Written and updated by Nathan Hippenmeyer on September 2, 2020 at 9:25am

Gear Guide for Live Streaming


What we are looking for in a computer is a great processor, which is essentially the energy center of your computer - it determines how much you can do and how quickly you can do it. Your RAM is also important for streaming because there are so many simultaneous tasks being performed at once. The minimum amount of RAM to use in live streaming that we suggest is 16GB. Less than 16GB and you could run into performance issues.

I like to recommend NVidia RTX Graphics Cards for their superior hardware encoding performance, which you will need to capture raw video and audio data from your camera, convert that data into compressed files (called encoding), and then upload it to the Internet in real-time. You're going to have various applications running at the same time such as OBS, live chats, browsers, and overlays. 

You really don't want to get cheap on these options and you'll future-proof yourself more by upgrading your computer beyond what is suggested above. 


A note to Mac Users:

Yes. I know. I listed ZERO Mac/Apple options above! Outrage! Trust me, as the lead Mac/Apple apologist for the YMCA Movement, it burns my soul to display nothing for those of us who solely use Macs. We are better than the PC user. We are more refined. We have culture. We live on the cutting edge of life. But that is not the type of people we have at the YMCA. So we must submit to the PC gods. 

Just kidding. 

You can TOTALLY still use a Mac for live streaming. I ask that you follow similar specs above as you build your Mac. Minimum of 16GB of RAM, get a nice processor and opt for whatever higher-end graphics card Apple is offering at the time. I use a 2017 iMac with an i7 processor, 32GB RAM, and a Radeon Pro 580 8 GB and live streaming works great. Shop in the B&H Photo Used section and you can score some sweet deals on iMac setups. The new Macbook Pros work wonderfully as well. And if you happen to have more money than Jeff Bezos, feel free to buy the new Mac Pros with 28 Cores of power.  


Depending on your setup, you may want one or two extra monitors at your desk. You can technically do everything with one monitor if you want to! The separation just makes it easier to produce a single person show. We imagine a setup like this:

Main Monitor: OBS/Streaming Software

2nd Monitor: Browser/Application if you're sharing your screen

3rd Monitor: Viewer Comments for your trainer to see so they can interact with the audience

Capture Cards:

Capture cards connect your DSLR or cinema camera (recommendations for cameras below) to your computer so that your software can access and display your camera. If you are using an iPhone for streaming or a webcam, you will likely not need a capture card. Don't forget to get yourself an HDMI to HDMI cable or Micro HDMI to HDMI  or Mini HDMI to HDMI cable to connect between the capture card and your camera. We recommend getting at minimum a 25 ft. cord since you may need some space between the camera and your computer. 

Audio Mixers:

Fine-tuning the audio of your stream is essential to creating the right experience for your viewers. Poor sound can ruin an otherwise spectacular live stream. How many times have you wished the streamer would turn down their music? If you want to create a truly seamless streaming experience, the soundscape has to be a top priority. Most streamers will have at least two audio sources that need to be mixed from separate sources into one track. For fitness classes, we need to have a music source and a wireless mic source, typically through a lavalier. Don't forget to see how your wireless or wired mic connects into your mixer. You may need to pick up some spare XLR cables (get extras because they do tend to go bad) or XLR to 3.5mm cords.  


Sound influences our perception of a video's quality perhaps even greater than the image quality itself. The audience will readily forgive a poor quality picture before they forgive poor quality sound, so it is your job to make that sound as pleasant-sounding as possible. 

You're going to want to get a mic for each person who is on screen. That mic will count as one "audio input source" in your broadcasting software (Streamlabs OBS, Ecamm for Mac, VMix, etc.) The microphones listed above will all work as great options to provide your audience with crisp, clear audio from your presenter. You will hear a noticeable quality difference as soon as you go from a microphone on your camera to one of the wireless lavalier microphones listed above.

Some Y's say, "Why can't I just use my mic that I already use in the studio?" You can totally do that. But in my experience, when these mics feed into OBS, you begin to hear your voice sound like it's talking on a telephone. Do a test on these mics first to see if you're satisfied with the audio. 


You'll notice that we are suggesting ALL Sony mirrorless DSLR Alpha series cameras. Sony makes excellent, budget-friendly cameras that are tailored for live streaming, unlike some other unnamed companies that rhyme with the word "Banon." These Sony cameras all have the ability to provide a "clean signal." Many cameras--particularly those not designed primarily for live streaming - can only output a signal with display icons. As a result, you get a live video that looks like this image below. 


A man stands smiling with a brick wall behind him. The camera display icons see in a square formation all around him


Also, please make sure to pick up this camera power adapter ($23) with your Sony Camera above to make sure you never run out of power during your shoot.  Also, running straight from battery or USB can overheat your camera, causing it to shut off. Best to use the power adapter above to make sure you can stream for as long as you want. 


Lighting for video absolutely, 100% matters -- but if you are live streaming in one your fitness studios at the Y, chances are your lighting is pretty good to begin with. If you want to go for a special look with dramatic lighting or stand out, by all means, GO FOR IT. But if you are trying to save money, the lighting might be the best place to start. I would invest in amazing sound quality far earlier than I would a dramatic lighting setup. Remember, this is something you can invest in down the road, but doing it right out of the gate isn't your number one priority.  If your trainers do happen to be in a dark spot in your studios, I would consider mounting some lights in the ceiling where they will be streaming and running a cord to an outlet that you can simply turn on and off with a light switch. The easier you can make the live streaming setup, the more likely you will create content. Simplicity is key, and you don't want your trainers to feel like they have to haul lighting gear around to get their live stream done. 

Internet Connection:

When we speak about Internet speed, it's important to note that their are two different types of Internet speed -- your download speed and your upload speed. Download speed is how fast your internet connection can transfer data from a server to you. For example, when Netflix starts getting grainy, your download speed has probably gotten really, really slow. 

But download speed is not nearly as important to live streamers as the upload speed. Upload speed is how fast your internet connection can transfer your data to a server. Upload speed is what you use to send a stream to your social network. 

Best Internet Speed Practices for Live Streaming:

  • Get fiber internet in your live streaming studio/fitness studio whenever possible -- AT&T U-verse, Verizon Fios, Google Fiber -- see if it's available in your area. It's a more dedicated, consistent speed. Coaxial cable has too much variation in speed. 
  • Use an Ethernet, wired connection for live streaming. If you're sending 4 MB/s to Facebook and 10 MB/s to YouTube, and you're on coaxial cable, on WiFi, then you are going to have a ton of fluctuation in your Internet speed. You'll drag your stream. Audio is going to get out of sync. It's just going to look really bad. To send to YouTube along, you'll be sending about 10 MB/s to get good quality. 1080 HD stream go to YouTube at 14 MB/s. If you are going to just Facebook on one page, then 10 MB/s is fine. But most Y's will be streaming to multiple Facebook pages at the same time. 
  • To Simulcast to Facebook, YouTube, etc. try to get around a 50 MB/s upload speed at minimum. The last thing you want to do is have a pixelated experience. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) doesn't always have a list of upload speeds on their site. You may need to call a manager on the phone. Some customer service reps at ISPs don't even know what upload speeds are...so make sure you speak with someone knowledgable.