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Start streaming on Twitch – 7 Tips

In just over one and a half years of streaming on Twitch, I’ve gained nearly 20,000 followers (Which you can check here on my channel). I wanted to outline what I believe are the most important things you should be doing to maximize your potential when you start streaming on Twitch. Getting people to your stream is hard enough, keeping them there is even harder.

I have spent many hours reading and learning about streaming and the Twitch platform. I have also learned from personal experiences and the experience of others. I run followtrain.tv and I run a Twitch community where we discuss Twitch related topics. It would be fair to say I know a thing or two about streaming.

Here are 7 things to keep in mind when you are just start streaming on Twitch.

1. Make sure your internet connection is solid

You don’t need to run out and buy a dedicated T1 line when you start streaming on Twitch, but you definitely need to have a decent cable broadband or fibre optic connection. The number one thing you need to do is be able to stream and with a bad internet connection you will end up with a totally black screen or a laggy viewing experience. I already outlined in another post what the best settings to use when streaming, so make sure you check that out.

2. Get a decent microphone

People visit Twitch to watch and listen to people playing games. If your commentary is inaudible due to a low-quality microphone, you won’t get many followers or viewers. You don’t need a recording studio quality mic but you do need to be sure that your voice is clear and louder than your music or in-game sound, with little to no static or hum.

Try and get a microphone with built in noise reduction in case something is going on behind you, perhaps you live near a busy road and the windows are open because of the heat outside. These small sounds will be heard on your stream as just background noise which can really irritate people. I keep an updated list of what I consider to be the Best Hardware for Twitch.

3. Get some custom graphics and a decent overlay

Your channel and brand is important for people to remember you, starting at just $5 you can get custom graphic design service. You will create your HUD (Heads up Display) in your streaming software, something like OBS or xSplit. Personally, I do mine with OBS. The idea is to make sure that your stream looks good and is viewer friendly. There are a ton of streamers out there, so the viewer experience is going to be what sets you apart.

For example you could create a border around your webcam that tells something about your personality or your favorite game. It is also important that pop up notifications give praise where it is due. When someone gives you a donation or follows you you should have a pop up or something cool happening.

When viewers see a celebration over even the smallest of donations, they are more likely to donate a few dollars as well. Make an even bigger celebration for your top donors. Remember, people are throwing money at you for doing something you would probably be doing anyway, so make sure they know how grateful you are.

4. A HD webcam is a must

Okay, so maybe Lirik doesn’t use a webcam… but you are not Lirik and you didn’t start streaming nearly five years ago when he did. Do yourself a favour and buy a decent webcam. There are plenty of streamers who don’t use a webcam, this is true, they also they don’t have many followers or viewers. If you want to be one of them random unknown faces then be my guest but it wont help you grow on Twitch.

People like to see faces, even if you think you are the ugliest person on earth I promise you beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s just nice to have a face to go with the voice and the username, so don’t be shy.

I was simply amazed how much people did not troll me when I first used a webcam. Most people are genuinely friendly. We all got bullied a little school for one thing or another and that fear is still with us but in my experience on Twitch it’s not an issue. Really you should try it once or twice and I promise you wont regret it, in fact you will enjoy streaming even more. Yes it feels awkward at first and maybe you need to get comfortable with speaking before turning on the camera but sooner or later you need a webcam.

You want to be able to stream and record in high definition a 720p camera is the minimum, but a 1080p is always preferred. Many viewers, when looking for a new channel to watch, won’t even click on one unless they see a picture-in-picture cam. Read more about what I think is the best webcam for Twitch.

5. Interact with your viewers

There is only so much that hardware and software can do for you, and there are a ton of great players out there. After that, your persona has to carry you. You will truly begin to stand apart from the crowd and gain a following when people see your personality, and that means interacting. Gaining followers and regular viewers is really about being entertaining.

Once you have hundreds or thousands of followers, you may not be able to greet everyone by name, but at least when you are starting out, don’t let people slip in and out of your channel without even being acknowledged. Say something like, “Hi [username], welcome to the stream!” Try to answer questions that viewers ask, and even ask some of your own and check out the responses. Yes, you need to pay attention to the game too, but the game isn’t following you or making donations, so put your viewers first.

Don’t argue in the chat box. If someone is really being obnoxious, mute them quickly and move on. Do not waste time or energy with trolls, insta-ban them and forget about it, they will move on to someone else who will entertain their trolling efforts.

6. Get a chat bot for your stream

I’m not talking about view bots—those are a good way to get your channel banned. If you are a regular Twitch viewer, you probably already know what a chat bot is. Chat bots basically serve one purpose—they keep the chat box safe for you and your followers and provide additional interaction functionality.

They can ban people for saying certain words, they can tell users what music you are currently playing and they can even help you run giveaways and answer common questions for you. You can also give certain moderators the ability to add commands to some bots to further reduce the amount of work you have to do when streaming.

My personal favorite is DeepBot. DeepBot is not free and can be overwhelming at first, start with something like Moobot or Nightbot and consider DeepBot later on.

7. Be consistent and persistent

When you first start streaming on Twitch, setting up a schedule for streaming is in my opinion the single most important thing you can do if you want to build regular viewers. How do you expect to get regular viewers if you cant even be regular yourself?

Being consistent allows you to get repeat viewers rather than just competing for whoever happens to be on when you decide to stream. Don’t give up if your stream doesn’t take off straight away. Sometimes it takes a while for people to get to know you and decide that your channel is more fun or exciting than the other channels that are currently open.

Keep learning and striving to become a better streamer, watch other peoples streams and figure out why they have so many viewers. What are they doing differently and ask yourself how can you be more like them?

In my personal experience, last year when I had a three day a week schedule, I was able to build my viewers up to an average of around 70-80 people per stream. I took six months off in the Autumn of 2015 and when I returned I struggled to get just 10 viewers. At the time of writing this article I am now back averaging 30 viewers per stream but I only commit to one day per week, with an occasional impromptu stream on other days depending what is going on in my real life.

Sure, things can go wrong when you first start streaming on Twitch. Your Internet or power may go out during a stream. Someone could be trolling chat looking to pick a fight or harass other users. Hardware fails and software breaks, life issues and unexpected social happenings like friends and family turning up at your house. All of these things can effect your stream and your passion for streaming but don’t let setbacks get you down. The most successful channels are the ones that deal with all that adversity but continue pushing forward and making their followers glad to be there.

The Final Word

Hard work, research and commitment is what makes a top streamer. I hope you take the time to read more of my articles on this blog and I hope you can gain some insight into streaming on Twitch.

I spend a lot of time helping new streamers and I can show you how to get more followers, but it takes some hard work. Please leave me a comment if you have any questions or topics you would like to know more about and I will reply or blog about it in the future.


CPU issues when streaming and playing games

I noticed I was getting lag spikes in game after starting to stream with OBS. It was not because of my internet speed but because my CPU was using 100% of it’s processing power and killing my mad skills in CSGO. This was causing me to have some pretty horrible issues when streaming and playing games on Twitch.

How to fix CPU related issues when streaming and playing games?

The information in this post will apply to all games not just Counter-Strike Global Offensive so if you have a CPU streaming issue please read on.

I didn’t stream on Twitch much since the summer. Mostly because of other projects and because I started hitting the gym a few times a week! I formatted my PC and put Windows 10 on it plus bought myself a brand new BenQ XL2430T 144Hz monitor and I had taken my green screen down to have a huge sort out in the room I use to stream. All of these things combined meant I had destroyed my streaming setup! Putting things back together takes time but I started to do that this week.

Starting fresh

So previously I guess I had tweaked my CSGO game and my streaming settings, something I must of totally forgot about.

I tried to stream the other day and my CPU was running at 100% and causing CSGO to stutter which made me play really badly. I had to make a some tweaks again and now my CPU is running at around 90% which is perfect in my opinion because I have almost maximum performance from my PC and no issues while streaming and playing games.

Before we start tweaking

If you understand a few simple ideas then you will be able to make choices that work for you rather than just plain copying me. We all have different gaming rigs and stream different styles of games so the fixes are down to you to makes choices.

Understanding the streaming process

When you stream your capture software usually XSplit or OBS is recording your screen at the number of frames you specify, then it is resizing the dimensions of the capture as you specify and then it tries to compress it to the size rate which you specify (1800 KB/s in my case) then it sends it down the wire to Twitch.

So the more frames you have and the larger your screen resolution the larger the amount of data your CPU has to crush in order to meet your specified streaming KB/s.

On top of that CSGO is known to be a very CPU expensive game, the source engine that runs Counter-Strike uses the CPU more so than other games. Newer games pass much more of the graphic processing work to the GPU.

So in my case both CSGO and OBS are using my CPU.

You can check this by going into Task Manager, on Windows by pressing CTRL+ALT+DEL.

CPU issues when streaming and playing games on Twitch

Analyse CPU issues when streaming and playing games on Twitch!

Reducing your CPU usage is easy

You have to make some choices as to what works best for the style of games yo pay and what software and hardware you use. I outline 5 fixes below.

You may have to use all 5 of them.

Fix 1: Free up valuable CPU processing power

Press CTRL+ALT+DEL and go in to Task Manager. The first unexpected thing I noticed in Task Manager was a little program called “RzStats.Manager.exe” I saw that is was using between 10-12% of my CPU when I moved my mouse. This is because I have a Razer DeathAdder 2013 gaming mouse and when I installed the Razor Synapse 3.0 software it asked me if I would like to turn on statistic tracking for my mouse. At the time this seemed like a great idea. I soon realised that all it really does it create a heat map which is in my opinion completely useless. I disabled statistics tracking in the Razor Synapse software and then the CPU usage disappeared and I gained an extra 10% free processing power.

Analyse what is going on under the hood of your machine using Task Manager and work out what programs are hogging CPU and decide if you need them or not.

Fix 2: Reduce the amount of CPU used by the game you play

In my case CSGO is using my CPU. I like to have all my graphics settings on maximum and I still get over 150 FPS. Reducing the screen resolution of CSGO can give you more CPU if you combine that with lower graphics settings you can free up a lot of CPU power. I play 1080p and I prefer gaming in full quality so I won’t be reducing my settings in CSGO. This is my personal choice.

Adjusting the game quality settings and resolution of your game can sometimes free up CPU power, especially if your game is known for hogging CPU.

Fix 3: Stream at a lower FPS

Reduce the the number of frames per second that you record in. This is what I mentioned earlier. If you are capturing in 60 FPS you are capturing twice as much data as someone who is streaming at 30 FPS and you may have to reduce this. If you are streaming a game like Hearthstone you can probably go as low as 24 FPS without much visual concern. CSGO is a fast paced FPS and I choose to stream at 60 FPS. I can’t sacrifice this.

The lower the frame rate you stream the less CPU will be needed.

Fix 4: Downscale your stream

Downscale effectively throws away some of the data so the CPU handles less data. The less data being used the less work it does. I record my screen at 1080p and I downscale to 720p. I don’t believe many of my viewers watch my stream at full screen and even if they do 720p is still classed as HD.

The more you downscale the less CPU you will use.

Fix 5: Spend some money!!

If you have tried all of the above and still you find your games unplayable it’s time to bite the bullet and spend some money. I am serious, If you think you can be a streamer on a cheap old laptop you are probably wrong. Have a real hard look at your setup, is it really a gaming setup, more importantly can it even stream…

If all else fails go and spend some money on some new kit! 

My crappy old gaming rig

Yes I want to upgrade, I consider my setup a little old now because I have to make sacrifices to stream! I am waiting for the release of the Oculus Rift before I do any thing major with my rig. I want to be an early adapter of the VR technology that is coming and I want to stream that sh*t! Yeaaahh Buddddyy!

Motherboard: ASUS – P8P67 Deluxe
Processor: Intel Core i7-2700K CPU @ 3.50GHz
Cooling: Antec Liquid Cooling KÜHLER H2O 920
RAM: 32 GB Geil Evo 2.400 MHz DDR3 RAM
OS Hard Drives: 2 x Kingston 240GB HyperX SATA III SSD
Data Storage: 2TB Western Digital HD
Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 7800 EYEFINITY 6
Power: AMD Radeon HD 7800 EYEFINITY 6
Case: Akasa Venom Full Tower Yellow

Please look at my gaming rig spec above and if your machine is a lower spec than mine then you are probably going to have to make even more compromises than I did. if compromising is not something you want to do then you will have to simply go and spend some money on buying some better streaming kit.

The Final Word!

I left my CSGO settings on maximum plus I really want to stream at 60 FPS. My compromise comes with fix number 4, I downscale to 720p and this was enough to keep my CPU usage in check. There are some other smaller optimisations that you can make but I haven’t mentioned them because if you can’t fix your issues using fix 1, 2, 3 or 4 then I suggested you go straight to option number 5.


The best upload settings for Twitch

I wanted to make a short video on what I think are the best upload settings for Twitch. Quite simply through trial and error over the last 1.5 years of streaming I have learned what does and doesn’t work. According to Twitch your upload settings should be calculated based on your personal bandwidth upload speed. In practice I have found this is not accurate information. I was originally using the above guide to set my Stream upload speed. I started to get complaints from viewers who simply couldn’t see my Stream. I have noticed when I am on a slow connection I experience the same black screen issue when visiting some streams.

Viewers complaining about a black screen

My basic understanding is as follows. Just because you can upload at 3500kb/s does not mean your viewers can watch your stream. If a viewer in your room has a slower connection for example 1000kb/s they simply wont see the stream. This is because they can not download quickly enough the stream you are trying to send.

A lesson to be learned

When you receive a complaint from a viewer do not instantly assume they are in the wrong. I have tried to advise many streamers that the settings they use are too high and that I can not see the stream. Often another chatter raises his voice and say’s “Well it is perfect for me!” and the streamer simply ignores my comment at which point I leave the stream because I just see a black screen. Now consider the number of people who do not even comment and simply leave the stream assuming it is broken. Remember where there is smoke there is fire, if you keep getting feedback from users that are trying to tell you something then you should pay attention and investigate the issue. Remember there is no point having crystal clear stream in ultra high definition, if people can not even watch it.

Why does Twitch recommend streamers to use such high settings?

I think the settings Twitch recommends are accurate based on video quality alone, if you want to stream 1080p at 60 fps I think for optimum quality you should be using 3500kb/s as recommend by Twitch. I also believe that perhaps when creating these articles Twitch is taking into account that there is a ‘Video Quality Option’ on the Twitch video player where users can adjust your stream quality and set it to either Source, High, Medium, Low and Mobile. But new and un-partnered streamers do not always get this luxury all of the time. You will probably not have the ‘Video Quality’ option on your stream.

Video quality settings can be found on the bottom right of the video player but new streamers may not have them.

Video quality settings can be found on the bottom right of the video player but new streamers may not have the option and their viewers are forced to watch at Source quality.

Best upload settings for Twitch Partners

If you are already a partner then you will always have the ‘Player Options’ popup and in that case it makes sense to use the recommended upload settings. If you have the ability to stream at 3500kb/s then it makes sense to do so because users on slower connections can adjust the rate at which data is sent to them.

Best upload settings for non Twitch Partners

I really believe there is a sweet spot at around 1600-2000kb/s where you can have great quality and the largest number of possible viewers. It is a happy medium between quality and maximum viewership.

The best upload settings for Twitch

Adjusting the upload settings for Twitch in OBS.

The Final Word!

If your a partner by all means you should be using the maximum upload speed that you can. If you are new to twitch and are not partnered I believe you should lower your upload setting to around 1800kb/s. If people can not watch your stream you will have less viewers, less chatters and a harder time making it big on Twitch. Drop the upload speed and once you become partnered you can stream in ultra high quality.


The best Twitch profile banner template with PSD download

I am currently reworking the graphics on my Twitch channel and I noticed some interesting things about the Twitch profile banner image that I will share with you. It took me a little while to figure this out so I hope you like it! Also if you are looking for more followers then I have a bunch of Fiverr gigs that can generate you a lot of followers on Twitch. Check out some of my customer reviews, I am very proud to say I have many happy customers!

So let’s take look at what I learned about the Twitch profile banner. I have also included a free Photoshop file for you to download.

Twitch Recommends

Twitch recommends that we upload an image which is 900 x 480 pixels. I noticed that this size is almost a 16:9 resolution. 16:9 is a very common ratio size for video and most HD monitors work using a 16:9 ratio.

I have attached an image below which shows a 900 x 480 pixel image that has been stretched so it’s width is 1280 pixels which allowed me to test it against a 1080p resolution or 16:9 image ratio. As you can see there is a small red bar at the bottom of the image that represents the difference in size between the recommend Twitch profile banner size and an image which is 1920 x 1080 pixels.

900-stretched

Twitch profile image and it’s strange behavior

I noticed that if you upload an image which is larger than 480 pixels in height Twitch will resize it to be 480 pixels and then it stretches as the screen size gets bigger.

As monitors change in size so will your background and how it looks.

I have included two images below which will show you how my 1080p test graphic changes depending on the size of the users monitor. To test this you can simply drag your Twitch profile window bigger and smaller, this will only work if you already have a large monitor.

test-graphic

1080p-test1

1080p-test2

Working with really huge monitors

Finally Twitch encourages you to add a background color to your image upload and I figured this is to support really huge monitors. But I don’t seem to be able to produce a scenario where a background actually requires the background color to be present because it seems to always stretch the image to be as big as the users screen.

The Best Background Size

After much testing I can recommend creating a background profile image that is 1870 x 500 pixels. This allows you to create a really good design plus it doesn’t create the awful scaling problems that seem to happen with images that are using a 16:9 ratio.

Twitch Profile Banner Template PSD

I have created an Adobe Photoshop file which can be used to create stunning Twitch profile backgrounds that work across all screen sizes. Below is a link to my Twitch profile banner template and a sample of how it looks.

Click Here to DOWNLOAD the Twitch profile banner PSD file

I have put some notes in the file but basically the majority of the important information and image should be placed in the area marked Visible Area #1. This allows all users to see your message and main graphic.

twitch-profile-template-background

Visible Area #1 – This area should contain any important messages you want the user to read. Be careful of the Twitch footer overlay and Twitch profile Avatar.

Visible Area #2 – This area can be seen on larger screens that support 1080p HD. This area can contain nice art work. Most people will see this area as well as area #1.

Visible Area #3 – Most people will not see this area but some people may see it.

Sample Background

I made a very quick sample background which looks beautiful across all screen sizes.

example-1280px-800px

example-hd-screen

example-fullscreen

The Final Word!

I hope you found this tutorial informative and useful, please leave me a comment below with a link to your Twitch profile if you use my photoshop template, I would love to see what you can do with it!