Set up a Quality Livestream from Home with Simple, Affordable Gear


The following is a how-to guide for setting up a quality livestream from home using just a couple of affordable pieces of gear. While a basic guide, it covers in detail all the key things you need to do to get up and running with a reliable stream. We’ll focus on using an affordable USB webcam, a simple USB mic or a headset, and the free OBS application for connecting to popular streaming services like YouTube Live.


First of all, how good is your Internet? You’ll be able to test this in the OBS application as we’ll describe at the end but, generally, you should be fine with a common broadband connection. A test run would help.

Affordable Webcams and (Briefly) Other Options

A common and simple option is to use an external webcam. These comfortably attach right on top of your monitor or elsewhere you may want them.

Why not use your computer’s built-in webcam? The external ones are just better. Some have Zeiss lenses and offer zoom capability among other features. And an external webcam can be adjusted into an optimal position. These webcams connect very easily to your computer via a USB cable.

Before we move on to setting up a webcam, we’ll look briefly at some of the other camera options. A livestream can be done with DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, compact “touristy” camcorders, action cams, smartphones, dedicated streaming cameras, 360 cams, PTZ cameras that allow for motion control, and ultimately even surveillance IP cameras.

For more elaborate streaming sessions, PTZ cameras are often the best choice. These can be pan/tilt-adjusted in motion during the stream. Ideally, a second operator seated at a controller will move the camera while you (or an entire team) give a presentation. PTZ cameras also have zoom capability ranging up to 30x, which is something useful for sports and other live events. If streaming is something you’ll be growing into, going forward, a PTZ camera may be a good future-proof solution for you. In the meantime, many can be used similarly to how a webcam is used.

As far as DSLRs and other standard photo/video cameras, there are pluses and minuses to using these, and if they sound right for you, you can look further into streaming with them on our Explora site. One disadvantage with some cameras has to do with shutting off. The batteries on some of these cameras may not run long enough for your stream, but there are ways around this that you can research if you want to repurpose an existing camera of yours, including getting a power adapter. On the upside, the image quality can be much better, especially if you use a great lens.

But Nothing Is Simpler Than a Webcam

Free OBS Software (for Connecting to YouTube, Etc.)

Next up is the software. Ultimately, you’ll be streaming from a streaming service provider such as YouTube, but you need an application that will connect you to that service provider as well as let you organize the media you’ll be using during the stream, such as an image file. There are many applications to choose from, but a favorite is OBS, which is free and works with Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Plugging in Your Camera and Setting It Up

Plug your webcam into a USB port on your computer and open the OBS software.

In the “Sources” panel on the bottom of OBS, click on the “+”, then on “Video Capture Device”, and then on “Create new”. Give your camera a name, such as “Camera 1”, and press “OK”. A “Properties” window will appear, and your webcam brand and model will show up selected in the window. (If not, you should be able to select it from a dropdown.) Click “OK”, and you’ll see your camera, as you named it, appear in the Source panel.

Organizing Your Media in OBS

OBS allows you to work with layers. In the Source panel, you can have your camera plus other sources that you can display throughout your stream, whether at the same time or otherwise. For example, you can additionally have a background image file, various other images, a second monitor, a second webcam even, overlay text, and other devices and files.

To select a source, just click on the “+” in the Source panel like you did for the camera. The point of a second monitor is so that you can display your desktop while OBS is taking up the other monitor. Your desktop can play an essential role in your stream as you open various files within it to show your audience.

You can choose to activate some sources and deactivate others at various points during your stream. All your active sources will display in the large main panel in OBS. Whatever’s in this panel is what your audience will see. In this panel you can resize the different sources and move them around. In an example scenario, you’d have multiple sources in different window sizes, with your webcam source somewhere in a corner. This way your audience will see your face along with everything you’re discussing.

Finally, not only can you set up multiple layers, but rather you can create multiple “Scenes”, each with its own layers, and you can toggle between these scenes. The selected one will be the one streaming. The idea behind this feature is that you can have a different set of sources for different projects you wish to discuss in your stream. Your webcam can be selected as the camera source in both scenes, as can your other sources. But you can have the sources resized and positioned differently as suits the project being discussed. To create an additional scene, simply find the Scene panel on the bottom and click on the “+” within it.

One of your “scenes” can and, in many cases, should be a standby scene that you can switch to if you run to the restroom or otherwise need a placeholder. To do this, create a new scene, then in the Source panel click on the +, and select “Text”. And you can type in “Standby”. You can also have a background layer (an image file) under the text. In fact, such a placeholder is just as useful for the beginning of the stream—perhaps text that says “Starting at 10AM”. Once 10AM comes, just toggle to another scene and begin speaking to your audience.


Built-in computer mics just won’t do. The same goes for the mics built into most external webcams. They’re generally not good enough, plus you want your mic as close to your lips as possible, because the farther away it is the more chance there is for echo. And sound quality is very important. Just like in movies, if the audio is bad, the rest doesn’t even matter.

Your mic options range all the way up to professional, and virtually all will be supported by the OBS software. But a professional mic with extra hardware just is not necessary for a basic stream from home. A simple USB mic will do. A headset can also be used, and it’s a good option because it keeps the mic right by your lips.

Plug in your mic to a USB port or mic jack on your computer, click on “Settings” on the bottom right in OBS, then click on “Audio”, and select your mic from the dropdown in “Mic/Auxiliary Audio”. An “Audio Mixer” panel will now appear to the right of your Source panel and you’ll have some audio controls over your mic if you need them. And that’s generally all there is for mics.

Click on “Stream”

With everything connected and set up, now you’re ready to go live. Click on Settings in OBS just like you did to add the mic and click on “Stream”. Now you can select Facebook, YouTube, or another popular destination from the list or enter in a custom one.

For most of the popular ones, you will be asked for a “stream key.” Click on “Get Stream Key” and you’ll be redirected to your streaming platform where you can copy the stream key to paste back in OBS. In YouTube, the stream key will be on the bottom left. After you paste the stream key in OBS, hit “Apply”, and OBS will connect you to your selected streaming service. Now click “Start Streaming” in OBS, and you’re off.

In YouTube, Facebook or other platform, you’ll find a live chat. This chat is where your audience will communicate with you, so it’s very important. A good thing to do is to pop out the chat and resize it as a small window next to your OBS software.

Once you click “Start Streaming”, some data will begin to display on the bottom. Three things are important here. The time counter next to the word “Live” should be running; otherwise, the stream isn’t working. A bit to the right of this is a color block next to your fps number. The color should be green. If it isn’t, and instead is yellow or red, that’s an indication that there’s a connection issue or some issue with your computer. Farther to the right, the kb/s number should be at least 2000. If it’s not, then your Internet is not fast enough.

This whole time, your standby scene should have been selected and displaying. Now that you’re ready to stream, get comfortable and switch to the scene you want to stream and say hello. Hopefully by then, your chat will already be busily active, with everyone waiting for you to begin.

If you want to start off with a full screen shot of yourself, press CTRL+F (or Command+F) and your camera source will be displayed in full screen.

Some Final Tweaks

At this point, a mic test is in order. Ask your audience if they hear you well and see their replies in the chat. Very often, you’ll see them say that your voice isn’t loud enough. The solution for this is often to just up the gain a little. In your Audio Mixer panel in OBS, right click on the audio meters and click on “Filters”, then press “+”, and then select “Compressor”, and here, slide the gain bar a bit to the right. Usually at this point you’ll see people in the chat say that everything is better.

If there are still issues with volume, a solution is to select your new mic as the mic source in your computer’s settings, outside of OBS. Your computer may have your webcam mic selected as the main source (which may result in your separate mic not delivering the best sound it can).

Before you begin (or much earlier), you should also adjust your camera settings from within OBS. You may be surprised at how a couple of small adjustments can improve your webcam quality.

In your Source panel, right click on your camera source and select Properties. Under “Resolution/FPS Type”, select Custom, and in the dropdown below, select the resolution of your choice (keep Internet considerations in mind—720p is a good and common HD option). Also, in the Properties window, click on “Configure Video” and in there, under Advanced Settings, you can adjust the white balance and exposure, which are the common settings, although you can also play around with other ones. For white balance, checking off “Auto” may not be a good idea because your white balance will constantly be adjusting and your picture quality changing. Just slide the white balance and exposure bars to where you’re happy with the picture quality.

And that’s all. With a webcam and microphone that you can find very affordably, you can set up a quality livestream from home. Also check out our livestreaming page for our full list of supporting products, including compact lights you may want to use, as well as green screens and other accessories. For additional articles and videos on streaming, visit our Explora website. And be sure to comment or post questions below!