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Anatomy of a dual PC streaming set-up

Breaking down the key benefits

So you already have your own channel and have grown an audience, how do you take your channel to the next level? Once you get your channel running it’s only natural to try and improve on what you already have, better audio, video and selection of games are among the key benefits that you’ll get from a dual PC set-up.

The main bonus of offloading your encoding to a second PC is that you’ll free up system resources on your primary system. This means that you can push your gaming rig to its limit without having to worry about affecting the quality of the encode on your stream. Your encoding PC then takes care of running all your stream related software, whether it be OBS, XSplit, Streamlabs OBS or (the now unsupported) Gameshow (which in reality is a stripped down version of Wirecast).

Encoding PC hardware

One of the myths of the two PC set-up is that you need a beefy PC to do your encoding for you. While this was true once upon a time, it is no longer the case, you can have a very capable encoding PC without spending an extortionate amount of money. In some cases you may have almost everything you need already from an old gaming PC. As long as your second machine can run your stream software it will be able to do your encoding for you with the addition of a low-med end nVidia graphics card. Personally I use a 750Ti in my encoding PC, though a current model card would also work, like a 1050Ti. Using the graphics card to perform encoding will get you better results than spending a fortune on the latest CPU. Video cards are built for encoding and they can do it very well.

Solving the capture problem

The main obstacle to doing this, besides needing a second PC, is getting the audio and video into your encoding PC and doing so in a way that doesn’t degrade your existing production quality. There are 2 main ways to solve this issue, the software solution, or the hardware solution. As the software method involves transferring video data over your network and means you need to run additional software to do that on your primary PC we’ll be mainly looking at the hardware solution. Using hardware is the more expensive route, but ends up being a much cleaner solution overall.

There are several video capture cards available that will solve the problem of getting video into the encoding PC. They are available as both internal cards and external USB devices. USB inherently has a very slight delay, so I would recommend avoiding the USB interface for either audio or video, even the slightest desync can quickly becoming annoying for your viewers. USB capture may be suitable if you will be using the same device to also capture audio, but then you miss out on some of the other audio improvements you can make. My card of choice right now is the Elgato HD60 Pro, but you could also go with AVerMedia or Magewell.

Capturing audio is perhaps a bigger beast than it may first appear. While you can certainly send audio over HDMI into your capture card, you also have other audio feeds that would benefit from having a dedicated mixer. You may already have one of these if you have an XLR microphone. There are a bewildering array of different mixers available, each with wildly different capabilities, so which is the best choice?

Heil PR40 XLR mic

Dealing with audio

Before choosing a mixer you should figure out how many channels you are likely to need to use. Personally I use the following, you may not need all of these, or may not feel the need to separate them:

  • 1 channel for your main mic.
  • 1 channel for VOIP (Skype/TS/Discord etc).
  • 2 channels for your primary PC.
  • 2 channels for music.
  • 2 channels for your encoding PC.
  • 2 channels for gaming console audio.

As you can see, this is a total of 10 channels which is a great place to start. You may also decide that you want to split up VOIP applications into their own separate channels, or add additional mics to the setup. In general I would recommend at least a 12 channel mixer, even if you don’t plan to use them all initially having 12 allows for your system to grow.

The other thing you should keep an eye out for is how many output channels your chosen mixer has. Clearly you will have your Main out L and R along with a headphones output, but what else might you need? Having 2 sub channels will let you connect up desktop speakers and allow you to individually control what gets sent to them, for those times when you aren’t streaming or don’t want the burden of headphones. You will also more than likely want at least 1 AUX send, so that you can separately send channels into your VOIP software without having to send the entire main mix.

Good mixer options are Behringers X1222USB, X1622USB on the analogue side and the XR12, XR16 or XR18 on the digital side. Analogue will give you the benefit of hardware sliders and physical mute buttons, whereas the digital ones allow for far finer control over the built in noise gates, compressors etc. but with a software/tablet interface.

Depending on your requirements you may find that investing in one or more dedicated sound cards like the Xonar Essence will make sense. These will offer a much clearer sound than the audio from your motherboard in most cases. It also allows for a few more inputs and outputs which will allow you to split out the audio from your software more granularly. Sending your main game audio out of a sound card would then allow you to use onboard audio to send VOIP audio. You can often separate front and rear ports which would then let you use different channels for different VOIP software.

Putting it all together

You might think that you are done with the hardware, but you’d be mistaken! If you want to capture your gaming console(s) along with your PC you may find that adding a 4×2 HDMI matrix into your set-up is worth it for the convenience it brings. What this piece of kit does is it lets you switch 4 separate HDMI inputs into 2 different outputs, while offering an audio output. This will allow you to put your PC, PS4, X-box and Switch as your inputs while sending one output to your capture card/HDMI splitter and the other to your TV.

Approaching it this way means that at a press of a button you can send any of those inputs to any of the outputs. Sending your PC to the TV now becomes trivial, as is streaming a console. You may need to add in an HDMI splitter if your capture card doesn’t offer a HDMI pass through so that your ‘PC’ output goes to both your main monitor and your capture card.

One thing you may need to watch out for is ground loop interference in your audio mix. This is caused by having different devices plugged into different mains sockets and can be mitigated by using a ground loop isolator wherever you get issues.

SID MEIER’S CIVILIZATION® VI PLATINUM EDITION

Originally created by legendary game designer Sid Meier, Civilization is a turn-based strategy game in which you attempt to build an empire to stand the test of time. Explore a new land, research technology, conquer your enemies, and go head-to-head with history’s most renowned leaders as you attempt to build the greatest civilization the world has ever known.

Civilization VI offers new ways to engage with your world: cities now physically expand across the map, active research in technology and culture unlocks new potential, and competing leaders will pursue their own agendas based on their historical traits as you race for one of five ways to achieve victory in the game.

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Platinum Edition is the perfect entry point for PC gamers who have yet to experience the addictive gameplay that has made Civilization one of the greatest game series of all time. The package includes Sid Meier’s Civilization VI, six DLC packs as well as the Rise and Fall and Gathering Storm expansions.

Platinum Edition Contents:

  • Sid Meier’s Civilization VI
  • Civilization VI – Vikings Scenario Pack
  • Civilization VI – Poland Civilization & Scenario Pack
  • Civilization VI – Australia Civilization & Scenario Pack
  • Civilization VI – Persia and Macedon Civilization & Scenario Pack
  • Civilization VI – Nubia Civilization & Scenario Pack
  • Civilization VI – Khmer and Indonesia Civilization & Scenario Pack
  • Civilization VI: Rise and Fall expansion
  • Civilization VI: Gathering Storm expansion

THE WORLD’S GREATEST LEADERS: Play as one of 45 different leaders from various civilizations around the world and throughout history. Build an empire of lucrative trade routes with Cleopatra of Egypt, flex the military might of your legions with Trajan of Rome, or develop a powerhouse of culture with Hojo Tokimune of Japan. Each of the leaders can be played any way you prefer, with unique abilities, units, and infrastructure in their quest for victory.

EXPANSIVE EMPIRES: See the marvels of your empire spread across the map like never before. Each city spans multiple tiles so you can custom build your cities to take full advantage of the local terrain.

ACTIVE RESEARCH: Unlock boosts that speed your civilization’s progress through history. To advance more quickly, use your units to actively explore, develop your environment, and discover new cultures.

DYNAMIC DIPLOMACY: Interactions with other civilizations change over the course of the game, from primitive first interactions where conflict is a fact of life, to late game alliances and negotiations.

GREAT AGES: As your civilization ebbs and flows, and you reach milestone Historic Moments, you will move towards Dark Ages or Golden Ages, each providing specific challenges or bonuses based on your actions in game. Rise triumphantly from a Dark Age, and your next Golden Age will be even stronger – a Heroic Age.

LOYALTY: Cities now have individual Loyalty to your leadership – let it fall too low, and face the consequences of low yields, revolts, and the potential to lose your city if it declares its own independence. But one civilization’s loss can be your gain as you inspire Loyalty among cities throughout the map and further expand your borders.

GOVERNORS: Recruit, appoint, and upgrade powerful characters with unique specialization bonuses and promotion trees to customize your cities, and reinforce Loyalty.

COMBINED ARMS: Expanding on the “one unit per tile” design, support units can now be embedded with other units, like anti-tank support with infantry, or a warrior with settlers. Similar units can also be combined to form powerful “Corps” units.

EMERGENCIES: When a civilization grows too powerful, other civilizations can join a pact against the threatening civilization, and earn rewards, or penalties, when the Emergency ends.

TIMELINE: Review your civilization’s history at any time with the new Timeline feature, a visual journey through the Historic Moments that you encountered on your path to victory.

ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS: Volcanoes, storms (blizzards, sandstorms, tornados, hurricanes), climate change, floods, and droughts bring the world to life in a brand-new way. Your settlement choices are more important than ever as you balance high risks and high rewards.

POWER AND CONSUMABLE RESOURCES: Strategic resources play an additional role. These resources are now consumed in power plants to generate electricity for your cities. Initially you’ll be powering your most advanced buildings by burning carbon-based resources like Coal and Oil, but renewable energy sources also unlock as you progress to current-day technologies. Your choices about resource usage will directly affect the world’s temperature and can cause melting ice caps and rising sea levels.

ENGINEERING PROJECTS: Shape the world around your empire to overcome unfavorable land conditions by making improvements like canals, dams, tunnels and railroads. When settling cities, consider the flood risk to coastal lowland areas, but keep in mind that in the late-game, new technologies like Flood Barriers can be used to protect these tiles.

WORLD CONGRESS: Make your voice heard among the other leaders of the world. Earn Diplomatic Favor through Alliances, influencing city-states, competing in World Games, and more. Use Diplomatic Favor to extract promises from other leaders, vote on Resolutions, call a Special Session to address an emergency, and increase the weight of your votes in your quest to achieve the new Diplomatic Victory.

21st CENTURY TECHNOLOGIES & CIVICS: A new era has been added to the Technology and Civics trees. Combat new environmental effects with speculative ideas such as relocating your population out to seasteads and developing technologies to recapture carbon emissions.

ENHANCED MULTIPLAYER: In addition to traditional multiplayer modes, cooperate and compete with your friends in a wide variety of situations all designed to be easily completed in a single session.