When I started streaming, I was doing what most people do. Run OBS on one PC, use Game Capture, use a second monitor to keep an eye on everything, alt-tab out of games and put all that load on one CPU. I quickly realized I didn’t like this. Certain games didn’t like to capture, I had odd framing issues with older games, it took a lot of messing with settings and wasted time. Time I could have spent streaming. When I heard about dual PC streaming, I knew it was for me.
The most important reason for getting a streaming PC is to have a PC 100% dedicated to your stream. This means I have to do very little to get my stream up and running and everything works (near) perfect everytime. This is especially useful for those who stream many games and utilize different devices, including but not limited to PC and consoles.
What my setup does is essentially turn my gaming PC into a glorified console. Regardless of what you play games on, the stream PC captures it all with a capture device and broadcasts it to the streaming service of choice. It does not matter if it’s Xbox One, PS4 or my gaming PC.
From here on I will refer to two different PCs as “Stream PC” and “Gaming PC” and I’ll include the specifications at the bottom of the article.
The Stream PC
The Stream PC holds all my stream assets. It runs OBS, capture card software, microphone, Voicemeeter Banana, Ankhbot, all my art, overlays, Chatty…all that stuff. This computer is not for playing games and does not have sufficient hardware to do so.
This guide shows how I’ve personally setup my Stream PC, there are several routes to go to accomplish this so don’t take this as the required setup. This guide assumes you already have an understanding regarding OBS and/or Xsplit and know how to broadcast to a livestream service like Twitch.tv.
The Gaming PC
This computer’s primary role is to play games. It should perform to whatever level you require for the games you want to play and provide a solid framerate and performance.
All game capture is going to be done through the capture card. Typically people use HDMI connections. HDMI carries audio and video. I only use HDMI for video though, no HDMI audio, just video. You plug your Gaming PC HDMI out into your capture card directly (if you have a passthrough) or HDMI splitter (if you don’t).
I use an HDMI splitter for two reasons. My capture card doesn’t have passthrough. Also the splitter I use breaks PS3 HDCP, allowing me to capture PS3 via HDMI. Just so there’s no confusion: HDMI splitter takes the input (in this case, the Gaming PC HDMI) and sends one HDMI to the monitor and the other to the capture card.
The reason this setup works so well for me is that I use many game consoles. So for me to switch from Gaming PC to Xbox One or to PS4 or to PS3, I simply switch the HDMI cord running to the splitter. That’s it, video is up and running.
- 3.5mm to AUX in from Astro Mixer
- USB 3.0 to Stream PC
- HDMI in from splitter
- Component in (unused)
- Gaming PC in to splitter (tied with it is another HDMI for consoles)
- HDMI out to monitor
- Power for the splitter
- HDMI out to capture card
I use the normal microphone input with OBS/Xsplit, just set Microphone/Auxillary Audio Device to “Yeti Stereo Microphone” or whatever device you have. My microphone is plugged into the Stream PC via USB (though I route it through Voicemeeter Banana for software mixing).
This is where things get tricky. I’ve never seen anyone else use this method and it involves ‘tricking’ OBS/Xsplit. Normally, you would set OBS ‘Desktop Audio Device’ to your speakers. I don’t. I don’t want OBS/Xsplit bringing in audio this way at all. All my audio goes through the capture card, aside from the mic. This means game and desktop audio (alerts, music, song request) all go to the capture card. There’s a few different ways to do this but I’ll describe what I do.
The problem is OBS/Xsplit wants to listen to desktop audio and you can’t disable it. However you can ‘trick’ it by having it listen to something else. You can choose an output that isn’t playing any audio. I use my Yeti Stereo Microphone because it sees the headphone output. No audio actually plays through there, this results in OBS/Xsplit not listening to anything at all. You can also use any other output that’s not in use, Like AMD/Realtek/Nvidia digital audio connections. The capture card audio is independent of this, it’s the only device that listens.
The reason for doing so revolves around my Astro Mixamp. The Mixamp allows desktop audio in, game audio in (optical SPDIF or 3.5mm analog) and outputs that via another 3.5mm. This output goes to the capture card. It also has a headphone out, which I listen to. Another nice thing about the Mixamp is that it applies Dolby Surround Headphones effects, giving both you and the viewers nice simulated surround/positional audio where your only option is stereo.
To sum up: all audio runs to the Astro Mixamp first, then into the capture card. OBS/Xsplit doesn’t listen to any other audio. It’s weird, albeit, but it’s solid and does exactly what I need. The following is a breakdown of my audio setup:
- USB in for power only, running off a phone charger
- 3.5mm to AUX out to capture card (see previous picture)
- 3.5mm in from Stream PC (desktop audio)
- 3.5mm in from Gaming PC (behind that optical SPDIF in from console)
- Volume to Headphones
- EQ, affects the Stream audio and Headphone audio
- Dolby Headphones (virtual surround), affects Stream audio and Headphone audio
- Controls Game to Voice mix, affects Stream audio and Headphone audio*
- Headphone out
* Normally, voice would be from the Mic Input to the Astro itself, this is unused because we’re using straight headphones without a Mic. This essentially becomes a game volume knob, very useful for adjusting game audio on-the-fly while streaming
Gaming PC or console video is sent to HDMI splitter then to capture card and Gaming PC monitor. Microphone is set in OBS or Xsplit, all other wanted audio goes through a hardware mixer into the capture card. OBS and Xsplit only hear what the capture card is providing.
The freedom in the setup is that I can connect any audio I want into the game audio port on the Mixamp. I can connect a 3.5mm from my Gaming PC/Dreamcast/PS2/Wii U/GameCube or optical SPDIF from PS4/XB1/X360/PS3.
The other advantage of this setup again, is no HDMI audio. This is a problem I see over and over with casters, trying to get HDMI audio to both the stream and themselves. This completely circumvents that.
Another cool perk using this setup and specifically the Blue Yeti is the fact it also has the headphone out port. This is intended for you to listen to your own voice, something I don’t use. However, you can run a 3.5mm from the headphone out into the Line In on your Gaming PC and the mic literally runs to two PCs at the same time. USB into the Stream PC, 3.5mm into the Gaming PC. Pretty sweet huh?
Best perk for last: no more performance hit on your Gaming PC! This completely frees up all the resources you would normally need for streaming from your Gaming PC. Allowing you to enjoy the game running the best your computer can.
Stream PC specs:
- Lenovo M92p
- Intel i5-3470
- 8GB DDR31600
- Asus GT610 1GB
- Kingston 120GB SSD
- Windows 10 Pro 64
Gaming PC specs
- Intel i7 4770K (4.5 OC)
- H100i (4 fans/push/pull)
- MSI Z87 GD65
- 16GB DDR3 2400 Kingston HyperX
- Zotac 780 Ti (stock)
- Samsung 840 EVO 250GB mSATA
- OCZ Vertex 128GB
- 1TB Seagate
- Windows 10 Pro 64
- Fractal R4
- All Noctua Fans
I’d like to thank Doctor Fark for helping out with this article.