Production Values on Twitch Are Overrated*

“What if viewers could blow up my stream?”

Yes, this is a question I have legitimately batted around for some time. In fact, I know exactly how I would do it.

Starting with a free green screen explosion from YouTube, I would chroma key out the green so that the explosion appeared as transparent. Once the smoke cleared, viewers would only see a black screen. Finally, the stream would shut itself off. All of this would be controlled by an expensive Channel Points redemption and automated through LioranBoard.

Blowing up the stream sounds cool and all. But exactly how does that effect actually improve my stream and help me achieve my goals on Twitch?

During my earliest days of streaming, I developed an inferiority complex when it came to technology and production values. Using an Elgato capture card and a severely-underpowered laptop, my streams looked and sounded awful. I couldn’t run a gameplay feed with a camera because my computer would melt at the mere thought of multiple video feeds at once. My voice sounded tinny and scratchy after coming out of my laptop’s onboard microphone. Due to the way Facebook would compress my streams, most were broadcasted at a resolution of 480p. Almost all of my streaming content from 2017 was unwatchable from a technical perspective.

Meanwhile, streamers of that time were already broadcasting in HD, with crystal clear audio, graphical overlays, and on-screen notifications. Not having those things made me incredibly envious. At its worst, I felt like my stream was pointless without all of the top-tier accoutrements.

Once I got the hand-me-down computer from fakeghostpiraterobot, I began to slowly bridge the gap. Bought a few pieces of supplementary gear to bring the PC up to a level where it could broadcast at 720p, 30 frames per second. Learned how to optimize every piece of hardware and software I used in order to make everything work within my horsepower restrictions. Then I found other ways of improving my shows, from decorating my room, to firing a money gun for major celebrations.

Years later, I’m here. Between all of the knowledge I’ve gained and the upgraded equipment in my studio, it feels like the sky is the limit. The stream is now in a place where we start every show with a concert, complete with Auto Tune, music, an animating audience, pulsing lights, air horns, and a Funkmaster Flex bomb as icing on the cake. I can sit here and have a legitimate internal dialogue about the merits of adding Michael Bay style explosions to my stream just because I can. Having the power is way better than not having the power.

But with great power comes…well, you know the rest.

Yes, there is a technical floor when it comes to streaming. And yes, the floor is getting higher. You should be broadcasting with a resolution of at least 720p while running at a steady 30 frames per second. Depending on the situation, you might be able to dip below that in terms of resolution, though inconsistent frame rates are a complete non-starter. Your mic doesn’t necessarily need to be crystal clear, but distorted vocals or buzzing from your mic can be a complete turn-off.

But the primary power of one’s stream doesn’t come from HD cameras, instant Super Saiyan hair, or the constant blast of air horns. The magic of streaming is generated by a streamer that can create a human connect with their audience. A connection that compels viewers to actively chat or lurk for hours on end. Even if you’re just lurking, the streamer makes you feel like you’re hanging out with them. That is the single most powerful thing a streamer can create.

This point really hits home for me when others share their reasons for tuning in. Some check into my weeknight streams because they feel like it’s a great way to unwind after a day of work. A number of viewers regularly tune in for Tetris 99 because they appreciate my company while we all play together. Some will tune in every show no matter what, even if I’m spray painting or eating ice cream. I even remember a few amazing streams where there was only one viewer in the chat, but we had an amazing conversation throughout.

I stream for the purposes of creating and maintaining those human connections with like-minded folks all over the world. Through this platform, I try to make your day more enjoyable by being a friend you can hang out with. In return, you’re hanging out with me, enriching this experience with what you bring to the chat. We don’t “need” explosions for that. But when implemented correctly, technology can absolutely amplify the connection we create.

Right now, I’m suffering from a bit of power creep. Excited to finally have resources, I want to push all of the technical boundaries and do things I couldn’t do before. It seems like in every stream, I’m rolling out something new, whether it’s new Channel Points effects, background lighting, or even an all-new scene transition system that scales and moves sources around as I jump between angles. Having all of this stuff has become increasingly difficult to maintain while also seeing certain features failing to hit the mark.

Don’t worry. Snorlax isn’t going anywhere!

When I look into making improvements on the stream, I really need to run it through the lens of, “Will viewers find value in this?” For example, implementing compression on my microphone allows for my microphone audio to better stand out against video game audio or background music. This in turn makes what I’m saying easier to understand.

But does having an explosion make my stream better? Yes, audience engagement through Channel Point effects have become a big part of the show. And yeah, when done right, the idea of viewers having the power to completely shut the stream down seems really cool. However, even if all the explosions leading up to the shutdown are amazing, cutting the show short only hurts the show. If someone cashes in their 100,000 points to end a show in the first minute, do I then deprive myself and everyone else of a show on that day?

For certain streamers, such a feature might make perfect sense. Based on my goals and what I think my audience wants, a nuke would ultimately be counterintuitive. I know this is an extreme example, but it’s so easy to bloat your stream with stuff just because you can. The bloat can come from anywhere, such as distracting animating overlays, noisy notification sounds, unnecessary chat bot commands, or anything that detracts from the connection you make with your audience. As I continue to develop my stream, certain features will inevitably fall by the wayside if they don’t provide the value I’m looking for.

When you tune into a stream, what strikes you as being excessive or unhelpful? If you’re a streamer, what are the things you’ve tried to implement that ultimately didn’t work out? Curious to read your thoughts!

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