I’m not a regular streamer; a combined lack of time, organisation, and confidence have seen that possibility sailing away, but those few occasions a year when I find a clear evening, a suitable (often retro) game, and invite you to boil up some popcorn and join me I enjoy the experience.
One such evening cropped up some months back when I wanted to share with you all my first ever impressions of Overblood. Sadly it wasn’t to be. The problem, I lamented to my fellow co-BloggersWhoStream-architect (Kim of LaterLevels fame), was that my technical setup was a little on the janky side. That technological marvel that I use to capture PlayStation 1 gameplay couldn’t cope with the shear number of resolution shifts that Overblood thought necessary to… do whatever it was that it was trying to do. As I explained the intricate number of seemingly unconnected elements that I put in place to stream from my original PlaySation, Kim came up with the superb idea that we should reach out to all the other bloggers who stream (namedrop) out there and see how they get on with this whole streaming lark; and so this week’s event was born.
The point that I’m trying to make is that if you want to give this streaming thing a go, there’s really not that much stopping you and my technical rundown should hopefully highlight just how low that bar is; even for something niche like streaming from a PS1.
I’m kicking things off with the most technologically impressive part of the setup; my Samson Go Mic. Firstly, don’t be fooled that I’m some kind of pro, I have in the past streamed using my normal gaming headset but I picked this mic up some time ago for other reasons and it’s generally given favourable reviews as an on-the-go mini podcasting condenser microphone. It comes with a handy little stand that doubles as a clip and features both an omnidirectional and cardioid mode for when you want to capture talking and not the dog walking across the floor. It also has a -10dB level reduction that is pretty good at taking a first swipe at blocking out all those background wirrrrs and humms. The long USB cable lets me sit on the couch and play whilst still connected to my PC that sits in the other corner of the room.
Things begin to unravel from this point on as, in order to fully go Radio 4 on my voiceover work, I have to get nice and close to the microphone. That tiny stand is great if you’re recording a conversation from the middle of a room, but to get up close and groovy whilst still sitting on the couch without having a table in your face you need a boom arm. I don’t have a boom arm. What I do have is an angle-poise lamp with the lamp bit partially dismantled and duct taped out the way. That springy mechanism is almost perfect to allow me to position the mic wherever I need it.
With the position sorted out, the next problem is pop; those little puffs of air from P’s and B’s get really annoying if you don’t slow them down a bit before they hit the microphone. A pop-filter isn’t an expensive piece of kit; it’s essentially just some tights stretched over a loop of wire. So I use some tights stretched over a loop of wire that my wife made for me a few years ago when I was dabbling in podcasting. This (along with more duct tape) really does the trick!
With my voice now firmly wired in to the computer I now need to capture the game video and audio. As I’m only playing a PS1 game, the source resolution really isn’t that high, so I don’t necessarily need a fancy HDMI capture device. Instead I use a small USB… thing… that was originally designed for letting people record their old home movies as MP4’s. I think it cost twelve pounds from Amazon. I can’t say that this is amazing, after all it did let me down with OverBlood, but I have used it successfully on a fair number of other games that don’t jump about in resolution and it has yet to entirely just stop working. Once plugged in the ‘thing’ is recognised as a video and audio input source. The downside is that the ‘thing’ has about three-inches of USB cable on it so I need to add another… and another… connected to the first one by (you guessed it) duct tape to reach the PC. More duct tape is applied to stop me (or again the dog) accidentally yanking the cable out of the PC during a stream.
To get the composite video signal in to the ‘thing’ in the first place I have to use what I affectionately call the Frankenstein’s Monster Cable (actually I just call it the Frankenstein cable, but I don’t want to open myself up to comments). This is a PS1 SCART video cable that I bought years ago when light guns were still functional and G-Con games needed to have a separate composite connection. In this case it lets me grab the audio and video signal straight from the system.
The downside of this is that the audio seems to come from the SCART portion of the cable and the video from the console connector.
Bringing It All Together
Sound… check! Video… check! Next I fire up OBS studio and make sure that everything looks right.
Quick tip if you’re planning on this type of setup yourself. On the video source in OBS, make sure you apply de-interlacing (I use the Yadif mode). Old interlaced video signals used to scan every other line on alternate frames; viewed on a current monitor this signal shows a weird striated tearing. OBS’s de-interlacing filters fix this, but they’re not perfect… but hey, read the rest of this post, do I look like I’m going for perfection?
The final hurdle is to be able to mix the video and mic audio to an acceptable level and then listen to the game by monitoring the stream audio. There is a fraction of a second delay which I don’t even notice… EXCEPT when navigating through ingame menus; who knew that we use those little bleeps so much?!
If you’ve been keeping track so far then you’ll have realised that to stream I have mic cable from couch to PC and returning headphone cable from PC to couch. Controller cable from console to couch, screen cable from console to tv and audio (confusingly) from SCART to ‘thing’. Video from console to ‘thing’, and ‘thing USB (via duct tape connections) back to PC. That’s not to mention the laptop I also have open on the table to keep an eye on stream chat… *phew*…
… and there it is, my streaming technical break down.. primitive… possibly… any less fun? Certainly not! So look, if you’re thinking about streaming and are all like “… but I don’t have all that fancy stuff” then forget about the fancy stuff and do what you can with what you have. From the streams I’ve watched that I really enjoy, it’s the personality way more than the tech that I’m interested in.