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We’re testing webcams and my adventures with streamers

Interesting few months it has been…

Last year, I’ve started reviewing PC peripherals that are not covered by a lot of review websites. We started with USB microphones seeing that a lot of content creators needed a plug-and-play solution. Streamers are no different. After lurking and speaking to many streamers, I came to know about their experience and perspective about keyboards, mouse, webcams, microphones, routers, PC systems and even builds. I’ve ended up helping a streamer who draws commissioned digital art projects, plays emulated SEGA games and known to play Overwatch before getting into streaming. The streamer cannot play Overwatch on the existing system because it cannot catch up with OBS+ Discord+ a lot of browser tabs and a few programs. As a reviewer, it gives that perspective and probably includes this real-world use case for testing CPU/GPU performance. It is a challenge because of limited resources in hand. But everything starts with the intent of doing it.

Interestingly, Kitguru has a streamer onboard.

POV about livestreamers and its viewers

After following some streamers, it made a good enough point-of-view to understand the specifics and its relevant bits. The other problem was to run Hardware BBQ at the same time wasn’t an easy task. I also had a series of PC hardware failures and with the website that stifled its usual workflow during Q4 2018. A combination of it made it tempting for me to just watch livestreams very regular to the point some even suspected if I even go to sleep. I do get a good night’s rest. I am just good at making that illusion. Or do I really stay awake always? Hmm…

Coming back to the relevant bits, watching streams and working on a PC creates my need to have a dual monitor- one for work and another to watch streams, movies, Youtube videos, etc. I am sure this would be the case for a lot of people whose work requires a computer. The dual-monitor market doesn’t appear to be small and clearly reflects in many PC setup pages like #battlestation on Instagram. In some scenarios, an ultra-widescreen monitor helps.  But two 16:9 monitor has a more profound effect on both streamers and viewers who work and watch. There were situations where viewers said they are watching them on their Smart TVs.

Personal thanks!

My thanks for their time and patience for replying to whatever I needed to ask. The ones mentioned below are non-sponsored/non-affiliated streamers at the time of writing:

DamagingDoc18
Denims
Headlesscupid82
Hiiiilee
DerpyFrags
QueenMaeee
Samush
Seecait
ConfusedAmish
Scarlett_Heathers

Most streamers are not sponsored. Streams don’t pay the bills unless you’re right on top or very well known within your niche and marketed properly. Therefore most of them buy or raise funds to buy a PC or games- and even do giveaways at times. While most give game codes, a few of them are known to ship prizes either in the country of origin and a couple of them had a worldwide entry. It is important to point out that a lot of the stream at least for 3-4 hours in average, some even hitting the 12-hour and even 20-hours long streams. While quality triumphs over quantity, you just can’t help to admire the willpower and planning (or lack of planning) to execute it.

Main issues with Twitch towards potential new target audience and streamers

Twitch is a subsidiary of Amazon. Amazon has many resources to do the needful including its cloud service and yet a solution is not hatched. I am not sure how the management and resource allocation works between Amazon and Twitch-or if it exists. But they’ll need to figure out widespread deployment instead of getting people to stream in their platform and be blind as a bat because of no ability to get the relevant audience.

Internet bandwidth and regional cache servers play an important part because solutions create a desire to use currently available solutions. While many users have the ability to watch Youtube livestreams comfortably on Youtube at 720p at 60 frames per second (as a minimum), the same cannot be said about Twitch as many Indian audiences had to scale down to 360p and 480p. In my situation, I had to switch between audio only to 720 at 60FPS. The buffering experience was different. At times, I would have trouble watching a stream from India but have no issues watching the stream from South Korea, Scotland, Ireland, Australia and from the US. Interestingly, Twitch does run Indian regional-specific ads at the beginning of the livestream and have seen Indian specific audience during the early evening. You could speculate this might affect many regions since many services have servers in Singapore which makes it very easy for the Indian sub-continent. Naturally, this benefits many countries around the server. Youtube is likely to have this implemented in India and naturally, surrounding nations would have a benefit from it.

Other observations…

I am not fond of Twitch because of some controversial livestreamers (viz showcased on Youtube). It is only when you start digging around genres and games with 10-50 live viewers you get to see the best of people who should be the ones reflecting the best Twitch has to offer. Its frontpage doesn’t really encourage small-time (reference to its audience) streamers to attract the relevant audience or create any way of being search engine friendly. They do have a “Support Small Streamers” program but its basically one horizontal carousel and a social media hashtag. Twitch did hire a couple of people in India but the needful wasn’t done and eventually quit. The right solution wasn’t implemented at all and went ahead with the ‘streamer recruitment and marketing’ approach. There were other side effects which I rather not discuss for the sanity of my readers. But there are communities and Discord channels that do help other livestreamers irrespective of one’s location. Discord group TSS is one of them.

Why review webcams??

I bought a Logitech C922x to start testing and review webcams. This will help us establish a baseline performance. The Logitech C920 is a very commonly used camera by streamers, but I’ve noticed Amazon US is selling a lot of these for a few months. As you all know, I’ve bought the Samson Q2U to start reviewing USB microphones and I didn’t stop there. I continued further with the Razer Seiren Pro. Brendon reviews the in-body microphone for the headsets now!

Apart from video conferencing, its main use is for streaming and maybe video podcasting. Its still a very niche peripheral market, mostly dominated by Logitech. But Razer has an interesting webcam called KIYO which has a built-in LED ring. These have a stereo microphone I’ve talked about more about this in the site, including Microsoft’s ‘Aruba’ webcam for Windows 10, Xbox One and possibly Surface tab 2. This is also compatible with various devices and operating systems, the Xbox One and Android v5.0 and above.

Just like the microphones, the quality of its video and audio will be different when you compare it with raw, uploaded to different platforms Youtube and Twitch. Both have their own ways for encoding and therefore the quality differs. It also depends on the equipment, streamer’s upload bandwidth and OBS settings. We’ll have to script and plan the video. Since Twitch only allows livestream, I’ll find a way to live broadcast the pre-made video assuming it doesn’t violate the platform’s TOS.

About other webcams

The market is very small. Its only Razer that came up with the Kiyo and Logitech. It doesn’t make sense for streamers to adopt 4K webcams now unless the webcam’s sensors have dramatically improved. Irrespective of the overall streams’ quality, 720p at 60FPS for the webcam feed overlayed on the game stream is the sweet spot. Not only webcams need to have good enough low-light performance, but because of streamer’s shenanigans, it also needs autofocus, white balance, dynamic contrast fluctuations and depth of field. In fact, when I watched livestreams with the C920, for some reason it looks as if the subject is a part of its background, while the C922x somewhat shows that depth between the streamer and their background. Some use green screen. Some do not.

Interestingly, few rumours suggest #microsoft is working on Windows 10 Windows 10 LifeCams. It is codenamed ‘Aruba’ that would work with PC and the Xbox One. What is also pointed out is that Microsoft’s Surface Hub 2 tablet also uses the same codename. Maybe it works with tablets, giving a better front-facing camera quality on a portable device? It is speculated that Aruba would use a 4K sensor. Whether this will be included under its LifeCam is something we’ll need to wait and watch! It is expected to be released next to Windows 10 19H1 update scheduled for April 2019.

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