This is the heart of the operation- where all the inputs are captured, modified, merged, recorded and sent out to the internet.
It will need to be a moderately powerful computer, with a video card (GPU) with good video encode and decode performance.
It will require a number of USB (3+) ports, but preferably on multiple controllers - so that data from one USB device won’t interrupt or interfere with other USB devices. The assumption is that most of the capture devices will be USB based, both because this is the most common form factor, and that it means capture components can be easily “borrowed” for specific projects that don’t need the full capacity of the main production system.
It will need enough storage to be able to capture and store several hours of captured footage from multiple cameras. It may also act as an editing station- though it is suggested that captured content be exported to external storage, or a NAS, and edited elsewhere.
It is suggested it have at least two monitors, and possibly three. During a stream there will be several tasks to manage: live capture of desktop applications (web browser, video conferencing windows, etc), stream control (eg OBS, xSplit, etc), stream preview/verification (checking YouTube, Twitch, etc), and remote audience interaction (YouTube/Twitch/Twitter/Facebook/etc chat.)
A single high quality gigabit ethernet port will suffice, but dual NICs would be better- eg direct channel to outbound traffic and an internal network for NDI streams. Three NICs would be advantageous: outgoing stream, internal NDI traffic, internal NAS/other traffic. Intel based NICs are recommended, as historically there have been issues with some Realtek NICs.
To be able to conveniently and quickly adjust the live stream it may have specialized control surfaces (eg “stream decks”) connected that allow for rapid scene switches, volume adjustments, etc.
The streaming software must be able to
- Record the stream locally. Preferably as both the final stream content, as well as the raw captured data from each video and audio input.
- Stream to multiple destinations (e.g. YouTube, Twitch, etc) - but only one at a time.
- Be able to use any input device, including NDI, UVC cameras, video capture cards, desktop and window capture
- Support output to a virtual camera (so produced content can be sent to video conferencing tools)
- Nice to have: support virtual (ASIO) sound cards- allowing for audio production, eg via SAR + Reaper
Note - the software should be easily configurable to send data to different services, but only one at a time. If sessions are to be simulcast (eg a video conferencing session also being sent to YouTube and Twitch) then the stream will be sent to a 3rd party service (eg ReStream) which will re-broadcast the stream to the other services.
Most likely we will use OBS or XSplit. Vendor specific packages also exist (Elgato, Logitech, etc) but are assumed to preferentially/only work with their hardware.
Note: our target is 1080p video. This is a mature video size that we can expect the majority of our audience to have access to. Higher quality formats, such as 4K HDR, are beyond many of our audience to be able to easily download. As well, 4K requires a lot more processing (H265 vs H264) capacity to use the same amount of storage per minute of footage, and/or requires a lot more storage space.
- Full height desktop PC
- Windows 10
- Minimum of 4 PCI-e slots (video card, extra NIC card, extra USB card, spare)
- Minimum of 8 USB 3+ connectors (keyboard, mouse, audio interface, camera adapter, webcam, USB headset, USB microphone,…), with as many bus masters as possible. More ports is better.
- Minimum of 4 SATA connections, and two hard drives - SSD for OS and applications, and a large spinning drive for data storage.
- Quad core or better (if buying new- AMD Ryzen 3rd generation)
- GPU that can handle decoding and encoding multiple simultaneous 1080p streams
- Able to stream and record at different bit rates and resolutions
- Good quality power supply
- Space for at least two hard drives
- Quiet fans
- Movable - eg a “streamer cart”