to it’s camera output so the content is always 4:3 and blurry as hell in Xsplit. That may be an acceptable short-term solution for 480p crap quality but no keeper. Another bummer is that Dxtory does not make use of Quick Sync. The same is the case with Xsplit (except when doing local recording – which renders the entire feature moot).

I also want to mix several input sources (like multiple webcams, microphones, my Hauppauge PVR2 plus local media files [avi, mkv] etc.) so my choices are rather limited. Again, I use Xsplit as my weapon of choice here. I have tried Open Broadcaster Software and while the software did perform well, the user-experience and some kinks with capturing DirectX and OpenGL surfaces once again left me in despair. Capturing an exclusive madVR surface is impossible with OBS in it’s current state, there is flickering all over the place.

So yeah, Xsplit it is for preparing and switching stages. Starting with Xsplit 1.3 it has also become a useful tool for local recording due to Quick Sync support. Again, I could use OBS here or even Mirillis Action! but I already own an Xsplit license and there’s too little difference in the output to warrant extra software setup.

As mentioned before I use a Hauppauge PVR2 Gaming Edition Plus device to capture HDMI and Component material from my Xbox360, Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii and Playstation Portable. It works fine, the quality is acceptable, even if the blurry Playstation 3 component output makes me cry. One little thing has to be noted: The PVR2 has a streaming lag of about 3750ms.

It would be rather ugly to have commentary about 3-4 seconds early, so I manually keep my microphone input in a 3750ms Virtual Audio Cable repeater buffer that also allows me local playback in realtime from my line-in while adding latency to the audio data for use in Xsplit. It’s a great piece of software, I’ve fiddled around with VB-Cable before but VAC is just a much better experience for me. Your mileage may vary, especially since my  requirement here is inducing latency while most people want to reduce latency.

So, what’s left to do? Well, I still need to get a proper microphone that does not sound like I’m trapped in Buffalo Bill’s basement. I also need an additional, dedicated SSD for dumping the video data. And yeah… proper upstream – the one thing I will never get.

In short:

– Dxtory for capturing “strange” sources
– Hauppauge PVR2 for capturing consoles
– Virtual Audio Cable for mixing, splitting and postprocessing live incoming audio data
– Xsplit for bringing all sources and media together

I am not saying that the software listed above is perfect or the best there is. God knows Xsplit is far from perfect and OBS shows SplitMedia Labs who is boss in some departments (and no – “having more features” is not a good excuse for having the world’s slowest UI or not implementing features supported by libx264 [like OpenCL]). But my workflow could be a lot more miserable, so I guess this could pass as a recommendation.

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The fool's herald.

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