Streaming Paper Magic the Gathering

When we streamed the Mike Tessier vs Jordan Aisaka Showdown, we received a lot of questions regarding our setup.  Our setup is more complicated than most.  Manaverse Saga has an article for setting up streaming for local game stores.  This was our first time streaming paper Magic the Gathering, and we already have a list of improvements we’re hoping to make.

Before I begin, I want to define the problem we were trying to solve, and then go into our setup.  This guide is just about how we set things up.  We won’t be covering Scene Creation, Overlays, Live Sources, or Scripting in this guide.

The Streaming Problem

Mike Tessier issued a challenge to Jordan Aisaka.  Jordan accepted, and they needed a host.  Being a small event, they wanted to do have the showdown in someone’s house and stream it.  For the stream, they wanted casters performing a play by play along with answering questions from chat.  If people were commenting on the match, the players needed to be isolated enough not to hear the casters.  Casters also wanted to be able to see the players (a big difference between MTGO and Paper Magic is the face to face interactions).

  • Multi-room setup
    • Caster Booth
    • Match Room (noise isolated)
  • Multiple Cameras
    • Caster Camera
    • 2 Face Cameras
    • Match Camera

Finding the Pieces

Cameras

I live with roommates, so finding multiple cameras was not an issue.  The face cameras and caster camera were Logitech c920’s.  These can be found for ~$50 each, and if you ask around, many people have them and are willing to lend them out.

The match camera was a Logitech c922.  This could be another c920.  The c922 tends to have a better picture in a variety of lighting situations.  It’s a minor upgrade from the c920.  Again, this is what we had on hand.  As a note, we attempted to use LifeCam Studio’s which have better color, but the video would randomly stop in our testing.  This appears to be an issue with the Windows 10, as Windows 7 is the latest supported OS.

We chose the c920 and c922 because of the tripod mount.  For the caster camera, a lower resolution camera without a tripod mount will work.

Tripods

We like Manfrotto camera gear.  It packs up small, is light weight, and is durable.

The face cameras were mounted on PIXI Mini Tripods.  This allowed us not to worry about the cameras falling over from table shake.  I was considering taping the web cameras to the table, but knowing we could adjust the tripods with minimal effort provided a lot of comfort.

For the overhead camera, we used a 290 Light Aluminium Tripod.  This was sturdy enough to hold an ALZO Horizontal Camera Mount.  Cheaper tripods have multi-piece plastic heads that may bend or break holding the horizontal camera mount.  Manfrotto tripods are solid pieces.  There’s no need to splurge on a tripod, but one with a solid head that can be weighted down if needed is great.

I’ve seen people use tape or rubber bands to hold a webcam to some overhead object.  We wanted something we wouldn’t have to reposition or worry about it moving during the match.

Audio

We had 2 microphones for casters.  An AT2020 and AT2035.  These are cardioid condenser microphones that hopefully avoid picking up background noise.  We also had access to a Blue Yeti.  The Yeti is pretty sensitive and picked up the computer fans.

The microphones were hooked up to a UR22mkII.  Purchasing a USB mic will prevent the need for an XLR interface.  Depending on the number of microphones desired, an interface with the proper number of inputs should be purchased.

A limitation to the microphones we used is they really only pick up roughly 6 inches in-front of them.  We had more than 2 casters in the room sometimes making it difficult to hear people in the back of the room, but the two people with the microphones sounded awesome (in my opinion).

I think a Yeti or Blue Snowball is an excellent place to start.

For some reason, this is the audio setup we had lying around.

Computers

We had a two computer setup.  One computer was in the caster booth.  The other computer was in the match room.  We used RDP to access the match room computer from the caster booth.  This allowed us to keep the match area computer headless.  The caster computer had 2 monitors.

Due to a staircase and the distance between the rooms, we did not want to purchase USB extension cables.  My understanding is media and data transfer over USB begins to degrade when the cable is over 16 feet long.

Using two computers allowed us to not worry about cables, lower the workload on each computer, and not worry about individual computer’s hardware constraints.  It’s important to note that multiple web cameras cannot be used simultaneously in the same USB port on a computer (even with a USB hub).  USB only allows for streaming data to 1 device on the port, so if you’re computer only has 2 USB ports, you can only have 2 cameras set up.

Router

We have a Nighthawk router.  RDP access and a lot of communication were done over the local network.  Some routers are limited in the number of devices they support.  We’ve been happy with the Nighthawk.

Software

OBS Studio seems to be the standard in streaming.  We decided to stick with what we knew.

VLC Media Player allows us to monitor web cameras over RDP.  If you’re up for a challenge, VLC can also create RTMP streams avoiding the need for RDP.  I attempted to get this set up, but it was more pain than it was worth.  RDP also has the benefit that if a webcam acts up, we can restart it without having to enter the match area.

Using RDP, we were unable to pass through audio from microphones in the match room.  This is due to wiretapping and remote audio recording laws.  A solution we’re looking at is Skype calling for audio or running an XLR cable to the room.

Piecing it Together

Match Room

Make sure you turn on and enable RDP prior to moving the match computer into the match room.  Setup the tripods and web cameras and hook them up to the match computer.  If the match computer is a desktop, using a laptop to remote in and position the cameras will help.  There’s also an iOS app.

Configuring Capture with VLC

In VLC, you can open a webcam for viewing.  To do this, click on Media, then “Open Capture Device.”  It’s important to set the resolution, and in Advanced Options, set the frame rate and aspect ratio.

Caster Room Monitor 2 Setup

After remoting into the match room, maximize the RDP window on the secondary monitor.  Open a VLC window for each camera in the room, and arrange it on the display so there is no overlap.  It should look something like:

OBS Setup

I’m not going into how to use OBS, but create a scene for each shot you’re interested in.  It’s possible to add the same display source multiple times.  Holding the ALT key, you can quickly crop the source to the camera you want.  Add the source again for each camera.  As seen below, the “Match” source is added multiple times.

We created multiple scenes with the sources in different positions.  I recommend watching streams you like and attempting your own Scene mimicking the different shots you liked from the streams.

Around OBS, we had additional scripts and programs to update files that OBS will detect changes in to update the display.

In Summary

You’ll need:

  • 1 – 2 Computers
  • 2+ Monitors
  • 2 – 4 Web Cameras (Recommended: Logitech c920)
  • Overhead Camera Mount
  • 1+ Microphones
  • OBS Studio
  • VLC

Use RDP to remote into the computer with all the match cameras connected.  VLC can be used to view all the cameras.  Configure OBS to capture a screen as a source.  Duplicate the source multiple times cropping each source to an individual camera.  Build a scene and add overlays and text if desired.

We hope you look forward to more streaming articles as we learn, grow, and share.

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